Mountains of Tartary

Publication Year: 1952.

Mountains of Tartary, by Eric Shipton. 224 pages, with 30 illustrations by the author, one sketch map and end-paper maps. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1952. Price, 20/-.

This is a fascinating account of exploration, hunting and climbing in Sinkiang during the author’s service as British Consul-General at Kashgar, 1940-42 and 1946-48. The journeys to and from his post were adventures themselves: in via Gilgit, Hunza and Tashkurghan; out through Tashkent, Soviet Turkestan and Iran; in again over the Saser and Karakoram Passes, an ancient trade route which in places shows no vestige of a trail, save bones of horses and camels, 15% of which perish on the high climbs; a farewell exit via the Mintaka Pass and Hunza Valley in flaming autumn colors.

The book tells about the Shyok ice dam; the Turf an Depression, far below sea level and farther from the sea than any other point on earth; a thousand-mile lorry trip from Kashgar to Urumchi; hospitality of Kirghiz and Khasaks; hunting ibex, ovis poli and ram chicor; rebel bandits; arrests by Chinese soldiers; and, above all, mountaineering. Shipton climbed the second highest Bostan Terek peak near Kashgar, coming down by a hair-raising glissade. He was joined by Tilman in attempts on Muztagh Ata, Bogdo Ola and Chakragil. For various reasons (frostbite, lack of time, sickness of porters), the summits of these great peaks were not attained, but the way is shown for future climbers.