Hooker, Sir Joseph Dalton
JHC68
Lachen River, 2 marches above [Lachen] Village, Sikkim,India
JDH/1/10 f.171-174
Campbell, Dr Archibald
The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
9-6-1849
© Descendants of Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker
Indian Letters 1847-1851
The Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
English
Contemporary MS copy
6 page letter over 4 folios
 

JDH describes, to [Archibald] Campbell [AC], his ascent of a 17000 foot mountain, during which he found new Rhododendrons, primroses & other alpine things. He finds on average 10 new plants a day. He describes the kinds of Rhododendron on the hill, the most common is Mearinase's[?]. Describes the view of the Zemu & Kinchin [Kanchenjunga] towards Thibet [Tibet] including a Rhododendron covered valley which he later tried to reach with Nimbo, Palesbull & Meepo, only to find it was inaccessible & the route to the pass is not by the head of the Lachen [includes small sketch map]. JDH thinks his current longitude is past the Himalaya crest, though further North lie the 'Powhinry?' [Pauhunri?]. JDH describes the unique vegetation of the Nepal passes. His men are trying to bridge the river. JDH is glad of supplies from AC, as at Bhomsong he is thin & hungry. He details the good weather conditions that allow him to explore every day. He calls the place 'a howling wilderness' with no animals, only snow & avalanches of stone, 1 of which nearly crushed Kinchin [his dog]. JDH recommends that if AC wants to travel to high altitudes he only take roads or passes e.g Tongra. Meepo is ordered to take JDH no further through the pass than a bridge this side of the Latong plain. Botanical collecting is satisfactory, has doubled JDH's Darjeeling flora & garnered 30 Rhododendrons. JDH has a rain register to compare with Darjeeling, will send flowers for Mrs Rowling's & requests Thullier's letter. Illustrated with a sketch titled 'my cake & I' captioned with a rhyme about not sharing cake with his dog. JDH discusses Bhotea [Bhotia] tribes who inhabit the Cachan above Limbos & Ghorkas [Gorkhas] in Nepal, & Hairos[?], Murims[?] & Lepchas in Sikkim. Translates some Bhotia words. Mentions salt trade with Tibet. The Bhotias name for Bhootan [Bhutan] is Lhop or Country of the Dhurmah Rajah. All the people in the region incl. Little Bucharia & Soongaria are Buddhists who practice Lamaism.

Transcript

me forth: for 5 days the weather has been heavenly -- clouds come on at 3 or 4 P.M. from the South, & rain at 4 or 5, in short sharp showers. Today the Temp[erature] was 74 at noon! At 12,000 feet, & felt 16 degrees below that: this is I think unknown in Darjeeling. Tomorrow I hope we shall have finished the bridge; if not Meepo found a capital place for bridging with 2 poles, a mile & a half above this, but through a desperate scrub, which must be all cut. This is a howling wilderness,: we scarce see a bird, never a beast; & nothing but the rush of waters or falling shoots of stones breaks the dead stillness Yesterday, when on the mountain I was startled by a hollow roar close behind me, when wrapped in admiration of the snowy gulf at Lachen head -- &, on looking behind, saw the Snow shooting in cascades from the cliffs above -- not an avalanche, but just pouring through the fissures like a waterfall. Avalanches of stones are dreadfully numerous & dangerous; & we pass over these amongst live shrubs & fresh crushed most lovely Primroses & other flowers daily. The falls are chiefly during rain at night; Kinchin *2 had his whiskers actually shaved on one side by a great rolling rock. You never saw a narrower touch. Sutherland’s nose was a trifle to it. If still determined to try for a great elevation, let me recommend you to take October Early, & never dream of reaching Snow except by a path: it is utterly out of the question. Take Jongri or any Pass, where the path takes you above Rhododendrons. I will go with you as far as the path leads, but am well sick of anything beyond that: however if you tie a bottle & cake to the end of a stick & go ahead we will see what may be done. Worst of all is the depressing effect of being often baffled: you go at up a gully, take a probable branch, are turned at the top,: down you go, every step lost & try another, & so on, 4, 5, & 6 times perhaps; till, utterly fagged, you slope at night--fall down to camp, wet bruised & dissatisfied. I say no more about Latong &c as I have

