MICHAEL PHELPS WARD cbe, md, frcs, (1925-2005)
In This Short Span - a Mountain Memoir is the title of Mike's account of his first forty years. It is a modest record of a brilliant career of climbing and mountain exploration; together with a brief section on high altitude medical problems, which he was to expand in the first ever book on Mountain Medicine, published in 1975. His medical and scientific expertise opened doors in Bhutan, and later Tibet, doors closed to most westerners. He had an abiding interest in the history of travel and exploration in Central Asia, and published many articles. His book (he called it a monograph) Everest - A Thousand Years of Exploration is a definitive study of mountaineering, mapping and medical aspects of the Everest story.
His Memoir begins with an account of a guided ascent of the Wetterhorn with a Dutch family, when he was fourteen, which sowed the seed of his subsequent passion for climbing. He was the son of an expatriate family, and in the days before cheap air travel was separated from his parents for long periods. He went to Marlborough College, where he was introduced to rock climbing in Britain by Edwin Kempson (Everest 1935 and 1936).
While at Cambridge studying medicine, and then at the London Hospital, he continued to climb, getting to know some of the best of the relatively few British climbers returning to active climbing after the second world war. He first went to the Alps in 1946 and in 1947 was there with John Barford, author of the only book on climbing in Britain, and Bill Murray, the leading Scottish climber. Descending from the Col du Coste Rouge, Barford was hit by falling rock, and the three of them were swept down 500 feet, Ward falling into a crevasse, which the others had sailed over. Barford was dead. Regaining consciousness, Murray was able to help Ward out of the crevasse, and many hours later the two of them struggled unaided down to the valley. Ward had a fractured skull, and when he woke in a hospital bed had no memory of the past 36 hours. According to Murray he behaved safely and very considerately during their descent.
Afterwards, during his national service as a junior doctor in 1950/51, he had time to spare and became interested in the possibility that Everest could be climbed from Nepal. The pre-war books were not of much use, but his obsessive curiosity led him to explore any source of information, and enthuse anyone he thought would be interested and could help. He spent many hours in the Royal Geographical Society. He unearthed a manuscript map ('Milne-Hicks', ca.1937) that had been forgotten and buried in the archives, as well as uncatalogued photographs with tantalising but incomplete views of that side of the mountain. A full account is given in his monograph.
Enlisting the help of Bill Murray, and with the help of Campbell Secord in obtaining sponsorship from the RGS and the Alpine Club, he initiated the 1951 reconnaissance, and persuaded Eric Shipton to lead it. They were joined by Tom Bourdillon, and in Nepal by two New Zealanders, Ed Hillary and Earle Riddiford. The story is well known. Braving the monsoon, with the accompanying rain, mud and leeches, they trekked the unknown trail to Khumbu from the hills above Jogbani. They arrived at the foot of the mountain on 29th September. After a break of ten days spent exploring and getting acclimatised, they climbed the ice-fall as far as the huge crevasse that barred the way into the Western Cwm. They hadn't the equipment for bridging it or climbing down and across, so returned to the valley having had a closer view of the Lhotse Face and established that there was a probable route.
On return to England, Mike was 'incandescent with rage' to find that the Swiss had obtained permission for Everest in 1952, ahead of a tardy British application - though it was later found that the Swiss had applied for permission months before the reconnaissance had left. This proved to be a blessing in disguise, as the extra year made possible vital research, much of it on Cho Oyu, into the medical problems of high altitude. This was carried out largely by Griffith Pugh, but with Mike keenly interested. He did not go to Cho Oyu, as he was working hard on the Primary examination of the Royal College of Surgeons.
He was an obvious choice for 1953, and was appointed medical officer, and a member of the climbing team. In the event, he played a full part in the 'build up', in particular working on the Lhotse Face with George Lowe, but was denied the chance of going to the South Col, as John Hunt needed him as a reserve, and available in case of any medical emergency. At the same time, he attended to the numerous, luckily minor, ailments of the Sherpas and expedition members, and helped Pugh with his research - which could be somewhat unpopular. There is a scene in the 1953 film showing George Band stepping up and down on a box while wearing a face mask and having his exhaled air sampled for subsequent analysis. George was more cooperative than most of us.
In those days the training of doctors, in any specialisation such as surgery, was long, arduous and poorly paid, but Mike resisted the temptation of well-paid lecture tours and for five years concentrated on his profession. I remember becoming aware that he was then annoyed that his wife Jane had to help him financially, rather than the other way round. Luckily she was able, working as a copy-writer in fashion, to earn five times his notional salary, so that the two of them could live a reasonable life, and ski and climb, during a year spent in Canada on an exchange with the London Hospital.
