Skip to main content

Full text of "A hermit in the Himalayas"

See other formats


mountainous walls of ice and snow and was in momentary dangt
of impending avalanches. He had to turn back. MerkFs Germa
group attempted Nanga Parbat two years ago. Half of them lo*
their lives, Merkl himself dying of cold in an ice-cave 23,000 fee
high after being terribly frost-bitten on those accumulated cones c

Here, too, in the Tehri-Garhwal region of the Central Hima
layas, came Palis and his comrades in 1933. They must have passe<
my forest bungalow on their route to Gangotri and probably spen
the night here* At Gangotri they found a cluster of peaks, chief!
of the 20,000 feet-size, awaiting them. They climbed an 18,000 fee
mountain first, descended over to the Kedarnath group and ascendec
a 20,000 feet summit. Then they attacked Satopanth, an altitude o
22,000 feet, and succeeded again. Their exhausted bodies needec
rest, so they returned to Harsil near Gangotri for a few days. The}
set out again, climbed a glacier into the rugged Nela Pass anc
descended to the Spiti Valley on the Tibetan border. From hen
they fought their way through mists, blizzard, and wind to th<
accompaniment of violent thunder up the dominating peak of Lee
Pargial until its 22,000 feet had been surmounted.

Very few other Himalayan heights have been conquered and
the record of successes is still extremely brief. Mummery went up
Nanga Parbat, yet how fai nobody knew, for he was never heard oi
again. The Duke of Abruzzi found K.2 unclimbable. But man must
struggle upward, physically no less than spiritually, and his powers
of invention may yet find means of defying Nature and do to the
Asiatic Himalayas what he has already done to their shorter cousins,
the European Alps.

The adventure of braving the world's worst glaciers and steepest
slopes and highest altitudes demands, however, an exceptional
bodily fitness and power of endurance which many do not possess.
The small amount of oxygen in the air at these altitudes renders
every breath an effort and every step an exertion. The pressure of the
atmosphere alters and severe prostrating headaches attack the
unacclimatized intruders. Hearts must be perfectly sound, lungs
must be large and strong, limbs must be hardy or a man had better
remain where I remain now, at a little less than 10,000 feet on the
Himalayan altimeter, unless he wants to play roulette with death.

The biting cold and the cutting winds and the constant storms
render these icebound regions above the snowline painfully pur-
gatorial. Stung into helpless irritability by the arctic temperature,
numbed into morbid depression by the sluggish circulation of blood
in the body, experiencing respiratory distress to the point of needing
three or four breaths between each step, haunted by the ever-present