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THE FOUNDING OF THE HIMALAYAN CLUB

authored by G. L. Corbett  |   as published in April 1, 1929

MR. DOUGLAS FRESHFIELD tells me that the idea of a Himalayan Club goes back so far as 1866, when it was formally suggested to the Asiatic Society of Bengal by Mr. F. Drew and Mr. W .H. Johnson. And Mr. Fresh field himself, writing in The Alpine Journal in 1884, advised that our knowledge of the Himalaya might thus be extended. ” The formation at Calcutta or Simla,” he said, ” of an Himalayan Club, prepared to publish  Narratives of Science and Adventure’ concerning the mountains, would be the most serviceable means to this end.” The idea must have recurred to many, but it never took shape, not because a Club was not wanted, but because in this land of endlessness it is only now and then that the two or three are gathered together. The thing had hung in the balance for years when a chance talk at Simla tipped the beam, and the Himalayan Club was born on the path behind Jakko on the afternoon of the 6th October, 1927.

I wrote first to Major Kenneth Mason of the Survey of India, who also had long cherished the hope of a Club ; to Major-General Walter Kirke, then acting as Chief of the General Staff ; and to Brigadier E. A. Tandy, Surveyor General of India. I was diffident, for there seemed no reason why the time should now be fulfilled. Mason replied that he was with me heart and soul; Kirke that he would do anything he could to help ; Tandy that he would help in any way he could. So encouraged, I went ahead. The Viceroy, Lord Irwin, the Commander-in-Chief, Field-Marshal Sir William Bird wood, and Sir Malcolm Hailey, then Governor of the Punjab, were among the first to whom . I told our plans. Others were Mr. T. E. T. Upton, Solicitor to the Government of India; Sir Edwin Pascoe, Director of the Geological Survey of India; Major-General Kenneth Wigram and Brigadier W. L. 0. Twiss who still, they say, count for something among Gurkhas; Mr. G. Mackworth Young, Army Secretary; and Mr J. G. Acheson, Deputy Foreign Secretary. Mason meanwhile had consulted Major E. 0. Wheeler of the Survey of India, and Captain J. G. Bruce, 6th Gurkhas. These were the founders of the Himalayan Club, and it is to their confidence and sound judgment that the Club owes its constitution. There were three others who had no claim to be members of the Club, but whose interest and advice meant much to us : the Foreign Secretary, Sir Denys Bray ; the Education Secretary Mr. J. W. Bhore, who included in his Department the Survey of India ; and the Private Secretary to the Viceroy, Mr George Cunningham. It was Denny Bray who determined the quality of our founder members : ” What you want,” he said, “is a solid core of men who have done things.”

We proceeded deliberately, remembering always that it’s the first step that counts. There were three things to be decided : What should the Club be called ? What should be its objects ? Who should be asked to become founder members ? The name of the Club was soon settled. ” The Alpine Club of India ” had been suggested, but seemed likely to scare those whose interest was not high mountaineer­ing ; nor had we need to look for a name beyond our own great range. Almost from the first we thought of ourselves as “The Himalayan Club. It was agreed that our objects should be based on the famous definition in the Rules of the Alpine Club. But it is shikar that first impels nine-tenths of those who go to the Himalaya ; and though we were unwilling to admit shikar as a specific object of the Club we thought that our objects should recognise that knowledge of the Himalaya is extended through ” sport,” which would cover mountain climbing and ski-running as well as shikar. In this way we arrived at our definition :—

” To encourage and assist Himalayan travel and exploration, and to extend knowledge of the Himalaya and adjoining mountain ranges through science, art, literature and sport.”

The list of those who should be asked to become founder members, was anxiously and carefully compiled. Our intention was to include everyone who had ” done things in the Himalaya; and if anyone was inadvertently omitted, I hope he will forgive and join us now. On the 20th December, 1927, Mason and I sent out our circular letter, and then we waited apprehensively for the replies. We had never dared to hope for such a response. From all over India and beyond, and from the back of beyond, from Europe, Africa and America, replies came welcoming the Club and making varied and valuable suggestions. Almost everyone replied, and almost everyone who replied became a founder member. Our 127 founder members contribute to the objects of the Club much that there is of Himalayan knowledge and experience. The Club was formally inaugurated at a meeting held in Field-Marshal Sir William Bird wood’s room at Army Headquarters, Delhi, on the 17th February, 1928.

