The Minya Konka Climb
OUR Sikong Expedition spent three months in and about the Niarong Range on the Sikong-Szechwan border in southwestern China, before the summit of the main peak was attained. The month of August, 1932, was devoted by Burdsall and Emmons to the determination of the altitudes of Minya Konka (24,000 feet) and its subsidiaries, while the whole of September was used up in a reasonably complete reconnaissance (in which all members took some part) to ascertain which route should be chosen for the attempt on the summit. As the work of these two months will be dealt with by others elsewhere, I will simply confine myself here to the salient features of the mountaineering operations. But first a word as to geography.
Minya Konka is situated about forty air miles south of Tatsienlu (Tibetan: Dartendso), a Sino-Tibetan border town located roughly at the intersection of Lat. 30° N. with Long. 102° E. Geographically and ethnologically one might call this the edge of Tibet, whose 14,000- to 15,000-foot plateau runs east to this town. The rim of the plateau for some distance south and north of Tatsienlu turns up into the Niarong Range before it falls abruptly to the 1500-foot Chengtu plain of China. East of Tatsienlu the population is Chinese ; west of Tatsienlu for more than a month’s journey over the great plateau, the population is Tibetan, controlled by the Chinese government. Our base camp was from four to six days distant by trail from Tatsienlu, the route lying over the high plateau to the west.
The Niarong Range is best known to Americans through the article published in the October, 1930, issue of the National Geographic Magazine, in which Dr. Joseph Rock used the name “Minya Konka” for its highest summit, “Konka” (pronounced something like “gong-ga”) being the Tibetan word meaning Snow Peak.” For the sake of uniformity we are retaining this name.1
The members of our expedition were the following : Richard L. Burdsall, civil engineer, of Port Chester, N. Y.; Arthur B. Emmons III, junior in the Engineering School at Harvard, of Dover, Mass.; Jack T. Young, American-born Chinese, member of the Kelly-Roosevelt Expedition for the Giant Panda in the same region in 1929; and the writer. There was no “leader” to our expedition. Each of us was a specialist in one of the different fields or problems with which the expedition had to deal from time to time. And as the party would enter upon various kinds of activities, the other members would instinctively look for suggestions to the individual who happened to be best informed on that particular subject, and usually followed them accordingly.
Burdsall and Emmons left Shanghai late in June, and, traveling with missionaries who knew the region,2 reached the range and commenced their survey work early in August. Jack Young and I delayed our departure from Shanghai until early in August, attending to final details of the official permission granted us by the Chinese Government, and journeying to Manila, where we secured the valuable help of Governor-General Roosevelt, who had previously visited this same district.
Joining the others in September, the reconnaissance was completed by the end of the month, and, upon invitation from the Lamas, we made our headquarters at the Konka Gompa Lamasery (12,000 ft.), from which we found ourselves ready to set forth with porters to the site of the base camp (13,800 ft.), by the first of October. We were greatly concerned over the lateness of the season for climbing, fearing cold and storm, and rushed our efforts to get the high camps established as soon as possible. We had been told, however, by the missionary residents in Tatsienlu that the popular conception of Tibet as being deep with snow and intensely cold in winter was not true of this particular part of the plateau. Our subsequent experience bore this out to a very astonishing degree : October showed greatly decreased precipitation over September, and the temperature remained about the same.
October 2nd: The four of us set off from the Lamasery with six porters, one of whom was a woman, and working all day reached the site of our base camp at 4 p.m. Emmons and I pitched a tent and remained overnight, all the rest returning immediately to the Lamasery.3
October 3rd: The base camp lay in an alpine meadow at the foot of the great northwest ridge of the mountain, and Emmons and I started climbing from here, taking 40-pound loads, and reconnoitering a route up. We reached only about 15,500 feet that day, climbing over glacial moraine and loose steep rock, and, leaving our loads, returned to camp. The two others, with six porters, had meanwhile made another trip up from the Lamasery, leaving four porters’ loads there, behind them, and now camped overnight with us.
October 4th: Burdsall, Emmons and I, carrying 35-pound loads, climbed to yesterday’s stopping point (15,500 ft.) by 1 p.m., and continuing, reached the very tip of “The Rock Pyramid,” the highest part of the snow-line on the ridge, (17,000 ft.), an hour before sunset. The climbing was of only moderate difficulty, and could be managed safely without ropes. Burdsall returned alone immediately to the base camp, Emmons and I establishing a small camp on the snow and occupying it for the night. Jack Young and porters brought the remaining loads from the Lamasery to the base camp the same day.