But by 1960 he was a Senior Registrar at the London, and in touch with Griffith Pugh, with whom he began to develop plans for a major medical/scientific expedition to Nepal. This was to be coupled with a programme headed by Ed Hillary with a variety of objects - hunting the elusive yeti, building a school for the Sherpas and climbing Makalu. The scientific work involved establishment of a permanent camp, 'The Silver Hut', at 19,000 feet, with some members of the party wintering there, so that the consequences for 'sea level Europeans' of prolonged residence at altitude could be investigated, as well as a number of other studies carried out. The medical and scientific side of this expedition was groundbreaking. It was larger and better resourced than any previous venture. Mountaineering objectives had in the past predominated, research being side-lined whenever there was any conflict. This time the medical side was largely independent, though greatly helped by Ed Hillary's unexpected success in getting generous financial support from World Books. But most of the doctors and their companions were climbers too, and took the opportunity of skiing or climbing when free to do so. Pugh laid down a minimum requirement of six hours work and two hours exercise every day. Their performance after prolonged exposure to altitude was one of the things to be measured, and it was necessary that they keep fit.
The most notable climb was the first ascent of Ama Dablam, which was achieved in mid-March by Mike, with Barry Bishop, Mike Gill and Wally Romanes. In the days before modern ice gear, this was a considerable achievement, and must be the highlight of Mike's climbing career. The
ascent was not repeated for many years. But then there was an accident. Descending from a high camp, Gumen Dorji fell and badly broke his leg. Mike straightened the leg and bound it to an ice-axe, cushioned by cardboard. Gumen was large for a Sherpa, and could hardly be carried by his smaller companions. During the subsequent descent the two Mikes, belayed in turn by their companions, carried him down steep ground, until at last help arrived from below. Some weeks later, when Mike himself had been in trouble, Gumen turned up, apparently fit and well.
Up to this time, Mike and his companions were obviously strong and well acclimatised, but the subsequent attempt on Makalu brought further disasters, no doubt due largely to physical deterioration at altitude. The first such incident involved Ed Hillary. On return from New Zealand after the winter, he had to go to Kathmandu to try to pacify the government for the unauthorised ascent of Ama Dablam, and pay for it. Too soon after that, going up high on Makalu, he had a stroke, and had to be taken down by the Sherpas, with Mike in attendance. Ten days later, Peter Mulgrew, at 8300 m above the Makalu col, suffered a pulmonary embolism. Incapable of descending to the col, he spent four days above 8000 m, and was very badly frostbitten due to his medical condition, subsequently losing both legs below the knee. The account of his evacuation is agonising. At the same time, four of the Sherpas lost their footing and narrowly escaped a long fall; two were hurt, and Ang Temba unable to walk unassisted. Then Mike himself, no doubt exhausted by his efforts above the col and the care of the casualties, became desperately weak, and then delirious. After two days more or less unconscious on the col, he recovered enough to stagger down to safety, with the help of John West, carrying only his diaries.
This gruelling experience was not enough to deter Mike from further expeditions. In 1963, the Mount Everest Foundation, with John Hunt in the chair, decided to mount an attempt on Shisha Pangma, the last unclimbed 8000-er, and appointed Mike to lead it. After a lot of preliminary work had been done, the news came that the Chinese had climbed it. This made fund-raising problematic, and the expedition was off. But an opportunity for travel and exploration in the Himalaya came in 1964. He was asked by Fred Jackson, a cardiologist and a colleague on Ama Dablam, to go with him to Bhutan, where they were to give advice to the King. The King gave them permission to go next year to Lunana, a valley to the NW hardly ever penetrated by Europeans and not much visited by other Bhutanese. There they carried out studies of the isolated population, in connection with the International Biological Programme, as well as seeing patients en route. Mike was rewarded by ascents of several minor summits affording good views of Chomolhari and other peaks, as well as the enchantment of going where few had been before.
This was to be his last expedition for some years, though he continued to climb in the Alps and in Scotland. He had a very busy job as a surgeon in hospitals in the East End of London. He was a believer in the National Health Service, eschewing the lucrative private work combined by many surgeons with shorter hours in the NHS. He continued work on the physiological problems of altitude and cold, and was in demand for treatment of climbers returning home with frostbite. He was later persuaded by Jim Milledge and John West, colleagues in the Silver Hut, to bring out an expanded edition of his book on high altitude medicine, co-authored with them. This is the standard textbook on the subject.
But mountain exploration beckoned again. In 1980, he put together an exploratory trip to Kongur, then one of the highest unclimbed peaks. He was joined by Chris Bonington and others. The next year, the summit was reached, with Bonington as climbing leader and Mike in charge overall. He did not attempt to join the summit party, but carried out research up to 6400 m, this time on climbers adopting an 'alpine style' or 'capsule' approach rather than siege tactics. Another chance for an exploratory journey came in 1985, when he joined the Royal Society/ Academica Sinica Tibet Geo-Traverse, for which he was official doctor. He took the opportunity of visiting the recently established High Altitude Medical Research Institute in Xining, lecturing there, and finding out about Chinese work on the subject.