While we were still intent on our first step, we learnt that ” The Mountain Club of India ” had been formed at Calcutta on the 23rd September, 1927. Mason and I took an early opportunity to meet Mr. W. Allsup, its moving spirit, and it was agreed that the two Clubs should go forward with mutual good-will, and that the question of fusion should be considered later. At the inaugural meeting of the Himalayan Club it was decided to ask the Mountain Club whether it would be willing to amalgamate. A general meeting of the Mountain Club on the 14th December, 1928, agreed to amalgamate ” for the benefit of the common aims of the two Clubs,” and we are now one strong and united organisation.  Allsup to our regret has now left India, but the combined Club will not forget how selflessly he advocated amalgamation.

We owe much too to the Alpine Club, and in particular to Colonel E. L. Strutt, the Editor of the Alpine Journal, who is also one of our founder members, and to Mr. Sydney Spencer, the Honorary Secretary. From the first and throughout I have been in close correspondence with them, and their ungrudging help and wise advice have never failed me. Members of the Alpine Club who come to the Himalaya may be sure of a warm welcome and all the assistance that the Himalayan Club can give.

And so the Himalayan Club is founded, and we hope great things of it : the geographer that the blank places on his map may be filled in ; the scientist that our knowledge of the Himalaya, its rocks and glaciers, its animals and plants, its peoples and their way of living, may continually expand ; the artist that its glories may inspire fine pictures. The mountaineer may dream of the first ascent of a thousand unclimbed peaks, the shikari of record heads shot in nalas yet unknown. My own hope is that it may help to rear a breed of men in India, hard and self-reliant, who will know how to enjoy life on the high hills.

G. L. Corbett

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HIMALAYAN NOTES   (as published in April 1, 1929)

Photographic Exhibition.

THE FIRST public activity of the Club has been an exhibition of photographs of mountain scenery taken by members. The exhibition was held in Simla during ten days in September in connection with the Simla Fine Arts Exhibition. The Com­mittee of the Exhibition very kindly placed a small room at the disposal of the Club but owing to the uncertainty as to whether any space would be available, only short notice could be given to members of the Club who were known to be interested in photography.

Considering the shortness of the notice, the response was very gratifying and sufficient pictures were received to make a good show. The standard of photography was high and the subjects were of such interest that they were certainly appreciated by the general public that visited the Fine Arts Exhibition, The collection included pictures contributed by Mr. C. P. Skrine, Lieut.-Colonel D. M. Field, Major Kenneth Mason, Mr. Tombazi, Colonel Spalding and Captain K. Dawson. Major Mason also contributed the beautiful little picture of K2 by H. R. H. the Duke of the Abruzzi, which appears as frontispiece to this Journal.

Mr. Skrine’s photographs, some of the most striking of which were of Rakaposhi, were very effective. Their large size made them particularly suitable for a public exhibition. The gem of the collection was a view of Rakaposhi taken at dawn, a most difficult subject, magni ficently rendered. Mr. Tombazi’s contribution included views in the Eastern Himalaya and also some of the Swiss Alps. These were shown separately from the Himalayan subjects. Lieut.-Colonel Field contributed some figure studies from Leh, including an interesting one of a Lama band. These figure studies were welcome as affording a contrast to the other exhibits. Captain K. Dawson showed some effective pictures of hill scenery and one of clouds. Major Mason’s pictures which included views of K2 and of four giants of the Muztagh from the Aghil Range were of particular interest in view of the lecture that Major Mason had given recently on Himalayan exploration.

Many of the pictures that were shewn have been presented to the Club and will form the nucleus of a collection that should prove very valuable in the future to members who wish to obtain some idea of the appearance of the country that they propose to visit.

