Workman Putnam Letter

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Workman Putnam Letter


Handwritten letter from William Hunter Workman to Harrington Putnam dated October 30th, 1911 and sent from Srinagar in Kashmir. The letter describes details of a trip the Workmans took the previous summer to the Himalaya region where they explored the Siachen Glacier and the Bilapho Glacier.





The American Alpine Club Library


October 30th, 1911


The American Alpine Club Library Archives


Srinagar Kashmir Oct 30. 1911
Dear Mr. Putnam,

Please convey our greetings to the members of the American Alpine Club on the occasion of the annual meeting. Although once again so far away that we cannot well return to be present in the body we shall not forget the day and shall send in thoughts our best wishes over the void, that separates us from you, for a successful and interesting meeting.
We returned two weeks ago from out seventh Himalayan Expedition. On this we devoted out attention to the region south of the Baltoro glacier, a region occupied by high mountains of 21,000 to over 25,000 feet with very steep, in many places, perpendicular [indecipherable], walls enclosing places so greatly crevassed and [indecipherable] as to be in parts impassable. We explored the while region tributary to the Kondu and Hushe basins from considerably beyond the longitude of Masherbrum in the west to the Kandus-Siachen watershed in the East, including seven large glaciers, four of which were mapped. We failed to find any of the three passes reputed to exist between this region and the Baltoro, thus exploding myths that have been handed around from one explorer to another and published as facts. All glacier-reservoirs were found to be enclosed by high, very abrupt, unscalable rock walls, and the reservoirs themselves to be mostly broken into [indecipherable] impossible to traverse. A great portion of the region examined was entirely [indecipherable] ground.
After finishing this work, after the middle of August, we ascended the greatly broken and debris-covered Bilapho (the Batti word for butterfly) glacier, some 20 miles long, to the ice-covered pass at its head, about 18,550 feet above sea level as measured by [indecipherable] readings compared with simultaneous ones at Gov. Meteorological station at Skardu, crossed [ass and descended a wide glacier tributary to the Siachen glacier to the latter, reaching it at a point about 20 miles below its origin and at an altitude of about 16,000 feet. This glacier was discovered two years ago by Dr. Longstaff, who reached it by the same route we took. He went no further than the point mentioned, neither up nor down the glacier, remained only one day, and then retraced his steps over the Bilapho pass, (called by him the Saltoro though Bilapho seems the more proper name as the pass is at the top of the Bilapho glacier).
The Siachen glacier, the largest mountain or valley-glacier in Asia yet discovered, is probably 50 miles, if not more, in length. Its upper half is very complicated in its topography, claims an immense area, and is fed by seven large branches of nearly as great width as the main stream. Two of these we ascended, one about 15 miles long bringing us up, at an altitude of 20,000 feet on the flank of the great peak K3, to a perpendicular wall of rock rising {indecipherable] to the summit 25,415 feet high. The second branch, over 25 miles in length brought us to a wide snow-plateau lying at and above an altitude of 19,000 feet, leading over towards the Karakoram Pass. This plateau stretches to fifteen miles Eastward and ends in a snow-pass descending to the East, toward the Karakoram Pass. Besides the large branches [indecipherable] – the smaller ones descend to the glacier from the mountains rising above it.
The highest mountains lie west of the glacier on the eastern border of the region first explored, and far to the north where the head of the glacier probably meets the Baltoro mountains, several rising in separate peaks or massifs of great size. The most impressive peak, seen from the greater portion of the upper part of the glacier, and one dominating not only the Siachen but the Bilapho and Dong Dong glaciers, is K3 with two summits, marked on the Indian survey map as two separate peaks, of respective altitudes of 25,415 and 25,210 feet.
Three elevations rising from the high Eastern wall of the glacier, one of which (it is uncertain from this description, map and photo which) was named by Dr. T. S. Longstaff Teram Kangri, were triangulated with [indecipherable] from a base, measured at the glacier, but Dr. Calciati, who was with us as topographer. The final results of this measurement have not yet been submitted, but the preliminary calculation indicate for the highest of the three points an altitude of not for fram 24,000 feet, quite a difference from the altitude assigned by Dr. Longstaff to Teram Kangri, who took these samples with a clinometer from different places to one of these peaks, which, worked out by the Indian survey at [indecipherable] have an altitude of over 30,000 feet which was finally reduced by Dr. Longstaff to 27,610 feet. The same three points have been triangulated by the Indian survey during the last season from four triponometrical stations to the south of the Siachen with results not differing greatly, apparently, from those obtained by Dr. Calciati. We believe the survey results have not yet been stated publicly.
We reached the Siachen on the 19th August, rather late for work on a great glacier with a high snow pass to be crossed on the return which would be dangerous should stormy weather [indecipherable], but, as the weather proved favorable, several days at a time being absolutely cloudless, we remained a month, and were able to make the first exploration of a large portion of the upper half of the glacier and several of its tributaries, although the season was too advanced to attempt the extreme northern end and sources rising far into the region of snow at high altitude. During this time we were camped at altitudes of from 16,000 to over 19,000 feet. The low temperature in the shortening days and lengthening nights was somewhat trying, especially when the wind was strong. On three occasions at 16,000 feet a temperature of 5° was recorded.
Among other high points a peak of 21,000 feet was ascended, from bottom to top sharp and its sides covered with loose shale, which, yielding under the foot as the latter crushed through the thin layer of crisp and honeycombed September snow, rendered the ascent exceedingly fatiguing. From this peak a remarkable view was obtained of over 35 miles of the Siachen glacier and of its wonderful entourage of giant mountains.
The Siachen glacier is by no means an easy one to explore on account of its inaccessibility, its distance from any available base of supplies, the absence of wood and even of vegetation of any kind for the greater part of its course and of camping places on the ice and rock bound mountains surrounding it, and the configuration of its surface channeled by rivers and ravines alternating with [indecipherable] covered hillocks due to lateral pressure and rising to heights of 200 to 400 feet above the general level of the glacier.
Many interesting observations were made not only of a geographical nature but also illustrative of features of rock and valley formations and of structural phenomena of glaciers, some of which have, we believe, never yet been described, which are developed to an unusual degree on this great glacier. Also a large collection of photographs, panoramas, and telephotographs illustrative of the points observed was secured.
The expedition was accompanied by the guide Savoye and their Italien porters all of [indecipherable].

Very sincerely yours,
F. Bullock Workman
W. Hunter Workman

Original Format

Correspondence handwritten in pen on paper.


“Workman Putnam Letter,” The Collections of the American Alpine Club Library, accessed July 13, 2024,