American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Mountains and Memsahibs

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  • Publication Year: 1959

Mountains and Memsahibs, by members of the Abinger Himalayan Expedition, 1956. Joyce Dunsheath: Leader; Hilda Reid: Food and Medicine; Eileen Gregory: Climbing Leader; Frances Delany: Geologist. Foreword by Mrs. Ranjit S. Pandit, High Commissioner for India. London: Constable and Company, Ltd., 1958. 198 pages; 17 ills.; 3 maps, appendices. Price 21s.

"If you close your eyes and say 'Himalayas,’ what do you see?” asks Joyce Dunsheath, in her opening paragraph, and in her second she follows up with: "To think of Himalayan climbing is to think of all one’s climbing experience magnified ten times and exalted to the realm of the impossible.” Yet, as her story unfolds with an excellent summary of the early history and exploration of the Kulu-Lahul-Spiti territory of East Punjab, followed by the colorful accounts of her three equally enthusiastic and intrepid companions, "the impossible” is slowly vanquished step by step till one is led to conclude as did Mummery, "That all mountaineering ascents are doomed to pass through three stages: an inaccessible peak—the most difficult ascent in the Alps—an easy day for a lady.” A glance at the map of the long auto journey made by Joyce and Hilda Reid from London to Manali at the head of the Kulu valley, supplemented by Map Sheet No. 52, Leh-India and Adjacent Countries Series, 1934, provides one with a better understanding of the diverse problems which confronted this expedition before their objectives were realized. Through Frances Delany’s efforts geological specimens and data were collected; the Bara Shigri Glacier thoroughly explored and mapped; and five peaks over 17,000 feet ascended, with particular credit to Eileen Gregory for her climb of Deo Tibba (19,687 feet), proof indeed of extraordinarily creditable teamwork. Nor may one omit to mention services rendered the party by their modest Liaison Officer, Major Banon; their Ladakhi porters; and their faithful Sherpas: "Pansy” (with Shipton on Everest ’36), Pasang Dorje, Mingma and Nima. It is regrettable that more photographs could not have accompanied the text, which, though lacking in smoothness of continuity, provides much worthwhile reading for mountaineering sahibs and memsahibs.

Christine L. Reid

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