He retired from the Health Service in 1993, having been asked to serve for three years beyond the normal age. With increasing specialisation, it was evidently very difficult to replace him. In a busy retirement, he continued research into high altitude problems, and into the history of Central Asian exploration. He loved the family house in Sussex, and cleared and planted so that Jane could have the garden she wanted. He worked for the Mount Everest Foundation for many years. He was president of the Cambridge Alpine Club. In 1983, he had been appointed CBE for services to mountaineering and medical research, and in the same year was awarded the Founder's Medal of the Royal Geographical Society. He became Master of the Worshipful Company of Apothecaries, having been very active on medical committees and working
parties. His last years were marred by the aftermath of a horrific car accident, for which he was in no way to blame. Jane nursed him back to health, and his sudden death, from an aortic aneurism, was a sad shock.
Mike was a strong character, with strong views which he did not hesitate to express. He was physically and mentally tough. As a young man, he had little time for boring small talk and could be rather abrupt, which some found off-putting. Outwardly, he did not then seem to mind very much what others thought of him. He was in fact a caring man, to the benefit of his patients and his friends, but might have been embarrassed to admit it. When with friends he was very good company, but could be reserved if in a large group. He was more relaxed and conventionally sociable after he married and as he got older. I, for one, treasure the memory of a week in the far north of Scotland, when we had both been unable to join other friends with whom we normally climbed every year. The weather was mixed, and for some nights we bivouacked in a ruined shed, with the rain coming down a few feet away. We walked strenuously over the hills, talking on every subject under the sun, taking in summits or rock climbing en route. Then we went south, Mike insisting on driving every mile of the way - a commentary perhaps on my driving, but also on his stamina. He was totally reliable, a good friend, and will be greatly missed by all who knew him.
HENRYARTHUR OSMASTON (20 October 1922 - 27 June 2006)
Henry Osmaston was a forester, geographer, dairy farmer and mountaineer who published well over a hundred academic papers during the course of a long and hugely varied career. His earliest childhood memories were of riding elephants amongst the Indian foothills of the Himalaya; one of his last field projects, aged eighty, was a hydrological survey of the hill tarns of the English Lake District; his proudest sporting achievement was to organise and participate in the 1958 Uganda Ski Championships on the Mountains of the Moon.
Forestry and a love of wild mountain country were his genetic inheritance. He was born in 1922 in the Himalayan hill station of Dehra Dun, where his father, Arthur Osmaston, was an officer in the Indian Forest Service; in his spare time Arthur wrote the first account of the birds of Garwhal and made a collection of1,500 botanical species, including two new discoveries named osmastonii. Two of Henry's uncles also worked in the Forest Service; a cousin, Gordon Osmaston, was Director of the Indian Military Survey and made several exploratory expeditions with Tensing Norgay, the Tibetan mountaineer who would later achieve fame on Everest.
Like most boys in his position, at eight years old Henry was sent home to an English prep school, before going on to Eton, where he enjoyed fishing in the Fellows' Pond and bird watching at Slough sewage farm. During his first term at Worcester College, Oxford, in 1940, his interest in natural history prompted him to switch from chemistry to forestry, but those studies had soon to be combined with an intensive electronics course, as Oxford was interrupted by war time service. He was commissioned into the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, starting in 1943 with a year's anti-aircraft duty in Suffolk, followed by four years in the Middle East. It was only in 1947 that he was demobbed with the rank of major and returned to Oxford to complete his Forestry degree. Soon after his return he met Anna Weir, who was working at the Bodleian library. They married at the end of1948 and in January 1949 Henry left to join the Uganda forestry service, followed a few weeks later by his bride.
Looking back recently on his fourteen years service in Uganda, Henry commented, 'I had clear professional aims and sufficient independence to put them into practice. My colleagues, both British and African, were congenial and mostly were highly motivated. My family enjoyed life there
as much as I did. What more could I ask?' He also compared his and Anna's rough simple life in Uganda to the pampered existence of the modern aid official, insulated inside his luxury hotel. And he became exasperated by the revisionist tendency of some modern commentators to denounce automatically the motives of former colonial officials. Under the Protectorate there was in fact an explicit aim of ultimate self- government; as Henry put it, 'it had been established from the beginning that the interests of the inhabitants were paramount'. In the specific area of forestry, by 1960 all the major areas of natural forests were protected for water catchments or timber production; further softwood plantations were created to cater for increased demand.
In their spare time Henry and Anna explored the wonderfully varied landscape of Uganda, in particular its mountains. On their first Easter leave they attempted the first ascent of a monolithic granite inselberg called Amiel. Henry almost trod on a puff adder, just as a rapidly approaching thunderstorm ended their attempt well short of the summit. They consoled themselves by naming their first daughter Amiel and in 1958 Henry finally returned to complete the first ascent with Andrew Stuart, who managed the rock climb despite being stung by a scorpion. Perhaps Henry's most satisfying posting was to Toro, close to the Rwenzori or 'Mountains of the Moon', on the Uganda-Congo border. These glaciated peaks rise to over 5000 m, but their lower slopes are cloaked with a profuse tangle of vegetation, rich in endemic species, both botanical and zoological. Here Henry and Anna shared many treks and climbs, on one occasion being woken by a leopard entering their tent in the middle of the night (on another occasion Henry, alone in the bush, was very lucky to survive a buffalo attack). It was on that same 1949 trip that Anna discovered an old Huntley & Palmer biscuit tin in a cave and, on opening it, found inside the skull of a local Bakonzo tribesman, who had died of altitude sickness on an earlier expedition. Anna promptly developed a fever and had to be evacuated from the mountain, trussed up in a blanket slung from a pole.