October 5th: 17,000-foot camp. Early morning temperature 20° F. Emmons and I went down, meeting Burdsall and Young coming up with two porters at 15,500 feet. Here Young sent the two porters down alone, in order not to break them in too quickly to the higher rock route. We four went up from this point, carrying full loads, to the 17,000-foot camp; Burdsall and Young then returned to base camp the same afternoon, I going with them part way, picking up a load and climbing back again to the 17,000-foot camp, where Emmons had meanwhile prepared a good meal.
October 6th: Morning temperature 20° F. Emmons and I, with moderate loads, went off reconnoitering a way through difficult technical snow and ice climbing for the top of the great northwest ridge. Due to the necessity for frequent side to side investigations, our lack of acclimatization, etc., we were forced to dump our loads at 17,500 feet. Finally, however, we worked out a route to the flat top of the great ridge (19,000 ft.). Hastily descending, I shot through the lid of a crevasse at 18,500 feet, Emmons holding me magnificently on the rope.
The same day Jack Young was ill at the base camp, and Burdsall, packing a heavy load, climbed up to the 17,000-foot camp alone, two porters having accompanied him with loads as far as the snowline at 16,700 feet, where they deposited their loads and returned to the base. Burdsall spent the night with us in a second tent.
October 7th: I went down to the 15,500-foot dump, meeting Jack Young and two porters there packing loads up. Taking a load here myself, the four of us moved up, the porters dumping theirs at 16,700 feet and returning to the base. Burdsall and Emmons spent the day relaying between the porters’ dumping place at 16,700 feet and the 17,000-foot camp. We moved this camp (two tents) to a more suitable location farther onto the snow, and now felt ourselves well established here.
October 8th: 6 a.m., temperature 14° F. The four of us on one rope, myself leading, carried good loads over the previous route to the top of the great ridge at 19,000 feet. A nasty storm out of the southwest with a high wind commenced here. Emmons anchored on descent to 17,000 feet.
October 9th: 17,000-foot camp. Everyone felt lazy and took a day off. Burdsall and I played chess, he winning several games!
October 10th: Up early to find clear weather but a heavy snow, fallen in the night, spoiled our trail up. Emmons and I started off on a rope with heavy loads, breaking trail in the soft snow. Burdsall and Young followed on another rope, also with heavy loads, gradually catching us at midway point. All four together reached the top of the ridge and the 19,000-foot campsite (placed on the northeast side of the crest to get protection from the strong west wind). The plan was that inasmuch as we had only been able to bring sleeping bags for two to this camp, Burdsall and Young would return to 17,000 feet the same night, leaving Emmons and myself at 19,000 feet to start a higher reconnaissance the next day. Owing to the heavy snow, however, our rate of progress was much delayed, so that it was two hours to darkness before Burdsall and Young could commence their descent. This they gallantly undertook in the face of imminent darkness, gathering storm, and difficult route. Emmons and I at once set about completely establishing the 19,000-foot camp, worrying greatly about the other two because of the rapidly increasing intensity of the storm and the low visibility. We were unexpectedly relieved, however, near the time of full darkness, to hear their returning voices. After some considerable descent, conditions had greatly increased in severity, making their return back up to our position at 19,000 feet advisable. Although the four of us were now forced to spend a rather miserable night here (there being only two sleeping bags between us), we heartily commended their prudence in a situation which might have resulted in disaster.
October 11th: All four at 19,000 feet. Morning temperature 10° F. Burdsall and Young off early, descending to lower camps in order, during the next few days, to pack up more food (recently come in by courier from Tatsienlu), for the purpose of further consolidating our position. Emmons and I meanwhile undertook to establish a light camp at 20,000 feet and to reconnoitre the higher reaches of the mountain in a day’s climb from there.
The same day Emmons and I, working along the flat top of the great ridge, progressed eastward for perhaps a third of a mile to about 19,500 feet for the purpose of reconnaissance. All had wondered how the final 4,000-foot ridge of the Konka would appear upon closer inspection, and also whether it was possible to get around the feature we called “The Twenty Thousand Foot Hump” which would allow access into the little gap just at the foot of the final arête. The weather was splendid, and what we saw raised our hopes considerably. Moreover the route to the summit we could now see would lie over a face rather than a sharp ridge, and thus give considerably more latitude in working around difficult features which might present themselves on the final high climb. We returned early to the 19,000-foot tent and rested during the afternoon.
