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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 46.djvu/686

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

THE HIGHEST MOUNTAIN ASCENT AND THE EFFECTS OF RAREFIED AIR.
By EDWIN SWIFT BALCH.

IN 1855 the brothers Adolph and Robert Schlagintweit reached an altitude that for many years was unapproached. This was in a partial ascent of the Ibi Gamin or Kamet Mountain on the southern frontier of Tibet. They traveled up a long glacier by easy stages and encamped at gradually increasing elevations. Their highest camp was 19,360 feet above the sea, and the greatest height they reached on their final effort, 22,250 feet.

Between the years 1860 and 1865 Mr. W. H. Johnson, of the Indian Survey, reached some very great altitudes in Cashmere, for which he has never had due justice done him. Colonel Montgomarie, in receiving from the Royal Geographical Society a reward for Mr. Johnson, made the following statement: "The occasion of Mr. Johnson's (1864) ascending to 22,300 feet was owing to his inability to get at a valley in any other way except by crossing a ridge which reached this altitude. He actually forced his way over, and was obliged to spend the night at nearly 22,000 feet above the sea, darkness having come on before he got any lower." In 1865 Mr. Johnson climbed three peaks of the Kuen Lun, one of which, according to the measurement of the Indian Survey—by a single observation, however—is put down at 23,890 feet, Mr. Johnson seems never to have written any account of his ascents, and in the opinion of the Indian Department it was considered as probable that the single unverified determination of height was erroneous rather than that Mr. Johnson should have ascended to nearly 24,000 feet without special difficulty, and the determination was therefore omitted in compiling the synopsis of final data for publication.

In the year 1884 the little world of Alpine climbers was startled by the narrative read before the Royal Geographical Society by Mr. W. W. Graham, describing a journey to the Sikhim Himalaya, in which with Emil Boss, proprietor of the Hotel Bar at Grindelwald, and the well-known guide, Ulrich Kaufmann, he claimed to have reached in the preceding October the height of 24,000 feet on Mount Kabru. The whole Anglo-Indian press and Himalayan Survey, prompted by jealousy at an English climber with two Swiss guides leaving their efforts so far behind, with great unanimity attacked Mr. Graham's assertions most bitterly. Their arguments are very curious. One of them was that the Bhooteas, natives of the neighboring valleys, stated that they would not attempt the ascent under any circumstances; and yet it was argued that if any one could make the ascent it would cer-