In 1952 Henry took part in an Anglo-Belgian scientific expedition to the Rwenzori - the biggest since Alexander Wollaston's and The Duke of Abruzzi's pioneering ventures of 1906. It was whilst building the Elena Hut in 1951, in preparation for the expedition, that Henry with Richard McConnell did the first recorded skiing on the then large snowy expanse of the Stanley Plateau; the first formal 'championship' followed in 1958.
Henry's Ugandan tour came to an end in 1963, soon after Independence. Reflecting forty years later on the handover of power, he regretted that his British peers had not foreseen the speed and suddenness of Independence; he also felt that they had not coped successfully with the traditional dominance of the kingdom of Uganda. However, he felt generally proud of his achievements and from a distance watched in horror as one of the most stable, self-sufficient, well - governed countries in Africa was torn apart, first by Obote, then by Amin and then again by Obote.
Back in Britain, Henry Osmaston reinvented himself as a lecturer in Geography - a subject suited perfectly to his insatiable, eclectic curiosity. His entree to academia was a DPhil thesis at Oxford, analysing past climate and vegetation changes from pollen samples in mud cores bored from the fathomless bogs of the Rwenzori. His supervisor said it was the best DPhil he had ever read and Bristol University offered Henry a job in its Geography department, where he remained a lecturer until his retirement in 1988.
As a geographer he had two paramount qualities. One was his love of real, physical, hands-on fieldwork, preferably in mountain environments; the other was the astonishing breadth of his interests, all backed up by copious, meticulous research. A chance conversation with a colleague, John Crook, during a tedious departmental committee meeting, led to his being invited on Crook's 1980 Indian-British study of life in Zanskar, the inner kingdom of the northern Kashmir province of Ladakh, known traditionally as 'Little Tibet'. As Henry combined geography lecturing with running a dairy farm at Winford, near Bristol, he was invited to Zanskar as 'farming expert'. And to Zanskar he kept returning, often with teams of students, making comprehensive studies of traditional Tibetan-style agriculture, but also climbing peaks to embrace his geomorphological interests. This work culminated in 1994 with his publication, with John Crook, of the 1,029 pages long Himalayan Buddhist Villages: Environment, Resources, Society and Religious Life in Zanskar, Ladakh.
I met Henry in 1985 when he joined our Alpine Club Indian-British expedition to explore the Rimo mountains in northern Ladakh. Henry could not fly out with the main party because he was still supervising exams in Bristol, and from Leh I had to send a telegram announcing that, alas, he would not be able to join us: our mountains rose off a tributary ofthe Siachen glacier, where Indian and Pakistani artillery were busily shelling each other on the world's highest battlefield. The Indian authorities were adamant that no-one outside the main, escorted party could enter the war zone.
Henry ignored the telegram and, armed with a letter of introduction from Cousin Gordon (the former military survey director) and a sheaf of US satellite photos (much coveted in those days of strained Indian - US relations) he bluffed, cajoled and charmed his way up through Kashmir, over the world's highest road pass, the Khardung la, into the restricted Nubra valley, onto the Siachen glacier, and then up the tributary Rimo glacier, surviving on an emergency supply of biscuits and Anna's home - made marmalade. I was returning from an unsuccessful attempt on the summit of Rimo I one evening, walking across the glacier towards base camp, when I stumbled across a traditional wood-shafted ice axe, labelled H.Osmaston, lying on the ice. A few moments later I met a tousled, grey- bearded gentleman, with battered spectacles held together by araldite, who greeted me, 'Hello Stephen, do you happen to have seen an ice axe anywhere; I seem to have mislaid mine.' A few days later, on the way home, passing the main army base after nightfall, fearful of being mistaken for a Pakistani spy, he tied a white handkerchief to the same ice axe, held it aloft and sang loud warning songs as he came down from the glacier.
Two years later, in 1987, he was with us again, this time on Shisha Pangma in Tibet, supervising some of his Bristol students. A fierce October storm swept through the Himalaya, killing many people. We were all spared, but Henry and two students were caught out by the blizzard, shivering all night beside a boulder, half buried in a snowdrift (not the first time his students had suffered unplanned benightment on a field trip). After hours of shivering Henry was immensely relieved to see a brief glimmer of sunshine as his 65th birthday dawned and later that morning he and his students staggered into base camp. The storm seriously thwarted his researches and such rock and snow samples as he and his team had managed to secure were confiscated later by intransigent Chinese officials, who seemed determined to get our expedition out of Tibet as quickly as possible, in the wake of the recent brutally - crushed uprising in Lhasa.
