LEADER of scientific EXPEDITIONS & botanical TOURS in the HIMALAYA

In 1985 I came in as a last-minute replacement for Oleg Polunin to lead a tour party of flower lovers up a valley in the borderlands of Western Tibet for 'West Himalayan Holidays' (sadly Oleg passed away whilst I was leading the trek); I led the same trek the following year. In Spring 1987 I took a botanical tour into Northern Pakistan and then a summer pony-trek looking for flowers in Kashmir, in both cases for Raul Moxley Travel. After marrying in the Autumn of 1987, I could not spare the time to undertake any more tours - though to be honest, did not have the patience to be the perfect tour leader, such as Mary Briggs, Secretary of The Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland. Mind you, different clients have different priorities. Oleg was a charming, handsome man, who knew how to flatter the ladies on the tours but, and I very much liked him appreciating the encouragement he gave me, he was not the most dedicated of identifier of plants. I have heard complaints that he neglected this aspect of the 'flower' holidays he led in the Himalaya but most of the ladies on these trips were not serious botanists, so could not have cared less! I am not blessed with the skills to charm ladies of any age, especially those 40 years my senior (I led my tours in my twenties)..... Like most things in my life, I approached tour leading too seriously (though I did keep everyone safe, which to me was a priority).

Chris Chadwell savouring a Pelican beer in the garden of the Mountview Hotel, Chandigarh, with a client prior to being driven to Manali and then on to Lahaul to start a trek up the Miyah Nullah, Himachal Pradesh, in the mid-1980s - the temperature was 37C, so best to keep walking to a minimum!

Chris amongst some of the tour party at Krishensar Lake, Kashmir @ 3600m in July 1987

Chris Chadwell in a blue Balaclava during the 1987 Kashmir pony-trek; unfortunately, deep snow lying unseasonably late meant, for safety reasons, I had to take the decision to turn back at the second pass (too risky to attempt), to the understandable disappointment of my tour party - such is the lot of a tour leader, especially a young one, still in his twenties, with his clients a generation older! I made the correct decision, even if it did make me unpopular - so often, those with much less experience, think they know better. The only male participant, a headmaster who had taken early retirement, pronounced that it was up to him if he injured himself - I had to strongly disagree. Many deaths occur during treks in the Himalaya due to an unwillingness to "turn back" or inexperienced people attempting routes either beyond their capabilities or through them being ill-equipped; most of the time they get away with it. But as I say, IF you individually wish to kill yourself in the mountains, that is your decision but you have a responsibility towards any travelling companions and any locals you may have hired. See:


One of Chris' botanical tour group at a guest-house in Manali, Himachal Pradesh in the 1980s being shown a local 'weed' for a plant identification session! She was not particularly a plant enthusiast but came on the tours because they were well run; during the trek I had shown her the 'West Himalayan Blue-poppy' but on our last night wanted a second 'Himalayan' plant to remember and what better than Cannabis sativa, a common road-side weed in Manali... Scanned in from a slide.

Chris with his walking boots - the most important item of his equipment, the strong ankle support essential on slippery terrain!

George Forrest portrayed within an exhibition about Scottish Plant Hunters which, originally staged at the Glasgow Garden Festival (1984), then transferred to the Visitor Centre, Threave School of Gardening, National Trust for Scotland (no longer there) - I have never had the luxury of a chair or table during any of my assorted tours and expeditions.

Kashmir Botanical Expedition 1983

Prospectus for Kashmir Botanical Expedition 1983 prepared by graphic artists Harry Humphries

Leader of botanical tours in Lahaul, Himachal Pradesh (the borderland of Western Tibet) 1985 & '86

Chris Chadwell sipping Rose's Lime Cordial whilst he reads a copy of the British Empire Review from 1935