1. Mountaineering - Everest
  2. Nepal - Lhotse
  3. Nepal - Makalu
  4. Nepal - Dhaulagiri
  5. Nepal - Annapurna
  6. Nepal - Manaslu
  7. Nepal - Cho Oyu
  8. Nepal - Jannu
  9. Nepal - Menlungtse
  10. Nepal - Kokthang and Others
  11. Western Himalaya and the Karakorams - Nanga Parbat
  12. Western Himalaya and the Karakorams - The Karakoram
  13. Western Himalaya and the Karakorams - Gasherbrums
  14. Western Himalaya and the Karakorams - Garhwal
  15. Kullu and Himachal Pradesh
  16. Kashmir
  17. Natural History
  18. Survey of India
  19. Then and Now


TWELVE VOLUMES, 13 years, 3000 pages, 242 articles - not to mention Expedition Notes, Book Reviews, Obituaries, Club Notes. The only consolation I can give any reader who has stayed the course with me so far is that this is the last article in this series. Positively.

Harish Kapadia was the editor for Vols. 39-42, and then again 46-50. He was assisted by R.E. Hawkins for 39-40 and by Muslim H. Contractor for 46-50. Soli S. Mehta edited 43-45, assisted by Harish Kapadia. Kapadia has had a remarkably long period of editorship and this stability has doubtless contributed to the quality of the Journal.

It is only fair to mention that this series of backward looks at old volumes of the Journal began with Volume 48-90/91. So we looked at Vol. I in Vol. 48; at Vol. II in 49, and Vol. III in 50. Rather like a snake eating its own tail.

John Martyn had written a full Story of the Himalayan Club 1928-78 in XXXV-78; Muslim Contractor continued the Story 1978-88 in 44-86/ 87. Another ten years have passed; should the Story be brought up to date? In the meantime, William McKay Aitken's 'Ramble through the Himalayan Club Library', 41-83/84 proved that as Librarian he was the right man in the right place.

Environmental Degradation of the Himalaya

The growth of population, 'development', tourism (that goose that is supposed to lay golden eggs) and all the consequences of these three unrelenting Furies were becoming a major concern. And rightly so.

A.D. Moddie had sounded the alarm with his 'Quiet Crisis in the Himalaya', XXXIII-73/74; he continued the good work with 'Himalayan Tourism: A Mongol Needing Eco-Civilizing' 40-82/83. 'Officially sponsored Tourism has come to appear like a new Mongol in what was an earlier Shangrila,' he wrote. But besides tourism, there is 'progress': dams, hydropower, forestry, mining, industry.

'...the immense variety of resources are the greatest and also the most vulnerable assets of the Himalaya,' insisted N.D. Jayal in his excellent survey of 'Our Fragile Heritage', 44-86/87. The dangers of 'opening up', of unsustainable development, of the adverse impact of tourism, of the need for a sensitive and 'small' approach to development: these are all words of wisdom. Is anyone listening?

Trevor Braham speculated on the 'Himalaya - The Next Twenty-Five Years', 48-90/91. He suggested that there should be an evaluation of the maximum strain that a region could bear; that access should be widened to spread the load away from overburdened areas; small parties should be encouraged; liaison officers should undergo a training course; and popular locations should have permanent facilities.


⇑ Top




When the indefatigable Ardito Desio heard that K2 was being touted as being 11 m higher than Everest, he sprang into action and proposed that the two mountains be measured using the best modern and identical equipment (45-87/88). The results showed that Everest was still Uno: 8848 m and K2 only 8611 m.

Two expeditions to Everest are described in 40-82/83. Lluis Belvis reported on the 17 Spaniards who attacked the W ridge. They built a 'telepheric' (sic) from 5800 m to the Lho La 6050 which worked perfectly and enabled them to hoist 5000 kg, 30 kg at a time. An avalanche destroyed the whole of the final route to the Lho La and they had to work out an alternative route. Sherpa Lhakpa Tsering died suddenly of stomach perforation and the body was taken down to Lukla. From C5, 8100 m. three men including Sherpa Nima Dorje made an atempt but cold and wind turned them back. Nima decided to go down; Dadioch and Gil watched him from C1, saw him slip and fall to his death 2500 m below. The attempt was abandoned.

Bill March gave an account of the Canadians on Everest. Three Sherpas were killed by an avalanche; Peter Spear was buried but survived. A falling serac killed Blair Griffiths the cameraman; David Read and a Sherpa fell into a crevasse, narrowly escaping death. The situation was reviewed; six men decided to leave, eight stayed on with four support persons and 24 Sherpas. They used C2 as a base and avoided the ice fall till the final descent, making cooperative arrangements with a New Zealand team on the Lhotse face. Three men including Lhakpa Dorje reached the summit, followed by a second team including two Sherpas.

'The expedition was one of the most arduous any of us had ever been on. Our small team was tackling the long unclimbed east-north-east ridge of Everest without oxygen and with its main difficulties situated near its end between 26,000 and 27,500 ft. where the ridge was joined by the N ridge... ' Thus wrote Chris Bonington in 39-81/82 about the British Everest Expedition to China, 1982. There were four climbers and two support men; they used siege tactics but with minimal fixed ropes and snow holes for the lower camps.

The main difficulties began at 26,250 ft. 'higher than all but 14 mountains in the world The ridge now narrowed into a knife-edged crest of snow, barred by a series of rocky pinnacles it would probably give us some of the most difficult climbing ever attempted at that altitude.' Dick Renshaw suffered a mild stroke and had to go down; Chris felt he had gone as far as he was able, 'particularly as I was so much slower than Pete (Boardman) or Joe (Tasker) and might hold them up.' So he and Adrian Johnson decided to traverse and establish a dump on the N Col to await Peter and Joe.

Chris and Adrian were barred from the N Col by a broad crevasse; they had their last radio contact with Pete and Joe who were at their third snow cave. Throughout the next day, 'we were able to watch (their) progress through our powerful telescope....they climbed late into the evening reaching the foot of the Second Pinnacle where they disappeared round the corner...' They hadn't answered 'our radio calls....and we assumed that either they had been too engrossed in the climbing or that perhaps their walkie-talkie had developed a fault.' Two days of waiting; a visit to the Kangshung valley in case they had retreated down there; the inescapable, sad conclusion.

Col. D.K. Khullar's Indian Everest Expedition 1984, (41-83/84) had several setbacks and successes. Sherpa Ang Ringzin was killed in an avalanche while four others were injured; Jang Bir, one of the kitchen boys was found dead; a serac broke off the Lhotse face and caused destruction in C3; there were misunderstandings and unseemly rivalries about the summit teams in the final attempt. (The expedition included men and women; Col. Khullar gives only first names except for Dr. Meena Agarwal who was responsible for a complicated Base Camp, and for the Sherpas.)

Ang Dorjee, Rita (the daughter of Gombu who had been up Everest with the Americans in 1963 and the Indians in 1965) and Phu Dorjee made a summit attempt; Ang Dorjee and Rita turned back and Phu Dorjee went to the summit alone, meeting members of a Bulgarian party, one of whom seemed near death. He hurried down, overtook them and led them to his summit camp. The second attempt included Sirdar Ang Dorjee making his second ascent of Everest (this time without oxygen; he had been there before with Wanda Rutkiewicz) Lhatoo, Sonam Palzor and Ms. Bachendri. She was thus the first Indian woman and the fifth woman in the world to climb Everest.

It comes as a surprise to learn that Chris Bonington had not been on the summit of Everest as yet; so he joined the first Norwegian Expedition led by his friend Arne Naess in 1985 to 'realise a personal ambition to reach the top of Everest.' (42-84/85). The South Col was a surprise: '7986 m high it is almost the size of and as flat as a football pitch, the highest scrap yard in the world....littered with old oxygen bottles, the skeleton frames of tents and the tawdry junk of previous expeditions.'

The climb turned out to be 'harder than anything I had imagined. Anyone calling this the "yak" route, should come and try it for themselves.' And so, as Bonington described his emotions on the summit, he gave a better answer than most to that perennially nagging question: Why climb a mountain? 'I crouched...and just cried and cried in great gasping sobs - tears of exhaustion, tears of sorrow for so many friends, and yet tears of fulfilment for something I had so much needed to do I hugged Pertemba, crouching beside me.' Pertemba had been Chris's Sirdar in 1975 on the SW face and had climbed Everest twice before.

'All the obvious ridges, buttresses and faces of Everest have now been climbed,' wrote Doug Scott, 'except for the NE Ridge. There have been four attempts, all British. it can justly be dubbed the last great problem.'

It was on this ridge that Pete Boardman and Joe Tasker disappeared in 1982. Scott's team of eight included Sharavati Prabhu of Bombay who had been on Everest in 1984 with Col. Khullar.

Snow and high winds - the expedition took place in October - frustrated the final effort but Rick Allen (who'd been on the S face of Ganesh II in 1985) and Doug Scott reached 8100 m before turning back. This was disappointing for them, naturally, but they lived to fight another day. The expedition had another truly sad note.

The brothers Nima and Sila Tamang had been with Scott on all his previous expeditions since 1979, and they came on this one as cooks. After the attempt, Nima was killed by an avalanche and through the determined efforts of everyone including an American expedition on the N ridge, they finally found his body and took it down to the Rongbuk monastery to be cremated. 'Nima was a great man He was a man in balance who asked for nothing, was completely self-effacing, always cheerful, hard working under the most difficult of circumstances. He was a Buddhist through and through and if anyone knew that the body is but a garment to put on and take off - he did.'

Ed Webster, agreeing with Doug Scott's views, headed for the Kangshung face, 'this feared and dangerous face, the most remote and little known side of Everest,' (45-87/88). Americans had climbed it in 1983, but using rocket launchers and motorised winches, and oxygen. Norbu Tensing, son of the Tensing, organised the logistics, Pasang Norbu was the Sirdar, John Hunt was the Hon. Leader, whatever that may mean.

