THE WAY TO SHAMBHALA. By Edwin Bernbaum, 1980. (Anchor Books, New York. $6.95.)

The idea of Shangri La, a lost paradise in. the midst of snow peaks, far from the taxes and permits of urban existence, peopled by wise men, beautiful woman and administered by a just ruler, is irresistible to most of us. But as Edwin Bernbaum shows, James Hilton's novel is a gross Western caricature of a noble Eastern myth. The aim of the Shambhala myth is not to escape reality but to find it.'

The author is both mountaineer and scholar and while he uses the jargon of modern psychology in his commentary he scrupulously adheres to the Tibetan texts. A useful indication of his rapport with the local people is his concluding 'Acknowledgments’ where he can write: Some of my warmest memories are of sitting around Kunjo Chumbi's hearth in Khumjung, munching boiled potatoes and talking about hidden valleys.

Shambhala ‘the source of happiness' is real for those who have the eye to 'see’. According to HH the Dalai Lama 'Shambhala has a physical existence'. To find it the traveller has to go into mental rather than physical training and also develop the Buddhist virtue of compassion. One is reminded of Rene Daumal's beautiful fragment of mountaineering philosophy, 'Mount Analogue' with its concern for the oneness of the environment. (Interestingly Daumal's teacher Gurdjieff was considered by the British to be a Russian spy in Tibet. Bernbaum talks about a Russian lama 'Dorjieff who tried to persuade the Dalai Lama that Shambhala was in the Czar's territories.)

Purists will argue that Shambhala surrounded with its ring of snow peaks is not in the Himalaya but further north. (Shangri La was placed in. the Kim Lun mountains.) But this is to miss the point of the myth which is to stimulate enquiry rather than provide landmarks. 'The beauty and richness of the guidebooks to Shambhala lie precisely in the way they leave themselves open to a variety of interpretations.'

The book gives equal weight to the physical and psychic 'state' of Shambhala. Claims range from the 850 ab kingdom of Khocho, an oasis in the Tarim basin ('north of Bodh Gaya'), to modem USA. Both these examples are given because of the religious tolerance and freedom enjoyed by their peoples. Of course the myth is much older than Buddhism and may be part of a racial memory that survived the formation of the great crater whose centre is near Turfan and whose rim is the arc of the Himalaya. The whole feeling is of a Shamanist tradition.

According to the author the Sherpas of Solu Khumbu were led from Tibet to their promised land by a Tibetan lama in search of the treasures of Shambhala, Similar 'hidden valleys' have been populated in Sikkim and Bhutan. These places- were known as 'sane- tuaries' where people could retreat to preserve their culture intact in time of stress. Possibly Hitler had this in mind when he built his redoubt in the Alps.

All Tibetans are agreed that to reach Shambhala mental discipline (meditation) is more important than physical toughness; awareness more important than logistics. For the journey is an inner adventure towards an understanding of the nature of the Buddha. The treasure to be found is not gold to be bartered but nirvana, freedom from small-mindedness.

In his own physical search for the magical realm Bernbaum comes very near to the heart of the myth: I felt at home and secure. . . . I knelt to drink the water from my hands and felt the peace and, beauty of the valley flow into my body ... I had touched a hidden source within myself. ... I had been trying to determine whether this valley was Khembalung ... . but now that no longer mattered .... I knew that this was the hidden valley I had been seeking.

Compare this exalted mood with Tilman's negative thoughts on reaching the summit of Nanda Devi in 1936. Instead of meditating to 'see' the golden temple of Vishnu and the lotus lake on the peak, Tilman measured the maidan on the summit 200 x 20 ft. If he had found a bar of gold one suspects he would have valued it much more than nirvana! While Tilman was agitatedly chivvying the porters along the Rishi gorge he was actually knocked off' the slabs by a rope, limped all the way back to Ranikhet and still returned to climb the mountain. Meanwhile Shipton was serenely content to map the Sanctuary. The difference in mental attitudes proves that for a glimpse of Shambhala consciousness one does not have to be an oriental.

Bernbaum quotes Adams, Carter (who was also with Tilman) as having told a yogi that Tilman didn't see the golden temple on top. The yogi smiled and said "No. He probably wouldn't have'.

While climbers achieve great heights' and outdo yogis in their penance they have yet to find a place : in the heart of the peoples of the Himalaya, Shankaracharya, Milarepa, Hera Khan Baba, Tapovan Maharaj and a host of other yogis are worshipped by Hindus and Buddhists alike for their qualities of awareness and compassion. Even crows get to the top of Everest

In the Alps the priests bless the mountains but in the Himalaya the mountain blesses man. Shambhala is the final blessing, and in a sense the mountaineer's happy hunting grounds. Those sacred, timeless moments that live long after the ordinary agonies are forgotten, that blessed mood which makes one plan the next trip before the wounds are fully healed; these are intimations of Shambhala known to everyone who loves the abode of Shiva.