It is hoped that in 1929, it may be possible to arrange for a similar exhibition and that by giving longer notice it may be possible to obtain contributions from a much larger number of members and to shew a greater variety of Himalayan subjects. It would assist in the staging of such an exhibition if members would in their spare time prepare a few pictures. For display on the walls of an exhibition, prints smaller than 10×8 are less suitable than those of this size, or larger— the larger the better. The pictures should, if possible, be mounted on stout card considerably bigger than the print ; they should not be framed.

W. B. S.

Royal Geographical Society Awards, 1928.—-His Majesty the King-Emperor approved the award of the Founder’s Medal to Dr. T. G. Longstaff, for his discovery of the Siachen Glacier and his long-continued geographical work in the Himalaya.

Dr. Longstaff first visited the Himalaya in 1905, when with the two Brocherels he attempted the ascent of Gurla Mandhata, 25,350 feet. From a camp at 20,000 feet, the party reached a height of 23,000 feet on the western arete of the mountain. From here they were swept away by an avalanche to the glacier 1,000 feet below. They succeeded however in extricating themselves, and camped in the shelter of some rocks near the glacier. This they ascended the following day, and reached a point above 23,000 feet, where they spent another night out in the snow. On the fifth day of the climb, they made a final effort to reach the summit, but were forced to return from a height of probably a little over 24,000 feet.

Two years later, Dr. Longstaff was back again in the Himalaya, where he successfully climbed Trisul, 23,360 feet, in Garhwal. The ascent of nearly 6,000 feet in 101 hours at this high altitude on the last day, was the great feature of this climb. As far as we know  Trisul is still the highest summit that has been attained. After this expedition Dr. Longstaff was awarded the Gill Memorial by the Royal Geographical Society.

In 1909, Dr. Longstaff reached the upper Siachen glacier and proved it to be the longest glacier outside sub-Polar regions. Ever since its snout was first visited by Henry Strachey in 1848, its great length had been unsuspected. During the Great War, Dr. Longstaff served in the Political Department as Assistant Commandant with the Gilgit Scouts. He was subsequently on the Mount Everest Committee, and went on the Second Mount Everest Expedition in 1922. He revisited Garhwal in 1927, to explore the approaches of Nanda Devi.

Away from the Himalaya, Dr. Longstaff has almost as distinguished a record. In 1903 he visited the Caucasus with L. W. Rolleston, making five first ascents. In 1910-11 he was climbing and exploring in the Canadian Rockies and Selkirks, and visited Yukon territory and Alaska. In 1921 and 1923 he was in Spitzbergen with the Oxford Expeditions and in 1928 took a party of Oxford biologists to West Greenland. In the intervals between these journeys Dr. Longstaff has been a frequent visitor to the Alps. He has been a Member of the Alpine Club since 1900, and was Vice-President of it in 1927-

The Council of the Royal Geographical Society awarded the Murchison Grant to Captain C. J. Morris of the 3rd Gurkhas, for his explorations on Mr. H. F. Montagnier’s expedition to Hunza. The main results included the exploration of the lower Ghujerab valley and gorge, and of the main glacier tributaries of the Chapursan. Captain Morris was transport officer and assistant photographer on the Second Mount Everest Expedition.

Note on K2.—The second highest mountain on earth, a photo­gravure of which appears as frontispiece to this Volume, is not visible from any inhabited spot, and has no native name. In 1856, when Montgomerie was observing from the station of Haramukh, east of the Wular lake in Kashmir, he entered in his angle-book the peaks that appeared in the direction of the Karakoram, as K1, K2, K3, etc. The surveyors found a local name for K1,—Masherbrum, and for K3, K4, and K5—Gasherhrum. For K2, however, no name could be obtained. Yet when its height was worked out, it was found to exceed the accepted height of Kinchinjunga by 104 feet.

The name Godwin Austen was proposed by General Walker in England in 1888, after the distinguished surveyor who first mapped its approaches, but though this name still appears on some unofficial maps, it was not authorized by Godwin Austen himself nor approved by the Survey or Government of India, on the principle that personal names are objectionable. Other native names have been proposed, Dapsang, Chiving, Chogo Ri, Lanfafahad, etc. : but they are not known to-day by natives, and objection has been raised to all of them. Curiously enough the writer of this note has heard two ” native ” names used for the peak : Kechu, and Cheku. These are obviously only corruptions of the symbol K2, which, having been now in use for over 70 years, appears to have come to stay.

