A Mountaineering Adventure in the Karakoram by R. A. HODGKIN
Our February number contained a brief account o f the disasters that have overwhelmed certain German expeditions attempting to conquer the Himalayan giants. Mr Hodgkin was one of the two members of a recent British expedition who narrowly escaped a similar disaster, at the eventual cost of their toes and parts of their fingers. Masherbrum, their objective, was unknown country to the climber before the snow-level, the wild and arid nature of the country became fully apparent. Rugged, tawny hills rose thousands of feet above the track, which did its best to follow the steep-walled rivers. There was no vegetation other than a few small aromatic bushes. Yellow-cheeked lizards and small dun-coloured martins were the only living creatures to be seen.
they tackled it: their experience has simplified the problem for those who may follow them For two weeks during the latter part of March 1938, the final preparations for our expedition were made amongst the green fields and populous waterways of Srinagar, capital of Kashmir. Our objective was to climb Masherbrum or K. 1 (25,660 ft.), one of the finest of Himalayan peaks. We were a small party of five climbers: Waller, who had done most of the organization, Graham Brown, Harrison, Roberts and myself. We had with us five Sherpas, those invaluable and hardy men of Nepal, without whose aid high climbing would be almost impossible. Drs Elizabeth and Arthur Teasdale travelled out later in case any medical aid should be required.
The blue mountains bounding the Vale of Kashmir, their grassy slopes streaked with snow, held but a slight suggestion of the wild country to the north, where deep, arid gorges and vast mountain chains make the Karakoram one of the most inaccessible regions in the world. For a day or two we marched through the fertile valleys of the blue outer hills towards the Zoji La, an 11,500-ft. pass which cuts a gap through the true Himalaya. Crossing this snowy steep-walled pass by star-light— a precaution against spring avalanches— our small cavalcade entered Ladakh, a region somewhat similar to Tibet.
We met one or two caravans— traders coming down the road from Lch. One day we passed a small string of ponies, one of which was bearing a pretty European girl, who, to our surprise, veiled herself like a Moslem as she passed. We gathered from reports that she was the bride of one of the several petty rajahs of Baltistan, an ancient ruling caste of whose privileges little but the title survives. She was on her way to a new home, three weeks’ trek from the nearest motor road.
Four miles short of Kargil our road left
We passed an occasional huddle of squat houses, where small groups of children blinked inquisitively at us and seemed, like their homes and the mountains about them, to have scarcely shaken themselves free of the white mantle of snow. Below