As they climbed, they 'jealously saw several members of the 7 million dollar, 300 member Japanese/Chinese/Nepalese Fellowship TV Expedition reach the top on 5 May in perfect, cloudless weather.' This must be, of course, a literary flourish, because one cannot imagine anyone in his right mind being jealous of an expedition like that.

The climbing was difficult, but they got to the South Col and struck out for the summit. Paul Teare was unwell and turned back; Ed took off his outer gloves to take photographs and began hallucinating - he and Robert Anderson turned back. And then there was one. Stephen went on and became the first Brit to climb Everest without oxygen.

All three were exhausted, having spent three full days above 8000 m without oxygen. 'It rapidly became the fight of our lives to descend our route. For 3 '/> days we struggled down avalanche-prone waist-deep snow in a white-out, and with no food, waiting for death....I told Stephen he wouldn't become famous unless he got down alive.' They survived by a 'near miracle', the doctor Mimi Zeiman worked tirelessly, Stephen and Ed were carried with frozen feet on a stretcher for four days. All three lost several toes and Ed some fingertips. They had paid a terribly high price. 'But our ascent of the Kangshung was, for the four of us, the adventure of a lifetime. As Stephen Venable recently wrote, everyone is entitled to do something completely mad once.'


⇑ Top




While Doug Scott was attempting the NE ridge, and just before Ed Webster tackled the forbidding Kangshung face of Everest, Tomo Cesen had his lone affair with the S face of Lhotse, 8516 m. 47-89/90. 'I proved to everyone, but mainly to myself and the few others who share my views as to the progress of Himalayan climbing, that even the highest mountains in the world can be approached in the same manner and style of climbing as practised in the Alps.'

Cesen had climbed Yalung Kang 8505 m with a bivouac at 8300 m in 1985; the following year it was Broad Peak and the S face of K2. Thirteen attempts on the S face of Lhotse had failed. 'I carefully prepared myself....analysing previous attempts...But at the end I was back with my old belief — I trust myself more than anyone else.' In 1987, he spent two months on the SE ridge of Lhotse Shar studying the S face. Because of avalanches, he felt it was best to climb at night.

The first day, he climbed for 15 hours before bivouacking; the second bivouac was at 8200 m; the third day, he was on the summit. One more bivouac on the descent. 'I had a feeling that the entire Lhotse is trembling from the avalanches.' And when he was down, 'The concentration and tension of the past four days were over I know though, that Lhotse took part of my soul. The part that ever so often wants to feel the uncertainty and true adventure A man throws a rock - his desire, into the unknown, into the fog and then follows it.'

'Horrible, but Honourable Lhotse Shar,' Gwang Geol Han of the South Korean Expedition 1989, 47-89/90, called it. At BC, 'the members fastened 30 strings of three strands, tied densely with the five colour cloth of Buddhist figures, in three directions on a long rod on which the Taegeuk flag and the national flag of Nepal were hung. And they made incantation, burning incense before a sacrificial table, serving with wine, and scattering rice. All members and the Sherpas threw a handful of wheat flour, handed over the lama fortune-teller's fee, and drank a glass of sacrificial wine, then a warm atmosphere pervaded the place.'

Waiting for the oxygen to arrive from England and caring for those 'troubled by a light gastroenteric disorder or headache to maintain the mental balance, the members passed away the leisure time playing poker, chess, "badug", and "go-stop" a miraculous medicine at height! To win money or to defeat the Sherpas, the members had a mingled feeling of joy and sorrow.'

On the mountain, 'the Sherpas striked for the first time to get a bonus....the leader made a promise to give a bonus...Immediately, they hand in hand houted "Lhotse Shar" with joy. How simple and honest they were!'

Two Sherpas and Chun Sik Kwon finally reached the summit after a difficult climb and stormy weather. 'Kwon buried the flag of Daegu Mountaineering School autographed by the members, in the snow.'


⇑ Top



Voytek Kurtyka attempted the W face of Makalu in spring and again in autumn 1981, 39-81/82. In spring, with four Europeans and two Nepalese and with poor weather, 'the trip turned out a fiasco.' The only success was the solo ascent of Makalu II 7640 m by Padam Ghaley Gurung. 'We turned back with heavy hearts and without face.'

In autumn, he went with Jerzy Kukuczka and Alex MacIntyre. On the 20th day, at 8000 m, Kukuczka 'triggered a breathtaking snow avalanche...leaving the team confused and motionless.' After six bivouacs, the three were blocked by a rock barrier which would have required several days, one of MacIntyre's crampons broke, which they 'accepted in good Alpine fashion to be the reason for our ill-fated retreat.'

Jerzy Kukuczka however, 'acting against logic' went up alone to try the unclimbed N ridge, and despite a storm, got to the summit. He was greeted at Base by Kurtyka: 'Jurek was tired out, his face in spite of an intensive tan grey, and his usually stout posture shrunken and tiny....There was great harmony between him and the huge rocky desert spread around. He said, "Yes, I've been to the summit."

Kurtyka gives an account of the East-West Precipice Fellowship, begun in 1977 on a train from Moscow to Afghanistan; a loose grouping that led to many spectacular climbs.

The following year, Dr. Adam Bilczewski led a Polish-Brazilian Expedition to the 2500 m W face, 40-82/83. Unlike Kurtyka's attempts, they fixed 3.5 km of rope. At 7400 m. Szulc died suddenly, due to 'acute failure of the circulatory and respiratory systems.' They continued the climb, however, and finally Czok got to the summit alone. 'We overcame one of the most difficult Himalayan steep rock faces....Did we really win a victory over the mountain? Unfortunately, we were defeated by the mountain. Our friend's body that had to remain on the mountain leaves a stamp of tragedy on the whole success. Yes, it was also his success.'

Carlos Buhler wrote in the same issue of the American-Canadian Makalu W Pillar Expedition, and like Doug Scott, left us to guess whether this took place in 1983 or 1984. 'Surely the approach trek to a mountain in Nepal must be one of the great treasures of mountaineering in the Himalaya,' he wrote of their 16 day trek. When he stared breathless at Makalu, 'I recall thinking that if I were a God I would choose this mountain as my cathedral.' Indeed, many Gods have shared such feelings and chosen to make their homes on Himalayan peaks.

Some very tough climbing in bad weather enabled the establishment of C3 at 24,200 ft. Above that, they 'would rely on the skills of gymnastic rock climbing.' Finally, two men made an attempt on the summit without oxygen, but it was snowing and they had to turn back though they were within 100 yards of the top.

In 44-86/87, Glenn Porzak pointed out that though the 'Americans had been 10 times to Makalu one way or another by 1987, only one, Roskelley had got to the summit.' Nine Colorado climbers, with four Sherpas set out to redress the balance.

Porzak gives a very readable and detailed account of the approach march over Shipton's pass. When, after a four-week build up, they were ready to make a summit bid, storms tied them down at C3 for five days, after which they could only go down. The radio gave cheerless news about the weather, but they decided on one more attempt. They got back to C3 in a white-out and had 'one of the wildest storms imaginable.' Some tents at C2 were shredded; those at C3 were anchored into ice with 8 inch screws.

Next day they established C4 at 25,700 ft. and for the final climb, they had a beautiful, windless day. When they had negotiated the final knife- edged ridge, 'I unfurled the US and Colorado flags atop the most perfect summit, of the most perfect mountain, on the most perfect of days....For Lhakpa Nuru it was his first 8000 m peak. At age 24, I have no doubts that he will go on to reach the summit of many more Himalayan giants. He is simply one of the strongest and most engaging individuals you can imagine.' Four days later, three others reached the top.


⇑ Top



Twenty nine years since the Swiss first tried it, a Japanese expedition succeeded in climbing Dhaulagiri I, 8167 m, in 1982, 40-82/83. There are 9 peaks in the Dhaulagiri range over 7000 m; the Kala Gandaki river separates it from the Annapurna range. One recalls that the French under Herzog had set out for Dhaulagiri in 1950, but then happened to climb Annapurna instead.

There had been five attempts by the Pear route and three others before a Swiss expedition climbed the mountain by the NE ridge in 1960. Others followed, including Kamuro's solo climb in 1981.

Norio Sasaki's expedition in 1982 succeeded. However, on the way to C2, an avalanche carried away two climbers, but both survived. Yamada, Komatsu and Saito got to the summit although it was snowing.

Adam Bilczewski - who had been on Makalu's W face in 1982, was on Dhaulagiri in the winter of 1984-85 (43-85/86). 'On 21 January 1985, in the middle of the Himalayan winter, the Dhaulagiri summit was reached by the Polish team after seven weeks of dramatic struggle.' There were 10 members of the team, later Jerzy Kukuczka joined them.

Even before starting, an avalanche blast completely destroyed the base, but no one was hurt. 'The worst of all was the panic among the porters, who refused to go up further.' Finally, 17 agreed, for double pay. The advance base at 4200 m was destroyed 'by strong winds' and had to be moved.

Czok and Kukuczka got to the summit from C4, but had to bivouac at 7800 m on the way down. Next day, they got separated and Kukuczka had another night in the open. When he got down, he hastened off to join the Cho Oyu expedition, so he could do another 8000er that winter!

Czok was badly frost-bitten and had to be carried back by porter and on horseback. He lost some toes, while Andrzej Machnek lost some finger tips.

Carlos Buhler was back in the Himalayas in 1990 with the International Dhaulagiri Expedition, 48-90/91. George Lowe climbed to the summit alone by the NE ridge; Carlos, having got over a bout of sickness, Dainius Makauskas having recovered from a torn ligament, and Nuru Sherpa made the second climb. Carlos and Nuru got back to their bivouac by 8.30 p.m., both with frost-bitten toes; Dainius never got back.