The officially accepted height is 28,250 feet. This height was deduced by Colonel Montgomerie from the mean of the heights derived from nine stations of observation ranging in height from 16,000 to 17,500 feet and distant from K2 from 61 to 136 miles. The accepted height of Kinchinjunga is 28,148 feet, but recent investigation points to this height being too low, and it is just possible that the day may come when K2 may have to take third place among the highest mountains of the world.

The Baltoro glacier, at the northern extremity of which rises K2, was first discovered by Godwin Austen in 1861 ; it was first reached from the north by Sir Francis Younghusband in 1887, when the northern face of the great mountain was first described. In 1892 the whole glacier was surveyed by Sir Martin Conway. The large northern branch (” the Godwin Austen glacier “), was first visited by a party comprising Messrs. Eckenstein, Crowley and Knowles, and Dr. Pfannl, Wessely and J. J. Guillarmod in 1902. The first serious attempt to climb the peak K2 was made by H. E. II. the Duke of the Abruzzi in 1909. A complete reconnaissance was made of the mountain from north-west through south to north-east. The Duke reached a point about 21,000 feet on the southern ridge, ascended the snow saddle, 21,870 feet, on the north-west arete, and climbed to an altitude of 21,650 feet on the southern ridge of  Staircase Peak,” north-east of K2. From this point he took the very beautiful photograph which appears in this volume. The conclusion reached by the expert mountaineers of this expedition is that the technical climbing difficulties are probably insurmountable at so great an altitude.

Ice pinnacles of Kyagar Gl. are 200 – 300 feet high
(Photograph: Kenneth Mason)

Pre-Ghal in Waziristan.—In the Geographical Journal for October 1928 is printed the very interesting lecture delivered by Captain W. E. Hay, dealing with his visit to and ascent of Pre-Ghal, the highest mountain in Waziristan. The statement of the Mahsuds who accompanied Captain Hay, that the Bospa plateau, about 2,000 feet below the summit, is 46 the highest point on the mountain which any European has previously been allowed to reach ” has been corrected by Captain Hay in the G. J. for December, where he remarks : ” It is quite clear that a party of three British officers, with a number of rank and file of the Indian Army, and some local tribesmen acting as guides reached the summit of Pre-Ghal on 8th May, 1881.”

It appears also from the narrative report of Major T. H. Holdich, r.e. (now Colonel Sir Thomas Holdich, k.c.m.g.. k.c.i.e., c.b.), who was in charge of the survey operations in Northern Baluchistan in 1880-81, that the summits of both Pre-Ghal and Shuidar were reached and observed from. In a recent letter Sir Thomas remarks that Captain Gerald Martin, Survey of India (afterwards Assay-Master in the Bombay Mint), was the officer who ascended the peak. Captain Martin was in charge of the survey work with Brigadier-General Kennedy’s Column. He was presumably one of the three British officers mentioned by Captain Hay. It would be interesting to know the names of the other two.

The Workmans’ climbs near the Skoro La, 1899.—-With reference to Dr. Balestreri’s ascent of Cheri Chor, described on page 89, it may be of interest to mention that in 1899, the Workmans made two ascents in the Skoro La neighbourhood, with Zurbriggen, as their guide. There is a photograph opposite page 134 of the Workmans book, In the Ice-World of Himalaya, entitled “Siegfriedhorn, 18,600 feet, and Skoro La, 17,000 feet, from Avalanche Camp.” This photograph was taken from the north-east of the Skoro La, and Siegfriedhorn, the name given by the Workmans to the broad ice-domed summit east of the pass, is evidently the same mountain for which Dr. Balestreri obtained the native name, Nakpu Gang The climb to the summit on the 7th August, 1899, took 5 ½ hours, and is described by Mrs. Bullock Workman on pages 138 sqq. of her book. According to her, the height is 18,600 feet, which is probably approximately correct. A few days later the Workmans climbed a second snow-dome on the watershed, height 19,450 feet. This peak was the fifth furthest east from Nakpu Gang, and is close under Mango Gusor. It has no accepted name.