Retirement from official duties in 1988 simply allowed Henry to work harder on his prodigious enthusiasms. In 1992 he and Anna sold the farm at Winford, and moved to Finsthwaite, near Lake Windermere, whence scientific papers continued to pour forth, even after Henry's eightieth birthday. Prominent amongst them were his 2002 paper with George Kaser on the drastic dwindling of tropical glaciers and his 2005 paper on the Glaciation of the Bale Mountains, Ethiopia, based on a recent field trip. In 1996 he returned to Uganda as keynote speaker for a conference on the Rwenzori mountains. Typically, he made the effort to track down in Kampala the woman who had helped look after his children forty years earlier; and in the Rwenzori he re-established contact with the Bakonzo people who had portered for his mountain expeditions. Despite the terrible problems of overpopulation, he was encouraged to see the country revitalised, ten years after the end of Obote's murderous reign, and gratified to see some of his own forestry conservation measures still in place.
His last great project, completed just two weeks before he died, was a comprehensive revision of the definitive guidebook to the Rwenzori which he first published with David Pasteur in 1972. Both the book and the manner in which it was compiled were typical of the man. Although ostensibly a climbing guide, it is actually packed with fascinating information on the history, mythology, zoology, botany and glaciology of the region, reflecting Henry's abundant enthusiasms. The recent, drastic acceleration of glacial melting is recorded meticulously and a wealth of new colour photos have been added to the original monochrome collection. Assembling all this new material, as with all his other publications, Henry was tireless (and, when you were trying to cook supper, sometimes tiresome) in badgering climbers, photographers, explorers and scientists all over the world, by telephone, by post and by email. His global network of friends and colleagues was as huge and varied as his range of interests. He loved life and pursued his interests right to the end, still as fascinated by the world as he had been as a child, when he asked his mahout to get the elephant he was riding to pick him interesting flowers and fruits.
Forester, lecturer in Geography and mountaineer
Survived by his wife, Anna Weir (married 1948); three daughters
- Amiel, Janet, & Charlotte; one son - Nigel; and nine
Member of the Himalayan Club from 1990.
The Obituary first appeared in The Independent , UK.
'We dropped down to John Banon's guest-house in the evening of June 7 to celebrate the end of another Kulu campaign with a civilised cup of tea.'
Thus concluded my account of the second ascent of Hanuman Tibba, 19,450ft. /5,940m the majestic guardian of the Solang nala to the north of Manali where John Banon was born to Herbert and Preetu Banon, and where he lived for where he lived for most of his life. It was a routine that I had followed with great pleasure over many happy seasons of climbing in Kullu.
John Banon, for many years the Himalayan Club's honorary local secretary in Kullu died last November, 2005 after a short illness. He is survived by his widow Ruldi, his son Thomas, daughter-in-law Shirin, and his grandchildren Tanya and Amar.
His son Arthur, a noted photographer and trek leader had predeceased him in a motor accident on the Zojila in Kashmir. It was a personal loss from which John and Ruldi never quite recovered.
John was the grandson of Captain A.T. Banon of the Royal Munster Fusiliers who settled in Manali in the 1870's and built 'Sunshine Orchards' which became the most esteemed Guest-house in Manali after it was inherited by his son Major Henry Banon, of the Garhwal Rifles. Henry Banon, John Banon's uncle, was the first Honorary Local Secretary of the Club in Kullu, he was the patriarch of the valley, known far and wide as 'Chini Sahib'. John himself being born in a heavy snowstorm in the month of January became 'Burfi Sahib'. On the death of Major H.M. Banon in 1960, John inherited the post of Hon. Local Secretary, Kullu, which he embraced enthusiastically for many years. John spoke fluent English, Hindi and Kullui, the local pahari dialect. Ruldi, John's wife, a pahari lady, was born in Goshal , some three miles north of Manali at the entrance to the Solang nala. Together they established 'The Manali Orchards', which became a worthy successor to his uncle's 'Sunshine Orchards'. Like his illustrious uncle 'Chini Sahib' John took a leading role in municipal affairs of Manali, serving as a municipal councillor. He was the founder and subsequently president of the Hoteliers Association of Manali when mountain tourism was containable.
However there was an interregnum in his life as an horticulturist in Kullu. During the Second World War John served in the British Army, and was posted to Catterick, in North Yorkshire, the historic military cantonment, which was once my own home. It is still the most extensive military base in Britain and John's military service there had continued a Banon tradition extending back to the 19th
century, of which he was very proud. His cousin Colonel Richard Banon of Manali, serving in the Dogra Regiment, was awarded the Vir Chakra for conspicuous gallantry on the Aksai Chin plateau in a border action during the Indo - Chinese war of 1962.