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*1 To Dr Campbell & Darjeeling political resident there. Lachen river, 2 marches above village June 9. 1849 My dear Campbell, I wrote you yesterday by the coolies I sent for Rassett. & as we are still detained, I send again tomorrow. Yesterday I ascended the mountain, South of our Camp, a lofty & beautiful cone of Snow some 17000 feet, I presume,. I went up to nearly 14,000 ft by a steep torrent snowed the whole way up i.e. from 11,000 up to P[erpetual].S[now]. at 13,500, which was there continuous & flanked by lofty black precipices wholly inaccessible. The fatigue of the ascent was very great from the Snow, slipperiness, & enormous rocks which are constantly tumbling from above. I found, as usual, a good many new plants. 2 new Rhododendrons amongst them. I have now 9 Primroses from these regions, the most beautiful things possible, blue, pink, & violet, & other Alpines in proportion, I get on average, 10 new plants every day; & the number still just sprouting is inconceivable. The splendour of the Rhododendrons is marvellous: there are 10 kinds on this side hill, scarlet, white, lilac, yellow, pink, marroon[sic],: the cliffs actually bloom with them, at 10,000--12,00 feet. that great-- leaved one of Mearinares? is the most common of all; its heads of purple flowers (30--40 in a cluster) as big as your head, & the leaves always 10--18 inches long.. It is an awful pest; its long branches covering the ground in inextricable confusion, & impervious; you have no idea of it from the crumpled state in which you saw its drooping foliage. From the highest point gained, (it took 5 hours to get up to 2,500 feet). I had a splendid view of the Lachen no the Zemu running up South of West to Kinchin’s [Kanchenjunga's] back! A superb mass of snow. The head of the Lachen Zemu is a flat floored amphitheatre of Snow, bounded by stupendous precipices, & valleys of Ice which feed it. Emerging form this, it flows East, between rugged mountains clothed at their base with Pine wood & Rhododendron shrubs scrub. Some 3 miles above our camp it receives a large affluent from the North. I saw up the valley

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of this which is also heavy with Rhododendron shrubs scrub some 5 miles, when it turned up West; & along its N[orth]. flank are low rugged hills only patched with Snow, lower than that I saw was on, &, beyond, the blue sky over Thibet [Tibet] without a break in the horizon.. I am here most evidently beyond the Himalaya crest in this Longitude, though east of me the ?Powliang? group & west the Kinchin have great peaks N[orth]. of my position. I am finding the plants of the Nepal passes seen no where else; & most remarkable of all, the N[orth]. exposure (S[outh]. flank) of this valley is wholly bare of trees, not a solitary Pine or juniper; the S[outh]. flank, steeper if anything clothed 1000 feet up. This is the reverse of what obtains at Choongtam -- I employed the man men bridging the river, & went up the mountain alone: they only managed one half; & I doubt their power to do the rest. This morning I told Nimbo what I had seen; & we started to explore, if possible, to the mouth of the promising valley. [A sketch map appears here showing the position of Hooker's camp and the mountain he ascended in relation to Lachen, the pass, Kinchin and Choongte]. Meepo accompanied us & & Palesbull; & we took some Tea & Sugar. Arriving up the rocks up the stream, I told you of, we clambered over a precipitous part of these, hanging on by Rhododendron bushes & descended on to a bed of Snow, where no choice was left but to take the water which beat against the salient cliff. Meepo tried twice

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& came back, but got round on to a shallow the third; & we followed, the water up to our middles; & hanging on to projections of the Snow or rock. We then continued along a gravelly bottom & quicksands kneedeep for 100 yards, between 2 cliffs of Snow, one 60 the other 20 feet high, & at last emerged on some stones above the difficulties. I could not have gone on 20 yards more; for my limbs were numbing fast. Thence for about a mile over rocky shelves, great sloping beds of snow, along which Meepo cut niches with his Bhan, through streams & over gravel banks & Rhododendron scrub.; sometimes trying the river bed. We were fairly brought up at a ridge of gravel, capped with Rhododendron scrub, from which we saw an interminable succession of cliffs & slopes of Rhododendron scrub. Utterly impoassi ble; & we were still a mile or so short of the river’s mouth, which I pronounce inaccessible, except with a force of woodcutters; or should the river bed be practicable in the dry season. We had not made 4 miles nearer, & were very fatigued, Palesbull's heel cut almost to the bone, Meepo with a twig in his eye, & my hands & shins sore all over with Rhododendron scrub, & hanging on to branches, rocks, & snow. I quite believe the valley I wanted to explore as scrubby as this. It is now certain that the stream running South opposite our camp leads to the Pass, & that therefore the route is met not by the head of the Lachen which rises behind (N[orth].E[ast]. of) Kinchen I take it (I have not the map with me nor protracted my route) We therefore go on bridging tomorrow. I have only 12 people here in all; & that’s too many to feed -- I came back with my shoes torn to shreds like paper, & walking on my stocking soles, very footsore & tired. On my return I found the coolies with Russet & some of the things you so kindly sent me, the cake amongst them of which I ate an awful piece! With grateful thoughts-- I was very hard up, having been deceived by people & left Lachen with only 2 days of stores. I am much as when I met you at Rhomsang [Bhomsong] as thin & hungry as a wolf. Every night I vow I will lay by next day; but the superb weather tempts

