HIMALAYAN JOURNAL VOLUME II (1930)
THE FIRST ISSUE of the Himalayan Journal, 1929, had been received very well, reported the editor, Major Kenneth Mason, M.C., R.E., 'not only in this country but in Europe and America; and we have to thank many contemporary clubs and societies for their flattering reviews.'
Perhaps Mason had now decided that there would not be more than one issue a year; while the first had been called Vol. I, No. 1, the second is called simply Vol. II. Like the first, it was published by Thacker, Spink and Co., Calcutta, and cost Rs 5 or 8 shillings. It consisted of 206 pages, with three maps and a dozen photographs. Sections I to XIII are articles; XIV is a section on Expeditions; XV-XX consists of Obituaries, Notes, Reviews, Correspondence, etc.
While articles on climbing had been conspicuously absent from the first volume, Vol. II seems to be turning its focus in that direction and has rather less on scientific matters. Somewhat strangely, pride of place is given to a German expedition. Paul Bauer, the leader, himself contributes an account of 'The German Attack on Kangchenjunga'.
The expedition consisted of nine members of the German and Austrian Alpine Clubs, including Peter Aufschnaiter, who later escaped from an internment camp in Dehra Dun with Heinrich Harrer. 'The objective of the expedition was not fully determined but our scruples against an immediate attack on this tremendous mountain (Kangchenjunga) were lessened by the Indian Press calling us from the very beginning the Kangchenjunga Expedition'. (Interesting that even in those days, it was the press that decided many aspects of our lives!)
With Teutonic efficiency, they had prepared loads for porters before leaving, so with the help of officials and the HC, they were able to leave Darjeeling after only three days. They had 90 native porters, of whom 15 had been on Everest. To Bauer's great satisfaction, Lieut. Col. H.W. Tobin, the local ^secretary of the HC, travelled with the second column to base camp.
Days of reconnaissance, of trying to open routes, setting up camps. On 3 September six sahibs and four porters were ready at Camp X, at 7100 m. But there was a heavy snowstorm. On the 6th, two porters, Keddar and Pasang, tried to move up to establish another camp but could not get far in the deep snow. The attempt had to be given up.
The descent was in deep snow with 80 1b loads for the porters and 30-40 1b loads for the sahibs. They marched through a lane of snow the height of a man. Two days later, they packed half their loads in two large bags and threw them over the cliff to the glacier 1500 m below. Did they recover them or was this just an attempt to keep the mountain clean and set an example to future climbers?1 At the mouth of the glacier, there were severe storms, and the careful editor of the HJ notes that for those three days in October there were the fiercest storms of the year in Sikkim, with severe damage inflicted on roads and railways.
The section on 'Club Proceedings' tells us that on 30 October, a local dinner of the HC was held in Calcutta to honour the expedition. Seven members of the expedition were present, including Peter Aufschnaiter. Major Kenneth Mason was in the chair and proposed toasts to HM the King Emperor and to the President of the Reich. 'There is one great attribute possessed by the Himalaya', he said. 'There is room for all the climbers of all nations of the world. (He could not have said that today; on one day alone, 12 May 1992, 32 climbers queued up to stand on Everest. No room at the top.2) And Mason went on, 'The HC is a young club, the youngest mountain club, I believe, in the world. It has already been our privilege to meet and welcome to India mountaineers from Italy, Holland and America, and I have for many years been in touch with your compatriot, Dr. Emil Trinkler. 1 think we may, as mountaineers, daim that the thing lesser and lower men call "the Spirit of Locarno" was known to us long before it reached the valleys and plains.
1. In 'Climbing Bhrigu's Stone', Vol. 48, 1990-91, Martin Moran writes, 'Ian (Dring) packed all spare ropes and non-essential items into our larger haul bag, abseiled
to the brink of the big white wall, and cast it gleefully into the void......At
1.30 we touched the grass at the bottom, cast off all ropes and hardware for collection another day and fled the scene. The jettisoned haul bag was visible across the slope, so that too could be salvaged. There was quiet satisfaction in leaving the route completely clean save for the abseil anchors'.
2. Trevor Braham's article 'Himalaya - The Next Twenty-Five Years', in Vol. 48, 1990-91, tells us '...how unconsciously we have lapsed into an era in which the normal annual incursion into the Karakoram could be up to 65 climbing expeditions comprising 700 climbers, with Nepal accounting for a further 100 expeditions, and India opening its doors to over 150'.
'Everest, the^highest mountain, has been assaulted three times,' Mason said. 'K2, the second highest, has been assaulted once. And now
Kangchenjunga has been attacked for the first time in earnest.....We
are almost justified in saying that it would have fallen, but for foul weather when all the hard work had been accomplished."
Paul Bauer, in his reply, paid graceful tribute to his British predecessors. 'Whatever we may have accomplished is certainly not to our own credit. We could not have done it without the pioneer work of Freshfield and Kellas and with the experience gained by those Britishers who tried to climb Everest.' He paid special tribute to Kellas, Mallory and Irvine.
After the German Vice-Consul had, also spoken, the company adjourned to the drawing room 'where Herr Bauer explained the various features of the climb and illustrated his route by means of Freshfield's map and photographs... These were thrown on the screen by means of a Zeiss Epidiascope kindly lent by the Agents of the firm of Zeiss.'
E. F. Norton who was with the Everest expedition of 1924, had read a rough translation of Bauer's account, and wrote to the HJ comparing it to the attack on Everest, 1924. 'On the face of it.', he concludes, 'Kangchenjunga appears to me a more formidable and more dangerous proposition than Mount Everest.'
In the section on 'Expeditions', there is a record of a tragedy on Kangchenjunga in May 1929, a few months before the Germans arrived. Edgar Francis Farmer, of the Standard Oil Company of New York, lost his life on or about 27 May 1929 in a plucky but misguided attempt to reach the summit of Kangchenjunga alone. Farmer's only climbing experience was in the Rockies but he had studied his subject thoroughly. He kept his plans secret and went off from Darjeeling ostensibly to explore the Guicha la region. He had Sherpa and Bhotia porters; Lieut-Col. Tobin interviewed them when they finally returned and wrote an account of Farmer's ill-fated attempt.
Farmer had signed an undertaking not to enter Tibet or Nepal, but nevertheless he crossed the Kang la into Nepal and came below the southwest cliffs of Kangchenjunga, at the camp site of Raeburn and Crawford in 1920.
On 26 May, with three ex-Everest porters, he started up the icefall below the Talung saddle. He was warmly clad and equipped but his porters were not; they had no crampons. As the going became worse, a porter slipped and was iTnable to proceed. Farmer told them to stop while he went on to take photographs, promising to return shortly. The porters tried to dissuade him but he was determined. He went on and on into the mist, the porters waving to him to descend when the mist cleared at intervals.
He was still climbing at five o'clock after which the mist obscured him. The porters remained on the lookout till dusk, when they descended to camp and prepared food for him. From here they signalled at intervals with a torch and meta fuel. Next morning they climbed to a spot where his route could be seen and they caught a glimpse of him far above them on a steep snow slope, but he soon disappeared to be seen no more. The porters described him as moving wildly with arms outstretched. Was it snow blindness? They continued their vigil till 9 next morning, when hunger forced them down.
