(1941 - 2020)
In a career spanning six decades, Doug Scott was recognized worldwide as one of the greatest mountaineers of the postwar era. The statistics speak for themselves: over forty expeditions to Central Asia, countless first ascents all round the world, the first British ascent of Mt Everest but what made Doug special was not the height or difficulty or number of ascents; no – for him what mattered was how you made those ascents.
Like all the best people he was a jumble of paradoxes: tough guy rugby player fascinated by Buddhist mysticism; anarchic hippy with a deep sense of tradition; intensely ambitious one day, laid back the next. He was as egotistic as any climber, but was also demonstrably generous and compassionate, admired universally for his philanthropy. In his Himalayan heyday he resembled a beefed-up version of John Lennon; in latter years, presiding over his gorgeous Cumbrian garden in moleskins and tweed jacket, he looked more like the country squire.
He grew up in Nottingham, the eldest of three brothers, and started climbing at thirteen, inspired by seeing climbers at Black Rocks when he was out walking with the Scouts. The bug took hold and he developed into a strong rock climber and alpinist. Throughout his life he would staunchly defend the British traditions of free climbing, but he was also fascinated by the aid climbing pioneers of the Eastern Alps and by Californian big wall culture. By the early seventies he was publishing regular articles in Mountain magazine, and what an inspiration they were, illustrated with his superlative photos. I remember particularly his piece ‘On the Profundity Trail’ describing an early and first European, ascent of Salathé Wall with Peter Habeler. There was also an excellent series on the great Dolomite pioneers—research for his first book, ‘Big Wall Climbing’—and a wonderful story of climbing sumptuous granite on Baffin Island with Dennis Hennek, Tut Braithwaite and Paul Nunn.
For an impressionable young student, dreaming of great things, this was all inspiring stuff and I lapped it up. But it was only much later, when Ken Wilson published Doug’s big autobiographical picture book, ‘Himalayan Climber’ that I realized quite how much he had done in those early days. As well as Yosemite and Baffin Island, there were big, bold adventures to the Tibesti Mountains of Chad, to Turkey and to Kohe Bandaka, in the Afghan Hindu Kush. And closer to home there was his visionary ascent of the giant overhanging ‘Scoop’ of Strone Ulladale, on Harris. Now of course there is a free version. Back then, filmed in grainy black and white for television, it was a visionary demonstration of aid-climbing craftsmanship, complete with copperheads and RURPs – the art of Yosemite granite transferred to Lewisian Gneiss.
All the while, Doug had been working as a schoolteacher in Nottingham. I have no idea whether he planned all along to give up the day job and go professional, but it was Everest that made that possible. The lucky break came in the spring of 1972, with an invitation from Don Whillans and Hamish MacInnes to join them on Karl Herrligkoffer’s European Expedition to the Southwest Face. The expedition failed, but in the autumn Doug was back, this time as part of Chris Bonington’s first attempt on the face, defeated by the bitter post-monsoon winds. It was two years later, in India, during the first ascent of Changabang that a message came through announcing a surprise free slot in the Everest waiting list for the autumn of 1975. With little time to prepare another Everest blockbuster, there was talk at first of a lightweight attempt on the regular South Col route, but Doug was instrumental in persuading Bonington that they should go all out for the Southwest Face. That was the great unclimbed challenge. Why repeat a well-trodden route when you could be exploring the unknown?
The rest, as they say, is history. I can remember the palpable excitement at the end of September 1975 when the news came through that they had done it. It seemed inevitable that Doug should have been chosen for the first summit push with Dougal Haston. In a team of big personalities, he was the biggest personality of all. Perhaps, like Hillary—who incidentally, had reached the top on Doug’s twelfth birthday in 1953—he wanted the summit more than the others; in Bonington’s eyes he clearly had that extra something— that sheer bloody-minded strength, determination and ability to push the boat out.
The BBC stated in its obituary notice this week that Scott and Haston ‘got into difficulties’ in 1975. Complete piffle. Supremely confident, they made an informed decision to continue right to the summit, even though it was almost dark and the oxygen was nearly finished. On returning to the south summit and seeing how dangerous it would be to continue down in now pitch darkness, they agreed very sensibly to bivouac right there, higher than any other human being had ever previously spent a night, and wait for the morning. It amazes me to this day that Doug was not even wearing a down jacket, yet still managed to avoid frostbite. ‘The quality of survival’, as he put it, was exemplary.
Success on Everest was achieved on the tip of a beautifully constructed—and by all accounts very appy—British-Nepalese human pyramid. Even its architect, Chris Bonington, seemed at times slightly embarrassed by the sheer scale of the operation. Both he and Doug realized that the way forward lay in scaling things back down. For Doug, surviving a night in the open, without oxygen, at 8750 m above sea level, opened a huge door of possibility. Ever curious, now he could really find out what humans might achieve at altitude.
To my mind, his finest climb was Kangchenjunga in 1979, with Peter Boardman, Joe Tasker and, initially, Georges Bettembourg. It was only the third ascent of the mountain, and the first from the north. For Doug the historian it was a vindication of prewar predictions that the North Col might be the best way to the top of the mountain. Ropes were fixed judiciously on the lower, technical face. Up above, they cut loose and went alpine style, without oxygen. Messner & Co. had already shown it was possible to climb to the highest altitudes without oxygen, but they had done it on well-known ground with other climbers around should things go wrong. This was a big step into the unknown and Doug’s photos of the summit day are some of most evocative mountain images ever made.
