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This magazine, which has proudly watched its list of readers grow, month by month, has discovered four new ones. Their names: Lieutenant Lyle W. Cameron, Lieutenant Roland W. Parks, Captain Harold E. Fischer Jr. and Lieut. Colonel Edwin L. Heller—all USAF. Their old mailing address: Chinese Communist military prisons in Mukden and Peiping.
The recently released fliers, who resisted Red brainwashing attempts for over two years, told reporters in Honolulu that the Communists allowed them access to the prison library, which included a heavy fare of French classics and Communist publications but no American newspapers. However, they did receive one American magazine regularly—SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. It was sent to Cameron from Lincoln, Neb. by his 17-year-old brother Bob, who each week airmailed his own subscription copy to China. The magazine was delivered by the Communists 18 to 25 days late. The only trouble, said Cameron, was "the Commies always read it first and some of the parts were cut out." SI was devoured avidly by the four U.S. airmen, cover to cover, item by item, ad by ad. "It sure helped a lot," said Cameron.
WHAT IS LEFT?
When Hillary and Tenzing struggled up the last few feet of Everest's summit ridge to stand atop the world's highest mountain on a May morning in 1953, the question naturally arose: What is left? The mountaineer had a ready answer: Kanchenjunga.
Kanchenjunga is the world's third highest mountain and certainly one of its most beautiful. While Everest hides behind protective ranges of lesser peaks, and such giants as K2 and Nanga Parbat are seen only by explorers who have toiled through miles of wilderness to reach them, the gleaming fortress of ice and snow which is Kanchenjunga rises 28,146 feet in solitary splendor only 45 miles north of the city of Darjeeling in northeast India. But Kanchenjunga is more than just a spectacle—it has long been considered the most dangerous and difficult of all the great Himalayan peaks to climb. A few exploratory expeditions circled its base during the middle and late 19th Century and two feeble, ill-planned attempts were made to climb on the mountain. But Kanchenjunga's greatest pioneer, Douglas Fresh-field, apparently spoke for all the mountain men of his time when in 1899 he took a last lingering look and sadly admitted strong doubts as to the possibility of man's ever ascending Kanchenjunga. "It is guarded," he said, "by the Demon of Inaccessibility."
Still, attempts had to be made. So the Bavarians tried, and failed, in 1929. The next year a picked team of Swiss and English and French tried again—and also failed, tragically, losing a famed Sherpa porter. In 1931 the Bavarians came back once more and two more climbers were killed in a fall on Kanchenjunga's treacherous slopes. After that everyone left the mountain alone.
Climbers turned instead to others among the "eight-thousanders," those 14 great Himalayan peaks which soar over 8,000 meters (roughly 26,250 feet) above sea level into the icy Asian sky, and which, until 1950, had resisted every effort made by puny man to scale their enormous heights. At that time the highest climbed mountain was Nanda Devi, still lofty enough (25,660 feet) that its British-American conquerors were asked by natives upon their descent in 1936, "What did London look like from up there?" But in 1950 the giants began to topple. That year the French battled their way up Annapurna (26,493). In 1953 came Everest itself (29,002) and a German conquest of deadly Nanga Parbat (26,660). Last year K2, the second highest mountain (28,250), was climbed by an Italian team, and the Austrians won their duel with Cho Uyo (26,750). Last month a French group ascended Makalu (27,790).
Last week word flashed out of faraway Darjeeling that Kanchenjunga, too, had toppled. A nine-man team of British climbers led by Dr. Charles Evans, member of the 1953 Everest expedition, had gone to within five vertical feet of the summit, stopping only in deference to the religious feelings of the native Sikkimese, who believe their gods live up there. It was a feat hailed by mountaineers the world over. Said Sir John Hunt, leader of the Everest ascent, just before Evans and his party set out: "There is no doubt that those who first climb Kanchenjunga will achieve the greatest feat in mountaineering, for it is a mountain which combines in its defenses not only the severe handicaps of wind, weather and very high altitudes, but technical climbing problems and objective dangers of an order even higher than those we encountered on Everest." Said Dr. Charles Houston of Exeter, N.H., America's leading Himalayan expert who was on the Nanda Devi ascent and later led two expeditions to K2: "It's incredible, fantastic."
So once again the question arises: What is left? Well, there is still the peak of Lhotse (27,890), fourth highest known to man but really part of the Everest uplift and not a separate mountain at all. And Dhaulagiri (26,811) and Manaslu (26,668) and a few more still safely out of the foothill class. And there are great mountains to be reclimbed by different routes and, perhaps, without the aid of oxygen. But like the four-minute mile, which psychologically if not physically becomes shorter every day, the great mountains are shrinking. "All the high ones," said Houston, "are falling like dominoes."