I was surprised to read that skis were being used on the Himalayas as far back as the 1930s. A case in point is the pioneering ski-mountaineer R. L. (Romilly Lisle) Holdsworth. Holdsworth had been invited on Mallory’s ill fated 1924 expedition but had insisted on taking his skis so the invitation was withdrawn. A fact, he would reflect later, that probably saved his life.
However he did get to use them on the conquest of Kamet, a remote 25000’ summit in the Garwal range. After an approach march of 200 miles the British team and their sherpas and local porters started a traditional “siege” assault on the summit. It was the highest peak yet climbed although Norton and Somerwell had both reached the heady altitude of 8500 meters on Everest in 1924. The team climbed via the col Meade, at 7163 meters, the highest point of the 1912 expediton led by Charles Meade. on the 19th June 1931 Holdsworth was able to ski from camp V at 7080 meters, just below the col. Probably the highest altitude skiing attemped at that date.
The use of ski by Holdsworth was fully justified. As far as Meade’s Col he was able to use them throughout practically the whole route, with the exception of the rock face between Camps III and IV and by ski-ing at 23,500 feet he must surely have created a record for high-altitude ski-ing. Furthermore, on the descent he was able to take his frostbitten feet in one day from Camp III to the base, whereas others similarly affected, but not so fortunate, were compelled to drag them down in two rather long and tiring marches.
Smythe noted that “Holdsworth slid easily with his skis” and wondered why everone “was not equipped with this labour saving device?”. Smythe also suggested that porters be equipped with a “short, light ski”. The modern day approach ski used by climbers.