This useful and well-balanced source book on Himalayan symbolism makes a change from the padded snow-plods that characterize mountain literature nowadays. Those who feel this subject is of small relevance should be reminded that the badge of the Himalayan Club is based on a structure whose dimensions have ultimately been derived from the ideal proportions to be found in the mystical Shambhala.

There may be a lesson in the myth for modern conquistadors of the Himalaya: the need to find 'inner' summit satisfaction to match the physical height gained. If Messner has experienced moments of truth on the big walls, for example, it has yet to be reflected in his personal aura: few Sherpas would consider him a Bodhisattva. Self-mastery is the real challenge of life and the Buddhist philosophers are right in seeing mountains as one of many means to unseat the ego. (Too often they are used to harden the ego of climbers.) Where most non- Buddhist mountaineers would part company with this teaching is in denying reality to the peaks. Ama Dablam, K2 and Nanda Devi are not 'all in the mind'. Most of us are quite happy to remain unenlightened so long as the mountains are 'out there' as a physical challenge.

W. M. Aitken



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SACRED SUMMITS. By Peter Boardman. Pp. 264, Illustrated, 1982.
(Hodder & Stoughton, London, £9,95).

Peter Boardman finished writing this book almost one year ago. It is a pity that publication was delayed until after his disappearance on Everest with Joe Tasker in May 1982. In many respects this is a more articulate book than his first. Both are deeply self-revealing: but here the responses are more sensitive, and the writing more assured; neither have the personal qualities changed though they may be seen to vary through different shades of emphasis. Above all else, and this is one of the most appealing features of his writing as it was of his character, there is a refreshing frankness, a nagging self- criticism measured by his personal standards, and an unusual degree of patience. The author seemed to possess many of the classic qualities attributed to the amateur mountaineers of a bygone age. But Peter Boardman was not an amateur and he belonged to an advanced group of present-day mountaineers. His love of the mountains was expressed in the respect with which he treated them, and the satisfaction that he gained from them was much more than the winning of a technical victory. Before every departure for a mountain expedition he took infinite pains to research the history, generously acknowledging past achievements and mentally attuned to the difficulties that lay ahead.

The book's sub-title A Climber's Year refers to three expeditions undertaken in 1979. The first (January) involved a journey back into the Stone Age among the amazingly tough and self-reliant aboriginals of N.W. New Guinea with whose friendliness and help the author and Hilary (later his wife) fought their way through some pretty hard country to the foot of the Snow Mountains which form the Carstenz range. They bore stoically seemingly interminable frustrations with Indonesian officialdom before being permitted to approach the mountains, which although under an almost permanent cover of mist and rain provided two good ascents involving ice and rock upto Grade IV. The second part of the book (April-May), probably the most graphically descriptive, concerns the third ascent of Kangchen- junga and the first from the north via a steep 3000 ft wall to the North Col and thence via the N ridge and N face undertaken with Doug Scott, Joe Tasker and Georges Bettembourg. Boardman's extraordinary toughness is demonstrated by his rapid recovery from two accidents. The varying reactions to extreme conditions shown by four totally different temperaments is examined in almost clinical detail. If it was the excellence of their equipment that enabled them to survive unscathed the violence of the storm above 26,000 ft, it was their determination that sent them back up again for the final successful climb. This was an ascent of the highest quality — the summit climb was laconically described in a postcard I received as 'an enjoyable day'. In the final chapter (Oct/Nov), dealing with the first ascent of Gaurishankar South by its formidable W ridge, the author has matured into a reluctant leader acting as the main power-unit driving a four-man team along a lengthy route bristling with technical difficulties and dangers. The party was stretched to the extreme limit of prudence and safety. Surely the ENE ridge of Everest, on which the author disappeared with Joe Tasker, though 1000 m higher was not more difficult technically.

Through all this is woven a light-hearted biographical thread which joins together strong family attachments and professional commitments in Switzerland combined with commuting journeys to England. Peter Boardman, with so much achieved in his short life and so full of future plans, was taken in his prime. He possessed immense potential for expansion of his mountaineering and literary achievements.

Trevor Braham



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EVEREST. By Walt Unsworth. Pp. 563, photos some in colour and maps. 1981. (Allen Lane, London, £14.95).

This book must surely be the definitive history of Everest. It is the story of the mountain and the climbers and others associated with it from the earliest days to 1979, and the author tells the story extremely well For me it was compulsive reading

All the 45 expeditions to Everest since the first reconnaissance in 1921 have been described in detail in books and in articles in mountaineering journals and much of the history of the mountain must be familiar to readers of this journal. But the tale is worth re- telling and Unsworth does much more than merely recount in abbreviated detail the climbing annals of the mountain. As he says in his preface he has tried to fill in the background and this he has succeeded in doing supremely well. He goes behind the scenes of the organization of the pre-war British expeditions and tells us of the battles with obstructive officialdom to obtain the necessary permission to enter Tibet, and the rows which sometimes developed over such matters as the choice of leader.