Tobin checked the accounts of the porters and declared their conduct to have been unexceptionable. 'The greatest sympathy was with his mother whose only son he was', he added.
Ironically, while writing this, news was received of another solo death on Kangchenjunga, but in very different circumstances, that of the remarkable Polish woman climber, Wanda Rutkiewicz. In 17 years she had made 22 expeditions to the Himalaya, and had climbed eight of the world's 14 peaks over 8000 m. She was making her third attempt on Kangchenjunga; she had been the third woman on Everest and the first on K2. She joined up with a Mexican expedition; the leader Carlos and Wanda set off for the summit but separated because she was going much more slowly. Carlos reached the summit; on the way down he met her, 600 m below the summit. She had drunk all her water, had no gas, no stove, no food and no sleeping bag - nothing except will power, it would seem. She refused to go down with Carlos, was pleased she would have his tracks to follow and was very excited and determined. She was not seen again; perhaps she reached the top and died on the way down.
Wanda's decision is not too difficult to understand; she was an experienced mountaineer and at the age of 49, knew that this was her last chance. She knew the dangers and took a calculated risk (though it wouldn't have needed much calculation to conclude that her chances were infinitesimal). But Farmer's folly is more difficult to understand. With little experience, what drove him to undertake an attempt that was outright lunacy? He was akin to Wilson who made on equally foolhardy solo attempt on Everest, with similar results. Solo climbing is a special experience of its own, but such climbing by a Reinhold Messner, a Jerzy Kukuczka, a Herman Buhl or a Walter Bonatti bears no relation to the follies of a Farmer or a Wilson.
Vol. II had not yet done with Kangchenjunga. In a 'Note' by HTM, it is recommended that the spelling Kangchen Dzo-nga be used; the Survey of India used the spelling Kinchinjunga. Obviously Mason did not follow HTM's learned suggestion because the Journal continued to use the familiar form Kangchenjunga, and I believe it still does. Names and their transliteration still cause much fun and confusion. Thus we learn from E. Theophilus, 'Beneath the Shroud' Vol. 48, 1990-1991, that the mountain we have always known as Leo Pargial is really Reo Purgyi!.3
Lieut.-Col. Tobin provides a historical account of 'Exploration and Climbing in the Sikkim Himalaya'. Three names stand pre-eminent, he writes; Sir Joseph Hooker, the great botanist; Douglas Freshfield, distinguished Alpine and Caucasian climber; and Dr A.M. Kellas, who conquered a number of peaks in the eastern Himalaya.
Hooker spent most of 1848-49 among Sikkim's wonderful mountains and has left vivid pictures in his Himalayan Journals (not to be confused with our own HJ).4 In 1849, Hooker and his companion Dr Campbell, Superintendent of Darjeeling, were seized and detained as prisoners at Tumlong, under the orders of Namgay, Prime Minister of Sikkim. They were released after protracted negotiations. As retribution for this outrage, the portion of Sikkim south of the Great Rangit, now covered by valuable tea gardens, was annexed by the British Government. Ah, happy days, when there was no United Nations, no Security Council, to make an unseemly fuss about such righteous retribution!
In 1899, Douglas Freshfield, accompanied by Prof Garwood and the brothers, Sella and Rinzin Namgyal, made the high level tour narrated in Round Kangchenjunga.
Tobin chronicles various climbing expeditions. W.W. Graham who claimed to have climbed Kabru in 1893; this led to much controversy. He climbed with two Swiss guides. In 1905, Dr Guillarmod and four others tackled the ice slopes below the SW cliffs of Kangchenjunga. While six of them were traversing a snow slope, two porters slipped and the whole party was dragged down. Pache and three porters were buried and their bodies not recovered till three days later.
3. Harish Kapadia's article on 'Lots in a Name', Vol. 48. is a fascinating study of the origins of names in the East Karakoram. How enchanting to learn that the Sia of the embattled Siachen glacier means a rose; are the Indians and Pakistanis re-enacting the War of the Roses? And who would have thought that Indira col was not named after our late Prime Minister? Is it absurdly fanciful to think that one day the Siachen might become a joint Indo-Pakistan Nature Park, demilitarized, and left to roses and climbers?
4. A.D. Moddie contributed a most interesting article on 'The Himalayan Journals of Sir Joseph Hooker' to Vol. 47, 1989-1990.
In 1907, two Norwegians, Rubenson and Aas, made an attempt on Kabru. At 22,000 ft they discarded their nailed boots as the nails made their feet colder (they presumably had alternative footwear and did not continue in their socks). The attempt was abandoned; on the way down, Rubenson slipped in his non-nail boots; Aas checked him but four of the five strands of the Swiss rope parted.
A. M. Kellas climbed a number of peaks in 1907 and made three attempts on Simvu with European guides. In 1920, he was back again and climbed Narsing, 5832 m. He got back to Darjeeling only a few days before setting off with the first expedition to Everest. Unluckily he died on the way through Tibet and 'that indegatifable
but extremely modest and reticent climber......lies in a lonely grave
at Kampa Dzong.'
Also in 1920, Harold Raeburn carried out two tours south of Kangchenjunga; on the first he was accompanied by Tobin himself.
Tobin, and later E.O. Shebbeare, after leaving the German Kangchenjunga Expedition, explored the little known route over what is wrongly shown on the map as the Yumtso la (Blue Water pass) to the Tulung monastery, the Talung gorge and the Tista.
In the section on 'Club Proceedings', the editor tells us, 'Among those who have been fortunate enough to combine their duties with Himalayan travels are Messrs. Wakefield, Gunn, Ludlow, Todd and Burn'. From outside India, there were the Duke of Spoleto, Mr and Mrs Visser, Lieut.-Col. Reginald Schombterg, while the Roosevelts had a most successful expedition on behalf of the Field Museum of Chicago, and were fortunate to obtain the first complete specimen of the Giant Panda, the "Spectacled Bear" of the dense bamboo forests of Szechwan. (What would Peter Scott, who designed the now famous panda logo for the World Wildlife Fund for Nature, have said to that? Or George Schaller, who studied the endangered panda to recommend conservation measures?)
While the climbing expeditions and accounts seem to have focused on Sikkim and the area round Kangchenjunga or Kinchinjunga or Kangchen Dzo-nga - the western Himalaya is not ignored. Dr. E. F. Neve contributes a delightful article on 'Sonamarg as a Climbing Centre'. He sketches 'a few delights of travelling from a base at Sonamarg. With favourable weather a fortnight is sufficient to enable one to follow any of these routes and to climb one or more of the peaks to which I have referred. Whatever the peaks may lack in magnitude or mystery, compared with those north of the Indus, is fully compensated for by their technical interest and beauty.'
Neve brings out well the flavour of a small expedition, enjoying not only the ^climbs but the views, the forests, the flowers, the birds, the rocks, the fossils, and finding that inner peace that is often lost in those hairy expeditions hell-bent on a major climb, replete with ironmongery and derring do. At least one of his climbs was with Kenneth Mason himself, and it is not surprising that the article is dotted with interesting footnotes from the editor.
