The Himalayan Club Archives

Creation of The Himalayan Club Archives, 2019

The Club now has enviable record of all its Himalayan Journals, Newsletters, Committee Minutes, Members Application forms, Annual Reports and expedition reports scanned digitally.

The Himalayan Club, since its inception in 1928, has moved to various places. Initially formed in New Delhi, it later moved to Kolkata. Kolkata served as the Club’s headquarters until mid-1960s when a shortage of member-volunteers, caused a crisis in the management of Club affairs. Soli Mehta, who was posted there from Mumbai, carried on with the Club’s activities and published some volumes of the Himalayan Journals for few years from Rishra, in West Bengal. Finally, it was decided to move the Club to Mumbai, (then Bombay). In Bombay too, the Club had no premises of its own and operated from the office of Jagdish Nanavati, who was the Hon Secretary for more than two decades and later the President of the Club for almost a decade. When he changed his office, the Himalayan Club material moved with him. When he retired, all these resources were packed into boxes and stored at a member Rajesh Gadgil’s residence. In 2006, the Himalayan Club acquired its own premises and gradually all the material was shifted to this new office. Unfortunately, in all this movement, a large part of the material was scattered, damaged or even lost.

Of historic importance are original documents of the first Committee Minutes, Memorandum of Association, Rules and Regulations and lists of members. Some of these have been retrieved over the years and stored but are falling apart due to age and climatic conditions.

The Himalayan Journal has always been the wealth of the club in its 90-year history. The production of the HJ generated large amounts of paper before the digital age. More than 100 articles were received for each HJ volume. The editor selected about 40 Articles and Notes to be printed with photographs. Soli Mehta (10 HJ Volumes) and later I as editor for over 37 years, gathered all the material received, whether used or not. They were sorted after the publication of each HJ volume and bound with all photographs neatly pasted in albums. Captions were written by volunteers, especially Kaivan Mistry. These papers and photograph albums were stored as ‘Editors papers of the Himalayan Journals’. Each HJ volume generated almost four such hardbound volumes.

In those days the editors kept in touch with contributors and editors of other Journals of the world, by post. Thus, many letters were exchanged with leading author-mountaineers like Gurdial Singh, Trevor Braham, Chris Bonington and others. Each editor established contacts with editors like H. Adams Carter of the American Alpine Journal and editors of the Alpine Journal (London). With the advent of emails, material took a digital form and was stored on hard disks. However, over 200 albums needed to be looked after, being of archival importance.

Moreover, the Club has in its possession photographs of historic importance, records of Club programmes, studies by Jagdish Nanavati of more than 40 different expeditions, correspondence by Soli Mehta, (from Kolkata and later from Sudan and Nigeria where he was posted), and I, for work related to the Himalayan Journals. The Hon Secretary also generated volumes of correspondence but most of it was however lost in transit. The Club also received photographs and material from members like Gurdial Singh, Aamir Ali and photo albums donated by Bill Aitken.

In the year 2018, the Club first discussed scanning and digitizing this material. It was a major and expensive project so it took a while to find the right people to undertake the work and arrange finance. The job once started, at the Club office, went on for almost a year. All the albums were cut open to scan. Each letter was scanned as per the volume and photographs were scanned with captions where available. All volumes of the Himalayan Journal 1 to 73, The Himalayan Club Newsletter, 1 to 61, other journals in the Club library like Indian Mountaineer, the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute journals, Himavanta, Climbers Club Bulletin, and the Sahyadri Bulletin were scanned. These have taken much digital space - the process of sifting through and cataloguing will take time but the process has begun. The Club now has enviable record of all its Himalayan Journals, Newsletters, Committee Minutes, Members Application forms, Annual Reports and expedition reports. Rare books, manuscripts and unpublished works from F.M. Bailey for example, are available too.

The originals of the digitized material have been rebound and are waiting for a new home. Total scanned material has amounted to more than 60,000 pages and hundreds of photographs.

The current President of the Club, Tanil Kilachand worked with Chetan Desai and me to set up the work. I supervised this mammoth project with technical and financial expertise from Ratnesh Javeri. All the material will soon be available on the HC website.

With the Phase 1 of this project now completed,the Himalayan Club is up to date in terms of preserving all its records and studies in the digital world.

It is intended that the Himalayan Club archives will in addition to being the only complete record of the activities of the club,will also be a major source of all Indian documents and reports related to the Himalayan activities. It is sincerely hoped that all researchers, climbers and history buffs will use this digitized material freely for mountain related reference,and also share relevant material with the HC Archives. That is, after all, what the Himalayan Club is all about.

The Himalayan Club Digitization Project

Over 200 expeditions reports.
The Himalayan Club Newsletters: (1928 - 2000): Nos 1 to 61
The Himalayan Journals Volume 1 to 73 (1928 to 2018)
Jagdish Nanavati study papers: 35 expedition reports with sketch- maps, photos and comments.
Several map catalogues of The Survey of India.
The Sahyadri Bulletin nos 1 to 5
Himavanta, published from Kolkata.
Indian Mountaineer (1978 to 2019), volumes 1 to 54.
Editor’s Papers for each Volume: correspondence by each editor, articles and references - over a 100 books.
Unpublished books like Shaksgam valley, Planes flying across the Hump, reports by F. M. Bailey, Climbers Club Bulletin, and many more. Articles of special interest to the Himalaya from The Geographic Journal, and other sources.
Hundreds of pictures received for the Himalayan Journal and as gifts from members. They are being classified and captioned which will take some time.
(A) Founding papers, (B) Managing Committee minutes from 1928 onwards, (C) Annual Reports and Accounts of the club for several years, (D) Application forms submitted by members to join the Club.

First Ascent of Tirsuli (1966)

First Ascent of Tirsuli (1966)

A view of the east face of Tirsuli 1966 (taken from near the saddle in between Chalab and Kholi peaks on the north of the upper basin). It shows route followed from camp 3 and Rocky Rib: Hanging glacier and uppermost icefall.

(Hundreds of photos like this, letters and maps are in the HC archives and will soon be hosted on the club website)

Rare book on birds

Rare book on birds (1959)

Cambridge Hindu Kush Expedition

Cambridge Hindu Kush Expedition (1966)

Letter to Soli Mehta

Letter to Soli Mehta (1973)

Letter from H Adams Carter

Letter from H Adams Carter—one of the greatest editors of his time (1974)

Exploring the Hidden Himalaya

Exploring the Hidden Himalaya—letter from M. Body (1987)

Planning an Expedition workshop

Planning an Expedition workshop (1994)

Letter from Greenwood

Letter from Greenwood (2001) (See photo on page 352)

⇑ Top