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