Some of Neve's descriptions are worth quoting. 'Even the approach
to Sonamarg by the Sind valley is most impressive..... Right and
left the grey cliffs tower up, in tiers, to a height of five to eight thousand feet, above the river, which, during the melting of the snows, is a mighty torrent, descending in foaming rapids, intensified by the rocky walls between which it is pent.' And the marg itself, 'Between the curved ridges there are now grassy meadows, spangled with Alpine flowers. Sonamarg may have derived its name from the sheets of golden ragwort, the widespread orange-coloured weil wall-flower, or the troops of yellow mullein. But many of the slopes are brilliant with pink balsam, or gloriously blue with forget-me-nots and other
varieties of boraginae___ At the entrance of the glacier valley....is
one of the most impressive pieces of mountain scenery, not only in Kashmir, but in the world.'
And the Kolahoi peak. 'Between Baltal and Sonamarg, and on the left side of the Sind river, is the Saribal Nala, a beautiful, narrow, steep little valley....The snow extends southwards to a pass which leads to the wonderful little glacier cirque of Katar Nag, with its seven little emerald lakes, a mile and a half below. From the pass the snow extends to the great snow-field which stretches around Kolahoi from south to east, and covers an area of four square miles at an altitude of about 15,500 ft. It was from this snow-field that the first ascent of the peak was made in 1912 by Major Kenneth Mason and the writer.'
Neve refers to a score of peaks within easy reach of Sonamarg which have never been ascended and upon which attempts should afford real pleasure. How many of these still remain unascended ?5
5. I note, wryly, that Neve says 'With favourable weather' In July 1972, I spent some days in Sonamarg with Gurdial Singh, Nalni Dhar Jayal and assorted family members. It rained shamelessly all the time and we could see nothing of the beauties so lovingiy described by Dr Neve. We finally set off in a commandeered jeep towards the Zoji la hoping to get out of the rain zone; in two hours we were back again. The road had been washed away and would take weeks
Vol. I No. 1 had seemed to give over the exploration of Central Asia to the Germans - Emi! Trinkler and Wm. Filchner; Vol. II redresses the balance and has two long reviews of books by Sir Aurel Stein, K.C.I.E., Ph.D., D. Lift., D.Sc., still the Scientific and Technical Correspondent of the HC for archaeology.
In the Notes on Expeditions, there is an interesting account, presumably written up by Mason, of a journey in the summer of 1929 by E. B. Wakefield of the ICS, British Trade Agent for the year. He left Simla on 4 June on the Hindustan-Tibet road and reached Pooh (Is there really such a name outside Gilbert and Sullivan ?) on the 20th. They split up and eight men followed the route commonly taken by Bashahri traders, who use sheep and goats. They crossed the Bodopo la 19,412 ft;6 the conditions were bad and several members collapsed. One of the Gurkhas failed to recover and died.
They crossed the Indus below Demchok; four days later Wakefield was 'fortunate in finding an enlightened, well educated and most hospitable dzong-pon who had been educated at Rugby School in England and and spoke excellent English.'
There were 150 miles more to Gartok; the Indus was recrossed with great difficulty opposite the monastery of Tashigong. Wakefield himself swam the flooded river four times with loads. They joined the main Lhasa-Leh route at Barkha. They were back in Simla on 2 November.
Lieut.-Col. Schomberg had written about his trip to the Urta Saryk valley in the Tien Shan in Vol I; Vol. II contains an account compiled by Mason, of his two years in the Tien Shan and Altai, 1927-29. In the autumn of 1927, he went to Kashgar, on to Urumchi in early February 1928, and then to the Great Altai mountains, and to the Urta Saryk valley about which we read in Vol. I. He reached Hi in July 1928, 'Schomberg observes that travellers in the Tien Shan are much handicapped by what he calls the shortness of the exploring season. Winter stays long and goes late; it is only from the end of June to mid-September that any travel in high altitudes can be carried out.' Schomberg himself had great difficulty in getting to Manas in 1928, and Captain Sheriff, a month later, but much further south, lost all his caravan and nearly his life in crossing the lower passes of the Tien Shan, north of Kuchar.
to repair. Return to Nedou's in Srinagar where the sight of a scurrying cockroach in the bathroom was compensated for by a hoopoe's nest just under our balcony. 6. In the 'Notes on Expeditions', a member of the HC anonymously contributed a note on a journey carried out by him and his wife. Samlakar is 16,550 ft, he said, and the Bodpo-la is 19.810. (The meticulous editor notes that Wakefield gave its height as 19,412 ft.) Samlakar is very good for game, noted the anonymous writer. 'There are a few ammon, but burrhel abound, sometimes as many as half a dozen herds being visible at one time. The herds are magnificent and nothing under twenty-five inches is worth shooting.'
Schomberg reached Yarkand in January 1929; left Kashgar in March and crossed in the Muz-art pass early in April; and finally left Kashgar for India on 19 September.
The Russo-German Alai-Pamir Expedition, 1928, consisted of 40 European members, and carried out scientific investigations with the utmost thoroughness. The members were divided into two sections, German and Russian, working in cooperation.
Kenneth Mason wrote a review of Sir Aurel Stein's book Innermost Asia; Detailed Report of Explorations in Central Asia, Kan-su, and Eastern Iran, Oxford 1928, four volumes, £ 26 5s. for The Statesman, and this is reprinted in Vol. II. 'The beautiful production reflects the greatest credit on the distinguished author and the Government of India', wrote Mason.
The expedition began in July 1913 and ended in March 1916. Stein went from Kashmir by the Barai pass to Chilas, explored the tribal states of Darel and Tangir south of Gilgit, under the Raja Pakhtun Wali. Darel had been visited by Fa-Hsien and Huang-tsang.7 He explored the Tarim basin, including the pre-historic dried up Lop sea-bed, dead settlements and oases by the dying rivers. He traced the ancient route through the desert to Maral-bashi. His attempt to cross the Takla- makan desert was baffled by terrific sand ridges, but his observations have been supplemented by Dr Emil Trinkler, as reported in HJ, Vol. I. From Khotan he marched 700 miles to the Lop desert, examining ruined sites on the way. Perhaps 'the most remarkable finds' were the fine specimens of figured silks and woollen tapestries from grave-pits, showing clear evidence of Hellenistic art-influence.
Stein followed the route which the early Ghinese traders had used across the forbidding salt-encrusted bed of the pre-historic Lop sea. Again and again, lucky finds of 630 early Chinese copper coins, small metal objects, stone ornaments and the like assured him that he was on the right track. 'On one occasion when the last traces of vegetation had long been left behind, he suddenly found the ancient track plainly marked for about thirty yards by two hundred and eleven Wu-shu (Chinese) copper coins. They lay in a well-defined line, no more than three or four feet wide, running north-east to south-west, and must have dropped unobserved from some leaky money bag or case. The swaying camel would account for the width of the track thus marked. What a romantic story could be based upon those copper coins carried by the last caravan that used his awful route, so full of peril and hardship! It was by such "lucky" finds as these, a chance coin, a scattered heap of bronze arrow-heads, an iron snaffle-bit, a broken copper buckle, and by his amazing ability to pick up and piece together his dues that Sir Aurel was enabled to trace this route right up to its eastern end, near an old terminal basin in the Tun-huang desert' Stein could not resist the temptation to revisit the famous temples of the 'Thousand Buddhas' that he had first explored in 1907. In Mongolia, he set out for the high ranges of the Nan-shan where he met a serious accident. His Badakshi horse reared and fell backwards on him, crushing the muscles of his thigh.
