A “New” Altitude Record from 1911 by Dr. Alexander Kellas

Dr. Alexaimage from outdoors.caledonianmercury.comnder "Alec" Kellas is by no means a household name, nor is he known even to many climbers. But, he should be, and perhaps some recently uncovered information will help in that cause.

Arguably the most-experienced member of the 1921 Everest Reconnaissance Expedit  ion, Kellas came to the climb that year with an amazing resume, including more time spent above 6,100 meters than any one on record, and over a dozen first ascents of peaks over 20,000 feet.

Sadly, however, the 1921 expedition would be Kellas' last: he died of complications  from dysentery near Khampa Dzong on the approach to Everest. A month later, George Mallory and others on the expedition climbed a craggy peak high above the East Rongbuk Glacier and named it Kellas Rock Peak in honor of their friend.

And with that, Kellas slipped into relative obscurity. However, Scottish historian Ian R. Mitchell hopes to change that with his upcoming biography of Kellas. While doing his research, Mitchell found a major omission in the historical record: On June 14, 1911, Kellas and two Sherpa reached the summit of Pauhunri, a 7,128 meter/23,386 foot peak in northern Sikkim. With that achievement – which bested Tom Longstaff's 1907 summit altitude record of 7,120 meters on Trisul – Kellas and his Sherpa put themselves as the record-holders for highest summit attained. Their newly-discovered record help until 1930, when Hermann Hörlin and Erwin Schneider climbed Jongsong Peak, a 7,420 meter giant near Kangchenjunga.

It's just one additional feather in the already full cap of Dr. Alec Kellas. Here's to this Scottish pioneer climber, and the hope that he gets more recognition in the years to come.

(Read more about Dr. Kellas and Ian Mitchell's work at The Calendonian Mercury.)

Jake Norton is an Everest climber, guide, photographer, writer, and motivational speaker from Colorado.

  1. David
    DavidNovember 18,10

    Is this achievement something Kellas was striving for? Nearly 100 years ago, would he have known he set an altitude record? Or were those things not really measured/kept?

  2. Jake Norton
    Jake NortonNovember 18,10

    Hi David,

    Kellas definitely wasn’t going for a record, as, according to Mitchell, the altitude of Pauhunri at the time was thought to be only 7065m, which gave Longstaff the record on Trisul in 1907. It was resurveyed years later, and given its new altitude of 7128m.

    So, he knew he was climbing high, but just didn’t know quite how high!



  3. Philip Summers
    Philip SummersNovember 19,10

    I wonder how Mt Kellas compares in difficulty to the North East ridge route on Everest proper?.
    With an altitude comparable to the North Col, it’s quite high, but in terms of technical difficulty, one wonders if Mallory and co, could summit Mt Kellas, then what, if anything does it say about Mallory’s ability on his final climb on Everest?
    Moreso, if they took a route that was different to the obvious route approaching the summit from right to left, up the ridge.
    It may be worthwhile looking at this climb in more detail and especially if the route they took in 1921 was quite hard.
    There may be lessons for 1924 here perhaps?.
    Something that readily leaps to my mind at least.

  4. Descargar
    DescargarDecember 7,10

    Overcome this challenge that some day before too long, because the records are to overcome, no? Let’s see if we manteneis the day of this sort of thing.

  5. Ralph Wondraschek
    Ralph WondraschekJanuary 19,12

    Hi Jake,

    it is now generally accepted that as early as 1883, William Woodman Graham, Emil Boss and Ulrich Kaufmann reached the summit of Kabru (7338 m) in Western Sikkim.

    See http://www.himalaya-info.org/Kabru%20Alpine%20Journal%202010.pdf

    It was to be 47 years later (!!!) before a higher peak was successfully scaled (Jongsang Peak 1930, 7470 m, Western Sikkim).



  6. Juegos de Matar Zombies
    Juegos de Matar ZombiesNovember 9,15

    Mensajes como una pintura, pero me hizo muy emotivo. Gracias por compartir

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