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The Kangchenjunga Adventure

The 1930 expedition to the third highest mountain in the world

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‘We went to Kangchenjunga in response not to the dictates of science, but in obedience to that indefinable urge men call adventure.’

In 1930, an expedition set out to climb the world’s third-highest mountain, Kangchenjunga. As yet unclimbed, a number of attempts had been made on the peak, including two in the previous year. The Kangchenjunga Adventure records Frank Smythe’s attempts as part of an international team to reach the summit, how a deadly avalanche, which killed one of the sherpas, brought an end to their climb and how they turned their attentions instead to Jonsong Peak, which offered a more appealing alternative to risky assaults on the greatest peaks.

Smythe’s books from this period give compelling reads for anyone with an interest in mountaineering: riveting adventures on the highest peaks in the world, keen observations of the mountain landscape and a fascinating window into early mountaineering, colonial attitudes and Himalayan exploration.

Available as an ebook:

Kindle (Amazon U.K. site)
Kindle (Amazon U.S. site)



Frank Smythe was an outstanding climber. In a short life – he died aged 49 – he was at the centre of high-altitude mountaineering development in its early years.

In the late 1920s he pioneered two important routes up the Brenva Face of Mont Blanc, followed in the 1930s by a sequence of major Himalayan expeditions: he joined the attempt on Kangchenjunga in 1930, led the successful Kamet bid in 1931 and was a key player in the Everest attempts of 1933, 1936 and 1938. In 1937, he made fine ascents in the Garhwal in a rapid lightweight style that was very modern in concept.

Smythe was the author of 27 books, all immensely popular. The erudite mountain writers of his era each offer something different. Bill Tilman excelled in his dry humorous observations. Eric Shipton enthused about the mountain landscape and its exploration. Smythe gives us wonderful detail in the climbing. His tense descriptions of moments of difficulty, danger, relief and elation are compelling – and we are not spared the discomfort, fatigue and dogged struggle. He also writes movingly about nature’s more beautiful and tender face – there is no keener observer of cloud, light and colour, the onset of a thunderstorm, or a sublime valley transformed by wild flowers.

There is also a strong feeling of history in his books: the superior attitudes of colonialism that, as the years rolled on, gave way to a more mellow stance and a genuine respect for his Indian and Sherpa companions.
Today, his books make compelling reading: well-written and gripping tales that offer fascinating windows into the history of climbing and exploration. They are essential reading for all those interested in mountaineering and the danger and drama of those early expeditions.

  • Title: The Kangchenjunga Expedition
  • Sub-title: The 1930 expedition to the third highest mountain in the world
  • Author: Frank Smythe
  • Imprint: Vertebrate Digital
  • ISBN: 978-1-906148-80-5
  • Publication date: 15 November 2013
  • Price: £4.99

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