7. Fa-Hsien travelled to India through Yarkand and down the Indus valley. He spent about ten years in India, c. AD 401-412, in the reign of Chandragupta II. He studied Buddhism, mainly at Pataliputra. Huang-tsang, similarly motivated, came to India in AD 630.
Rai Bahadur Lai Singh of the Survey of India, Sir Aurel's most energetic and devoted assistant on two long journeys, accomplished important work in the Kuruk-tagh. 'Amidst icy gales and with the temperature falling well below zero Fahrenheit, he was at last able to view above the desert loess-haze the high snowy peaks of the Kun-lun, 150 miles to the south.'
Having despatched a hundred and eighty cases of antiques from Kashgar, Sir Aurel started across the Russian Pamirs for the valleys of the upper Oxus. At Samarkand, he took the Trans-Caspian railway and spent three weeks on the Perso-Afghan border.
He had covered nearly 11,000 miles in two years and eight months; perhaps his survey assistants had covered even more. 'It must be with intense satisfaction that Sir Aurel Stein looks back over his three great expeditions into Central Asia. Whatever has been accomplished since his first fruitful journey in 1900-01, by members of whatever nation we choose to name, has been directly due to the stimulation of Sir Aurel Stein, though he himself would be the last to lay such a claim. Little by little he has penetrated unexplored Asia; the Lop sea and the Turfan depression have yielded up their secrets; the sand-buried cities have been uncovered; the Emperor Wu-ti's ancient wall, with its watch towers and fortified posts have been traced for seven degrees of longtitude and surveyed; the whole civilization seems to have been laid bare. The four parallel ranges of the Central Nan-shan, previously visited only by Potanin, Obruchev and Kozlov, have been explored and mapped in detail; the headwaters of the Huang-ho have been reached and the Esting-gol and Su-lo-ho traversed; in the north, the southern ranges of the Tien Shan, the arid Kuruktagh, and even the moist upland pastures of Dzungaria have been surveyed. Is it too
much to hope that Sir Aurel Stein has not completed his journeys of exploration in "Innermost Asia" ?'
Vol. II has not yet finished with Sir Aurel Stein. H. L. Haughton reviews another book by the great explorer and archaeologist, On Alexander's Tr&ck to the Indus, 1928. The reviewer's enthusiasm is contagious. 'Alexander! Aurel Stein! Are not these both names to conjure with and the two together a combination which immediately commands our attention and guarantees that we shall not be disappointed ?'
This is a personal narrative in which Aurel Stein tells us that throughout his many years of study, travel and exploration in India, Chinese Turkistan and North China, his real interest and hopes had ever been centred in Alexander and the elucidation of his campaign. From Chakdara, in the vicinity of which Alexander probably crossed the Swat river, he worked his way up the valley, spending four happy days among the extensive ruins round Birkot.
As an example of the accuracy of ancient historians and travellers, 'one may mention the Great Stupa, raised by the pious King Kanishka over the relics of Gautama Buddha, described by Huang-tsang as being south east of Peshawar city, where a few years ago, it was located and excavated, the relics being found intact in their beautiful bronze casket'.
H.T. Morshead reviews a reprint of Hazlitt's English translation of the classic Travels in Tartary, Thibet and China, 1844-46, by Abbe Hue and Gabet. In his introduction, Prof. Pelliot says, "The lasting success of the Souvenirs is due above all to the literary gifts of their author. Hue had eyes to see, and the power to recall what he had seen; but these very gifts have their counterpart in a somewhat ardent imagination, which led him on occasion to invent what he supposed himself to be merely reporting.'
Morshead also reviews three books on Tibet, including The people of Tibet, by Sir C.A. Bell, and We Tibetans, by Rinchen Lhamo, a Tibetan lady married, to Louis King, formerly British Consul at Tachienlu. The authoress explains that she knows very little English and her husband less Tibetan. Before one can jump to the conclusion that they had found the ideal recipe for living happily ever after, however, we are told that they both spoke fluent Chinese.
In her chapter 'Your Civilisation and Ours', she takes a gentle dig or two at her husband, upholding the merits of Tibetan culture against the materialism of the Western World. 'Civilisation is not bound up in material things. A civilised people must have a sufficiency of them and that is all. We have it. You have more than it. You have a great many things we have not. Wonderful things. Your electricity and the various uses to which it^ is put, your steamers and trains and motor cars and aeroplanes..... But there is another aspect of the matter. People can do without these things, but if they are there naturally everybody wants them.... So wealth becomes the goal of endeavour, and men's minds are taken off other things we consider more important.'
A lesson that many wise men and women have repeated in our times as well, but alas, there are none so poor to do them reverence. While agreeing fully with them, we continue to battle furiously for the wealth we purport to despise.
And what would the good Rinchen Lhamo - or Sir Aurel - have said if they learnt that 1992 saw a motor car rally from Paris to Beijing ? That at Kashgar, they passed caravans from the Pamirs and Central Asia. Then it's north through the foothills of the Tien Shan mountains along the Mongolian border ? The rally consisted of some 1600 persons through country that had survived invasions by Persians, Russians, Turks; one can derive some perverted pleasure from reading that the rally had to be interrupted as drivers stalled in heavy mud in Xinjiang province.8 Perhaps they should be reminded of Kipling's warning, 'And the end of the fight is a tombstone white/With the name of the late deceased/And the epitaph dear "A Fool lies here/Who tried to hustle the East".'
Kenneth Mason himself reviews a translation in English from the German, Buried Treasures of Chinese Turkestan, by Albert von Le Coq, based on three expeditions between 1904 and 1914. The book gives a concise and accurate historical sketch from the conquests of Alexander and shows how Buddhism and its art reached the nations of Chinese Turkestan from Bactria. .
RJW reviews China to Chelsea: A Modern Pilgrimage Along Ancient Highways, by Capt Duncan McCallum MC. From Peking, the McCallums drove to Tientsin, embarked for Haiphong, took rail and road to Singapore, a ship to Calcutta, then the road again to the Dardanelles and Calais. That the McCallums did succeed, in spite of mud, rain, snow, water, sand, rock and earthquakes, to say nothing of various forms of opposition, is a matter for pride."
The reviewer points out some errors. McCallum describes a previous motor journey across the desert from Damascus to Baghdad in 1923 as a pioneer journey. 'This is hardly accurate, as the same route was traversed by Major Kenneth Mason with three officers by car early in 1919.