Hawk Moths—The family of Sphingidse (sphinx or hawk moths) occurring in the Himalaya is not well represented in Home museums or private collections. A great deal remains to be learned about its distribution, habits, etc. Major F. B. Scott, Survey of India, Shillong, Assam, will be very glad to receive specimens of this family from the Himalaya or adjoining regions, and to have them classified. Specimens should be packed in paper envelopes, with the wings folded back to back. The date, place of capture, height, and a serial number should be carefully entered on the envelope containing each specimen.

The Birds of Kashmir.—Many members will be interested to learn that Mr. Hugh Whistler is engaged in writing a book on the Birds of Kashmir. His intention is, as far as possible, to write a com­plete monograph on all birds found within the political boundaries of H. H. the Maharajah of Jammu and Kashmir, including the highly diverse  avifaunas of Kashmir proper, Ladakh, Baltistan, and Gilgit, as well as of Punch and Jammu.

Mr. Whistler will be glad if members will give him any observa­tions they may have made during their visits to Kashmir, however limited they may be. Single records of time and place of a single species, if accurate, are often of considerable value when collated with other records. Nor need members feel that records are chiefly required from the most out-of-the-way localities. It is noticeable that there is least information available about such parts as the southern slopes of the Pir Panjal, the areas round the Jhelum valley motor-road, Bhadarwar and Kishtwar, while the plains of Jammu are ornitho- logically practically unknown. A very valuable ornithological trip could be made into the Himalaya from Jammu either by the Banihal pass or better still, up the Chenab. Even a week-end spent at Jammu town verifying the commonest birds (the House- Crow, the Kite, the Babbler, etc.) would be of value. Mr. Whistler is particularly anxious for information as to where in this neighbourhood the plains avifauna merges into the Himalayan. Observations on distribution, both local and altitudinal, dates of arrival and departure of migratory birds, dates tending to show altitudinal movement, observations on habits and behaviour and welcomed. Mr. Whistler will also be most grateful for shooting notes and records of game, wild-fowl, etc., descriptions of good davs’ sport and of methods found satisfactory for shooting small game ; accounts of native methods of trapping and snaring ; and legends and folk-lore pertaining to birds. Commutations should be sent to Hugh Whistler, Esq., Caldbec House, Battle, Sussex, England. Mr. Whistler will be most happy to reply to any enquiries and will carefully acknowledge his indebtedness to those willing to assist him in the manner indicated.

Moorcroft.—One of the outstanding personalities of Himalayan exploration in the  beginning of last century was Moorcroft, the superintendent of the Honourabhflast India Company’s stud at Delhi. He travelled extensively in Kashmir, Ladakh and Tibet. In many ways he was a remarkable man, far ahead of his time, and as yet full justice has not been done to him. In a recent letter, Sir Aurel Stein wrote : ” He was unfortunate in dying at Balkh, before he could write up his abundant materials, and afterwards in having his travel notes locked up in the office-table of a ‘Political’ limited in his outlook, for close on 20 years.. The man is worthy of real respect and ought to find a fit biographer. Indirectly we owe to him most of our early knowledge of Tibetian literature and Buddhism.”

The Editor will be glad to receive any original documents or little-known contemporary notes or notices dealing with Moorcroft, and to know of any member who would care to undertake his biography.

Winter Sports Outfit.—Skis are now made in Srinagar by the Kashmir General Agency, from Kashmir ash, which though not so good as hickory, seems to be harder and tougher than Swiss ash. Toe irons and bindings are made up by Amira the gunsmith of Srinagar, but they are not yet so satisfactory as those obtainable from Switzerland. Waterproof boots cannot be purchased in Kashmir, either for climbing or winter-sports. The Army ammunition boot affords a substitute, though an unsatisfactory one, and this important item should invariably be obtained from Europe if time permits.

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