To me, as a veteran of exploratory mountaineering in Kullu, and consequently a regular visitor and guest, John Banon epitomised the industrious Anglo - Indian community of Manali. The Banon family had pioneered both the world - renowned horticulture of the region, producing the most famous apple orchards in India, as well as the provision of guest houses in the Kullu valley to cater for the explosive growth of mountain tourism. Like his uncle before him John became a pillar of the Manali community and whenever Pandit Jawarhal Nehru took up residence in the palatial Manali Circuit House he summoned 'Burfi Sahib' to tea parties on the extensive lawns surrounded by the stately Deodar trees of the arboretum. I owe my own darshan (meeting) of the great world statesman Nehru to John's insistence that I accompany him to such a garden party in 1958.
Sadly in later years John had become disillusioned with the unplanned and unrestricted growth of Manali from a charming hill resort in the 1950's, beloved of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, to the ugly urban sprawl threatening to engulf even the famous Dunghiri emple and where constant motor traffic pollutes the mountain air.
The Manali Orchards became well known throughout India, and even as far as Aden, for the fine quality and variety of its fruit under John's excellent husbandry. John's 'Manali Orchards' was the last orchard in the Kullu valley still growing the famous 'Cox's Orange Pippin'. However in the 1960's after hosting in particular my Derbyshire Himalayan expedition, which spent three months' mountaineering and exploring east of the Beas, John had diversified and opened his guest house. Thereafter he was to concentrate on his new profession as host and agent for numerous Indian and foreign expeditions. He had a particularly strong rapport with the Ladakhi porters who were to Kullu what the Sherpas were to Nepal. The naturally gifted mountaineer Sonam Wangyal was the talented leader of a small group of 'Sherpas of Ladakh' with whom John always liased when recruiting a team of high-altitude porters for visiting mountaineering expeditions. He will be fondly remembered by many mountaineers for his excellent hospitality, his sense of humour and for his unrivalled knowledge of the customs, manners and ceremonies of his pahari friends and neighbours.
DR. H.V R. IENGAR (1933-2005)
I came to know Dr.Iengar during his tenure at Mumbai with I.C.I. Ltd in the period of mid-sixties. He had joined the Himalayan Club in 1957 when in Kolkata and soon became a member of the Managing Committee in 1959. He served the Club as Hon. Librarian during 1964 - 1967 when the Library was situated at Kolkata.
Born at Bangalore on 24 March 1933, Popney (as he was known) had his schooling at St.Columbus, Delhi. Later he attended St.Stephen's College and proceeded to Glasgow University, U.K., where he took degrees of M.Sc and Ph.D in Organic Chemistry. He was a scholarship holder for both degrees. He served I.C.I. during 1962 - 1967 as a Manager and thereafter shifted to Chennai (Madras) to assume the post of Manager R & D with E.I.D. Parry, till 1985.
From the field of Industry he then turned his attention to various systems of alternate medicine, and became a doctor of acupuncture and other methods of treatment from Medicina Alternative University, Colombo, Sri Lanka. From 1989 till his passing away on 7 January 2005 he gave treatment to several persons who sought alternative medicine for their afflictions.
Popney had widely trekked in the region of Green Lake in Sikkim and had taken a number of colour slides, which he used for very informative presentation. He was a keen student of mountaineering history and would
not hesitate to point out dubious claims of ascents giving sound reasons for his comments.
Whilst at Chennai, Popney served on the Balloting Committee of the Club all these years till 2005.
He took keen interest in sports like golf, squash, swimming, music and reading.
He left behind his wife Vinatha and daughter Radhika.
J. C. NANAVATI
AJAY TAMBE (1964 - 2006)
Ajay died on New Year's Day 2006 in an avalanche whilst skiing in the French Alps. The news of his accident ricocheted around the world via phone and email and his vast circle of friends was shocked into an
uncomprehending silence. He was 42 years old.
Ajay was born in Mumbai, schooled in Kolkata, and graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology, Chennai with a degree in electrical engineering. He moved into the information technology industry and his career span took him from Godrej to Rolm Corp, CG Corel, IBM and Synopsis. His most recent assignment was with Aarohi in San Jose, California. He was Director, Field Application Engineering, doing pre and post - sales technical support and training.
I had made Ajay's acquaintance in 1992 and memories of our friendship, the good times shared with each other's families, our little hikes in the Sahyadri, the weeks spent with each other in the Himalaya over the years; all these came flooding back in a wave of nostalgia underlined with a sense of loss.
I used to see him at the Himalayan Club meetings in Mumbai where I would say a cursory hello to this tall, pleasant, bespectacled person. I knew that he was part of a group that climbed with Harish Kapadia and that he had taken part in the Indo - British expedition to Chong Kumdan. He had also assisted Kapadia in editing the Journal; and one of his favourite rock climbs in the Sahyadri was with Harish when he climbed steep pinnacle Hadbi -chi-Shendi near Manmad.
Our friendship matured over the next couple of years and naturally began to include our respective families. Ajay and his lovely wife Jayanti had a son Akshay who is only a month older than our own. Many happy hiking and camping trips in the Sahyadri ensued. The bond grew even as the Tambes relocated to Pune, then Bangalore, and finally to California. Two memorable treks in the Himalaya - in 1993 to the meadows of Lalanti below the Charang Ghati pass in Kinnaur, and to the Pindari glacier in Kumaun in 1997, further strengthened our ties.