It would take too long to list all the other Himalayan achievements, but it’s worth mentioning some themes. What was impressive was the way Doug was always re-thinking expeditions. It was his idea to transfer the concept of the extended alpine summer season to the Himalaya, with loosely connected teams roaming far and wide on multiple objectives, with the family sometimes coming along too. It was he who introduced new young talent to the Himalaya, bringing Greg Child’s big wall expertise to the beautiful Lobsang Spire and East Ridge of Shivling, and Stephen Sustad’s stamina to the gigantic Southeast Ridge of Makalu. They didn’t quite pull off their intended traverse of Makalu with Jean Afanassieff, but, my goodness, what a bold journey it was.
In fact, despite several attempts, Doug never quite summited Makalu, nor Nanga Parbat, nor K2. But that is not the point. He didn’t give a damn about summits for their own sake: unless they were attained in an interesting, challenging way, they held little appeal. Or he might just decide that the omens—or the I Ching, or his particular mood that day, or whatever—were not right, as happened in 1980, when he left the slightly exasperated Boardman, Tasker and Renshaw to continue on K2 without him.
When the mood was right there was no stopping him. Amongst all the climbs I would most love to have done (and had the ability to do!), the first ascent of The Ogre in 1977 must be the most enviable: HVS and A1 rock climbing on immaculate granite, 7000 m above sea level, at the heart of the world’s greatest mountain range – the Karakoram. Less enviable was the epic descent with two broken legs, with Chris Bonington, Mo Anthoine and Clive Rowland. Another visionary climb was the 1982 first ascent of the Southwest Face of Shishapangma, with Alex McIntyre and Roger Baxter-Jones, beautifully executed, with acclimatizing first ascents of the neighbouring peaks of Nyanang Ri and Pungpa Ri, in the process scouting out a feasible descent route, before committing to Shishapangma itself, discovering the most elegant direct route to any 8000 m summit.
Several of my friends have been on expeditions with Doug and knew him better than I.
I only climbed with him once, when we were both speaking at an Alpine Club symposium at Plas y Brenin. We were not on until the afternoon and it was a beautiful sunny morning – far too good to be shut indoors – so we sneaked off over the Llanberis Pass for a quick jaunt up Cenotaph Corner. Doug said the first time he had done it was on his honeymoon. It was now 1989, so he must have been 48—middle aged, but definitely still in his prime. He led with powerful ease and then suggested we continue on the upper tier of the Cromlech, up that brutal creation of his old mentor Don Whillan—Grond. In the absence of large cams to protect the initial off-width, he grabbed a large lump of rhyolite (volcanic rock), explaining cheerfully, ‘This is how we used to do it, Youth,’ shoved it in the crack, hitched a sling round it and clipped in the rope. As soon as he moved up the chockstone flew out of the crack, narrowly missing my head, but Doug carried on regardless—blithely calm, assured and fluent, supremely at ease with the rock.
There were other meetings, occasionally sharing a lecture platform, once having the unenviable task of having to keep Doug confined to a strict timetable dovetailing with the arrival of the Queen for an Everest anniversary. Conversation, like his lecturing – or indeed his expeditioning – could be enigmatic, discursive, elliptical, often veering off the beaten track into untrodden side valleys, but always with an undercurrent of humour. And never pulling rank: he was a humble, approachable man, happy to talk with anyone. The meeting that made the biggest impression on me was in 1987 in the village of Nyalam, in Tibet. It was the end of an expedition and we had just put a new route up Pungpa Ri, which Doug had climbed five years earlier. Also staying at the Chinese hostel were members of Doug’s current team who had been attempting the Northeast Ridge of Everest.
Doug himself turned up later, just back from a gruelling road journey from Rongbuk, across the border to Nepal, then up to Sola Khumbu, then all the way back across the border to wind up the expedition in Tibet. The reason? A young Sherpa man who had been helping his expedition had been killed in an avalanche near base camp during a huge storm two weeks earlier. Doug had taken it on himself to travel all the way to the man’s family in Nepal, to tell them personally what had happened and to ensure that they received financial compensation.
That empathy with the people of Nepal came to fruition in his remarkable charity, Community Action Nepal.
There was a precedent in Ed Hillary’s Himalayan Trust, but what I like about CAN is that it does not concentrate its efforts exclusively on the most popular region of Sola Khumbu, but also has projects in other regions such as the Buri Gandaki near Manaslu. Most impressive of all is the way Doug financed it over the last two decades. At an age when most people in his position would be happy to rest on their laurels, perhaps accepting the occasional lucrative guest appearance, Doug travelled the length and breadth of the country on gruelling lecture tours – often only just out of hospital, after yet another operation on the old Ogre injuries that had come back to haunt him – pouring all the proceeds into his charity. Lecture fees were topped up by sales of Nepalese crafts and auctions of Doug’s most classic photographs. Doug the auctioneer was a force to behold, as he mesmerized and cajoled audience members into donating ever more astronomical sums for a signed photograph.
As if running a charity were not enough, Doug also managed in recent years to complete a fine history of The Ogre, and finally to publish the long-awaited autobiography for which Hodder & Stoughton first paid an advance in 1975. His history of Kangchenjunga will be published next year.2 For a man who had once been a bit wary of institutions, he made an enthusiastic and much liked Alpine Club President. He also stood for election to the BMC presidency, asking the journalist Steve Goodwin to help with his manifesto. Steve phoned me in despair to say that the opening paragraph was all about Doug’s compost heap. Myself, I also have a profound relationship with my compost heap, and I can see exactly where Doug was coming from. But in the shiny corporate world of modern convenience climbing it wasn’t going to be a vote winner. Alas, Doug did not get the presidency. A great loss to us all, in my opinion.
