Helvellyn to Himalaya

Publication Year: 1943.

Helvellyn to Himalaya, by F. Spencer Chapman. 8 vo., 285 pages, with illustrations and maps. London: Chatto & Windus, 1940. Price 18 s.

This is a fine book by one of a number of younger British climbers who have acquired their taste and experience for the rigors of high mountain work more in the Arctic than through the traditional Alpine background. The author gives us his thoughts and reactions to situations which we immediately recognize as paralleling our own. He was not always fond of the mountains, but was fortunate in securing the right kind of introduction to them, at an early age, in the Lake District and Wales and then on to the Alps, Iceland, Greenland and finally to the ultimate for all climbers, the Himalayas. He is observant and informative as to birds, flowers and animals. It is interesting to read of an endurance walk over the peaks of the English Lake District—130 miles and 30,000 ft. of climbing in 25 hours.

He has written three other books; Northern Lights, on the British Arctic Air Route Expedition to Greenland, 1930-1931; and Watkin’s Last Expedition, on phases of the same; also Lhasa—The Holy City, brought out after he had accompanied the British Political Officer, Mr. J. B. Gould, as Private Secretary on the British Government mission to Lhasa in 1936-1937.

It was on this latter journey that the spell of Chomolhari, the 24,000-ft. peak on the Tibetan-Bhutanese border, the Goddess of the Holy Mountain, and even more sacred to the Tibetans than Everest, lured him. For the better part of the previous year, 1936, he had, with different companions, met with varying successes in the Zemu Glacier basin and adjacent areas, just N. of Kangchenjunga. Finally, in May, 1937, with one largely inexperienced English companion and three Sherpas, after obtaining permission from the Tibetan and Bhutanese authorities and being warned of probable dire consequences, he essayed this peak, which has so tempted members of all the Mt. Everest expeditions as they have passed only a few miles from it. At 20,000 ft. Chapman and Pasang were left to go on alone. They reached the summit on May 21st, in perfect weather and saw most of the great eastern Himalayan peaks to as far as Everest and Makalu, 150 miles away. The account of the descent should be read by all interested in extraordinary mountain adventure.

Chapman belongs to the very recent order of Himalayan climbers who believe in small, mobile parties. The successful Anglo-American expedition to Nanda Devi in 1936 was the first striking success for this latest Himalayan development.

H. S. H., Jr.