In between, I came to know him even better as we camped for a month in Sept 1993 high up in the Chango glacier, attempting some unclimbed peaks in the basin. We were battered by a couple of storms and almost cut off from base camp. His fitness, strength, enthusiasm, and above all a subtle and finely honed sense of humour, helped pull us through a very difficult period indeed. His intellectual curiosity, wide knowledge and reading made his companionship very interesting indeed. I remember one memorable, snowbound day when Ajay proceeded to introduce us to the exciting possibilities of lateral thinking through the use of problem solving modules. Another time he deconstructed the mysteries of digital audio for me - a person who could barely differentiate between a sound wave - table and a coffee table. It was a welcome change from playing cards through the sleepless, cold and dark Himalayan nights and brewing endless cups of tea to pass the time.
Three years later we shared mountain time again during the 1996 Indo - American expedition to the Parvati valley in the Kullu Himalaya. He was clearly the fittest member of the Indian contingent and with the American Karen Close made a really gutsy attempt to climb South Parvati
peak in deteriorating weather. They were benighted on a rocky ledge and the next day had to make a series of perilous abseils to retreat from the mountain.
Ajay combined his passion for the mountains and rock climbing with a profound interest in birdwatching. He enjoyed playing the harmonica and the guitar - his musical talent lives on in Akshay who plays the clarinet in his high school jazz ensemble. Over the years I saw Ajay mature as a rock climber when he moved to Bangalore and was part of the group that comprised the leading edge of climbing in that city, pioneering new routes on the steep granite walls of Ramnagram, Savan Durga and the whole satellite of rocky outcrops around India's IT city.
Finally, when he moved with Jayanti and Akshay in 2000 to live and work in California, he discovered skiing in a big way. He took to this with a vigorous enthusiasm, soon achieving double black diamond status. Both father and son spent every winter weekend skiing at Lake Tahoe and sometimes in Colorado. He continued his affair with mountain climbing as he ascended Mt. Whitney (solo), Mt. Raineir, and skiing down Mt. Shasta with Akshay.
Perhaps it was destiny that beckoned when, at the end of 2005, he headed for the French Alps with a group of friends to spend a week skiing in the mountains. He made a phone call to Jayanti and Akshay, wished them a Happy New Year, and said it was awesome to be skiing at 1800 metres.
Later, an avalanche swept him down and snuffed out his life.
Ajay will be missed both by his family and his large circle of friends spread across the globe. But certainly not forgotten - we shall cherish him in our hearts and relive the good and happy times we have shared in the most amazing and beautiful places on earth. May his soul rest in peace.
Dr. P. M. DAS (1953 - 2005)
Dr. P.M. Das was one of India's leading mountaineer adventurists - he combined the spirit of adventure and his love for mountains through his life, manifested in his student and police career. 'PM' as he was known to his friends, had over 24 years of Himalayan mountaineering experience and had led and participated in expeditions from Ladakh to Sikkim and Arunachal. A true sportsman and police officer, he died while leading an expedition in North Sikkim in an avalanche with five other expedition members, three of whom belonged to Punjab Police.
P.M. Das was the son of Sh. L.C.Das, IFS (Retd.) and was born in Shillong on 22 May 1953. He schooled at the Doon School, Dehradun and went on to do his Masters in St. Stephen's College, Delhi. He taught briefly in Mayo College , Ajmer and Doon School before joining the Indian Police Service in 1978. Later, PM completed a doctorate in Police Administration. He excelled in his work in the Punjab and was awarded the Police Medal for Gallantry in 1988, the Police Medal for Meritorious Service in 1995 and the President's Medal for Distinguished Service in 2003.
Mountaineering remained his greatest love. He took on to mountaineering at the Doon School, guided by Gurdial Singh. Starting in 1971 from the Bandarpunch glacier (trek) to the Chommoyumo in 2005 (which was his last) he climbed many mountains. Altogether during this period he participated in 31 expeditions and climbed 36 peaks and trekked over numerous glaciers/passes.
PM participated in three IMF pre-Everest expeditions, made three major ascents including that of Mamostang Kangri (7517 m) in the Karakoram range. He guided a British Police expedition during which he himself made two successful ascents including one first ascent in Garhwal. He was posted in Sikkim as the principal of the Sonam Gyatso Mountaineering Institute at Gangtok. During his time there he made the first ascent of an unclimbed peak called Chummakhang East (6050 m) in
North Sikkim. In 1994 he went as advisor member to the HMI Kameng expedition in Arunachal which explored 57 kms of untrodden territory and made three first ascents along the McMahon Line. He himself reached one of the virgin summits.