He was a man of principle—visionary and adventurous, but in some ways quite conservative, rooted in traditions which he valued. One of those traditions was the notion that if we climbers are going to spend our lives doing something that has no ostensible practical purpose, then it is important how we carry out that pursuit. And for Doug, if I have understood him correctly, paramount in that ‘how’ were notions of curiosity, personal responsibility, risk and a willingness to embrace—even seek out—uncertainty.
It is always inspiring to see someone happy in their work. Despite the frenetic pace he set himself and his devoted third wife Trish, Doug seemed in recent years to have achieved the kind of contentment that many people only dream of. He had a genuine sense of purpose and an assured legacy. He was a man who seemed at ease with himself and the world. He will be missed hugely here, in Nepal and all round the world, but most of all by Trish and by the five children of his first two marriages. I feel honoured to have known him and glad that if I should ever have grandchildren I will be able to tell them, ‘I climbed Cenotaph Corner with Doug Scott’.
(1934 – 2020)
9 October, 1966. The expedition led by Chanchal Kumar Mitra and organized by Himalayan Association of Kolkata added a new chapter in the history of Indian mountaineering as it made the first ascent of 7074 m Tirsuli in Kumaun Himalaya. A day earlier the leader saw the summit party off from camp four after overseeing the spot for camp five and the subsequent route to the summit thereafter. Instead of joining the summit party, Mitra preferred to go down and organize a second summit team which would be able to act as a support to the first party in case of an emergency. The quartet of deputy leader Nirapada Mullik, Sherpa Nima Tashi, Shyamal Chakraborty and Sherpa Nim Dorjee reached the summit around 4:15 pm after setting out from camp 5 for the summit at 5:30 am.
Tirsuli used to be known as a killer mountain and had thwarted back three expeditions including one by a Polish team in 1939 and the pre- Everest expedition organized by Indian Mountaineering Foundation (IMF) and led by Commander M S Kohli in 1964. While two Polish members died in an avalanche in 1939, several tents in a higher camp were destroyed, also by an avalanche, during the pre-Everest attempt. Luckily all the members were out of that camp at that time.
Mitra’s decision proved correct as one of the members of the first summit team sustained frost bite while returning to the last camp after climbing the peak. The second summit party helped to bring down the frost bitten member safely to the base camp forgoing their attempt on the peak.
This ascent of Tirsuli in 1966 is still considered to be a landmark event in Indian mountaineering as this was the first civilian expedition in the country which made the first ascent of a peak of above 7000 m. Its leader Chanchal Kumar Mitra received accolades from various dignitaries including Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, IMF President Harish Chandra Sarin and various mountaineering organizations and clubs in the country for his excellent leadership. Mitra and other members of the expedition were also invited to take part in the 1967 Republic Day Parade in Delhi where IMF put up a tableau.
The seed of this excellence was sown about a little over two decades earlier when as a student of class VI he visited Kurseong and Darjeeling in 1944. Overwhelmed by the magnificent view of Kangchenjunga he made three more visits to Darjeeling within next four years. A bond was sealed between Mitra and the Himalaya which lasted throughout his life.
Mitra, popularly known as Chanchalda by his juniors in the mountaineering fraternity, began trekking during 1958 when he visited Kedarnath, Badrinath and Mana covering a distance of about 322 kms from Rudraprayag. This was followed by a trek to Yamnotri, Gangotri and Tapovan in 1961. The same year he became a member of Himalayan Association, Kolkata—the pioneer mountaineering club in eastern India and participated in their expedition which made the first ascent of Nilgiri Parvat (Garhwal Himalaya) in 1962.
He completed both basic and advance mountaineering training from HMI, Darjeeling in 1964. He then took part in Himalayan Association’s first attempt on Tirsuli led by K P Sharma in1965. The venture made a valiant attempt but was turned back by extreme bad weather. Earlier in the year Mitra was one of the main organizers and instructors at the first rock climbing training course at Sushunia Hills in Bankura district of West Bengal.
Himalayan Association made their second attempt on Tirsuli with Mitra as the leader. The unique success on Tirsuli not only proved his mettle as a fine leader, it also propelled West Bengal and Himalayan Association to the forefront of Indian mountaineering.
After Tirsuli, Mitra led a couple more expeditions—both in Kumaun Himalaya. One was was the first attempt on the 7151 m high Hardeol.
The other was the first National Cadet Corps (NCC) expedition in the country to Panchachulli I and II through Darma valley in 1970. Mitra, besides being a college professor, was a Captain in the NCC. In 1974 he joined Himalayan Association on its maiden attempt on Nital Thaur in Kumaun. During 1975 Mitra along with Harsh Muni Nautiyal, an instructor of Nehru Institute Mountaineering, Uttarkashi, made the first ascent of a 6242 m high unnamed peak in the Kalindi Khal area of Garhwali Himalaya. The team which also included two other members Anil Deb Roy and Ashish Roy Chowdhury then reached Badrinath after crossing Kalindi Khal. Thereafter Mitra mostly concentrated on trekking in different parts of Himalaya including Green Lake in Sikkim. After about three decades he again participated in a venture in Himalaya as a member of the West Sikkim Himalayan Exploration organized by the Kolkata section of The Himalayan Club in 2003.