⇑ Top



A winter climb of the S face of Annapurna, 8091 m was attempted by a Japanese party in 1984-85; they reached 7200 m. In 1987 they tried again. Kuniaki Yagibara who wrote the account in 46-88/89, had gone to Everest after the winter attempt of 1984-85; now back on the S face, he stressed to his team that 'our experience and record in the Himalaya exceed by far that of the British expedition led by Chris Bonington in 1970. Moreover the British climbed in spring '

An avalanche destroyed C1 with its stocks of food and equipment but the climbers and Sherpas escaped by sheltering under an ice ledge. Four men reached the top without oxygen. On the way down, 'on 20 December 1987, 'having been exposed to danger for 12 hours...' Kobayashi, 22 years old, fell and disappeared. Then Saito - who had made the first ascent of the Pear route on Dhaulagiri in 1982 - fell. 'Kobayashi and Saito were killed in falls, one after the other. We were devastated and unable to find words to express our feelings.' A search by helicopters was in vain.


⇑ Top



Tilman had deemed the west face of Manaslu 'impossible without wings'; a complex face, numerous serac barriers, rock spurs, icy couloirs, and no obvious route. In 1971 a Japanese expedition established five camps, reached 24,600 ft (7500 m) but could not complete the 13000 ft. face. In 1981, Pierre Beghin set off for the 'unknown face' of this mountain of 26,760 ft (8156 m). They were 'four accomplices and a single passion.'

'We drag ourselves from tea-shop to tea-shop along the trekkers' royal road, everything is done for the Westerners' comfort: traps for the tourist, signs in English, inns which offer shelter and the local cuisine adapted to Western tastes, not forgetting the Coca-Cola! Kids assail the visitors hoping for a hand-out or ready to sell the wares of local artisans. Insidiously, the Nepalese are selling their souls.'

On the mountain, avalanches everywhere. 'Would there be any hope of climbing the face without playing Russian roulette?' They decide to climb only at night or very early morning. Fixed ropes were regularly carried away, and the 'most difficult part of the route, was 3500 ft of climbing comparable to the hardest faces in the Alps with ice or mixed ice-and-snow steps of more than 70'. A violent storm forced them to descend, 'feeling threatened and blinded.' Bernard Muller and Pierre went up again, set up a bivouac tent at 24,600 ft, and the next day, 'beyond a particularly airy snow ridge, we reach Manaslu's narrow summit. On this spot, lost from the world, I seem to have arrived at the frontier of time which comes to close a strong episode of my life... '


⇑ Top


Cho Oyu

How not to win friends or influence people, might have been a suitable sub-title for S.K. Berry's article on the Bristol Cho Oyu Expedition 1984, 41-83/84. A half-page of ranting about Nepal, bureaucracy, treatment of foreign expeditions, having to pay for the 'dubious privilege of having to take Sherpas', and we are ready to share his wish that they had 'stopped before they had started.'

They had expected to find the Everest trail to be littered but 'actually there was little evidence of this', which left him nothing to grumble about. This was soon remedied, as on the mountain, they decided to go up a gully and then down the ice-fall, fixing ropes, 'but the Sherpas were too scared to go on...I was so mad, I did not speak to them, or give them their Mars bars.' Berry and Jeff went up, and 'now that the Sherpas could see there was no way other than the gully and having been shamed by watching us go up and down it...they capitulated.'

Two men tried for the summit but 'a colossal system of gullies with steep sloping rocks,' were too big an obstacle: 'We returned, abruptly.' [With their Mars bars intact?]

The 4th Chilean Expedition to the Himalaya 1987, was a team of four; the details were managed by a mountaineering company led by a very reliable and honest man, Kunga Sherpa. Ang Rita was the sirdar. From C6, they reached the summit in six hours on a perfect day. 'Two Swiss climbers from an international expedition arrived a couple of minutes behind us, following our tracks. This was the highest mountain (8201 m) up to date climbed by Latin Americans.'

Their route was shared by the Nevada Cho Oyu Expedition of six climbers. Border difficulties developed due to misunderstandings. A commercial expedition of over 20 persons from Europe came from the Chinese side and it became clear that 'we (the Nevadans) were in Chinese controlled territory.' When above C1, they heard shouts; two excited Chinese officials were much agitated about them and the Chileans and confiscated their passports, and took Robert Watters, the author of the HJ article, with them. The others and the Chileans were higher up on the mountain. They learnt later that in the early 80s the border had been adjusted so that the original route now found itself in China.

Fernando Garrido described his first winter solo of an 8000 m peak in February 1988, 45-87/88. He had just been on Everest with a large expedition and experienced problems among team mates: So why not climb an 8000 er alone, and in winter? [One could have thought of easier ways of avoiding cantankerous companions, but still.]

Strong winds blew down his tents at BC but Tenzing - cook, translator and friend - built 'an ingenious rocky hut' which was fine. He set up a tent at 5850 m; after that, he was alone. He put up a tent at 6450 m, then at 7000 m. The wind blew strongly and 'I was afraid of starting to fly over Cho Oyu inside my tent.' The next day, he tried for the summit, taking a sleeping bag, gloves, glasses, lantern and camera. 'When my hands got frozen, mainly that one which held the ice axe, I stopped, took my gloves off, and placed the fingers in direct touch with the hottest part of my body, my genitals... Then, it seemed to me that someone was coming along. I never had felt something like that before. I had read in books that some climbers had experienced it, but it was something new for me.'3

Eleven hours of climbing got him to the summit, 1200 m above his tent. 'I did not get excited....I did not have any flag, only a photograph of my wife and closest relations.' He had intended to leave the photo but finally didn't; 'the surrounding was not pleasant and the place was not nice either.' He got down in the dark and passed the night in the open with his sleeping bag.

Having met Carlos Buhler on Makalu and Dhaulagiri, here he is again, playing cat and mouse on Cho Oyu's W ridge, 47-89/90. In Kathmandu, 'it did not take long to provision the expedition and secure the necessary permits.'

There were three climbers and several family members, so it was a pleasant fortnight getting to BC. Alan Harrington had trouble with a cough so he and his wife went down, leaving Carlos and Martin to make the attempt. They got to the summit on the fifth day. 'It was cat and mouse all day, dodging down to shelter from the wind.' On the summit, they 'shot a few photos as Martin held tightly to a Basque flag and I to an American....It was our second summit together.'

Vojtek Kurtyka of the W face of Makalu (39-81/82) is back seeking new routes on Cho Oyu and Shisha Pangma (8946 m), 48-90/91. This time he is styled as Wojtek Kurtyka.

("Spell it with a Wee, my Lord, spell it with a Wee," as Sam Weller's father cried to the judge in the Pickwick Papers.) He was with the formidable Swiss climbers Jean Troillet and Erhard Loretan, the 3rd man to climb all 14 8000ers. Their aim: the virgin SW face of Cho Oyu and the unclimbed gully on the S face of Shisha Pangma.

They climbed Cho Oyu 'non-stop'. Climbing the lower gully at night, they faced 'a dangerous snow slide. We could hardly stand it, fixed to our ice tools.' They reached the top after a 'night in the cosy nest under the boulder at 8150 m.' The descent to BC took less than nine hours.

And so to Shisha Pangma's S face, 'which I knew so well from my former visit...with my wife Halinka in October 1987 and from the picture I received from Doug Scott.' They began the climb at 6 pm and were on the summit next morning. Jean and Erhard completed the climb and were back at BC within 24 hours; Wojtek took a wrong route and lost several hours.


⇑ Top



In 1983, Henri Sigayret led a French Expedition to the SW Ridge of Jannu (7710 m), 40-82/83. Jannu is near Kangchenjunga and was first climbed in 1962 by a French team including Lionel Terray by the S ridge. Sigayret's team used the ropes left by a Czech expedition which had climbed the most difficult part but had to abandon their attempt some 100 m from the summit.

'Even though they weren't able to finish their climb....the Czechs are the real conquerors of this spur...we admired the enormous work they accomplished and if we hadn't found their fixed ropes, would we have succeeded?' As it was, three climbers got to the top.

Tomo Cesen climbed Jannu, his way 46-88/89 (before he went to Lhotse). He climbed the N face, 'one of the most difficult in the world,' alone. There was the threat of avalanches and falling seracs, so he climbed at night. 'The entire face above 7000 m represented a trial into which I had to invest a great deal of my knowledge but even more, my psychological strength.' With some extreme climbing and effort, he got to the top; as the weather was worsening, he descended by the Japanese route. 'Heavy snowfall and strong cold winds,' forced him to bivouac in a crevasse. Altogether, it was 'three days of great effort with only a little food; my stomach was not prepared for a feast.'

A team of Polish climbers attempted a winter climb of Api, 41-83/84. On Christmas eve 1983, Andrzej Bielun went ahead while Tadeusz Piotrowski followed. Piotrowski got to the summit but there was no Andrzej. 'We must have missed each other...I walked down....but in the whirling gale, blinded by the darkness...I fell down a vertical serac...I knew that I had lost my way. And so, where was I? The visibility was limited To walk down? No, it was a madness!'


⇑ Top



'The impish adventurer, Eric Shipton, first revealed Menlungtse's delight in 1951....Peter Boardman, from the summit of Gaurishankar in 1979 thought it "the nearest and loveliest vision of all." Thus Chris Bonington in 'Melungtse 1987' 44-86/87, described the attempt by two Brits and four Norwegians on the 7181 m Qiao Ge Ru as the mountain is called in Chinese. The expedition was the first to cross with all its gear from Nepal into Tibet and administrative complexities were compounded by landslides which had swept the road away. The approach was not one used by mountaineers or trekkers. 'The district headquarters comprised a single- storeyed compound....The village was pure Tibetan. We were the first foreigners ever to visit it.