PM was a member of the first ITBP Pre-Everest expedition which climbed the summit of Mana (7273 m) in 1995. He was also a member of the second ITBP Pre Everest expedition to the Pangong range which climbed three peaks height 6725 m, 6449 m and 5900 m in 1995. He was the deputy leader if the ITBP Mount Everest expedition which accomplished the first successful Indian ascent from the North (China) by the NE Ridge in 1996. He was also the climbing member of an instructors' expedition which climbed Mukat (East) 7130 m (a virgin peak) in Garhwal. He personally reached 7000 m on this technical climb.
PM formed and led the Punjab Police Adventure Sports Club (PPASC) over the Sara Umga la in the Kullu valley in 2000. In the year 2003 he and his team climbed the virgin peaks of Lampak I and Lampak II in the Garhwal Himalaya. He, along with five members of his PPASC members, climbed seven peaks in the Alps in Switzerland and France in September 2004. PM's accomplishments as president of the PPASC speak volumes. He founded the club in 2000 and trained his men.
PM was also a member of the Indian Mountaineering Foundation from 1993 to 1994, 2002 to 2005 and was the Vice President from 2002 to 2005. Before that, he was the President of the Hiking Club , St Stephen's College, where he led and guided many of his friends. He was an equally gifted writer and poet. He wrote regularly for the Himalayan Journal, wrote news articles and authored a book titled Storms and Sunsets in the Himalaya capturing his journeys till 1996. PM was a naturalist, bird lover, photographer, and truly a person devoted to the love of nature. However, mountaineering remained his passion and once asked where he would prefer to die; he mentioned nonchalantly that it would have to be in the lap of the mountains. His spirit and humour and ability to look through obstacles are to be cherished and endured.
PM was married to Chandana in 1982 and has a son - Shyamantak, who is pursuing his graduate studies in Muskinghan College, Ohio, USA.
Barun Kumar Ghosh, a senior member of the Himalayan Club and a veteran mountaineer, passed away following a massive cerebral stroke, in the early hours of 5 December 2005, at Kolkatta. He was 64.
Barun began his mountaineering career under the guidance of the well - known travelogue writer and mountaineer, the late Sunil Chowdhury. He undertook the basic and advance courses from the HMI, Darjeeling in the years 1972 and 1974 respectively. Under the aegis of the Mountaineer's Club, he participated in a number of expeditions, including Baidum glacier (1972) and Balbala glacier (1973) expeditions and climbed a few virgin peaks. He participated in the Sara Umga glacier expedition in 1977, when the team climbed the peak Angdu Ri. His finest achievement was perhaps when he joined the first ever expedition from West Bengal to Dharmasura led by me in 1979. I recall his pulling me out single - handedly from a deep crevasse when both of us were returning from a summit bid.
Barun was an ardent trekker and trekked extensively in Nepal and the Indian Himalaya over three decades. He crossed a number of passes including the less frequented Kalicho and Chobia (in the mid seventies) and Charang Ghati in 1981. He was the first person from West Bengal to cross the Yamnotri Kantha ( Bali pass ) in 1981. Along with me as companion he explored the legendary route from Kedar to Badri between 1982 and 1985 and crossed five high passes in the course of these journeys. In 1987 we jointly rediscovered the Dhumdhar Kandi pass on the watershed of Tons and Bhagirathi rivers, crossed Borasu pass and another unnamed pass bordering Uttaranchal and Himachal Pradesh, crossed again the Bali pass and arrived in Yamnotri on the second day from the Ruinsara valley.
He became a member of the Himalayan Club in 1981 and continued his membership proudly until the end. He was an employee of the United Bank of India from where he retired in November 2001.
We pay our respectful tribute to this veteran mountaineer and have conveyed to his family the heartfelt condolences of the Himalayan Club.
PRABHAT KR. GANGULI
MALABI DAS (1972- 2005)
Malabi, an active and popular member of the HC, Kolkata, died on Papsura on 4 October 2005. Malabi had elected to join the IMF sponsored ladies team to the mountain which was led by Ms Vinita Verma.
Malabi was born on 1 August 1972 and was a member of HC from 2004. Mountaineering was a passion with her and scaling peaks became almost an obsession. Prior to Papsura, she had successfully climbed Chamser Kangri in Ladakh and Sudarshan Parvat in Garhwal, the latter climb also with a ladies team organised by the IMF. After the ascent of Papsura she succumbed to tiredness after reaching the camp.
The mountains that she so loved have ultimately claimed her. We all will miss her, as we pray for the peace of her soul.
I first met him in October 1960 and fittingly his ashram at Mirtola offers a grandstand view of Nanda Devi. The following days I walked along the watershed ridge from Mirtola to Kausani via Binsar in full view of Nanda Devi, centrestage in this most fabulous panorama of the Great
1 Bhutan originated from the word Bhotente : Tibet was known as bhot and ente means a border land 'A land on the borders of Tibet.' However the Bhutanese know their country as Druk-Yul : Druk-Thunder Dragon, Yul-Land-The Land of Thunder Dragon. (Rustomji, Nari, Bhutan the Dragon Kingdom in Crisis, Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1978, p. 4).