Mitra was invited by HMI Darjeeling several times to be the chief instructor for its adventure courses during ‘60s and ‘70s. He also acted as Course Commandant of rock climbing courses in the state during that period. He helped set up the Jadavpur University Mountaineering and Hiking Club and start its rock climbing training course. He enjoyed weekend climbing with a group of enthusiasts and was the first to explore the rock sites at Joychandi and Matha hills under Purulia district of West Bengal during ‘60s and early ‘70s.
He was a life member of The Himalayan Club and served the organization as a member of its Balloting Committee for many years. Mitra used to be a regular at the Club functions in Kolkata and Annual General Meetings in Mumbai. He donated many mountaineering books and journals to the Club library. Mitra was a life member of Himalayan Association, Kolkata and was actively involved in most of its activities during sixties and seventies. He served the organization as its Assistant Secretary, Secretary and President. He was a life member of HMI Darjeeling. He was nominated in the general body of West Bengal Mountaineering & Adventure Sports Foundation under Youth Services Department of Government of West Bengal.
I had the opportunity to be with him during four expeditions and various adventure courses at HMI and rock climbing training camps in West Bengal. His ability to plan expeditions was immaculate. As a leader he could generate team spirit and camaraderie among members. He was a good photographer and documented the expeditions and treks he participated in through his lens. His reports on his different ventures were accurate and informative thus proving helpful to others. Mitra had a vast knowledge on mountaineering literature.
Chanchalda also took an interest in carrying out scientific explorations during expeditions. On Nilgiri in ’62 a botanist from Botanical Survey of India and on Tirsuli ’66 and Hardeol ’67, geologists from Geological survey of India accompanied the expeditions. During Tirsuli ’66 he carried special x-ray plates to study cosmic rays at high altitude.
Sauve and reserved, Chanchalda had two very special qualities. He never spoke ill of his fellow climbers or about other mountaineers and used to place reason before sentiment. He was always ready to extend help and support to the young mountaineers and provided considerable financial support to mountaineering clubs and individual climbers.
Born in 1934, Chanchalda belonged to the eminent Mitra family of north Kolkata but shifted home to south Kolkata later in life. He remained a bachelor but was close to his cousins, nephews and nieces. He was ailing for a few years. During February 2020 he attended the Himalayan Club AGM in Mumbai. I could hardly imagine that it would be our last meeting as the doyen of West Bengal mountaineering left for his heavenly abode on 4 December, 2020 leaving a big void in the mountaineering fraternity.
(1930 – 2020)
Energetic, creative, adventurous and highly unorthodox, Scotsman Hamish MacInnes made a significant impact on the mountaineering scene through the 1960s and 70s. His influence continues to this day.
Hamish MacInnes was born on 7 July 1930 in Gatehouse of Fleet in Galloway. He enjoyed a happy childhood, exploring the local countryside and spending time with local gamekeepers. At the age of 14 the family moved to Greenock west of Glasgow where Hamish befriended his next- door neighbour, Bill Hargreaves, who took him rock climbing on the Cobbler, a spectacular peak north of the city. Hamish took to climbing like a duck to water and from the outset had big ambitions. When he was 18 years old, he hitchhiked across war torn Europe to Switzerland intent on climbing the Matterhorn. Unable to afford hut fees, he made a solo ascent of the Hornli Ridge, up and down from Zermatt in a day. Hamish then spent 18 months in the Austrian Tirol on National Service, which gave him many opportunities to develop his technical skills in the Eastern Alps.
On his return to Scotland in 1950, Hamish fell in with the Creag Dhu club and climbed new routes in Arrochar and Glen Coe. The following summer he made the first ascent of the impressive Engineer’s Crack in Glen Coe with Charlie Vigano and Bob Hope. Eyebrows were raised by their creative tactics that included using a pendulum from an adjacent route, but MacInnes was undeterred, and a series of fine new Glen Coe routes flowed in 1952. MacInnes’ vision blossomed in February 1953 during a remarkable week of climbing with 18-year old Chris Bonington that saw off three long standing problems on Buachaille Etive Mor. They kicked off with the first winter ascent of Agag’s Groove in the company of John Hammond and Gordon McIntosh, and then on consecutive days made first winter ascents of Raven’s Gully and Crowberry Ridge Direct. These routes catapulted Glen Coe ahead of Tom Patey’s winter developments in the Cairngorms, and Raven’s Gully was arguably the most difficult winter route in Scotland at the time.
1953 was a big year for Hamish. While attending a lecture by Andre Roche about the Swiss attempt on Everest the previous year, he learned that the expedition had left food dumps all the way up to the South Col. Hamish’s fertile mind realized this was too good an opportunity to miss so he conceived the Creag Dhu Everest Expedition to make use of the in-place supplies. John Cunningham, along with several other members of the Creag Dhu, had recently emigrated to New Zealand, so Hamish travelled there by boat where Cunningham was astonished to find the expedition was to comprise just the two of them. By the time they arrived in Nepal, Hunt’s expedition had already succeeded on Everest (and taken full advantage of the Swiss food dumps), but undeterred they continued to Everest base camp carrying 30 kg rucksacks and living on a diet of potatoes. They made an attempt on Pumori, but beaten back by avalanches they finally succeeded in making the first ascent of Pingero, a prominent sub- peak of Taweche. Hamish climbed in New Zealand over the next few seasons where he made a number of first ascents including the very fine Bowie Ridge on Mount Cook.