8. International Herald Tribune, 3 and 19 September 1992.
And finally, there is a review, by Kenneth Mason of course, of a novel Dainra, by 'Ganpat' aka Major M.L.A. Gompertz. We had met Maj. Gompertz in Vol. 1 and wondered how he had acquired the name of 'Ganpat'; we continue to wonder. 'In Dainra, "Ganpat" has infused an immense amount of "kick" into the ashes of two thousands years ago', writes Mason. 'The scene is laid in the little
mountain state of Asmaka......over which Queen Dainra rules with a
cruelty hard to beat. Members of the HC will be puzzled to identify Asmaka, for "Ganpat" has set a problem in topography which even the genius of Sir Aurel Stein could never solve.' (Or of Kenneth Mason, we might add.)
Greeks, Bactrians and petty chiefs from all over keep the pot - and the plot - boiling. 'All these essences frothed and bubbled in the Indus Kohistan for the space of a hectic year or two. Long odds, forced marches, amazing archery, loyalty, treachery, malice and other forms of uncharitableness all come into the day's work, and are the natural result of mingling such incompatible temperaments. "Ganpat" is rapidly becoming the Rider Haggard of our Indian hills.' Or perhaps we should say today, the John Le Carre.
The Shyok Flood
Vol. I was much preoccupied with the Chong Kumdan dam across the Shyok and the impending flood when it burst, as burst it would. Vol. II completes the story with three articles on the flood.
J. P. Gunn was sent by the Punjab Government and realised that the dam had burst. He pitched his tent three miles below the dam. 'Ice-blocks up to twenty feet cube were scattered about the banks of the river, sometimes seventy feet and more above the river bed, while occasionally there was a gigantic block about fifty feet cube by way of variety.' He was able to see clearly what had occurred. 'In only one particular was my anticipation of the bursting of this dam correct. I predicted that when the dam broke, there would be a big flood, in all probability larger than that of 1926. And it was so.'
H. J. Todd, the Political Agent in Gilgit, was returning from Kashmir on 17 August and arrived at the Partab Pul across the Indus at 5.30 a.m. Something was wrong for the clearance of the bridge was much less than usual. 'The water was coming down in a dark chocolate-coloured flood, carrying quantities of drift-wood, as if the river had just succeeded in washing its banks of the deposits of previous floods.....Later boards arjd roofing material began to arrive, clearly indicating the fate of some unfortunate village in Baltistan......A levy was sent galloping in to Bunji to wire the news to Kashmir, and Bunji and Chilas were warned to take all precautions.'
9. The dam seems to be still going strong. Harish Kapadia, in 'Chong Kumdan' Vol. 48, 1990-1991, mentions their expedition's observations of the old glacier dam.
The river continued to rise, beating against the abutments of the 330 ft suspension bridge, the only link with Gilgit. But happily, by 9.30 a.m. the worst was over; no loss of life was recorded. Todd was chagrined that he could take no photographs. 'I always make it a practice to carry a camera with me on trek, but this morning of all mornings, my bearer had noticed that the sling was becoming unstitched so had packed the camera in my yakdan and sent it ahead! I thus lost the unique opportunity.'
Kenneth Mason adds a commentary, pointing out that it was lucky that the dam burst on 15 August and not the 25th, because on the latter date, the liberated waters would have arrived at Attock at the same time as the higher flood caused by an unprecedented rainfall in the Kabul river basin, and the combined floods would have caused an appalling amount of damage in the plains. 'The Shyok burst was a blessing in disguise, for it caused little damage, scoured out the bed of the Indus and so gave a better "runoff" for the rain flood.'
As we have by now learnt to expect, Mason gives an excellent scientific summary of various reports on the flood, and several photographs by Ludlow and Gunn.
The 'Notes on Expeditions' gives an account of the Netherlands Karakoram Expedition, 1929-30, the third expedition of Mr. and Mrs. Visser. (We learn later in the Journal that the Council of the Royal Geographical Society awarded the Back Grant for 1929 to Mr Visser for his exploration of the Hunza Karak'oram glaciers. Mrs Visser was vice-president of the Ladies' Alpine Club.) On 26 July they crossed the Saser la and went on to Daulat Beg Oldi. In their camp on 15 August, at 5 a.m. they heard the bursting of the Chong Kumdan dam 19 miles away 'with reports like cannon-shots.' Mrs Visser wrote that a week earlier they would have been caught, as they were marching in the river bed for several hours.10
Ornithology had received a great deal of attention in Vol. I; it receives rather less in Vol. II but is by no means ignored. L. R. Fawcus contributes 'Bird Notes on a Journey to Gyantse', resulting from a trip he made in August-September 1929. He was required by the Government (of Tibet, presumably) to sign an undertaking not to shoot in Tibetan territory, and he took this rather more seriously than Edgar Francis Farmer had taken his undertaking not to enter Nepal. 'This prevented any collecting being done on the trip,' wrote Fawcus, 'but sufficient bird-life was observed during our somewhat slow marches to make it worth while putting something on record about what we saw11.'
10. In September 1992, there were devastating floods in Pakistan, and India, because of exceptionally heavy rains that flooded the Indus. Some two hundred tourists were blocked at Karimabad near Gilgit because the road was washed away. Lower down, many villages were destroyed and an estimated 1400 lives were lost.
Fawcus crossed the Natu la into Tibet from Sikkim and descended into the Chumbi valley, a well-watered temperate zone, as different 'from the arid upland plains of Tibet as chalk is from cheese.' The Red-billed Chough was ubiquitous on the Tibetan plains but he never saw the Yellow-billed Chough (the common 'Chouka' of the Alps). In the bed of the Amo Chu, he constantly met the Himalayan Whistling Thrush, the White-capped Redstart (is there any more attractive bird of the hills?) and the Plumbeous Redstart. Among 'strong flyers', he saw the Lammergayer, the Black-eared Kite and the Great Himalayan Griffon. Around Gyantse, the Tibetan Tree-sparrow gave way to the more striking Cinnamon Sparrow.
On the Phari plain, 'the trees are left behind and the traveller sits nightly over the evanescent blue flame of a yak-dung fire, eked out by the hard turves which also serve for house-building purposes.......the
grazing ground of countless yaks.........conjures to the mind what the plains of Kansas and Missouri must have looked like before the steam tractor replaced the herds of buffalo.' On two occasions, he 'saw wolves emerge from the ravines apparently on the look-out for straggling calves. Here we first met the strange little Ground Chough.'
Beyond the Phari plain, the road crossed the main Himalayan range by the Tang la, and the plain there was the home of many Kiang, 'whose curiosity sufficiently masters their fear of man to impel them to approach within some eighty yards and gaze at motionless travellers.' The fertile Gyantse plain and the torrent of the Nyang chu was haunted by the ibis-bill, but we failed to see one. The plain was the home of Burrhel, the Blue Poppy and the Snowcock, the Tibetan Twite and the Wall-creeper.
11. Just after World War II, Salim Ali, the Indian ornithologist, went on a birding expedition to Tibet. He undertook not to carry a collecting gun or firearms of any sort. However, he spent months practising with a catapault, having convinced himself that collecting birds by this noiseless weapon would not violate the beliefs or the laws of Tibet, and endanger neither his person nor his soul. In the event, no great moral danger was faced as his success was limited to one specimen.
