Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Everest legend Mallory and his Sikkim connection - i

As the old saying goes by, legend never dies. George Mallory and his teammate Sandy Irvine while trying for his third attempt to conquer the mighty Mt Everest went missing when they were just few hundred meters below the summit. The year then was 1924 and it was 75 years later a search team was lucky enough dugout the missing corpse of the legendary Mallory with his badge struck on his weathered cloth. 
This story of George Herbert Leigh Mallory had always fascinated my little fantasy. My excitation knew no boundary when I came to read that Mallory on three separate Mt Everest Expeditions (1921, 1922 and 1924) had passed through the valley of Sikkim on their way to Mt Everest from the north side of Tibet since the route through Nepal was closed for western foreigners. Failure of 1921 and 1922 Everest Expedition did not deter him. He once replied a reporter ‘because it is there’ when asked why he wanted to scale the Everest. This is also of great significance that Mallory was the only person to have participated in all the three Mt.Everest Expeditions.
Like the earlier Everest Expeditions, the 1924 British Everest Expedition team arrived at Darjeeling and in two separate groups entered the land of Sikkim via Kalimpong – Pedong to Rongli. One of the group halted at Rongli Dak Bunglow while the second group rested at Ari Dak Bunglow (now popularly known as Aritar Dak Bunglow. But with poor transportation condition, the mules and team was under severe exhaustion. 
Rongli being my birth place and to watch the photographs of 1924 British Everest Expedition team members
taking bath on Rongli river was a joy to watch. More than 80 years after, it seems hard to recognize the river bank but I feel proud that the legend had stepped in. The other classic photographs of 1924 Everest Expedition team shot at Lingtam, Phadamchen, Kopup and Gnatong  are precious to be kept for archives. 
The books that was written on the accounts of these mountaineers had mentioned the jungle of Sikkim as a green house with rich  and beautiful bio-diversities. From the bank of Rongli Chu they moved to Sedongchen (now Phadamchen) and halted a night at Gnatong some 12,000 feet. The mountaineers saw the scattered stone huts at Gnatong and wrote about the hamlet as ‘filthy, dry and bleak’ and ‘a most depressing place’ with its existence solely made up from the fact it was the only British outpost at the Sikkim - Tibet frontier. Here Mallory wrote “Goodbye beautiful wooded Sikkim and welcome – God knows what ! we will see.” And they entered Jelep La, the gateway of Tibet.