Back in Scotland, MacInnes turned to one of the greatest prizes of all—the first winter ascent of the striking Zero Gully on Ben Nevis. Competition was intense and MacInnes tried it six times before he was successful in February 1957 with Tom Patey and Graeme Nicol. MacInnes and Patey shared leads, with Patey using tension from ice pitons and MacInnes front pointing between ice pegs. Zero Gully was a huge psychological breakthrough and the forerunner to the great Nevis ice routes culminating in Orion Direct climbed by Marshall and Smith three years later.
In 1957, MacInnes renewed his partnership with Chris Bonington and introduced him to the Alps. They failed on their first route (an attempt on the 1938 Route on the Eiger) but later climbed a new route on the Aiguille du Tacul. A year later they made an early repeat of the Bonatti Pillar on the Dru with Don Whillans and Paul Ross. Hamish was hit by a rock that fractured his skull on the first day, but he persevered for three more days to record the first British ascent. In 1961, MacInnes visited the Caucasus with George Ritchie and made a gruelling 13-day storm-bound traverse of the Shkhelda massif. Rather optimistically they had only packed food for four days but were kept alive by a Russian tradition of burying emergency supplies on key summits.
Back in Scotland, Hamish scooped a big prize with the first winter traverse of the Cuillin Ridge on Skye with Patey, Davie Crabb and Brian Robertson. Similar to Zero Gully, the Cullin Ridge had assumed ‘last great problem’ status and had been attempted over a dozen times, including six by MacInnes. Their success, over three days in February 1965, was a testament to MacInnes’ determination and opportunism to drop everything and go for the route, when conditions were just right.
By the mid-1960s, ice routes such as Zero Gully were being climbed in faster times due to the development of front point crampons. This eliminated the need to cut steps, but considerable time was still spent cutting handholds. The technological advance came in 1970 when Yvon Chouinard visited from the USA. Chouinard had been experimenting with a curved pick tool, to allow fast movement across long ice slopes in the High Sierra. MacInnes had a strong engineering background (he built a car from scratch at the age of 17) and had developed ‘The Message’, the first all-metal ice axe in the mid-1950s. After talking to Chouinard he increased the angle of his pick and came up with the Terrordactyl—the first of the dropped pick ice tools.
The following winter, MacInnes showed their effectiveness by making the first winter ascent of Astronomy on the Ben with Kenny Spence and Allen Fyffe. It was a typical unconventional MacInnes affair involving a bivouac, but it demonstrated the effectiveness of the new ice tools on steep thinly iced ground. Terrordactyls went into production later in 1971 and the ‘curved axe revolution’ was underway. Ice climbing grades rocketed, and to this day, the Nevis thin face routes climbed in the early 1970s remain the most sought- after winter routes in Scotland.
Hamish’s focus was now directed further afield. In 1970 he made a second visit to the Caucasus, coming away with the first ascent of the difficult North Face of Pic Shchurovsky with Paul Nunn and Chris Woodall. In 1972 he took part in the first expedition to attempt the South-West Face of Everest, and in 1973 he climbed the Great Prow on Roriama in Guyana with Joe Brown, Mo Anthoine and Don Whillans. He returned to Everest in 1975 as deputy leader of Chris Bonington’s successful South-West Face Expedition and was responsible for the tents. Developing an idea initiated by Don Whillans in Patagonia, he designed ‘MacInnes Boxes’. Rectangular in shape they had adjustable front legs which allowed them to be pitched on any angle of slope, and a fabric cowl which deflected avalanches. Hamish was the only person who knew how to erect them, but they were critical in allowing the team to move up and down the relentlessly steep South- West Face. Ultimately, Doug Scott and Dougal Haston completed the route becoming the first Britons to climb Everest.
Hamish founded the Glen Coe Mountain Rescue Team in 1961. As leader of the busiest mountain rescue team in Scotland for the ensuing 30 years, Hamish was involved in hundreds of rescues and saved countless lives. His engineering prowess led to the MacInnes Stretcher, a lightweight foldable design that allows it to be carried as a rucksack. These stretchers are used by many rescue teams around the world. After experimenting with dogs (in particular German Shepherds) to search for avalanche victims, Hamish was responsible for the formation of the Search and Rescue Dog Association in 1965.
In 1971, MacInnes published the International Mountain Rescue Handbook, which captured best practice from around the world. It is now in its fourth edition and never been out of print. He was a prolific writer with his best-known books being Call-Out, describing his mountain rescue experiences, and Look Behind the Ranges, a selection of his adventures from around the world. Equally significant from a climbing perspective were his topo-based climbing guidebooks to Scotland. The idiosyncratic alpine-like grading system confused and frustrated many, but these books opened up Scottish climbing by showing photos of crags never seen in print before. Hamish’s technical safety expertise was greatly sought after by film makers around the world and he was involved in many films from the Eiger Sanction to Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Hamish died in his home in Glen Coe on 22 November. He was 90 years old and had led an extraordinary life. The word ‘influential’ is often used, but for Hamish, nothing could be more appropriate. From pioneering cutting edge first ascents in Scotland and the Greater Ranges, through development of mountain rescue and avalanche safety, inventing new ice tools and sharing mountain knowledge through his writing and guidebooks, Hamish MacInnes’ influence continues to be both long lasting and profound.
(1952 - 2020)
What is lovely never dies, but passes into another loveliness, Star-dust or sea-foam, Flower or winged air.”
