Item 129 - Circular letter by F. W. Pethick-Lawrence

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PETH/6/129

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Circular letter by F. W. Pethick-Lawrence

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  • 30 Nov. 1926 (Creation)

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3 sheets

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Ghoom.—Describes his and his wife’s train journey to Darjeeling, and their accommodation there. Gives his impressions of the Himalayas, and describes his ascent of Tiger Hill at Ghoom.

(Mechanical copy of a typed original.)

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Transcript

Ghoom, November 30, 1926.

A Week-end in the Himalayas.

I am seated in the verandah of a tiny hotel 8000 feet above the sea. On my left are the eternal snows—Kinchinjunga towering into the sky 20,000 feet above me and forty five miles away. Ir† is eight o’clock in the morning and breakfast is just coming, but more than 4 hours ago we had our “chota hazri” or little breakfast—a fine draught of hot milk and some buttered toast; for Tiger hill is 3 miles away and 1000 feet above us and it is necessary to climb up there before sunrise if one is to see the full panorama of hill and mountain.

This visit to the Himalayas is sandwiched in at the week-end between two strenuous bits of life at Calcutta—factories, politicians, trade unions—and is a very welcome interlude. We started from Calcutta at 7.30 p.m. on Saturday evening after a light repast and were soon both asleep on the train.

We were awakened at a stop at 6 o’clock. “If you look out in a few minutes on the right side of the train you will catch your first glimpse of the snow mountains” said the guard. Sure enough, a brilliant peak disclosed itself bathed in the pink light of dawn. A little later a whole range came into view and then was lost to sight again.

But we were still in the plains. At 8 o’clock we changed on to a narrow guage† line and the real ascent began. At 1000 feet altitude the train entered a forest and it grew colder. Winding round curve after curve three sturdy little engines pulled the train up the hill each engine having a section to itself, like 3 caterpillars with a little space between.

All sorts of engineering feats were accomplished and every ¾ hour another thousand feet was scaled. The tremendous Kinchinjinga† range came more frequently into view and remained longer in sight. At last the train reached the summit of its journey (about 7500 ft) and ran down a few hundred into Darjeeling station.

A short ascent took us to the “Mount Everest” hotel where we had booked rooms—a really delightful place very spacious but not pretentious, more like the Club at Lake Placid (New York State) than the swagger hotels at S. Moritz. We were almost the only visitors as though this is a perfect time of the year for weather it is between the two seasons of “residents” and “tourists” which come earlier and later.

We had two adjoining rooms and our front windows faced the whole range of which Kinchinjunga is the dominating figure. A little walk took us to Observatory Hill with a living panorama in sight and just above, a plan with names of the peaks. Kinchinjunga itself is 45 miles away and well over 28,000 feet in height that is to say more than 20,000 above the eminence on which we stood. Yet it stood out in clear outline against the cloudless sky. Only a few clouds spread out a thin gauzy mist about its lower limbs. I made a rough reckoning and realised that a rope ladder stretched from us to its summit would rise one in ten the whole way. I pointed my walking stick to the peak and verified roughly that it was correct.

It was no good looking for Everest, it cannot be seen from there. Owing to its great distance (110 miles from Darjeeling) its lofty height is hidden by intervening mountains. The guide reminded us that it was 29,002 feet high and when I poured contempt on the odd two feet chid me and pointed with triumph to the printed table!

We walked home passing through the open square where there is a special bazaar on Sunday. Thither had come the surrounding villagers, some pure Tibetans others Nepalese others the Indian Himalayan people half way it seemed between Aryan and Mongol. All of them are fine vigorous upstanding dignified happy folk. The men and women seem all able to carry immense loads on their back supported in place by a band round the forehead. The children are naive and fascinating.

Next morning we were called at 4.30 with chota Hazri, a fire was lit for us in the larger bedroom and we sat looking out into the darkness through the window. About 5 o’clock the snow mountains showed in faint outline. At 5.30 the range was clad in faint pink, the nearer dark mountains almost invisible. Two minutes to six the topmost point of Kinchinjunga was shot with light—the rising sun. We waited till nearly 7. Then E.P.L. went back to bed and I wrote letters.

A leisurely day passed and at 5 o’clock we took train to Ghum one station back on the line, the highest point on the railway. We had rooms in a primitive little hotel and after an early meal went to bed soon after 8.

We were called at ¼ past 3! I was to walk and E.P.L. to go in a chair to the top of Tiger hill. In view however of the great altitude E.P.L. decided that it was better I should go alone. It was three miles all uphill—the guide, Ameer and I strode on in the night with a little moon overhead and stars all around. We reached the summit just at 5 o’clock. Light was showing in the Eastern sky. A complete panorama was visible all around, the wonderful Kinchinjunga range in the north, a line of snowy peaks N.E, and in N.W. three points just showing above the dark foreground mountains, and the middle of these was Everest!

The snow hills grew light and punctually at 2 minutes to 6 Kinchinjunga caught the rising sun. Seven minutes later (it is I think some 80 miles further west) Everest shone out.

I waited half an hour, made friends with other sight seers (one of them Dr. Fritz Neuberger of Munich a friend of Fraulein Heymann!) watched the shadows fall down the mountains, and came home to breakfast at the hotel. These later pages have not been written as you can well imagine waiting for breakfast on the Ghum hotel verandah but back once more in the plains. At Ghum there was an interesting Buddhist temple to visit, and a final survey of the hills to be made. Then Ameer came down with the luggage by train and we descended more expeditiously by car ready for an early bed before another strenuous time in Calcutta.

I find this letter may just arrive in time for Christmas so I send once more our every greeting and good wish to you all.

F. W. PETHICK-LAWRENCE.

P.S. | Post up to Dec. 22 to c/o Thos. Cook and Son, Bombay, up to Dec. 29 to Passenger on SS “Kaisar-i-Hind”, Bombay (leaving Bombay Jany 15), up to Jany 5 to Passenger on Kaisar-i-Hind, Aden; up to Jany 12 to c/o Scandar Bey Gabriel, Head Revenue Official Ports and Lights Administration, Alexandria, Egypt.

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† Sic.

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