October 12th: Taking a tent and one load of food, Emmons and I returned to our yesterday’s position on the ridge and moved further along to 20,300 feet to the summit of “The Twenty Thousand Foot Hump.” Here we found ourselves cut off by a cliff from further progress, and had to return slightly and descend, finally dumping our loads at a suitable camp site at 20,000 feet on the northeast and sheltered side of the hump on top of a large stable sort of ice block or serac. Returned late to the 19,000-foot camp, finding it badly snowed up from the moving of a drift by a shift in the wind.
October 13th: Both of us were very tired, and took a day off dozing and resting in our bags.
October 14th: Emmons and I got away from the 19,000-foot camp about 10 a.m., carrying one sleeping bag (90 × 90 inch size), one air mattress, some food and the Primus stove, and packed these during the day to the 20,000-foot camp site. Here we established the 20,000-foot camp, our plan being to sleep together in the single bag overnight and make a long day’s climb, reconnoitering up the summit ridge as high as possible, the next day.
October 15th: With a superhuman effort for this 20,000-foot altitude, we got off at dawn, but making a slight error at the outset in our choice of route, became so hopelessly involved in the intricacies of a great and rather hidden icefall on the north side of the 20,000-foot gap that it was mid-afternoon before we had fought our way free of the difficulty, got across the 20,000-foot gap, and actually set our feet on the beginning slopes of the last 4,000-foot ridge. We now saw an easy route, requiring only an hour, which we should have followed from the 20,000-foot camp across the gap. Finding the day far spent, we decided upon a quick return to the 20,000-foot camp by the new easy route, there to rest in anticipation of a renewal of our efforts the next day.
October 16th: Emmons and I set off again without loads from the 20,000-foot camp at dawn. Following the new route, in two hours we were across the gap and at our yesterday’s farthest point. We climbed steadily, keeping well to the southwest edge of the arête, and were pleased to find the slope of not very great difficulty, it being easily possible to walk on crampons without step-cutting over practically the entire route. This, incidentally, lay over snow, dry and hard-packed by the furious blasts of the wind which appears to beat continually against this ridge from the west. Rising above 20,000 feet, we noticed three white peaks close together, very far away on the southwest horizon. Due west, at a very great distance, there was a white isolated peak of large proportions. We continued climbing till 2 p.m., at which time we appeared to have reached an altitude of 22,500 feet. All other peaks in the range were below the horizon, and we estimated our position at 1,500 feet short of the summit. Thoroughly exhausted by the altitude, we returned, reaching the 20,000-foot camp at 5 P.m. Here we faced the unattractive proposition of having to spend a third night together in one sleeping bag. As it was now our intention in any case to return at once to the base camp for a much needed rest, we decided that one of us should push on to the 19,000-foot camp in the two hours of light that were left and pass the night there; thus each of us would get some rest enjoying a separate bag apiece. We put it to chance, and the result falling on me, I proceeded down and spent the night (waterless—there being no stove at this camp) at the 19,000-foot camp.
October 17th: It stormed in the night, and Emmons reached me at the 19,000-foot camp rather early in the morning, reporting that the tent at 20,000 feet had actually been blown down with him inside of it. We roped up and started the difficult descent off the ridge to 17,000 feet, where in the afternoon we came upon Burdsall and Jack Young, occupying this camp in readiness to start up the mountain. They had spent the past days packing food with the porters from the base camp up to 17,000 feet. With this splendid supply of food at the 17,000-foot camp, and the two higher camps firmly in position, we now felt ourselves well established on the mountain. They urged us to stay at this camp with them and renew the attack on the mountain immediately. But we were now utterly exhausted from our past week’s activities at high altitudes, and both felt a tremendous yearning to spend two or three days dozing in the sun on the green grass about the base camp. Stopping only long enough, therefore, to partake of some food and water which they prepared for us, Emmons and I continued our descent, arriving that afternoon at the base camp. (Burdsall and Jack Young remained at seventeen.)
October 18th: Base camp. Spent most of the day naked in the warm sun and about the fire ; occasionally talking to the porters, and doing little tasks such as pounding and boiling our rock salt to purify it so it would go through our salt cellars, etc. Jack Young appeared late in the afternoon, having come down from 17,000 feet to talk things over with us. We spent the night together, Burdsall staying above at seventeen.
