CHAPMAN, Frederick Spencer. Helvellyn To Himalaya. Including and Account of the first Ascent of Chomolhari. London, Chatto & Windus, 1940.
9vo. Original red cloth; pp. xv, 284, , plates after photographs, folding map at rear; cloth a bit marked, occcasional light spotting, map with repaired tear.
First edition, now rather scarce. Frederick Spencer had alrady spent several years in Greenland and the Arctic, and was driven to extreme climes. 'However, his passion for adventure was far from sated and, early in 1936, he joined a Himalayan climbing expedition. It was during this trip that he first met Basil Gould, the Political Officer for Sikkim, Bhutan and Tibet who offered him a job as his private secretary for the 1936-37 Political Mission to Lhasa. The Mission to the Tibetan capital departed from Gangtok (Sikkim) in late July 1936 and left Tibet just over six months later in February 1937. The aim of the Mission was to advise the Regent of Tibet and his Cabinet, to persuade the Panchen Lama to return from China where he had fled, and, if possible, to establish permanent British representation in Lhasa. The mission personnel, under the leadership of Gould, included Hugh Richardson, the British Trade Agent at Gyantse, and Lieutenant Evan Nepean, one of two telegraph operators sent from the Royal Signal Corps. Chapman's main role in the Mission was to decipher telegraphs, but in reality he did much more than this. 'I have to take film and still photos, do bird, plant and bug work, some survey, and personal work for Gould''. He was also responsible for keeping the Mission Diary, which was accompanied by photographs and sent off to the Government of India each week. Chapman spent his spare time bird-watching (an interest shared with Richardson), hill-climbing, and taking and developing photographs. He was also a major exponent of the British Mission's entertainment programme. He spent many hours editing and sorting cine film (much of which he had made himself in Tibet) to show to Tibetan audiences at the British Mission house, the Dekyi Lingka. He was also one of the keenest players in the 'Mission Marmots' football team. It was due (in part) to these activities that the Mission made a favourable impression on the residents of Lhasa and in particular Chapman's 'open, cheerful friendliness went down well with the Tibetans'. After his return from Lhasa in 1937 Chapman secured permission to lead a small climbing expedition to the Tibetan holy mountain, Chomolhari. Chapman and a Sherpa named Passang Dawa succeeded in becoming the first mountaineers to reach the 24,000ft. summit. Tibet also provided Chapman with material for two new books Lhasa: The Holy City (1938) and Helvellyn to Himalaya … (The Tibet Album, online).