'We set out on 22 March, walking down an incredibly beautiful gorge with frozen cataracts suspended down the northern side and dense hrubbery... the ruins of what must have been an exquisitely beautiful gompa, or monastery.' And the Menlung valley, 'was rich in wild life. We had already seen herds of small deer, the fresh tracks of a snow leopard, and coveys of Ramchukor.'5

There was some very tough climbing before they faced a storm on the ridge. Jim Fotheringham was hit by lightning; the wind was screaming; the tent of Bjorn and Odd was torn to shreds. They had to retreat. On one rappel, Chris was last, pulled out the snow anchor by mistake (felt much ashamed later) and found himself tumbling backwards. 'God - I've had it!' he thought. But he managed to grab the rope and stop himself.

They tried another route, and faced another thunderstorm: 'shaken and exhausted, we fled....We were glad to be alive. We had come through, a close knit and very happy team, had seen a beautiful, wild and unspoilt region and had given our best to one of the steepest and most attractive unclimbed peaks in the world.'

That, of course, was not the end. Next year, Bonington was back with a different team, 45-87/88. This time they had enough yaks, because 'the timber boom...is certainly increasing the prosperity of the village but is threatening to denude the magnificent forests of the Rongshar Chu and its side valleys.'

This time they chose the SSW buttress for their attempt. Since they had photographed some footsteps the previous year, an BBC crew came with them eager to film the yeti. Andy Fanshawe and Alan Hinkes, after some very difficult climbing, got to the W summit 7023 m.


⇑ Top


Kokthang and Others

Flt. Lt. P.D. Navathe reported on the Expedition of the Territorial Army to Kokthang 1982, 40-82/83. Kokthang, 20,166 ft (7132 m) is on the euphonic Singalila ridge dividing Nepal and India. The expedition of 17 members and five Sherpas was led by Capt. K.V. Cherian, and three teams reached the summit. When Cherian, Ang Norbu, Ki Kami and Nima Tashi made the first climb, they 'offered prayers to the Goddess of the mountain and hoisted flags.' Kami went back to the top with the second team as well.

The Australian Army Nilgiri North (7061 m) Expedition 1983 included a Sherpa and a guide from New Zealand. Zac Zacharias described this in 41-83/84. He left C2 with Maila Pemba, but 'the extra rope and food bag which I had given Maila to slow him down didn't work. His acclimatized body moved with ease whilst I struggled up.' Two teams reached the summit.

Rudi Meier's Swiss-Nepalese Expedition to Ohmi Kangri Himal 1984, 42-84/85 set out to solve some topographical problems. The approach march 'takes place in a marvellous and unknown area, not yet open to trekkers. The village of Yangma, with its Tibetan population is very different from the remainder of the valley.' They achieved the first ascent of the main summit 7045 m. Almost all members reached the top. 'Then we removed all the material leaving only a few stakes and ropes.'

Of the seven main peaks of Ganesh Himal, Ganesh I, 7429 m, had been climbed by Raymond Lambert in 1955; Rick Allen climbed the S face of Ganesh II - a face that 'defied appreciation...a monster' 42-84/85. 'Few travellers venture up this cul-de-sac and only a handful of expeditions have passed this way. Little Western influence is apparent in the self- sufficient villages and buying a few potatoes is a major exercise for a Sirdar who speaks no Tamang.' A Swiss team had been climbing up the W ridge; Rick and Nick, after the summit, came down that way, but their 'visions of descending a succession of camps stocked with chocolate were shattered.'

On summit ridge of Changabang.

Article 14 (Carlos Buhlar)
30. On summit ridge of Changabang.

Climbing wall of Changabang.

Article 14 (Carlos Buhlar)
31. Climbing wall of Changabang.

Approaching summit ridge of Changabang.

Article 14 (Carlos Buhlar)
32. Approaching summit ridge of Changabang.

Ronald Garin described the feckless Swiss expedition that had left no chocolates for Rick; they reached 6400 m. but had to turn back because of bad weather - bringing their chocolates down with them.

'In three weeks from base we achieved a difficult ascent by a new route on an unspoiled high mountain', wrote Lt. Col. Jean-Claude Marmier of the French-Nepalese climb of Gyachungkang 7952 m in 1986, 43-85/86. The mountain is near Cho Oyu, between China and Nepal. Two teams reached the summit. Marmier found Namche 'a pleasant place even with tourists', and after their climb, 'we retrieved all our equipment from the mountain.'

There seems to be something special about Scottish climbers: their accounts are always readable, understated, amusing. Mal Duff wrote of the first ascent of the SW Pillar of Mera 6654 m in Eastern Nepal, 43-85/ 86. The glacier approach turned out to be 'as full a test of our mountaineering abilities as we would ever wish to find,' while on the mountain, 'carelessly dislodged rocks added unrequired drama. A concert of discord. We climbed to survive.' ['Lay on, Mal Duff; And dam'd be him that first cries, "Hold, enough!" ]

Carlos Buhler 'made a lone ascent of a relatively unexplored but beautiful peak in the Jugal Himal... Dorje Lhakpa 6966 .' The mountain had been off-limits for a long time; his British companion, 'interested in the Himalaya's less explored areas' fell sick and had to return after a delightful approach march 'that took us up a beautiful ridge to the Laurebinayak pass and led us through the Gosainkund lakes.' Carlos's Nepalese companion Lhakpa Dorje, veteran of several difficult climbs, 'was not comfortable on this hard, blue ice without fixed rope'. So Carlos decided on a solo up the W ridge. From a bivouac at 5950 m he set off at 5 a.m., made the summit and got back at 10 p.m. Next morning he descended and at the col where the W ridge ends, he found Lhakpa Dorje waiting for him. 'He had come up from base camp early in the morning knowing that I would descend and need a friend. It was one of those moments one never forgets. The coming together of two friends high on a Himalayan glacier. I hoped I would never climb a mountain by myself again.'

The account gives a real feeling of danger, of the thrill and of the fear of a solo climb, without bravado or heroics. There are Messners and Tomo Cesens - and there are Buhlers, who are rather more human.

And is it not strange that Carlos Buhler does not remark on the mystery of being on a mountain called Dorje Lhakpa with a companion called Lhakpa Dorje?

Andrew Pollard went in 1991 with a team of ten to the 7319 m Chamlang, which means 'Big Bird with Flapping Wings'. Like Berry, he had a struggle 'against the bureaucracy and corruption to get the necessary permits and to extract our freighted equipment from Customs.' Then there was a strike by the porters, and leeches. Not much joy on this approach march. Bernard Levin, the widely-read columnist of The Times once wrote that India didn't deserve to have the Taj Mahal, because Indians were incapable of protecting it from pollution and damage. Perhaps we and the Nepalese don't deserve to have the Himalayas either?

Coming up to C1, Ngatemba the Sirdar, spent the worst night 'of his career without shelter or bivouac equipment in high winds on the rocky ridge....he had been unable to descend to warmth and safety as he didn't have a torch.' There were four of them to make the summit bid. Neil Howells was leading on steep unconsolidated snow and fell. 'Angus (Andrew) shouted, "He's off!" There was nothing I could do. I was struggling to make any upward progress myself let alone arrest a fall. He whizzed past me and momentarily I realised that we were all about to plummet down the west face....seven and a half thousand feet (2300 m) down....Then it was all over, he stopped just past me, incredibly held by Ngatemba, I don't know how.'

They bivouacked at 6800 m, 'desperately cold,' and got to the summit next day. 'Ngatemba took out a Nepali flag and we all posed beside him for photographs.'

'I had never climbed in Nepal before,' wrote Stephen Venables about his expedition to Kusum Kanguru 1991, 49-91/92. 'Watching the rush hour traffic heading to the airport at Lukla, we felt glad we would be heading off into the jungle for a spot of peace and quiet.'

The SW face was 'a great Eigerish concave wall,' looking very dangerous, so they looked for alternatives. 'Descending the scree slopes, Dick (Renshawe) suddenly found a rusty battered camping gas cylinder, destroying in a moment my deep satisfaction at being in a valley where no man had trod before. I had already boasted about (this) in my despatches to the Daily Telegraph' But they figured that it must have fallen from the W ridge, 1500 m above.

The climb was 'a magnificent route with steep climbing on snow, ice and rock and mixed terrain.' They took four days to get to the S ridge, but Brian (Davison) was unwell and the only option was to go down, 'so, bitterly disappointed, we set off down, taking 20 abseils to get off the mountain.' Stephen and Dick went up again and got to the summit after 'four days of beautifully varied climbing.'

Andrew Kerr's wife was Swiss, and it was a Scottish/Swiss Expedition that set off for Putha Hiunchuli in 1992, 49-91/92. This peak is at the extreme west of the Dhaulagiris, and was first climbed by Jimmy Roberts in 1954. They almost got to the top but ran out of time. Being a mainly Scottish expedition, 'we celebrated the end of our climb with a good Scottish whisky. The Sherpas also seemed to appreciate our 16 year old Lagavulin Malt....Must remember to bring more whisky (next time).'

Namcha Barwa, the highest unclimbed peak in the world, 7782 m: thus Hiromi Ohtsuka in 50-92/93 as the Japan-China Expedition set off in 1992. The peak is on the eastern edge of the Himalayan range, 'a very remote yet prominent place.' Two teams got to the top; and it was the highest unclimbed peak in the world no more.