– Thomas Bailey Aldrich
“Fit as a Fiddle”. Satish always said this when I asked after him. We never met socially; we did not meet often. But every year we met once, for an intense production job – bringing out The Himalayan Journal. Aparna Joshi, our designer, Harish Kapadia our mentor and I would gather in our printer Satish Kulkarni’s office every rainy August – September for four or five days to design, iron out problems, proof read, insert ads, do page numbering and indexing. It was an unusual way to work with a printer but there was a reason.
Satish Kulkarni was very invested in every project he undertook. He believed in THJ. It was not just a job for him. He savoured every piece of writing, made suggestions, proof read, pointed mistakes or wrong decisions. He personally supervised colour corrections, placement of ads and made it a point to work on the index himself.
It was always a pleasure to spend five days in his office, not to forget home cooked lunches, supplemented by daal khichdi from a nearby restaurant. This was a properly laid out lunch, the table shared by his colleagues and us guests. Then we would go back to work until the evening, only to come back the following day and the next until the job was done and we had a print ready copy. In this manner all of us grew to learn about each other.
Satish would take me to the press when the printing was being done to check on the shades and hues of the cover and the pages. I usually nodded intelligently as most of the processes were too technical – and besides I trusted Satish to produce the best Journal that fitted our budget.
2020 was one of the greatest challenges for production, brought forth by the complete lockdown, a result of the COVID 19 pandemic. All of us worked remotely; no staff could reach the office or the press. Satish lugged the special computer that contained all the necessary software home and worked with Aparna and me longdistance to bring out The Himalayan Journal Volume 75, a landmark in number and content. It was supreme team effort and Satish’s last project.
THJ will continue to be published, maybe it will even look better, but then, it will never be the same for our little team…
Every year, at some point, we went to discuss THJ and to generally catch up to the Matunga Club where Satish was an active member. Margaritas were the best here. I don’t think I will ever have a margarita again without shedding a quiet tear for my friend.
It was at these lunches that I got to know Satish better. His daughters were always a source of pride and affection as was his wife. He talked about them often. He also talked about the interesting work that he did. Creating a database for the elderly in need of assistance, as well as a list of volunteers to assist was a project close to his heart. He worked on this along with his erstwhile classmates from IIT.
Satish was a great raconteur of stories – he had a bagful of them - so I looked forward to these afternoons as many a friend must have. At our last lunch together he had a surprise for me. A long lost colleague who had dropped off my horizon was invited and it became a wonderful afternoon of catching up and exchanging stories. This was Satish. He touched my life. I will miss him.
(1945 - 2021)
As one entered the Indian Mountaineering Foundation (IMF) complex in Delhi during any sport climbing competition, they would see a little over six feet tall and stout Sreebash Bhattacharjee, popularly known as ’Dada’, moving around like a colossus, starting an event or providing necessary instructions to the competitors or judging an event. Apart from technical aspects Dada, who nurtured sport climbing from its earliest days to its present stage in the country, extended his helping hand to any eventualities in this arena.
Beside Delhi, Dada was present and was sought after for various sports climbing championships, both national and international, which were held in different parts of India. Apart from acting as judge he would also extend his help to organize the meet whenever required.
Sreebash was Chairman of IMF North Zone Committee which was earlier known as IMF North Zone Sport Climbing Committee for a couple of decades and a life member of The Himalayan Club. He was then made National Advisor for Sport Climbing in India by IMF which he held till the dreaded Covid 19 took him away on 14 May this year. A pall of gloom has descended on the sport climbing and mountaineering fraternity in the country.
It was an autumn evening in 1981 when we first met through a common friend at Chittaranjan Park of south Delhi. I was staying at my friend’s place for a couple of days after returning from the Nanda Devi expedition. He was big built but soft spoken. Though we were of same age, he was respectful of my experience. He spoke very less but listened to my expedition account intently. He started active climbing a little late but made it up by sincerity and disciplined hard work.
Though in later years sport climbing became his main passion, Sreebash’s first love was mountaineering among the various kinds of sports he pursued since his school days.
Born at Daudpur-Ichapura village in Comilla district of undivided Bengal on 20 May 1945 Sreebash grew up in a joint family. He was the eldest among the siblings and cousins. He used to take a leading role in various social and sporting activities at home as well as in school. This leadership quality was amply reflected in different adventure and other activities he pursued in later years.
Sreebash did his schooling at Comilla. Subsequently his parents migrated to Agartala, Tripura where he completed his college studies. He then took a job at Indian Statistical Institute in Delhi and finally settled in Delhi in 1967. It was here that his interest for land based adventure activities grew and fructified.
After starting with trekking in nearby Himalayan ranges and rock climbing around Delhi, Sreebash underwent mountaineering training in the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute in Darjeeling in 1977 which opened the door for bigger ventures in the Himalaya. During this period he played a leading role in setting up the Climbers & Explorers Club in Delhi. He took part in 19 major Himalayan expeditions, notable among them include successfully leading the Indo-Russian expedition to Nanda Devi East during 1991 and IMF Expedition to Panchachuli III in 1993. Prior to that he also participated in an Indo-Swiss climbing expedition to Rimo and an expedition to Saser Kangri IV. On invitations from climbing organizations of Russia and Japan, Sreebash did some good climbing in Pamir and Japanese Alps.
While his main focus was on mountaineering, Sreebash took part in other adventures like cycling 3000 km to visit various states of the country, rafting in Brahmaputra, Kaveri, Sayak and Ganga. During his initial years, he also joined a boat expedition from Hardwar to Kolkata by a row boat through Ganga and trekked in jungles and deserts.
