What happened at Baskul?
James Hilton starts the tale from a conversation in an Officer’s Mess about an incident in Baskul. Hugh Conway (37) was a Consul at Baskul appointed by His Majesty’s Diplomatic Corps. An aircraft belonging to the Maharaja of Chandipur was being used to evacuate Conway and three other people from Baskul to Peshawur owing to the revolution. A pilot hijacked the craft from Baskul with its passengers and brought them instead to a remote destination in the Himalayan Mountains.
The present day maps and geography doesn’t show the place, Baskul. It seems to be a major town with a Consulate, airport and other amenities available during the thirties. Hilton hints in his book, ‘Fact is, an Afghan or an Afridi or somebody ran off with one of our buses…….It seems that Baskul should have been in Afghanistan and the flight probably originated from Kabul and was supposed to reach Peshawar in Pakistan.
The flight –
They had been flying east for several hours, too high to see much, but probably the course had been along some river valley – one stretching roughly east and west.” I wish I hadn’t to rely on memory, but my impression is that the valley of the upper Indus fits in well enough.”
“Well, no – I have never been anywhere near here before, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that mountain is Nanga Parbat – the one Mummery lost his life on.”
Present Day Map showing Conway's Journey
Nanga Parbat , peak, 26,660 ft (8,126 m) high, in the W Himalayas, located in Pakistan-held Azad Kashmir; 7th highest peak in the world. Six expeditions—almost all ending disastrously—were sent to climb it. James Hilton mentioned about Mummery’s death while climbing Nanga Parbat. Albert Frederick Mummery (1855–1895), was a highly respected British mountaineer. In 1895, Collie, Hastings and Mummery headed off for the Alps for the world's first attempt at a Himalayan 8000m peak, Nanga Parbat. They were years ahead of the time, and the mountain claimed the first of its many victims: Mummery and two Ghurkas, Ragobir and Goman Singh were killed by an avalanche and never seen again. The story of this disastrous expedition is told in Collie's book "From the Himalaya to Skye"
The icy rampart of the Karakorams was now more striking than ever against the northern sky, which had become mouse – colored and sinister; the peaks had a chill gleam; utterly majestic and remote, their very namelessness had dignity. “It’s not easy to judge, but probably some part of Tibet. If these are the Karakorams, Tibet lies beyond. One of the crests, by the way, must be K2, which is generally counted the second highest mountain in the world.”
Karakorum or Karakoram mountain range, extending 480 km, between the Indus and Yarkant rivers, N Kashmir, S Central Asia; SE extension of the Hindu Kush. It covers disputed territory, held by China on the north, India on the east, and Pakistan on the west. Karakorum's main range has some of the world's highest peaks, including K2 (Mt. Godwin-Austen) (28,250 ft/8,611 m), the second highest peak in the world. Karakorum also has several of the world's largest glaciers. Its southern slopes are the watershed for many tributaries of the Indus River. The mountains, the greatest barrier between India and Central Asia, are crossed above the perpetual snow line by two natural routes. Karakorum Pass. (alt. 18,290 ft/5,575 m), the chief pass, is on the main Kashmir-China route. Another important pass, Khunjerab (Kunjirap) Pass (alt. 15,420 ft/4,700 m), is on the Pakistan-China route.
The landing –
Conway guessed that the flight had progressed far beyond the western range of the Himalaya towards the less known heights of the Kuen – Lun. In that event they would by now have reached the loftiest and least hospitable part of the earth’s surface – the Tibetan plateau, two miles high even in its lowest valleys – a vast, uninhabited, and largely unexplored region of wind – swept upland.
But it was to the head of the valley that his eyes were led irresistibly, for there, soaring into the gap, and magnificent in the full shimmer of moonlight, appeared what he took to be the loveliest mountain on earth. It was an almost perfect cone of snow, simple in outline as if a child had drawn it, and impossible to classify as to size, height, or nearness. It was so radiant, so serenely poised, that he wondered for a moment if it were real at all. Then, while he gazed, a tiny puff clouded the edge of the pyramid, giving life to the vision before the faint rumble of the avalanche confirmed it.
Conway and his friends have reached the Shangri-la.
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