Blue poppies also entranced W.E. Buchanan, when he was following 'In the Footsteps of the Gerrards."* In the Baspa valley, he met a coolie with some very beautiful blue flowers. The coolie agreed to take Buchanan to where these had been found. They went up to a height of about 14,000 ft. 'Snow lay about in masses; and here I came across blue poppies in a profusion I had never seen before, and among them the flowers I was seeking. They were, I think, some species of delphinium, but I have been unable to indentify them in any botanical book'. (The editor of the HJ wonders if they were Kashmir Larkspur, Delphinium Cashmerianum?)
H.M. Glover, in his 'Round the Kanawar Kailas', records that 'On one occasion, when I was traversing a ledge, a snow-cock fluttered in front of me, apparently with a broken wing and behaving just like a mother partridge with young near by. Sure enough, a search revealed a nest with the prettiest little downy grey chicks.'
If we put together a note on Kingdon Ward's Journey from Burma to Annam, compiled from letters and personal information by Kenneth Mason, and a review of Trailing the Giant Panda, by Theodore and Kermit Roosevelt, 1929, also by Mason, we get a full account of a remarkable expedition. Its gloss is somewhat dimmed because the object of the exercise was hunting.
As Mason tells us, 'When the Roosevelt brothers and their companion Suydam Cutting, passed through Calcutta early in December 1928, they expressively remarked that the main object of their forthcoming expedition was "to knock the P out of Panda". Expressive, perhaps, but hardly endearing, and we have to keep reminding ourselves that this is 1929 and not 1993.'
They went from Bhamo in Burma through Yunnan, past the 20,000 ft Mount Satseto into the little kingdom of Muli in Szechuan. Then past Mt Koonka, about which Kermit remarks, 'The altitude of this mighty peak is unknown, but there are those who claim it rises more than thirty thousand ft and is the highest in the world'. And in the map included in the book, it is marked 30,000. Mason wasn't going to let the Panda hunters get away with this, but his admonishment is gentle. 'Until its height has been determined', he says, 'it is a little rash and not a little unfair to Everest to enter the altitude 30,000 ft upon the map as has been done on the one at the end of this volume, even though it is qualified in the text'13.
12. In 1992, a Franco Italian Expedition, laden with hi-tech apparatus, went to Everest to measure with absolute accuracy the height of Everest and end the murmurings about K2 being higher. The expedition was sponsored by Baume et Mercier, the Swiss watch company, and led by the Savoyard guide Benoit
The Roosevelts got their Panda; also much other game, including 'a fine group of the Golden Monkey' for the Field Museum of Chicago.
In his review, Mason writes, 'Bandits seem to be as common as dacoits were in India before British rule, and the return journey through Lolo country -was not unattended with danger. Possibly in no other country in the world are idols and gods treated with such scant veneration. Frequently they were found neglected and broken. And where else in the world is a god punished for not answering a prayer? "People ask god for something. Kill chicken for him. God not do it. Break his arm off." 'As Richard HI might have said: 'Off with his head - so much for Buckingham'.13
So where does Kingdon Ward, the botanist we met in Vol. I, come into this? Starting from Mandalay, he was to work eastwards and join the Panda trailers somewhere in the French protectorate of Laos about May. Then they would all proceed together to the coast of Annam.
Kingdon Ward left Rangoon in March, and climbed the highest hill in the Southern Shan States, not much over 8000 ft. 'Using Kaw guides,' writes Mason, 'he ascended the hill in April, collecting a number of interesting orchids and other plants. Near the summit he found a fine white-flowered epiphytic rhododendron in full bloom and two other species - one almost certainly new - out of bloom.'
On 1 May he crossed the Mekong into French territory, finding more beautiful orchids. He was laid low with fever and held up for five weeks during which time he heard that the Roosevelts had reached Yunnan-fu and gone to Saigon by sea. Kingdon Ward crossed the mountains to the Namtha river; the rains had set in and travel was possible only by boat. Embarking in a canoe, he went down the Namtha for five days. 'The scenery was beautiful, and many of the forest trees and giant climbers were in flower.' When the Namtha joined the Mekong, he transferred to a raft and five days later reached Luang-Prabang. He took the post raft and completed the 290 miles to Savanakhet rapidly as the river was navigable. By this time he had travelled about 700 miles on the Mekong and 200 on the Namtha. This was restful but not very good for a botanist.
Chamoux, famous for his rapid ascensions; he had already climbed nine peaks of over 8000 m., three of them in less than 24 hours each. The Italians have already built a research laboratory at 5000 m. on Everest, EVK2, and propose to build an incinerator to take care of the more than 50 tons of garbage and junk left by expeditions. In Vol. 48, 1990-1991, Ardito Desio describes the Italian scientific expeditions of 1988, 1989 and 1990 to Shaksgam and the Everest area. 13. In the 'refined' version of Shakespeare's play, popular in the eighteenth century.
From Savanakhet, by car and rail to Hue and then the Tourane. Two days later he was in Saigon where he finally joined up with the Roosevelt party. Kermit had already returned to America; Theodore followed and Kingdon Ward continued his voyage to Singapore and Rangoon.
Among the book reviews is one of Sterndale's Mammalia of India, by Frank Finn, 1929, being an abridged and revised edition of the
original. 'Himalayan mammals are there in force___though perhaps
one would have preferred a little more and later information about Ovis karelini and the Ovis poli.' There are descriptions of 13 species of Langur, and 29 of Squirrels and Flying Squirrels. It includes the Dugong, but the picture of this last, alas, 'is nothing like the Mermaid of our dreams!'
The Bombay Natural History Society was not directly mentioned in Vol. I, but Vol. II has a special note about it. It outlines its aims and activities and states, 'Of particular interest to members of the HC are the wide and varied range of articles which have appeared in its Journal dealing with the Fauna and Flora of the Himalayan Region.' It also has a word for shikaris 'The Society's Taxidermy Department is at the service of members who wish to have their trophies mounted.'
The early determination to give due place to science has not been lost in Vol. II, and Dr A.M. Heron contributes an interesting article on 'The Gem-Stones of the Himalaya' (one might have thought that his name would have better fitted the author to write about birds rather than gems).
'The Himalayan region is strikingly poor in minerals of economic value,' he writes. The best place to seaVch for gems is not in their matrix, but amongst the gravels, moraine and scree.'. Sapphires were first brought to Simla in 1882 from Lahul, where a landslide laid bare the rocks. The Maharajah of Kashmir wisely posted guards; the gems were sold in Simla at 'absurdly low prices such as a rupee a seer.'
In 1887, 'the largest weighed about 6 oz. and was partly of a very brilliant colour.' In 1906 the output was valued at £ 1327, in 1907 £ 3144; one stone sold for £ 2000. There were beryls, aquamarines, rubies, spinels and garnets. 'Great tracts of the Himalaya are yet unprospected, and though the HC would be the last to foster among its members that gambling instinct which characterises the true prospector, and would deprecate the idea that a fortune is to be picked up as an accompaniment to a mountaineering tour, nevertheless a search for beautiful minerals lends an interest and perhaps even a mild excitement to wanderings over the stony pastures and bare rock which come between the forest and the snow.' Alas, he tells us that 'the chances of finding anything of value are remote.'