During his later years, Sreebash’s attention turned to sport climbing as itstartedin India. Since the firstclimbingwall was made at Meera Model School in Delhi in 1994, Sreebash remained actively connected with this sport and spent most of his time and energy to nurture this sport further. Many a times he also spent his own money for its promotion. On many an occasion I have seen him not only arranging accommodation and food for some competitors who arrived unannounced, he also bought their return tickets. His house at C R Park always remained open for mountaineers and sport climbers if they could not find or afford any accommodation in Delhi.
Since the first National Sport Climbing Championship organized by IMF at Delhi in 1996, Dada was part of almost all the national championships and other major events including World Cup Bouldering Championship at Vashi, Navi Mumbai and Asian Youth Championship at Bengaluru. Sreebash took a fine initiative to introduce sport climbing to the visually challenged during the National Sport Climbing Championship at Delhi in 2015 and then organized a National Championship for them at Jammu in 2018.
IMF apart, he was secretary of Climbers & Explorers Club, vice president of Himalayan Adventure Club of Delhi and advisor for adventure activities in three Delhi schools.
Sreebash was ably supported by his wife Dipashree and daughter Shriya who accompanied Sreebash on treks.
Besides being a noted adventurer Sreebash was at the helm of many social work organizations Sreebash was felicitated by numerous organizations for his contribution to growth of adventure sports. The Indian Mountaineering Foundation East Zone Committee honoured him with ‘Life Time Achievement Award’ during the 14th National Sport Climbing Championship in 2014 for his untiring efforts to spread sport climbing in different parts of the country.
About a week before that fateful day, Sreebash called me. We exchanged pleasantries and discussed ongoing issues. Little did I know that it would be our last conversation! The man who helped many to get treated for the ongoing pandemic, finally became a victim himself.
We are missing you Sreebash. The climbing walls all over the country will miss you.
(1943 - 2021)
Ashwin Popat was a Life Member of the Himalayan Club. In a close-knit trekking community loss of a companion is always sad. He was my long-standing trekking friend, though ailing for a while, still till the end he was thinking of hills. Weakened by medical treatment, looking almost a skeleton, first thing he did was to climb a hill near his house. The hill may be small but the spirit he was showed was high.
We first met on a trek in the local hills and we got on fabulously, went for treks into remote areas, and climbed many hill forts in a span of almost four decades. Those were the fun-days when we simply packed a rucksack with some food and branched off to a Shivaji fort in the hills near Mumbai, walking through villages, climbing steep trails in the sun and sleeping in caves. There were no other groups so the entire fort belonged to us. Our close group of friends chatted about mountains, family, business and life between.
With a retinue of servants at home, I think Ashwin had never cooked a meal. In local hills we would take turns to cook on overnight trips. When it was his turn, he would go to the village and ask a lady to cook for the party. She would be well paid, and everyone would be happy with fresh village food. Since then, when available, this became a norm. Similarly, instead of travelling by local buses he would arrange a taxi on a ‘per seat basis’. His ideas, to make trek and travel comfortable and convenient, caught on. Things have changed so much today, in the local hills and in the Himalaya, so local buses are few while share taxis are the norm on most routes.
Ashwin was a successful architect who developed many high buildings. Ultimately tired of the world of finance and buildings, which was never straight forward, he decided to wind up his business and devote more time to life in nature and travelling. With his family he travelled to the Arctic, Antarctic and Amazon forests, he saw the Northern Lights, Tibet and Nepal; thoroughly enjoying various aspects of nature. During all this while, his love for the Himalaya remained supreme. He made trips to the forests of Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal, Uttarakhand and several areas with different companions. He was a romantic at heart, joked with friends, loved good food and enjoyed a walk every morning to a hill near to his house.
Likes of him, who give up material success for a life with nature, are rare nowadays. He will be sorely missed by all of us. Our condolences to his daughters Urmi and Jasmine and his wife Shankuntala whose loss is the greatest.
I’m sure his heart is living in hills wherever he is.
(1935 - 2019)
It was towards the end of 1963 when I first met Amulya Sen at the office of Himalayan Association in Kolkata. I was just a green horn in the field of mountaineering having completed the basic course at Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI) in Darjeeling while he was an established climber having led and making the first ascent of Nilgiri Parvat in Garhwal Himalaya the earlier year. I was initially hesitant to talk to him being a rookie in the field of adventure but Amulyada, as he was known to the younger generation, made me feel comfortable in no time and we talked about my training as well as his expedition at great length.
Amulyada’s interest in mountaineering grew after he, as a senior under-officer in NCC (National Cadet Corps), successfully attended the basic and advance mountaineering training at HMI during 1960 and ’61 respectively. In 1962 Himalayan Association planned to attempt Nilgiri Parvat, which had only been climbed by the famous British mountaineer Frank Smythe. They were looking for a trained climber to lead that expedition. It was then Chanchal Kumar Mitra, one of the Association officials, contacted Amulyada and he was entrusted with the leadership.
Very jovial and amiable by nature, Amulyada could endear himself to anyone, specially the younger generations, in no time. He was an automatic choice to be one of the honorary instructors when HMI introduced the first adventure course for teenagers. He also underwent the first Method of Instruction course in India along with mountaineering legend Tenzing Norgay as it was introduced by HMI in the 1960s.
