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Himalaya, India, Women's Overland Himalayan Expedition

Women’s Overland Himalayan Expedition. On May 5, 1958 Mrs. A. A. Davies, Mrs. A. F. Deacock, and Mrs. Evelyn Sims left England to drive overland in a Land Rover to India. We arrived in Delhi six weeks later, June 16, exactly on schedule! We wished to explore in the little-known province of Ladakh, which meant crossing the "Inner Line." After our original application to make the journey had been turned down by the Ministry of External Affairs, an interview was granted by the Prime Minister, Mr. Jahawarlal Nehru. In recent years no foreigners and few Indians had been given permission to cross this boundary, but on examining the proposed route, Mr. Nehru offered to arrange for the permit to be issued.

After the usual delay caused by customs difficulties, we drove north to Manali, a small village at the head of the Kulu valley. There, after garaging the vehicle, we hired two Ladakhi porters and a mule train. The route crossed the Greater Himalayan watershed in a northwesterly direction and on the round journey back to Manali included the crossing of five passes, among which were the Bara Lacha La (16,047 feet), the Shingo La, technically the most difficult because of its ice slopes, and the mysterious Phirste La (ca. 18,110 feet) between Rupshu and Zaskar. Much of the route lay over tracks no more than six inches wide, chipped into the slopes of steep, crumbling sandstone mountains. While on the top of the Bara Lacha La, we decided to attempt one of the peaks whose summits lay a few hundred feet above the col. Pitching a small camp, we spent a miserable night waiting for the first light and the "assault." Some scrambling up a steep slope and wading through a soft snowfield led to the summit. Thus without the usual drama of Himalayan expeditions we were able to savor, in a very modest way, the thrill of standing "level with the giants." In Zaskar we were treated as people from another world. No strange women had ever penetrated this province before and only one European man had visited it—35 years ago! Needless to say, we viewed the villagers with as much interest as they viewed us. With mingled regret we began the journey back towards Manali through another mountainous state, Lahul, but in the 38 days spent in the Himalayas at altitudes between 10,000 and 18,000 feet we had covered some 300 miles and we hope to be able to fill in the blanks and question marks in the existing maps of the area.

Mrs. Evelyn Sims, Birmingham Cave and Crag Club