October 19th: Base camp. Still dreaming around, telling stories and reading American mail just in by courier from Tatsienlu. Burdsall still at 17,000 feet.
October 20th: Much discussion. Final plan was : Jack Young elected to stay below working on the zoological collection and keeping his porter organization making daily trips from the base camp to 17,000, while the other three of us, having the advantage of a smaller party, moved for the summit. I left the base camp just before noon, joining Burdsall at 17,000. Emmons spent some hours with Jack Young cutting “willow” wands, and arrived at 17,000 very late, where the three of us then passed the night in our smallest tent.
October 21st: Late start from 17,000 feet. The three of us packed substantial loads, breaking a snow-filled trail, to 19,000 feet, and returned to seventeen again for the night.
October 22nd: Burdsall, Emmons and I off to an earlier start, and succeeded in packing good loads this day all the way through to the 20,000-foot camp where we passed the night. The 19,000-foot camp as we went by was badly covered, due to the shifting of a drift ; moreover the pole appeared to be broken.
October 23rd: Getting away to a good start from 20,000 feet, the three of us spent this day packing food up from the 19,000-foot camp. By a devious system of sharing the work, there were only one and one-half relays for each of us! Investigation revealed that the 19,000 tentpole was broken, the surrounding drift supporting the sides of the tent.
October 24th: 20,000-foot camp. Found ourselves well provided with all essentials to establish one higher camp from this point. None of us felt particularly well this day, and the further discouragement of an unusually severe windstorm outside caused us to take a day off dozing and resting in our bags. Spent some hours amusing ourselves by making out a list of “The Most Luxurious Foods a Person Could Possibly Take on a Canoe Trip”!
October 25th: 20,000-foot camp. Obs. morn. temp. 4° F. Est. min. temp. 0° F. Three of us packed a load of food through to 21,500 feet and dumped it at the only likely looking camp site. It was Burdsall’s first time over this route which followed exactly the line of Emmons’ and my previous reconnaissance. This day Burdsall carried a particularly heavy load, considering the altitude. Emmons complained of his feet during the day ; but an examination of his own, and apparent comfort in the warmth of his bag inside the tent at night allayed any suspicions of frostbite. Very high winds.
October 26th: 20,000-foot camp. This day we carried loads consisting of: the tent (12 lbs.) [thereby leaving 20,000 feet a small food dump without a standing tent], three sleeping bags (38 lbs.), two air mattresses (8 lbs.), Primus stove and gas (8 lbs.), and a few pounds of personal effects each. This totaled between 25 and 30 pounds apiece, and seemed to us very heavy indeed. We moved at an extremely slow pace, reaching our 21,500-foot camp site so late in the afternoon that there was barely time left before darkness for the necessary task of digging a small shelf-like shelter into the side of a sloping wall to protect at least the back of the tent from the continual westerly blast of wind.
That night there was much discussion. Burdsall, owing to the disadvantage he had suffered in volunteering to do the low packing work while Emmons and I were making the previous high reconnaissance, now suffered by finding himself in a rather unacclimatized condition. So it was decided that Emmons and I should make a still higher reconnaissance the next day, to over 23,000 feet if possible, marking the route of ascent with willow wands for our future safety in case of storm, and that we should return to the high camp. We planned to move with Burdsall for the summit itself on the first feasible day thereafter.
This was decided during dinner; but shortly thereafter, Emmons, in attempting to split a frozen biscuit with a penknife, had the misfortune to gash the palm of his left hand to the bone, paralyzing the two little fingers. Everyone, particularly Emmons, agreed that this would incapacitate him for any higher climbing, which was a source of great regret to all of us. We discussed the new situation, and finally agreed that in view of the injury to Emmons’ hand, the only chance left of climbing the mountain was for Burdsall and myself to make one single last try for the summit from this camp, Emmons meanwhile waiting for us in his sleeping bag in camp. Out of deference to Burdsall’s unacclimatized condition, we decided to rest another day before making this attempt.
October 27th: We dozed in our sleeping bags and occasionally fought the wind which banged the tent furiously all day. Burdsall and I played two games of chess on the tiny pocket set Emmons had brought along.