⇑ Top


Western Himalaya and the Karakorams

Nanga Parbat

Before going to Everest, Barry Blanchard's Everest Express Expeditions 1988, 46-88/89, was on the Rupal face of Nanga Parbat. From the 'nicest BC in Pakistan', four of them set off for some difficult rock and ice climbing. On the fifth day, 'all hell breaks loose. The storm that we've feared attacks with a speed none of us has ever seen before... snow ...110 kph winds, lightning and thunder are everywhere.' All four were were on one ice screw while avalanches bludgeoned them . Finally, it stopped and they got down to 7000 m after 22 hours of climbing on a foot of new snow. Due to a misunderstanding, they had lost their ropes and they had 3000 m of rappelling to do to get down. They began to cut old ropes left by previous expeditions and found a duffel bag also left behind. In it they found two new ropes, 30 rock pitons, 15 ice screws and food. It had been left by a Japanese expedition of 1985 for four members who were to come down but never did. It saved them.

Dr. Karl Herrligkoffer had examined the Rupal Flank, which with its 4500 m is 'the highest steep wall on earth,' and he came back on his ninth Nanga Parbat expedition in 1982, with a German team, two Poles and a Pakistani to try the E Pillar, 39-81/82 C1 was swept away by avalanches several times. After some difficult climbing, C5, a bivouac tent, was set up. On the summit attempt, three members decided to turn back, but the 21 year old Ueli Buhler continued, though he had no bivouac equipment, food or beverages. Two days later, Ueli staggered into C5, suffering from high-altitude nausea 'and his mind was disturbed by hallucinations....he was at the end of his tether....with considerable frost-bites on fingers and toes.' He had achieved the upper end of the E Pillar, the South Summit. . 'Thus my Nanga Parbat Anniversary Expedition in memory of the first German ...Expedition of my brother Willy Merkl in 1932 had been a success. With this expedition I will finish my research work of 29 years in the Himalaya and Karakoram area. I have been ten times to Nanga Parbat with a large expedition twice to Rakaposhi, twice to Everest and once each to Broad Peak and Kangchenjunga.'

In 1981, four young Dutch climbers set out to climb the Naked Mountain. Only Ronald Naar, the writer of the article in 41-83/84 had had any Himalayan experience. BC was at Tap Alpe; striving to establish C2 they found two tents, oxygen bottles, gas cartridges, burners, ropes, food and bivouac equipment left behind by a previous expedition. Storm bound at C3, the 'tents begin to rip....our entire store of food falls down the mountain,' and there is nothing to do but go down to 'square one.' They start again, despite some sickness and a severe sore throat. On the summit attempt, Ger and Gerard drop out, and Ronald makes it alone to the top.

On the way down, he sees his friends Bas and Frank clearly just ahead; they speak to him; they are joined by Gee the doctor and two Pakistanis. 'I weep with happiness. ...I crawl over to them. I talk to them and ask questions, but they don't answer me Slowly I come to the realisation there is no one there...They are just a hallucination. Sobbing with misery I lie in the snow for quite a while.' He survives a third bivouac but it is so cold he realises he must move to survive, so he continues the descent in the dark.


⇑ Top


The Karakoram

No section on the Karakorams would be complete without a word from Ardito Desio; in 45-87/88 he takes us back to 1929 and the first climb to the Conway Saddle. Thank you, Mr. Desio.

'...one of the hardest and longest enterprises which I have ever lived so far,' wrote Kurt Diemberger of the International (mainly Italian) expedition of 22 members in 1983 to the N face of K2, from China, 40-82/83. To him, the 8610 m peak was 'much more beautiful and more difficult than Everest.' They had no porters, because 'in Sinkiang there are none.' Diemberger was there with Julie Tullis to make a film. A Japanese expedition had done the Direttissima - except the last 600 m, when they had moved over to the neighbouring ridge. Members of Diemberger's expedition - the leader was Francesco Santon - did the same to achieve the summit. Diemberger and Julie hoped to follow but a snowstorm foiled their attempt.

'High waters in the valley of Shaksgam!' for the return, and crossing the Kaladjin river on camels was as fearsome as anything K2 offered. But after four months in the mountain-desert of Sinkiang, they had only 'one desire: home!'

Kurt Diemberger's accounts are always a pleasure to read, and his ebullient English has a flavour all its own. 'All of us 22 members of the expedition are marked by the hardship of four months....I even got 46 pounds less!' '...gasping for breath in the up and down of this never-even glacier world.' 'In an avalanche it is no good place.' 'But who can ever melt so much snow - to all devils!' '...to explore, touch these rocks, where never before a man has been.'

Roger Payne's concern for the environment has been manifest on many occasions; his 1993 lightweight attempt on K2 also aimed to 'make a positive contribution to the mountain environment and local people.' They were a group of four climbers; 'in addition to the removal of other expeditions' rubbish, all our equipment and rubbish was removed from the mountain and base camp. The fact that none of them reached the top seems supremely unimportant; the account of their 'Summer on the Savage Mountains' is altogether an exhilarating story. There is more to mountaineering than just climbing a mountain.

They oversaw the installation of micro hydroelectricity systems in two villages which work with the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme. The electricity is used for lighting and water heating, reducing the reliance on firewood. They also donated a supply of medicines to the hospital at Shigar.

Base Camp had four expeditions already there, and the 'mix of nationalities and personalities provided many entertaining hours, with a great feeling of camaraderie and support:' a change from the griping about crowded conditions. On the mountains, crowded campsites were indeed a problem; at C2, limited space was made worse by 'the tattered remains of old abandoned tents.' The weather deteriorated; Roger and Julie-Ann dug a snow cave at C3 and were joined by a Swedish climber who couldn't find his camp and a Canadian without bivouac equipment. Next morning they learnt that three climbers had died descending from the summit the previous day. Alan Hinkes and Victor Saunders were moving up to set up C4 but stopped at 7700 m to help the surviving member of the Swedish team who was frost-bitten and exhausted. They brought him down to C3. Roger and Julie-Ann loooked after him and lowered him down the mountain next day. 'Visibility was poor ... very strong winds. There was a heart stopping moment when one of the old fixed ropes on a steep section of the Black Pyramid broke while the injured climber and I were simultaneously abseiling. Fortunately a serious fall was just avoided. After 13 hours' continuous effort' they reached advance BC where there were other members of the Swedish team. The injured man was evacuated by helicopter.

During the period of bad weather that followed, two 'very unusual discoveries were made. Almost exactly 40 years after the epic descent ...during which the American climber Art Gilkey was swept away in an avalanche some of his remains appeared on the glacier only 3-400 m from BC.' They thought it imperative that they try to contact Gilkey's family to ascertain their wishes. Next day, 'a few remains of a very small Asian person were found. We speculated that these were probably one of the three brave Sherpas who had died trying to rescue Dudley Wolfe who became stranded high on K2 in 1939.' After their return, it became clear they were the remains of Sherpa Kitar. Sherpas no longer go to K2 or the Western Himalaya, but there is a story that needs to be written, that of Sherpa heroism on K2 and Nanga Parbat.

The weather continued to be very unstable - the worst monsoon conditions in 50 years - and though they got up to C3 again, it was impossible to go further. They spent a whole day clearing the mountain of their equipment - and that of others. On the way back, they visited the village of Mango 'where the new hydroelectricity scheme was in full working order and greatly appreciated by the locals.'


⇑ Top



Voytek Kurtyaka [who has now acquired an extra A in his name but who am I to quibble about additional A's?], more effectively than most, conveys his emotional relationships with the mountains he climbs and the friends he climbs with. Having explored the face of Gasherbrum I that he meant to climb with Alex MacIntyre the following year, he went to Delhi en route to Kathmandu to meet Alex for another expedition. There, at the Polish embassy, he learnt that Alex had died on Annapurna.

So it was just with Jerzy (Kukuczka) that he set off in 1983. On the way to Concordia, they met bad, freezing weather and 'for three successive nights and two days the porters have been freezing under the poor tarpaulin shelters....desperately praying and singing Balti songs....' 40-82/83. For a wonder they were alone at BC - rather different from Geoff Cohen in 1985, (43-85/86) attempting Gasherbrum III, who found '15 or so expeditions congregated at the Gasherbrum BC and spread along the narrow barren moraine in a linear 'village' complete with unsightly rubbish dumps. Almost every fine day helicopters buzzed overhead supplying the army camp placed a few miles away for the desultory frontier war with India. Film crews disported themselves on the glacier to record Jean-Marc Boivin's hang glider descent from Gasherbrum II .... Other French stars parachuted and skied down the same luckless mountain, the goal perhaps of 10 expeditions in one season!'

Voytek and Jerzy climbed Gasherbrum II 8035 m. by the SE ridge, coming down by the east side, having done the first traverse of the peak And so to Gasherbrum I, 8068 m by the virgin SW face 2500 m. After being tied down for 20 days by bad weather, they buried their money and passports and left a sketch of two men climbing the mountain for the benefit of the five porters who were due to return, and set off. They were faced with difficult and delicate climbing. Once, Kurtyaka 'felt helpless and defenceless, when pair of friendly ravens sailed smoothly away over 7000 m.' He lost a crampon which fell down the mountain; however, as that day they found no way that would go, they had to return to their bivouac; the next day, Jurek found the lost crampon lodged in a patch of soft snow! After such amazing luck, it is no surprise to read that they got to the summit, got down with yet another bivouac and found the porters 'wondering dubiously over my drawing.'

Lt. Col. Prem Chand described the training for the Indian Army Mount Everest Expedition; 54 people went to K12, 24,370 ft. in the Saltoro range, west of the Siachen glacier. A party of three reached the summit; bad weather conditions precluded further summit attempts. 'The region is unexplored, unspoiled and virtually a mountaineer's paradise,' wrote Prem Chand.

