American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing


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  • Publication Year: 1956

Kangchenjunga, by John Tucker. 217 pages and 34 illustrations. Foreword by Sir John Hunt. London: Elek, 1955. Price, 21 s.

John Tucker’s pleasant story of the reconnaissance of the southwest side of Kangchenjunga in 1954 will not become a classic, but it is remarkably light hearted and uninhibited. It summarizes earlier attempts on the mountain before describing the experiences of the group led by John Kempe in 1954. These men showed no thoroughness in planning or preparation; nothing about the group smacked of big business or of a military campaign. Instead, its informality is delightfully shocking and refreshing.

This small party to the southwest face of Kangchenjunga tested an idea formed by Gilmour Lewis in 1951, and developed by him and Kempe in 1953 when they examined Kangchenjunga from the summit of Kabru (24,006 feet). They thought that a route might be forced up the great icefall of the southwest face to the huge, prominent snow shelf that projects from the mountain at about 24,000 feet, and that from there a route might continue up over steep snow and rock to the summit. Although the Kempe party was unable to solve the problems of the lower part of the icefall, despite courageous attempts, and although they never reached the upper icefall, the general route they projected, with one major change, was used by Dr. Charles Evans’ splendid and successful party in 1955. Kempe’s reconnaissance cannot be compared with Bauer’s attempts on the northeast or Dr. Evans’ attack on the south, but the fact remains that this lightly equipped and informal party made a major contribution to the ascent of the world’s third highest mountain.

Robert H. Bates

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