There is milch about shikar in Vol. II, as there was in the first volume, and we have to remind ourselves yet again that we are in 1929 when shikar was a very respectable sport and a primary reason for visiting the Himalaya.
The shikaris of Vol. I had concentrated on the numbers they had bagged and the size of the horns; even the indomitable Mrs Lethbridge had not told us how she managed to get her ovis ammon and her burrhel. In 'Nine Days' Sport on the Pamirs' consisting of extracts from the diary of a journey to Chinese Turkistan in 1927, Capt. A.A. Russell gives us some of the excitement of the chase. Had he carried a camera instead of a rifle (and a tape measure), our sympathies would have been with him all the way.
19 July 1927. Way above the camp. Abu Khan, a local man from Kara-su, spotted a herd of poli14 in the distance. 'As the wind was favourable and the poli were in a fairly get-at-able place, I determined to try and stalk them.' It was a long and difficult stalk of five hours, but he had to give up as the wind turned and blew towards the quarry. 'One phase of the stalk jvas most exciting. I was working my way down the edge of the stream when two ewes appeared about 200 yards on my right. There was no cover ahead and I had to pass them. If they spotted me where I was they would run straight down and alarm the big fellows. I crawled on my stomach inch by inch for what seemed an eternity, but was really about an hour. Every time one of them raised her head I lay like a rock, till after satisfying herself that I was a rock, she went on grazing.'
14. In HJ Vol. I, No. 1, Mrs. Lethbridge and other shikaris had referred to Ovis ammon; I assumed this was o.a. poli, or the Marco Polo Sheep. Gurdial Singh wrote to me saying no, it was o.a. hodgsoni. Capt. Russell refers to poli, tout court. This is what the Encyclopedia of Indian Natural History, ed. by R.E. Hawkins, tell us. 'Wild sheep are found in a great arc from Turkey and Iran through Central and Northeastern Asia through western North America. Over most of their range they inhabit high mountains - preferring flat or rolling plateau country, not precipitous country like goats - but at either end of it they approach sea level. Of the five species, two occur in South Asia: the Urial (Ovis orientals) about 80-90 cm hight, and the heavily built Argali (Ovis ammon), 110-130... cm high. Argali in this region are of two races. The larger Tibetan Argali (Ovis ammon hodgsoni) with its very heavy horns which curve forward along the sides of the head, is found on the outer plateau
of Tibet from Nepal and Bhutan west to the Karakoram pass in Ladakh; ........The
Marco Polo sheep (o.a. poli) comes from the Pamirs to the Tagdumbash pass in Ladakh, but its range is separated from that of the Tibetan Argali by a 300 km gap; its horns are thinner, but they spiral outwards dramatically.'
The name, Marco Polo sheep, carries a strong flavour of romance, of Venice holding the gorgeous east in fee, of Xanadu where Kubla Khan did a pleasure dome decree, and where Alph the sacred river ran, (or polii). They once ranged in large herds through much of the Karakoram range in Pakistan, Afghanistan and China, but are now in danger of extinction. Even within the Khunjerab National Park, they are subject to illegal hunting, and the Karakoram Highway has made the area easily accessible. Live stock and yaks compete for grazing. If Capt. Russell were alive today, he would no doubt have been a fervent conservationist.
Next day, he saw the herd again and stalked them once more. It was a simple matter to get within 200 yards but impossible to get nearer, 'so I collected my wind, took careful aim at the biggest, fired and had the mortification to see my bullet strike the snow a foot short. I seized the bolt to reload and the cartridge jammed. I struggled with it and in about thirty seconds got it out, bent nearly double. The poli had disappeared, so I hastened to the spot where I saw them last and found them collected in the nullah below. I fired four more shots at the biggest and brought him down at 400
yards.......Within about three minutes of the death, the birds of prey
appeared circling high above us, watching and waiting. We only took the head and skin, as the yaks were too feeble to reach this spot. It was not much of a head, 44 inches, but it was a beginning.' Next morning, he spent skinning and dressing the head. Later, he saw several poli on the way 'but my rifle was with the baggage some way behind.'
He had many more encounters with poli, some too small to bother about, some made his mouth water but were too far. His diary for 26 July is worth quoting at length. 'I rose at 2.30 a.m. and set off alone at 3 o'clock. It was difficult picking one's way amongst the boulders in the pitch darkness and I had to be particularly careful not to knock my rifle. I reached the place in the dry bed of the burn that I had fixed on the evening before just as the first grey light turned the world into ghost-land. I crouched breathlessly peering into the half-light, imagining every rock was a poli, a leopard or a bear. Suddenly I saw a shadowy object on the hill-side about 200 yards above me and up wind begin to move. It came down the sky-line, a poli. Then followed a procession, sometimes a single one, sometimes three or four - every one silhouetted against the sky as he passed. It was too dark to distinguish the big fellow and I waited until they had all passed - about a quarter of an hour - then crept down and across to a little spur overlooking the nullah where I heard stones rattling about. "
'Knowing that there was good grass there I felt I really had the old man this time. On peering over I found that instead of feeding on the rich grass they had gone a little way up the opposite hill-side and were already out of safe range. At the same time I was horrified to see a black figure stalking along the same hill-side, straight towards them! It was that prince of fools, Aibash, who had come out to see the fun. I" was powerless to warn him and I knew that if they did not spot him they were bound to get his wind. So I just waited and watched the tragedy. Aibash got to within about 80 yards of them before they got his wind. He never saw them till they were about three-quarters of a mile away, when he waved to me frantically to inform me of his great discovery! (Shahbash. Aibash, you saved their lives!)'
'When he eventually came down I told him in mixed Persian, Pushtu, Hindustani and English what I thought of him. But as he only speaks Turki, in which language I don't know a single swear word, I'm afraid a great deal of it was lost on him. Poor old man! He may have been a famous shikari once - which I can scarcely believe - but since he married three wives, I am afraid he has lost his prowess on the hill. I think the cold last night may have numbed his brain. He dithered all morning, left my camera in one place and my waterproof in another, and jolly nearly set my tent on fire fooling about with the candle-lamp.'
Capt D.G. Lowndes of the Royal Garhwal Rifles undertook a shooting expedition to Lahul in 1929, over the Rohtang and the Baralacha, and spent a month looking for game. But game was scarce, 'particularly ibex, and only two burrhel (Ovis nahura) were shot. Large numbers of snow-cock were seen and a few tea! were shot on the Unan river.'
Among the reviews, is one of Big Game Shooting in the Indian Empire, by C.H. Stockley, DSO, OBE, MC, FRGS, FZS. The impressive titles of the author leave the reviewer, A.M. David, no option but to use the reviewer's well-worn standby 'This book fills a long-felt want among sportsmen.'
Native Dwellers of the Hills
Sherpas were not mentioned in Vol. I. Col. Tobin, writing his account in Vol. II of climbing in the Sikkim Himalaya, was obviously upset by Douglas Freshfield's comments on his porters, made in 1899. 'Freshfield hardly seems to appreciate properly the Sherpa and Bhutia porter', he remarks acidly, 'but it must be remembered that he wrote in 'pre-Everest' days.'