Dave Wilkinson must have been a civil servant because he studied Pakistan's rules for expeditions and found a good way to get good climbing without being tied up in red tape. Anything below 6000 m counted as trekking for which no permits, peak fees or liaison officers were required. So in 1989 he went with five companions to the Barpu glacier in the Nagar district, climbed three peaks 5 - 6000 m, - two of them first ascents 46-88/89. After the exertions of the second peak, 'there was a delightful ablation valley, verdant grass of a lime-rich soil and an amazing spectral display of wild flowers. At first I feared to tread, but when they came thicker and more abundant, I just marched through them, in places thick carpets of yellow and blue.'

Dr. Ginette Harrison, writing of the British Masherbrum Expedition 1989, 47-89/90, tells us that Masherbrum is the 34th highest mountain in the world. The aim of the party was to climb the peak 7821 m; to make the first ascent of Masherbrum East 7163 m; and to paraglide. On the approach, after a steep climb off the moraine before the beautiful campsite of Dalsan, the 'porters broke into a spontaneous dance, some still with their loads on their backs!' Alas, at the camp there was an argument about pay rates and the LO had to settle this, 'hopefully without hard feelings.' In 49 days on the mountains, they had only 16 days of good weather, free of heavy snowfalls and storms.


⇑ Top



'The biggest change was the depressing news that a club from West Bengal...had wilfully taken packgoats into the virgin North Inner Sanctuary, flouting the laws governing National Parks...': thus wrote William McKay Aitken on revisiting the Namda Devi Sanctuary 1982, 39-81/82. To add insult to injury, the club was called 'Mountain Lovers'.

Aitken's account of his findings - of the number of goats illegally entering the Sanctuary, the absence of bharal, the rusting tins at old camp sites, the general ignoring of the wonderful rules set out to protect the area - makes depressing reading. 'What can be done to stop the rot? I feel strongly that Nanda Devi should be declared an inviolate peak and mountaineers should approach all Sanctuary peaks from outside the outer curtain.' While the article was in press, the government closed the Sanctuary completely.

'The Goddess rose
From calm and quiet meadows of the
Unviolated Sanctuary.
My son and my son's son
Will never see or know what I have seen
And known.

Thus so felt Charles Houston, by right a foremost devotee of Nanda Devi, in 45-87/88.7

In 1984, McKay set off with his three favourite Lata porters for the sources of the Nandakini, 41-83/84. 'The monsoon is the silly season in Garhwal,' but the 'big bonus ...is to experience the intense colours of the flowers. Every valley seemed to have a different carpet of colour and favoured species.' And in 1987, the indomitable Scotsman proved the attractions of Churdhar, the highest peak of the Lesser Range: for why should one only devote the HJ to 'higher things' and believe that 'Life begins at 26,000 ft.?'

There are authors who attempt to make ordinary climbs sound hair raising; Aitken indulges in no heroics and communicates the pleasures of 'lesser majesties'. Thus from Kausani, where Mahatma Gandhi wrote his Commentary on the Gita, Aitken had climbed the almost 1000 m up to the Buha Pinat several times. '..a wilderness trail through steep unspoiled jungle...stumbled on sleeping kakkar...and been given the right of way by a ghooral. bears and the occasional leopard come to you if you grow plums, maize or millet or keep a dog tied out at night. Other animals you will see include a pine marten....wild cats and jackals...'

A Colorado Garhwal Expedition attempted Manda I, 6510 m in 1981; the first ascent was made by a party of four Indians who followed immediately after. The summit was reached by Rustom Antia and Nandan Singh, 'our exceptionally strong and capable high-altitude porter.' (39-81/82)

With limited time available, Chris Bonington and Jim Fotheringham made the first ascent of the W summit 6038 m, of Shivling by its SE ridge, presumably in 1982. It called for some difficult climbing and their account in 40-82/83 concludes, 'It had been a superb climb to a truly magnificent summit, with 14 days of perfect weather out of the 16 we spent in the mountains.'

Allan Fyffe and Bob Barton, who sound like Scotsmen, had about eight bivouacs and some very tough rock climbing to get up the SW pillar of Bhagirathi III, 6454 m 1982, 40-82/83. An amusing footnote to flying flags on the summit: 'And then it is it....but all it really means to me is some place to take my pack off at and have a rest. We take the usual photographs I give Bob the Indian flag to hold (our LO had presented us with it) but nobody can remember which way up it goes. We compromise and hold it vertically.' [If they continue with such irreverence, I feel that their climb should not be noted in the proper file.]

Fyffe's account attracted Phil Castle and Carol McDermott (male), to this climb in 1988 46-88/89; originally six, four had pulled out.. Six days of hard technical climbing, and then - like the Fyffe party, they threw their haul bag full of rock climbing gear down the mountain: they didn't manage to retrieve it, however, because it got buried under rockfalls and snow. Having achieved the summit, they were in a hurry to get down and off the mountain: it began snowing and 'just as it was beginning to look like we were going to have another uncomfortable bivvy we came across a tent.' It had been left by a Polish expedition and provided them shelter and comfort.

Silvo Karo of the Domzale Mountaineering Association set off in 1990 to climb the 1300 m W face of Bhagirathi III before going on to Everest (47-89/90). The climbing was difficult; an ice screw broke and their supplies plummeted down; they had to follow the next day to replenish. At one bivouac, space was so tight that they had to hold on to the cooker lest it fall off. At another, 'two ravens appear from somewhere, searching for food. How could they find us, when the visibility is not even 10 m. Patiently they circle us, but sorry, there is hardly enough food left for us.'

On the fifth day, an overhang of rotten rock: 'What we went through in the next few hours can hardly be described in words: ...falls of 10 m, poor protection in poor rock, technical grade A, the feeling that we might not survive if we don't reach the edge [of the face] by night - experts understand what we went through.' Five bivouacs were necessary for the climb.

'Saga Magazine specialises in holidays ....for "the retired and near- retired" and leapt joyfully and generously at the chance to sponsor a Himalayan expedition comprising two climbers in their mid-sixties, one with a triple heart by-pass (me), and two in their fifties.' Thus Joss Lynam writing of Jaonli (6632 m) 1989, 46-88/89, because he and Mike Banks had decided to have 'a last fling'.

Like Bandarpunch, Jaonli was a 'Doon School mountain' first climbed by Hari Dang in 1946 who took a schoolboys' expedition to it in 1966; but as all these attempts and climbs had been from the W and Lynam and Banks were going to try from the E, I guess it wasn't trespassing. While Lynam and Ravichandra (LO) climbed a virgin 5450 m. peak, Banks and others had to sit out a four- night storm in a half collapsed tent; after the storm, though supplies were exhausted, a desperate attempt was made for the summit but inevitably failed.

Harish Kapadia not only followed the footsteps of Jack Gibson to the Ruinsara Valley and to Kalanag 6387 m, but also in 'introducing the young to the mountains and mountaineering.' (41-83/84). So he, Jagdish Nanavati and three others took a party of youngsters 16-21 years old; they climbed five peaks over 5000 m. and were introduced to mountain lore. In 1986, W.J. Powell and his party tried the E face of Kalanag, but heavy snowfalls frustrated their efforts, 44-86/87.

In 1988, Kapadia followed in Famous Footsteps in Central Garhwal and Kumaon, 45-87/88, and attempted several peaks and attained several passes. His historical accounts are always a delight, and his article is replete with the names of early explorers and climbers: Edge and Gardiner; Smythe and Oliver; Douglas (not Doug) Scott; Longstaff; Murray; Moddie; Gurdial; and others. In the same issue, Harish Kapadia provided a mountaineering survey of the major 'climbs in this land of the gods.'

Muslim Contractor, who became Assistant Editor of the HJ with Vol. 46 88/89, seems to have been a frequent companion of Kapadia. In 4385/86 he described a two-stage expedition to the Baspa and Ropa in 1986; a family outing and a climb of Manirang 6593 m. Muslim climbed Manirang South 5888 m.

Sandeep Shah and two comapnions successfully climbed Avalanche Peak 6196 m in 1984 41-83/84; Ajit Shelat and Chandrashekhar Tambat climbed Uja Tirche 6202 m in the same year, also described in 41-83/84; S.N. Dhar and A.K. Chattopadhyay describe the Diganta Club's climb of Chandra Parbat 6728 in 1984, 42-84/85, getting down to C4 at 1.30 am after more than 19 hours' effort; a Diganta team climbed Chaudhara 6510 m in 1989, 47-89/90. The four man Thalay Sagar NE Pillar Expedition 1984, 42-84/85, found the walk to base camp 'as beautiful and as spectacular as we had hoped...however, we were appalled at the amount of garbage left by previous expeditions...After spending several hours collecting a half dozen gunny sacks of cans, paper, empty fuel cartridges and other debris, a fraction of that present, we were finally able to establish our camp.'

The N face, the original objective, proved too difficult in the time available, so they turned to the NE pillar, and some hard climbing and uncomfortable bivouacs brought them to the summit. On the climb, Michael Kennedy wrote, 'What followed was the hardest single pitch of the climb, and one of the most frightening leads of my life, a steep, loose chimney capped by a huge chock-stone.' Instability and increasingly cold weather made them abandon ideas of an attempt on Shivling.

Swargarohini, like the Black Peak, seems to belong specially to Jack Gibson. But though he first explored its approaches and proclaimed its beauties, it was others who climbed it. Anil Kumar and two others set off for Swargarohini III 6209 m. in 1984, 42-84/85. Anil came back with a group of youngsters the following year; they climbed Kalanag 6387 m and a party of four attained the summit of Swargarohini III, 'eleven years after the Canadians had stood on its summit.'

The Advanced Course of the Nehru Mountaineering Institute went to the Ruinsara area in 1990 and four instructors made the first ascent of Swargarohini I 6252 m. 47-89/90.