October 28th: Succeeded by a superhuman effort in rising at 3.40 a.m. Eating and warming up the breakfast prepared the night before, at which we were helped by Emmons—Burdsall and I managed to adjust our crampons in the darkness and were ready to start upward at about 5 a.m. The first half hour we traveled perforce by flashlight, over a not very difficult route which I remembered from Emmons’ and my reconnaissance of the sixteenth. Half past eight found us at the position of our previous high point, approximately 22,500 feet. Immediately above there was a stretch of a few hundred feet which had been giving us concern ; we soon found with gratification, however, that we were able to climb on crampons without resorting to step-cutting, although due to an increase in the slope it became necessary to move with one man frequently belayed. Except for one or two very short pitches it was possible to negotiate the entire length of the great 4,000-foot summit arête without cutting steps. (The average steepness of this slope appears to be less than that of the Fairweather southwest ridge.) At a little over 23,000 feet (estimated) the face of the ridge narrows considerably, and becomes broken up with a number of surface features. Owing largely to the careful study previously made from below with the glasses, we were now able to choose the simplest way through these difficulties, thereby saving ourselves what might easily have been disastrous delay. A little after 1 p.m. we reached a position near the top of the great ridge, and climbing a low wall, now saw to our intense joy an unbroken, though very narrow, crest running to the summit, a few hundred feet above us. We continued on at an even pace, reaching the highest point at about 2.40 p.m., finding three small summit platforms grouped close together. Over the rest of the range and west into Tibet the weather was perfectly clear, while from the range eastward a low sea of clouds completely covered the great Chengtu plain. We exposed some thirty negatives on the summit, temporarily erected the American and Chinese flags, and found it had taken us an hour to perform these simple operations. We began the descent with all haste. Coming off the summit ridge the wind velocity reached truly alarming proportions, certainly the worst of my experience. Through a moment’s carelessness earlier in the day, my face-mask had blown away; and now I found it almost impossible to face unprotected the blast sweeping up the ridge of our descent. It was necessary to climb down with averted face, the free edges of the parka hood flapping directly over one’s ears with a noise really not unlike that of machine-gun fire. Occasionally the air was charged with driven snow which stung my unprotected face like birdshot. The violence of the wind abated somewhat during our descent to lower altitudes and we were able to reach our 21,500-foot camp (and Emmons) without particular incident, just before nightfall.
October 29th: Rested very late into the morning; finally broke camp a little before noon, salvaging only necessary or expensive items, and started down, hoping to get at least off the snow before darkness. Burdsall was decidedly unwell and could only proceed at a very moderate pace. Between the 20,000- and 19,000-foot camps, Emmons suddenly began to experience the agonizing pains of frozen feet thawing out : this being the first recognizable warning he had had of his condition. We found the 19,000-foot camp almost completely covered by drift, and stopping there only for a moment, started down over the side of the ridge for the 17,000-foot camp.
The mountaineering over, we returned to Tatsienlu (and later Shanghai) as quickly as possible. Emmons and I reached Tatsienlu, by rapid traveling, in the late evening of November 5th, getting in two days ahead of our own baggage. Burdsall, who had kindly stayed behind at the base camp to pack up the equipment, came in several days later. Jack Young joined us all in Yachow about the first of December, having made a journey eastward through Lolo country collecting zoological specimens.
Equipment, Food, and Comments
During the course of the climb, we acquired a very wholesome respect for the importance of having only the best and most practical equipment ; so much often hung upon the satisfactory performance of one particular item, and upon the proper choice of equipment made at home during the days of preparation. In the same way in which we felt that there are two different schools in “big mountain” mountaineering regarding the organization and disposition of the party and the extent to which porters are used, etc., so also we considered that there are two very distinct schools of thought regarding equipment, and felt that we had chosen ours upon the basis of the experience of the Logan climbers and subsequent expeditions in Alaska. Of course, in doing so, we assumed that the conditions to be met with in the Himalaya or Chinese alps would not be so essentially different—except in the matter of valley glaciation—from those encountered in Alaska where this particular technique was developed.
Tents. We used the “Logan” model, 7 ft. by 7 ft. by 7 ft., with a one-foot wall running around. For high winds we thought that it should not be seven feet high. It is good at the most for four men, and the sleeve ventilator is best. It should be of light non-windproof material to give plenty of ventilation. We noticed very little resulting loss of interior heat. There should be a sewn-in ground sheet, but we felt that this should be deliberately not waterproof, or else people will have to punch holes in the floor to let water drain down as snow from wet clothing melts or liquids spill from cooking. Hollow jointed steel pole strongest for weight. We also had a two-man tent only five feet wide and four feet high which, of course, would stand the wind better, pitch easier on a narrow ledge campsite and be a little lighter.
