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The Townend Family Letters

Correspondence from the 1930s - 1940s between members of the Townend family
LJT Trek Notes

1936 Autumn

A few pages of an account by LJT (rest missing)

Account of a trip to Lhonak and Zemu Valleys.

Autumn 1936

The route up the Teesta Valley to Gangtok is so well known that it needs no description. We accomplished it with the minimum of trouble by car from Darjeeling, having sent our baggage on by our porters from Darjeeling four days before. There were seven of us in the party, Walter and Kitty Jenkins, Clous and Helen Martin, Arthur Wooler, Herbert and myself. Our first days march to Dikchu was only remarkable because about two thirds of the way down the steep descent to the low-lying bungalow of Dikchu, a tremendous thunder-storm came on. Being well provided with mackintoshes and umbrellas, we were not greatly inconvenienced by it, and it made what is a hot journey in the earlier part of the year, into quite a cool one. Two Americans and an Englishman were travelling the same way at the same time, and as we had booked the Rest Houses, they were counting on sleeping in tents. Arriving in Dikchu Bazaar, we saw two of them standing somewhat forlornely on the verandah of a little shop, so we called to tell them that however much of a squash it was, they must come and share the bungalow. The third was already in it! Not having taken any precautions against rain, either to protect themselves or their luggage, they were drenched, and so were all their belongings, but by the aid of a large wood fire, they soon managed to dry up some of their things. Soon after the ten of us had shaken down into a bungalow, designed for four, and had finished our tea, a tall figure with a dark beard, and wearing a long cloak, appeared in the doorway, and for a moment looked strangely like the Emperor of Abyssinia. It was the German climber, Dr Wein, just arrived from his memorable climb of the ice spire of Siniolchu, previously thought to be unclimable. He had then left the Zemu Valley by an unknown route, which proved to be extremely difficult, so that he and the one porter with him took six days to reach the mule track in the Teesta valley, which they had reckoned on reaching in three, and had been three days without food. They had had a day at Singhik, where they met Paul Bauer, who had become anxious about their non-appearance, so they had had a little time in which to make up for arrears of food, but it was grand to see Dr Wein tucking into our cherry-cake, and I dont think any of our party grudged it to him, even if we should have to go short.

A little behind him, came Paul Bauer, who, meeting the postal runner, a little on the Dikchu side of the village of Mangen, had turned back to see if there were any letters sent up to meet him at that post office. I spent most of the evening hearing about their climb and explorations, and discussing their projected attempt on Nanga Parbat next year. Dr Wein will probably lead the party, and he made a lot of notes about porters. Our little cook managed dinner for twelve without turning a hair. The three ladies of the party retired for sleep into one of the two small bedrooms, and left the other room, verandah, and sitting-room for the nine men, who spread their Li-Los here and there, and rigged up mosquito nets precariously, with string and safety pins.

The walk to Dikchu the following day, was unexpectedly cool and pleasant. The other three travellers were able to camp in the compound there, and left us the undisturbed use of the bungalow. We indulged in “chungas” full of marwa, the Sikkim beer, and a good deal of merry talk between tea and dinner, and tumbled off early to bed. A small moon was shining on the snows, of which there is a famous view from this bungalow, and it was a great disappointment when first we woke the next morning to find that they were under a thick bank of grey cloud. However I did not quite give up hope, for when Helen and I had been there in May, we had had the same experience, and it cleared off a little later. Sure enough it did the same on this morning, and a group of dressing-gowned or pyjamaed figures drank their morning tea, while training a battery of cameras on the group of shining snow peaks, perfectly framed at the top of the lovely Talung Valley.