R. Bhattacharji sings an unusual paean of praise to the 'bullying babus' who control Inner-Line permits. Writing of the Jadh Ganga Valley, 1985, 42-84/85, he said, '..one can walk miles and not meet a soul. There are no campsites and you yourself are responsible for the quiet around you. There is still a large part of Uttarkashi that is remote and for that we have to thank the bullying babus who resolutely deny Inner-Line permits. May God bless their insensitivity and may their tribe increase.!' [Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could introduce some horrendously cumbersome permits for certain wilderness areas to protect them from the tourist invasion.] '...Chirbas Parbat dominated our wishful thinking and ...and we decided to return to it... '

And so they did in 1986, as Indranath Mukherjee told the tale of the first ascent of this 6529 m peak in 44-86/87. Two members of the Kangchenjunga Foundation, Calcutta, reached the top.

A team from Bombay led by Ramakant S. Mahadik, who had attempted the peak in 1983, set off for the virgin Suli Top 6300 m, 43-85/86. After eight days of bad weather, they had a break and made a bid for the top. Just below the summit, there was an ice-wall, 'too hard for front-pointing...after a vigorous search we found a crack in the wall, up which we climbed for 4&frac; hours to emerge near the summit. Within minutes "Wow!" we were there.'

'Three Indian climbers went to the Ecole Militaire de Haute Montagne, Chamonix for a month, and three French climbers joined 15 Indians for a work-out on Kabru Dome in March-April 1985,' wrote Col. Balwant S. Sandhu, 43-85/86. This they duly climbed by a new route, and then the intention was to climb Kangchenjunga by the unclimbed E ridge. But, for reasons unexplained, 'we learnt that we could not climb Kangchenjunga'. So they went to Kamel 7756 m and climbed that. [As the authors of 1066 and All That succinctly said about Gen. Wolfe: He would rather have written An Elegy in a Country Churchyard than capture Quebec, but as the Elegy had already been written, he captured Quebec.]

It was an Indo-British group of police officers who went to the Jogin Group in 1986, as told by P.M. Das, 43-85/86. Actually, it seems to have been a party of British officers that Das had been asked to join. They climbed Jogin I and III and a 17,000 ft. peak. (Mandip Singh informed us that their pre-climb T-shirts said Tm going Jogin'. ) Then there was the Indo-Swedish Expedition to Meru 1986, written up in the same issue by Mandip Singh Soin. Several bivouacs, eight days climbing and the summit successfully attained. A Very Modest Mountain, wrote Emlyn Thomas, about Srikanta 6133 m. and went on with a very readable account of how his party found the mountain and finally climbed it. But it is tantalising to have first names strewn throughout the account, not knowing how large a party it was and if Yousef was one of the British party, a local, an LO, a Yousuf Zaheer, or what.

Hardeol, 7150 m which had resisted attempts by several expeditions, was climbed by an Indo-Tibet Border Police team in 1978; it was led by S.P. Mulasi and two ropes reached the summit. 'The humility of these men made them kneel down and bow their head to the reverent seat of the lord of the mountains, Shiva, offer prayers to the mysterious and mighty nature.' Divyesh Muni writes with becoming honesty about what seems to have been a rather nasty pre-Everest expedition from Pune 1989, 46-88/89: a 'high budget' and low competence expedition. Twenty two members, of whom four were completely untrained, four Sherpas and one HAP, attacked - if that is the word - Bhrigupanth 6772 m. A sad tale of dumping loads, exhaustion, inability to reach even CI, ' ..we learnt the lesson of our life time. We joined this expedition, despite the fact that we neither knew or had climbed with any of the other team members, because... of the lure of ...an opportunity to attempt Everest. The problems of ...the climb and of weather were overshadowed by the problems of differences in attitudes and approaches to mountaineering all lead climbing and majority of the load fenying was done by the Sherpas. Competent members were not allowed to open route for fear that they would not be as fast. The technical climbing ability and physical fitness of the team was unequally matched with the demands of the climb. .....Is it the love of mountains that motivates them or the glory and fame attached to mountains like Everest?'

A sadder and a wiser man, no doubt, the next year Divyesh Muni went with a group of friends and climbed Kagbhusand 5830 m. On tlie descent, a rappel rope stuck, and they fell 10 m, 'entangled with each other, we slid down ....gaining momentum..'. until deep snow stopped them. Sprained ankles, scraped hips, injured hand: luckily no worse. Coming down in the dark, Theophilus tripped, took 'flight off the rock' and landed on his back. 'We felt no jubilation of the successsful climb because of the two accidents. We only felt thankful to be alive after a narrow escape.'

In 1992, Divyesh Muni and three ladies from Bombay, climbed Danu Dhura 5560 m, Three other peaks were also climbed 49-91/92. Aron Samant with three others from Bombay attempted Mana Northwest 7092 min 1992 49-91/92. They did climb an unnamed peak 6687 m. Worth recording is that when they were in C4 at about 6200 m their 'so-called mail runner, Jay Singh' arrived, having collected one letter from the Niti post office and travelled 'all the way alone and later with our porters to the Rock Camp (6200 m) to deliver it - unparalleled. postal service.'

That the five Pandava brothers cooked their last meal on earth on the five peaks now named Panch Chuli I - V gives an added attraction to the summits; two new routes on Panch Chuli II 6904 m were climbed by army groups in 1991. These were the second and third ascents of the peak, and are described by Capt. N.B. Gurung and Lt. Col. Suraj Dalal in 48-90/91.

'The Panch Chuli expedition 1992 was the third in a distinguished series, the Indo-British excursions organised largely by Harish Kapadia .....co-leader.... editor of the HJ, and walking Himalayan encyclopaedia, practising his family trade as a cloth merchant in what spare time he can muster from his duties to the Journal and the Bombay Mountaineers.' Thus remarks AV. Saunders in his delightful account, 49-91/92. Co-leader Chris Bonington's comment on one of the members, Muslim Contractor has been quoted several times before: it bears repetition. 'Looking over the lists from Harish early in the year, Chris commented on the name of Muslim Contractor: "That is a person, not a job, isn't it?" "Yes Chris, he was with us on Rimo. Good company too." "Funny sort of name that, Muslim, don't you think?" "Yes, indeed Christian."'.

Apart from climbing Rajrambha 6537 m by a new route, climbing Panch Chuli II, and the first ascent of Panch Chuli V 6437 m, there was the accident to Stephen Venables .. The summit climb to Panch Chuli V proved much longer than expected and night overtook the party on the descent. It was 2.30 am when Venables' rappel gave way and he shot past the others; they grabbed the tangle of ropes and it was Dick Renshaw who held the 240 ft fall in his gloved hands, 'with just one tum of the rope through our anchor.' Venables had broken his left ankle and his right knee. They improvised a splint, and lowered him down - in excruciating pain. Chris Bonington, waiting at camp, had realised from cartwheeling headlamps and the noise that an accident had occurred. He and Sustad broke camp to move to where Dick and Saunders would bring Venables. Bonington fell and cartwheeled - cartwheeling seemed to be in fashion - down but luckily no bones were broken. The tents were pitched, and Saunders and his group arrived at about 3 p.m., 36 hours after they had left for the summit.

Chris and Harish raced to Munsiary and arranged for a helicopter.

'Reo Purgyil - the name, the mountain...' wrote E. Theophilus in 48-90/91. It has been known under many variations, for people of my age, mostly as Leo Pargial, which I learn to my dismay, is a 'typical display of the phonetic clumsiness and colonial arrogance'; 6816 m,. 22,280 ft. (at least I think that's what emerges from the welter of data given in a learned note by the Editor); Nalni Jayal confirmed that it should be Reo Purgyol and after all, he had been the Dy. Commissioner of Kinnaur for six years in the early 60s.

An expedition was organized by Yousuf Zaheer, well known as a white water rafting guide. Theophilus, having educated us ịl̥n the nomenclature of the mountain, proved himself a most interesting naturalist as well: pikas, snow cocks 'exchanging conversation', and a bharal about which we learnt a great deal.

They have some exciting and enjoyable rock climbing and four of them reach the summit of Reo or Leo as the case may be. In spite of my phonetic clumsiness and colonial arrogance, I enjoyed reading this article.


⇑ Top


Kullu and Himachal Pradesh

Well, if Madras can become Chennai and Bombay become Mumbai, I suppose one shouldn't grumble about Kulu becoming Kullu.

An all women's expedition to Lahul 1980, was made up of eight members of the Pinnacle Club, a women's rock climbing club founded in 1921. They climbed 14 peaks between 16,000 and 19,3000 ft, practically all first ascents (39-81/82). The 1981 expedition to Agyasol in the Kishtwar Himalaya climbed the E summit 6200 m 39-81/82.

Guy Sheridan and his companions, including a Norwegian team, spent time in summer 1980 placing dumps of food along the 800 km. trail they intended to ski along from Srinagar to Manali in winter, 39-81/82. They encountered some bad snow conditions, were forced to retreat after heavy snowfalls. But luckily, it was not all avalanche risk and poor snow. 'On 23 March we covered 35 km...and it was quite the most exhilarating skiing I had ever experienced. The final 7 km of the glacier is a wildly turbulent mass of moraine and ice which was the devil to negotiate in summer. Now with 2 m of snow safely covering the unstable moraines and the bare steep section of ice, we were able to take a straight line down and through it..'

And next day, 'Odd (Eliassen) was wearing a face mask to protect his nose and lips which had been badly burned by the sun as she schussed to a stop in the village (of Khanjar), the people took to their heels having never seen skis, nor foreigners before at this time of year. It was some time before they plucked up courage to come out and see who these strange people were.'• And the next night, they were in 'the attractive little PWD rest house which had been kept open throughout the winter by an Indian army doctor and an engineer. They were extremely pleased to see us and we were privileged to enjoy Indian Army beer for the rest of the day.'