The success on Nilgiri led to him being selected for the pre-Everest expedition to Panch Chuli in Kumaun Himalaya led by Flt. Lt. A K Chowdhury and then Rathong in Sikkim led by the then HMI Principal Col. B S Jaiswal during pre and post monsoon periods of 1964. He was not picked up for the final team of the Indian Everest Expedition in 1965. Nevertheless he joined an expedition organized and led by Flying Officer M K M Raju and made the first Indian ascent of Chandra Parvat in Garhwal Himalaya that year.
Amulyada, had his tryst with Mt. Everest much later. During 1993 I was to lead a team from Bengal to Mt. Everest via north ridge through Tibet. But a few weeks before the departure, I fell ill following an infection forcing me to withdraw from the team. Amulyada was then requested to take over as the leader and he obliged. The expedition, however, could not make it to the top.
After Nilgiri mountaineering and allied activities became his main passion. Apart from his professional work as Public Relations Officer of West Bengal State Legislative Assembly, he spent most of his time in taking part in expeditions and organizing adventure and rock climbing camps for the students and youth.
After Chandra Parvat, Amulyada took part, mostly as leader, in scores of expeditions from West Bengal to various mountains in Indian Himalaya and many rock climbing and adventure camps in the state. Although he had differences of opinion, particularly on present day guided and commercial climbs, he remained a friend to one and all.
Besides being the patron of many mountaineering clubs and adventure organizations, he served as secretary of East Zone Sport Climbing Committee of Indian Mountaineering Foundation (IMF) and Director of West Bengal Chapter of National Adventure Foundation (NAF). He acted as Advisor to West Bengal Mountaineering and Adventure Sports Foundation (WBMASF) under Youth Services Department of Government of West Bengal. He also served as a member in the Governing Council of IMF and Executive Council of HMI, Darjeeling. Though Amulyada became a member of The Himalayan Club in later years, he used to take part in different activities of the club.
Amulyada was decorated with the National Adventure Award (now known as Tenzing Norgay National Adventure Award) by Government of India and the Tenzing Award by Government of West Bengal for his contributions to mountaineering and adventure sports in the country. He also received Lifetime Achievement Awards from various mountaineering and adventure clubs in the state.
Apart from mountaineering, Amulyada was a soccer fan and a staunch supporter of East Bengal Club. He loved classical Indian music and in later years also developed an interests in flowers. He used to spend much time on his roof top garden.
Amulyada, who was born in Barisal district of undivided Bengal lived a very active life and left for his heavenly abode at the age of 84.
He is survived by his wife and a daughter while his son predeceased him. After the premature death of his son, Amulyada arranged remarriage for his widowed daughter-in-law.
He was a regular at most programmes and functions in Kolkata as well as other parts of the state and kept everybody entertained and engaged with his energy and humour. The mountaineering fraternity, particularly in West Bengal, will definitely miss him.
(1944 - 2021)
Józef Nyka, Honorary member of The Himalayan Club, Polish author, journalist, sport-climber, and veteran of World War II (born on 5 December 1944, Łysinin, Poland) passed away on 4 September 2021 in Warsaw, Poland. He was the author of numerous books on high-mountains and thousands of articles in most prominent mountain magazines worldwide.
His adventure with mountains started accidentally. He and his family were forced to move from their home village in Great Poland to Czarny Dunajec, Podhale located in the foothills of the Tatra range, during WWII. As a young man he became a partisan. His partisan organization operated in the mountain ranges. It was at this time that he became interested in the Tatra and the culture related to this region. He started sport- climbing in 1952. He was one of the elite climbers who established several extreme, summer as well as winter, routes in the Polish Tatras.
During 1962-65 he was climbing in Dolomites (he was the leader of the three successful expeditions in this region) and the glacier areas of the Alps. He ascended classic routes in the Dolomites such as Solda-Conforto southwest wall, Marmolada, Cassina north wall of Cima Ovest di Lavaredo, and many others. He established a first route on the north wall Schiara in Gran Diedro (20-23 August 1965) which was probably his biggest achievement.
In Poland, he became an icon—all generations of Tatra tourists are raised on his guidebooks. Saying that his books are popular is an understatement. His was the original concept that guidebooks must include history, geography, geology, ethnology, culture and even in- depth research on names. There were numerous reprints of all guide books, for example, Polish Tatra was reprinted over 20 times. He wrote other monographies on Tatra valleys as well.
He was an active member of Polish Alpine Club (Polski Klub Wysokogórski), Polish Alpine Society (Polski Związek Alpinizmu). Józef Nyka and Andrzej Zawada were the originators of winter high altitude climbing.
He was probably the longest editor-in-chief (1963-1991) of Taternik, the most important Polish alpine magazine which under his editorship became the most respected mountain magazines at that time. Józef grew to be to be the foremost authority and expert on alpinism in the world. He participated in numerous UIAA conferences as a valuable expert and editor of Expedoc, the UIAA Expedition Committee magazine.
At the same time, he worked as a correspondent for at least 40 newspapers, writing in multiple languages. They included La Montagne, France, Alp, Italy, Alpinismus and Bergsteiger, Germany, Alpine Journal and Mountain, England, American Alpine Journal, USA, The Himalayan Journal, India, Iwa to Yuki, Japan and San Ak In, South Korea. He wrote about prominent climbers and chronicles of expeditions and explorations worldwide. He became close friend with many personalities, editors, high-altitude climbers.
Józef Nyka worked as journalist as long as he had the strength to type on his PC. He devoted his last years to popularizing the Polish Army’s WWII history, with help from his own hand-written diary.
In Poland and abroad he was well-known and respected as an expert on mountain issues, ready to help anyone with his knowledge and great memory of facts and people.