Freshfield's criticisms, whatever they happened to be, were counterbalanced by the comments of the two Norwegians Rubenson and Aas, in 1907, about whom Tobin was able to say, 'Another source of satisfaction was the capability and reliability of the Sherpa porter, especially when properly equipped and well-treated.' Could it be that Freshfield's porters were not properly equipped or well treated ?
Tobin adds a footnote to Bauer's account of the attack on Kangchenjunga. He said, 'It is only fair to the Tibetan porter to remark that on this expedition he had little chance of showing his qualities. Two of the best of the Bhutias, Lobsang and Sonam Tobgay, had only returned two months earlier from Farmer's ill-fated expedition, on which they had suffered severely, and these two crocked up at the end of the first month. Another, Namgyal, who had been severely frost-bitten on Everest, also fell out early. It was no doubt largely on account of these failures that Sherpas were entirely selected for the high work, while to the Bhutia was allotted the arduous but less spectacular task of humping the stores up the glacier, where there was little room for initiative. The experience of other expeditions employing a mixed force of Sherpas and Bhutias has been that there is little to choose between these two splendid races, either in courage or endurance.'
When W.E. Buchanan reached Sangla in the Baspa valley in October 1917, after crossing the Rupin pass in deep snow, he paid off the coolies and 'gave them cigarettes. They immediately started back for the pass, singing and cheerful. I had found all the Bashahris in the Pabar and Rupin valleys most pleasant to deal with. Few Europeans seem to visit them and at first I often found them running off to hide when they caught sight of us. But it was easy to gain their confidence by means of a few simple medicines, and their faith in a tabloid administered by a European was most touching. It was however amusing to note how the inhabitants of each village on the way to a particular pass would assure me that the pass was the worst in Asia, while the one in the neighbouring valley, which would entail using other coolies, was ridiculously easy.'
On a subsequent visit in 1926, Buchanan noted that conditions had changed because the begar system of coolies had been abolished. 'Delay in collecting coolies is therefore inevitable and it is more economical in time and money to employ mules.'15
H. M. Glover, making the circuit of Kanawar Kailas, noted that the population was increasing and there was less food. The problem was met by polyandry and surplus girls were devoted to celibacy. All of them worked in the fields and were as cheerful a set of maidens as can be found anywhere in the world.
15. Philip Manson, who served in Garhwal, has described the end of the begar system in his very readable novel 77ie Wild Sweet Witch.
Capt. A. A. Russell, on his shikar trip to the Pamirs, finally taught his men to pitch his tent correctly. 'The men have at last learned to pitch my tent properly. They never seemed able to get the pegs in the proper alignment.' When he pointed out to Nadir (who had previously been with the Roosevelt and Morden expeditions) that the canvas would certainly tear with the pegs as he had put them, Nadir protested that his life would be forfeit if it did. 'My remark that my tent was infinitely, more valuable than his paltry life "filled him with admiration.'
Lt.-Col. Reginald Schomberg crossed the Muz-art pass in the Central Tien Shan in October 1929, after a heavy snowfall. 'The summit had 8-10 ft of snow, and if an animal or man stepped a few inches off this beaten track, the snow engulfed him at once and it was a hard task to dig him out again.. .No Turki has ever any thought for anyone except himself, and consequently caravans were always meeting here, with resulting head-on collision, followed by a panic among the animals which floundered and plunged, as they sank deeper into the fine dry snow. Victory went to the strong.'
Mrs Visser, writing of their expedition to the Karakorams, praised the admirable way the Ladakhi porters had behaved throughout.
Lieut. D. M. Burn, who undertook some triangulation on the northern slopes of Tirich Mir, writes about some Chitrali superstitions of the horse-shoe of peaks over 24,000 ft called the Istor-O-Nal. The coolies of the previous year refused to move on the glacier, so he called up some Chitralis of the Tirich area. At one point, they also refused to go further. 'Like all hill people who only touch the fringe of civilization, the Chitrali is steeped in superstition. He peoples the mountains with malevolent fairies and the glaciers with strange monsters. Ruined houses and graveyards are the abode of jins and spirits. The home of the fairies is Tirich Mir and on first seeing this great mountain it is easy to understand the strange fears and imaginings of this child-like people. High up on the slopes of Tirich Mir exists a marble-lined tank in which the fairies bathe and it would be certain death for anyone foolhardy enough to approach it. But lower down a pool where the fairies washed their clothes was all right.'
'After some months in the country, we were told by our jemadar that we were extremely foolish to keep so many dirty coolies at high camps if we wanted fine weather. The dirty clothes incensed the fairies. I personally took the jemadar's advice and after four days the weather changed the day after the coolies were sent down and the work was soon completed.'
There was a quaint superstition about the Thui pass. If anyone was killed while attempting to cross it, there would be clouds on the pass for three days, giving his spirit time to reach heaven. The year before, a Gilgiti fell into a crevasse and lost his life, and sure enough, for three days there were clouds. There was also a legend about a dragon about 20 ft in length living in the crevasses, with very hard scales which no bullet could penetrate. Unlike European dragons, this one had no wings and didn't breathe fire.
There were also the jins who chose old deserted dwellings to live in. They sometimes assumed the guise of a dog or a cow until they came upon an unsuspecting traveller.
Glover, on his way round Kanawar Kailas, noted some local legends. Kailas was reputed to be the abode of the souls of the dead. The death of the Rajah was said to be heralded by a cascade of water bursting from the centre of a precipice high above Shongtong and visible from Chini. Kali the terrible inhabited the heights and the villages, deotas were worshipped. A road was built by the Forest Department through the cliffs at the base of Kailas; man after man was killed, and after each death, goats had to be sacrificed to appease the evil spirits. At last an avalanche carried away the subordinate in charge and two of his assistants. The village of Mehbar was partially destroyed and the workers bolted. More goats were sacrificed and this allowed the work to be finished to peace.16 As William McKay Aitken says in his article on Burha Pinat, Vol. 48, 1990-1991, 'Actually one does come across some spooky happenings in the wild'.
Some General Notes
The membership of the Himalayan Club had risen from 250 to 302. The Annual General Meeting was held on 24 February 1930 in H.E. the Commander-in-Chief's room in New Delhi with Field-Marshal Sir William Birdwood, Bart, in the chair.
The library, established in Simla, had bought 119 books. There was a total of 298 books, of which 155 had been presented and 143 purchased. Issues of books had not been many, amounting to 44.
There is an account of the first air journey to Gilgit. Four Wapiti planes went from Risalpur to Gilgit, via Chakdara where they refuelled, on 28 March 1929: over four hours. We can imagine the excitement at Gilgit. All the Mirs and chiefs of the Agency were collected to see the wonderful "flying carpet" of the Sirkar....None had ever set eyes upon on aeroplane -Gilgit, our nothernmost outpost, has been linked up with India. The raiders of Tangir, Darel, and of the other little republican States and unadministered independent territory enclosed by Gilgit, Swat,wChitral and Hazara, will have realized that they are no longer immune from punishment; and already the gentle suggestion of an aerial visit by the Political Officer at Gilgit has settled with blood mon