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me forth: for 5 days the weather has been heavenly -- clouds come on at 3 or 4 P.M. from the South, & rain at 4 or 5, in short sharp showers. Today the Temp[erature] was 74 at noon! At 12,000 feet, & felt 16 degrees below that: this is I think unknown in Darjeeling. Tomorrow I hope we shall have finished the bridge; if not Meepo found a capital place for bridging with 2 poles, a mile & a half above this, but through a desperate scrub, which must be all cut. This is a howling wilderness,: we scarce see a bird, never a beast; & nothing but the rush of waters or falling shoots of stones breaks the dead stillness Yesterday, when on the mountain I was startled by a hollow roar close behind me, when wrapped in admiration of the snowy gulf at Lachen head -- &, on looking behind, saw the Snow shooting in cascades from the cliffs above -- not an avalanche, but just pouring through the fissures like a waterfall. Avalanches of stones are dreadfully numerous & dangerous; & we pass over these amongst live shrubs & fresh crushed most lovely Primroses & other flowers daily. The falls are chiefly during rain at night; Kinchin *2 had his whiskers actually shaved on one side by a great rolling rock. You never saw a narrower touch. Sutherland’s nose was a trifle to it. If still determined to try for a great elevation, let me recommend you to take October Early, & never dream of reaching Snow except by a path: it is utterly out of the question. Take Jongri or any Pass, where the path takes you above Rhododendrons. I will go with you as far as the path leads, but am well sick of anything beyond that: however if you tie a bottle & cake to the end of a stick & go ahead we will see what may be done. Worst of all is the depressing effect of being often baffled: you go at up a gully, take a probable branch, are turned at the top,: down you go, every step lost & try another, & so on, 4, 5, & 6 times perhaps; till, utterly fagged, you slope at night--fall down to camp, wet bruised & dissatisfied. I say no more about Latong &c as I have

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nothing to add -- Meepo is most active & determined. I shall see the Pass, if he can make it out. The new (your printed) route I dread; first, because the people of Lachen are humbugging the road, & Meepo’s order is most strict to take me no further than a bridge on Latong on this side of the Latong plain. Nimbo hears too that there is a Chinese village lately built at the Pass, & that the Pass is certainly the bridge;-- but all is vague -- We do not know whether the Pass we are now bound for leads to Thibet or the Latong plain nor the distances. I left Adow at Lachen,: he behaves very well, but is a fool, Nimbo continues most active & steady. My botanical collection is to me most satisfactory; & I hope in a couple of months to double my Darjeeling Flora,. I have 30 Rhododendrons. I have a capital rain--register to compare with Darjeeling; though my great elevation is in your favour,. Sincere regards & thanks to Mrs Campbell, love to the children, & all acknowledgements for the cake which is most capital. I will send Mrs Rowling some more flowers for her garden, primroses & Rhododendrons. Ever your affectionate. | Jos. D. Hooker. Please send Thuillier’s letter: it contains other things besides the M. R. comparisons of my instruments at the office, &c.- [A sketch appears here depicting Hooker eating cake in his tent accompanied by a dog, it bears the following caption] "No, Naughty Rover, go away, you shall not have a bit" vid. Nursery Rhymes, passim. My Cake & I.

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Quola -- a Bhotea village or mart, Quoba -- head man of Bhotea village Gonbah -- head--man of Limbo & others. Casi [Kazi] head--man of Lepcha. (Spell always “Sikkim” whatever I do) Natives of Thibet [Tibet] (Chin of Himals) (Bhote of Chinese & themselves) are all called Bhotheas [Bhutias]. There are Tribes of Bhotheas all along the Himalaya on this side the crest (i.e. of Thibet) who inhabit the Cachan (upper or Alpine & arctic region) above rice--cultivation & above the villages of Limbo’s, Ghorka’s [Gurkhas] & other Nepalese in Nepal, or of Limbo’s Hairo’s, Murim’s & Lepehas in Sikkim. These Bhoteas are more Chinese than Nepalese & carry on the Salt trade crossing the Passes with Yaks? & Sheep to the nearest Thibet villages, to which the Salt is brought from far North in Thibet. Carrying it S[outh]. to Mywa--guola &c & returning laden with wood, rice, &c. -- Such are cis--nivean Bhoteas. The Natives of Bhotea (called the end of Bhote i.e. of Thibet) are of course Bhoteas, all of them, but of a different tribe. My coolies are these, Lhop is their own name for Bhotan, & often "the Dhurma country" or "Country of the Dhurmah Rajah"-- The Bhoteas I find a cheerful civil people when the great men are away, Bhootan [Bhutan] people or "men of Lhop" are renowned as the most detestable. All the above, as are the Thibetans, many Chinese & people of the 2 plateaus of Little Bucharia & of Soongaria are Buddhists who practice Lamaism. ENDNOTES 1. This letter is a copy, written in a hand not that of the original author, JDH, and not signed in his hand. The copy was probably made by JDH's mother or sister and the original returned to the addressee, Archibald Campbell. 2. Kinchin was Hooker's dog, a Tibetan Mastiff. Please note that work on this transcript is ongoing. Users are advised to study electronic image(s) of this document where possible.

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