Harish Kapadia is obviously fascinated by Spiti and has carried on a long affair with the region; but then he has carried on affairs with many other regions as well. There are mountaineers who go single-mindedly for their peak and seem oblivious of all else. Others - one is tempted to say, true mountaineers - soak in the history and geography of the region, are fascinated by the culture and traditions of the people who inhabit the area, by everything to do with the surroundings. Kapadia belongs to the second group.

So in 40-82/83, 'Spiti - Where Two Worlds Meet', we have a short history of the exploration of the region, as well as an account of the five peaks of over 5000 m climbed and three attempted by their party in 1983.

And we also learn several words of the Pitoon language - and indeed learn that there is such a language.

Four years later, back in the Lingti Valley, ' ...there were buses and roads everywhere, electricity and supplies in plenty. Tons of wood stored in summer.... solar energy....movie shows and travel have changed life styles,' 44-86/87. The party, many were the same as the 1983 group, made five first ascents of peaks over 6000 m. The account of the expedition is well supplemented by Kapadia's further article on 'Unknown Spiti: The Middle Kingdom', in the same issue, and of course, his book, Spiti: Adventures in the Trans Himalaya, 1996.

And Kapadia was back in 1993, 'to complete the Spiti experience by exploring the western valleys,' 50-92/93.

Aloke Surin and Ravi Karnath had made a two-man ascent: Lion Peak, 6I87 m. 42-84/85 with quiet aplomb; another two-man ex-pedition gave itself a rather high sounding title of the British Kishtwar Expedition 1985, 44-86/87. Perhaps big titles are needed to attract funds. Stephen Venables lent his photographs to Bob Reid and Edward Farmer, to set them off. These two enterprising men give a lot of interesting details about how to get to Kishtwar, get mules, book the dak bungalows and so on. The mountain people 'were bright, cheerful and absolutely trustworthy. They too found our cook to be an idiot and were soon cooking for us instead. In the evenings they'd sing and dance and although they couldn't credit why we should want to climb a mountain for "fun", they celebrated our success and shared our happiness.' Because three days from base camp, they climbed the summit of Dandagopurum, 6230 m by the SW face. Alpine style, and then took two days for the descent.

Aloke Surin did not reach the summit of Menthosa 6444 m but 'it will always remain a fine memory: of sparkling mountain days in an enchanted valley with an occasional chill wind to temper the hyperbole. The climbing was superb, the scenery gorgeous and the flowers almost justifying human existence.' That's in 43-85/86. Pleasant that Aloke's wife Margaret and her sister came to BC and made it at least partly a family holiday.

Aloke was left with a two man party in I 99 I - or possibly 1992 - 49- 91/92, when he Dawdled in the Dibi. The dawdle included a first ascent of Ice Sail c. 6250 m. This is one more article that adds to the enticements of the Dibibokri basin, where several past issues of the HJ have taken us.

Romesh Bhattacharji, slightly disguised as R. Bhattacharji, visited Remote Southeast Ladakh in 1984, 41-83/84; he went Back to Rupshu in 1993. He and his party trekked from Spiti to Rupshu via the Takling La 5274 m, and visited the famous Tsomori Lake. They climbed Mata II, 6281 m. 'Months after our return I had not got over Ruypshu's compulsive attraction. I am planning to visit Rupshu from Lahul, before dhabas sprout on that route.'


⇑ Top



'Lots in a Name,' wrote Barish Kapadia in 48-90/91, and Stuart Hepburn on setting off on his Kashmir Himalayan Expedition 1981, 39-81/82, would certainly have agreed. Bobang peak or Pt. 19,590 - graced with no better name? climbed or virgin? 19,000 or about 20,000 ft.? - was their goal. Hardly surprising that with this confusion, they reached the summit of Bobang when it was snowing heavily, and they lost their way on the descent several times.

Mamostong (7516 m) means 'a Mountain of a Thousand Devils' according to Col. Balwant S. Sandhu, 41-83/84. A joint Inda-Japanese expedition: 'This was my first climb with climbers from Japan. We all smiled excessively. In between we were devastatingly polite.' But the peak was successfully climbed and, it seems, the politeness continued.

Perhaps it was this success that inspired another Inda-Japanese Expedition, this time to Saser K.angri II 7518 m, led by Commandant Hukam Singh of the ITBP. Coming down from C3, Tsering Angchuk wanted to retrieve his snow-goggles and unclipped himself from the fixecl rope. He slipped and fell 200 m to his death. The body was brought down and climbing activity suspended for three days. Four members made a summit attempt. The last stretches provided difficulties and they had to fix some of their climbing rope; at 5.30 pm they reached the summit. By 11.10 p.m. they were all back at C4, 17 hours after they had left it.

Col. Ivar Hellberg 's account of the Inda-British venture to Saser 1987 46-88/89 is particularly interesting to read because for once it is the Europeans who are left in awe of the prowess of the Indians. 'It was also readily apparent to the relatively inexperienced British team that their Indian colleagues were both super-fit and extremely experienced Himalayan mountaineers with only a few minor exceptions, the Indians came from hill regiments - Gurkhas, Dogms, Garhwalis, etc. giving them miraculous speed in the mountains causing admiration, incredulity and depression amongst the British team.'

They climbed the virgin smnmit of Saser IV, 7410 m, while three Indians made a direct attack on the peak, 'a very daring and challenging enterprise ....only possible because of the colossal strength of these three climbers.' When they got to the col between Saser IV and Saser I, they decided to go for the former and succeeded, having 'covered a distance of about 5 km and gained a height of over 1830 m in 9&frac; hours and returned to a triumphant welcome....this must surely be a Himalayan record.'

The Ladakhis are also mountain people and showed their natural talents on the Ladakh Scouts Mamostong Kangri 7516 m Expedition led by Maj. A.M. Sethi, 46-88/89. Two parties reached the summit; this was the second ascent of the mountain but by a new route.. 'Thus the first all Ladakh Scouts expedition came to a grand finale just in time to join the festivities of its Silver Jubilee celebrations on I June 1988.'


⇑ Top


Natural History

K.C. Sahni's 'Botany for Mountaineers' 39-81/82 is a pleasure to read. It has the mark of the true expert - which means it is intelligible to the ordinary reader. For those who are active in the Himalayas, it serves as a useful guide; for those whose climbing days arc over, it serves to evoke pleasant memories. So we are reminded that the Eastern Himalayas boast some 80 species of rhododendron while the poor Western region has only about five; we learn that one of the Everest expeditions found the Himalayan edelweiss at 6096 m, and that Gurdial Singh collected Ermania (or Christolea) himalayensis on Kamet at 6400 m, the highest flowering plant to be recorded and now preserved in the Forest Research Institute in Dehra Dun. It is, alas, on the endangered list.

Alpine flowers are also covered by the remarkable Encyclopaedia of Indian Natural History, edited by R.E. Hawkins and reviewed in 43-85/ 86; Lawrence W. Swan's 'The Highest Life', 46-88/89, gives an account of life in the highest areas of the world.

Sir Joseph D. I-looker's travels and botanising in the Himalaya have continued to fascinate readers down the years, and A.O. Maddie has done us a signal service by writing a most interesting article 47-89/90 based on Hooker's Himalayan Journals, 1854.


⇑ Top


Survey of India

The Survey of India was closely connected with the establishment, and later with the activities, of the I-IC. So it is fitting that there should be at least two articles directly concerned with the Survey. Maj. Gen. RC.A. Edge described his 'Initiation to the Survey oflndia' 45-87/88. A personal account that conveys very colourfully the fun and excitement of survey work in the Himalaya: in this case, Garhwal, with four jolly Sherpas and a colleague, Richard Gardiner. And so the account ends, 'Both Richard and I felt sure there could be no better job than the Survey of India and that our manner of introduction to it could not have been improved upon.'

Lt. Gen. S.M. Chadha, Surveyor General of India, 47-89/90, gives a complete and very readable history of the Survey of India and its work in the Himalaya. This is the text of a talk given, quite properly, to the Royal Geographical Society on the eve of the Sir George Everest Bicentenary Celebration.


⇑ Top


Then and Now

It was Brig. Osmaston of the Survey of India who recommended Tensing to Jack Gibson and John Martyn as they set off for their first Himalayan trip in 1937. In 44-96/87, Gibson reminisced about the 'Mountains and Rivers of the Himalaya: Then and Now', having made his last expedition in 1973, after 36 years of devotion to the mountains.

In the same issue, Mavis Heath wrote of the time she spent in India 1947- 49, 'Two years and a half packed with memories of climbs and treks.' On leaving India, she felt 'she had left part of my soul, my very existence behind me in India - wonderful land of mystery and mystics, and those fascinating awe-inspiring Himalayan mountains calling me all the time.' She climbed no virgin peaks, opened no fearsome routes, (though she had her share of adventures) but the spirit of the hills was with her.

And I feel moved to mention that the nostalgia of Jack Gibson and Mavis Heath moved me to recall my own first long trip to the Himalaya, 'Kuari, Satopanth and Nostalgia', in 45-87/88. That was in 1943, 56 years ago. Yes, Then was then, and Now is now.

The Himalayan Club has seen many changes since it began in 1928. The 64 years of the Journal covered by Vols. 1 to 50, reviewed in this series of eight articles have seen the climbing scene transformed beyond recognition. The lives of mountain people have altered irreversibly. There is medical care, education, electricity, comparative wealth, access to towns.

But many of the changes are not happy ones: As Jack Gibson wrote:

'Then we trod soft along pacdandies;
Now telas ply on black topped saraks.

The hills that then were green with trees
Are barer now and scarred by land slips.
I miss the peace of yesteryear.'


A browse through the Himalayan Journals, Volumes 39-50 (1981-1993). This is the concluding part of the series.


⇑ Top