Air Mattresses. We thought four-foot lengths were good enough. We used to put our packboards at night underneath our feet to keep them off the cold floor. But this short length may have had some bearing on Emmons’ feet being frozen while he was lying in the bag in camp. Two men can share one four-foot mattress in a pinch in high camps by just using it for the shoulders and putting clothes under the hips and packboards under legs.
Sleeping Bags. Woods Arctic Eiderdown bags were used. Some were equipped specially with zippers and this was found convenient. Size 78 by 84 inches is right. If party has one or two 90 by 90 inch bags it is well, because two men in a pinch can spend a night in one 90 by 90 inch bag—but don’t expect to sleep much. (Also prepare for claustrophobia!) Two porters could probably sleep all right regularly in one 90 by 90 inch bag.
Primus Stove. We used the large-size genuine Optimus. We took both kerosene and gasoline, having conflicting experiences with both. With conservation one gallon per stove lasts three or four people a week.
Cooking Pots. One pot per stove was plenty. We had one bowl and one spoon per man, and each man carried a small penknife.
Crampons were worn the entire time by each climber while above the snowline (we crossed it where it was as high as 16,800 feet). The ten-point variety was most popular with us. Web strap binders were found satisfactory only at high dry altitudes. My personal experience has been that at lower altitudes where straps are subject to melting and freezing, leather straps are easier to handle, when frozen, than webbing; also that three separate straps crossing the foot are less apt to constrict the foot and induce frostbite than is the more usual system of one continuous strap crisscrossing the foot from ring to ring.
Boots. We were fortunate in securing from Abercrombie and Fitch for the first time a new type of “Barker boot,’’ with a much roomier and stiffer rubber shoe; and one that does not turn up into a canoe-shaped affair like the usual old model. Short leather tops (1 ft.) were most popular. We got boots size twelve although size nine street shoe is normal for us. I am convinced that on these high mountains such a boot is infinitely superior for warmth to any contrivance made of leather and nails. The boots were big enough to accommodate at least one pair of—
Felt insoles and would take two. Along with our socks we made a practice of taking our felt insoles to bed at night to dry them out.
Socks. Two to four pairs of woolen socks, half of which were of medium weight. I found that another very thin pair of cotton or silk next to the skin, perhaps gave additional warmth.
Underwear. From two to four sets of the common variety of long winter woolen underwear. The set next the body should be of medium weight, and perhaps another; the rest, heavy. We added and subtracted underwear, rather than shirts or sweaters, for the purpose of creating greater or less warmth as we climbed or descended through various altitudes.
Wool shirts and sweaters were worn; of medium weight, or according to taste.
Wind parkas were of the Alaskan model made by Beebe in Portland, Ore. They were constructed of perfectly splendid material ; absolutely windproof (yet, due to parka model, allows ventilation as desired), and still the lightest in weight of any garment on our bodies. The only criticism might be that they tear easily, and that some satisfactory means should be developed for preventing wind from getting under the skirts and blowing them up suddenly. We had two parkas apiece.
Trousers. Windproof gaberdine, Chinese coolie model, except that some of us used a belt and belt rings, too. Extra long ; and bottoms equipped with a tape or some arrangement for fastening tightly over the boot tops in order to keep out snow and wind.
Goggles. Aviation model.
Face Mask. For very high altitudes. Goggles projecting through the eye holes. Must be ventilation behind goggle glass (yet keeping the ultra-violet out), or the glass will fog, from heat and exertion of the body. Ours were made of thin leather bought in Peking. Each climber continually carried a pair of slit metal goggles (unbreakable) around his neck inside his shirt for emergency, in case others were broken by fall.
Aviation Flying Helmet. If worn on top of the thin parka hood, it served to keep the hood from blowing over one’s eyes, a frequently occurring annoyance.
Mittens. One pair, thin leather, large gauntlet mittens to be worn outside, large enough to accommodate two or three pairs of medium-weight inner woolen mittens. An extra outer leather pair and an inner woolen pair are essential to each climber. The leather mittens completed the windproof protection which covered the entire body of the climber, including the joints of the clothing.
Water Bottle. We carried small rubber hot water bottles and kept them continually filled with water for drinking purposes when climbing; we found that the greater the height, the greater the desiccation and thirst. Carried around the neck on a string, or in a pocket—must be near the body or bottle will freeze. Sugar and lemonade powder made it more palatable.
Skin cream for face. Each climber had a little tube.
Packboard or Knapsack. We used the Trapper Nelson Packboard. The Yukon style is not quite so good because it has no bag. We found the packboard superior to Bergans Rucksack, although both were used, because it is difficult to strap sleeping bags and tent onto Bergans. For 30-pound, non-bulky loads, Bergans worked best.
There should be mentioned in addition the following general items : Small folding candle lantern ; bandages, iodine and laxative ; small flashlight ; willow wands : fifty to a mile, high up ; rope, ice axes.
This equipment list covers simply the essentials for the high altitude part of the climb. For lower climbing there was, of course, additional equipment and some porters’ equipment. Identical equipment was available for all climbers throughout, largely because we had some additional and optional equipment, originally planned for a larger party.
Food. The usual dried soups, sugar, cereals, dried vegetables, dried milk, malted milk, cocoa, chocolate, tinned meat, crackers, jam, etc. These we carried through from Shanghai unopened for only the highest camps. Due to unusual circumstances on our expedition, we had only about half enough of these foods for the high camps, and had to rely on local sources of food supply to round out our list. Around the base of the range, on the Plateau, we got from the Tibetans : easily obtainable quantities of yak butter, yak cheese, Blue (wild Himalayan) sheep meat, rock salt, Tibetan bread and corn cakes, Tsamba, wild honey, bear meat and liver, small potatoes ; and by special courier from Tatsienlu: Chinese mein (noodles), eggs, nuts, raw carrots, Chinese bread, tea. brown sugar ; and from our great and good friend, Mrs. Cunningham, in Tatsienlu, the most delicious cookies!
Editorial Note: We are exceedingly gratified to publish this, the first account of the conquest of Mount Minya Konka in southwestern China. It is one of the greatest feats of American mountaineering, however regarded. It is the highest summit ever attained by Americans and it is loftier than any peak in the Western Hemisphere. In technique, the expedition offers a prototype of perfect interaction between advanced and support parties, and, as a whole, it will constitute a milestone in mountaineering history. Mr. Moore has only recently returned from China so we are the more deeply indebted to him for preparing, under pressure and at very short notice, the present paper dealing with the mountaineering aspects of the expedition. The party, which left New York in November, 1931 made a detailed reconnaissance of the environs of Minya Konka, surveyed and mapped twenty-seven peaks, accumulated an important zoological collection and accomplished much general scientific work—all in a territory which must be almost the least-known of any inhabited part of the world. This is barely hinted at in the pages which follow and we hope in a later issue to print a more extended narrative.
1 See A. A. J., Vol. i, p. 423.
2 The region about Minya Konka appears to have been frequently visited ;
I am largely indebted to the West China Border Research Society (foreign community, Chengtu) for the following information:
The 1870’s found the French Jesuits, who have had a station at Tatsienlu for years, in possession of a rather detailed and reasonably correct map, the result of their journeys through the region, giving accurate altitudes of passes and peaks, which found their way into world maps of that time. They have since, for some unaccountable reason, apparently been removed.
Mr. J. H. Edgar, C.I.M. missionary in Tatsienlu, reports having seen the mountain on a journey from Chengtu to Batang in 1902 and 1903. For the last thirty or forty years it appears to have been frequently seen and studied by the many foreign visitors making the trip to Mt. Omei-Shan. Gill speaks of it in River of Golden Sand, Locy in In the Far East (in German), Loftis in A Message from Batang, etc. It has been properly located on the C.I.M. maps, with an altitude of 25,000-26,000 feet for years. More recently it has been visited and described by many : the Roosevelts in Trailing the Giant Panda; Herbert Stevens (in the R.G.J.) ; Dr. J. Rock; Heim and Imhoff; the Dolan-Bowles party of last year; the Urechs and N. R. Wong. The missionary ladies of West China now seem to be turning to this region as a nice place for a summer outing ; Burdsall and Emmons were visited at the surveying camp by one, who rode in astride of a yak!
3 The rather complicated movements described in the following paragraphs, day by day, are indicated graphically in the diagram printed on page 11.—Ed.