On the generally accepted assumption that Mallory and Irvine did not get to the summit, the height of 8580 m reached by Norton without oxygen on the 1924 expedition was not bettered by any of the other pre-war expeditions. After the War a new chapter in the Everest saga began with the opening up of Nepal to foreigners which enabled the mountain to be approached from the south. After the first reconnaissance of the Southern approaches in 1950 preparations went ahead for a British attempt by the new route in 1953. The author deals very fairly with the controversy which arose over the leadership. The eventual choice of John Hunt was certainly vindicated by the expedition's success in placing Hillary and Tenzing on the summit.

One might have thought that once Everest had been climbed that would have been that, but not so. It appeared to become a matter of national prestige to send expeditions to Everest and since 1953 countries have been queuing to obtain permission to climb the mountain. Unsworth dispassionately records them all; the three Indian expeditions, the third of which led by Capt Kohii put nine climbers on the summit; the 1983 American expedition which achieved the first traverse of the mountain; the discordant International expedition of 1971; Bonington's two Southwest Face expeditions the second of which in 1975 was successful; and all the others from many countries.

The large expeditions of earlier days are giving way to smaller Alpine style climbing parties, and I hope we shall never see a repetition of the preposterous Italian expedition of 1973 comprising 64 climbers supported by 100 Sherpas and a flight of helicopters.

There is an interesting chapter on what the author refers to as the outsiders, those who attempted unauthorized ascents of the mountain. The best known is probably Maurice Wilson, who thought faith alone would get him to the top and died below the North Col in 1934. There were three more unofficial attempts after the War.

Everest still presents many challenges and since this book was written Messner has climbed the mountain on his own, and while I write Bonington is leading a small team which hopes to reach the summit by the ENE ridge.

The book contains some useful appendixes including a summary of expeditions to Everest 1921-79 and a comprehensive bibliography. It should occupy a place on the bookshelves of all who are interested in Everest and the Himalaya.

V. S. Risoe



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PEAKS, PASSES AND GLACIERS. Selections from the Alpine Journal compiled and introduced by Walt Unsworth. Pp 284, 18 illustrations, 1981. (The Mountaineers, Seattle. $20).

The Alpine Club was started in 1857 and a year later there appeared a volume called Peaks3 Passes and Glaciers and a second volume with the same title followed in 1862. In 1863 the Alpine Journal made its first appearance and since then has been published regularly. These Journals cover the whole sphere of mountaineering and Walt Unsworth has felt that a collection of extracts would be interesting and he has written an introduction to each extract and has resurrected the title Peaks, Passes and Glaciers,

The contents have been divided into three parts. Part one : Early Days' recounts the Englishmen's experiences in the Alps, starting off with Edward Whymper's ascent of Mont Pelvoux and the fatal accident on the Matterhorn. W. W. Graham who came to the Himalaya in 1883 wrote on the Alps and so did A. F. Mummery who was killed on Nanga Parbat in 1895. J. N. Collie who was with him on Nanga Parbat wrote an article on the Cuillins of Skye. There is an amusing article on 'What the Climber Eats . . . and Wears' emphasizing Norfolk jackets with sufficient pockets. G. W. Young sums up the early days in 'Mountain Prophets.'

‘Part Two : Middle years' starts off with R. L. G. Irving's article on 'Five Years with Recruits' on how to train the young to go without guides. This policy was condemned by most members of the Club including Tom Longstaff and Douglas Freshfield. An article by Mallory contains memories of Mont Blanc written in the trenches in France in 1916. Between the two wars the most famous English climbers were Frank Smythe of Kamet fame and Graham Brown of Nanda Devi but they wrote on the Alps; but an article by Erwin Schneider is on a disaster on Nanga Parbat.

'Part Three: Maturity' records some brilliant successes but also hints at tragedy. It starts off with Kurt Diemberger's 'My Finest Route in the Alps' and is followed by Hillary on the top of Everest and George Band on Kangchenjunga. Among other articles that follow are Ian Clough on the Eigerwand, John Harlin on the Petit Dru Direct and Mick Burke on the Matterhorn North Face, all of them successful, but it is sad to reflect that Ian Clough died on Annapurna, John Harlin on the Eigerwand and Mick Burke on Everest.

The thirty-three articles in this volume are illustrated by sixteen outstanding photographs. Walt Unsworth has done his work well.

John Martyn



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NANGA PARBAT PILGRIMAGE - THE LONELY CHALLENGE. By Hermann Buhl. Pp. 360, illustrated, 3 maps, 1981. (Hodder & Stoughton, London, £6.95).

Hermann Buhl is a name that draws hazy images in the minds of young climbers today. This is regrettable because his was an inspireing life. His autobiography, first published in English in 1956, communicates the essence of the man and his climbing forcefully, with a candour and passion that make it meaningful.

From early age, Buhl roamed and climbed in the hills near his native Innsbruck, and overcoming indifferent health and discouragement proceeded to climb routes of extreme difficulty. One likes his rebuttal of the criticism (valid as strongly now as then) heaped on those who prefer to do difficult climbing: 'But let it never be said that we "extremists" of the climbing world see nothing but mere overhangs, cracks, traverses, pitons and have no eye any more for the beauties of Nature; and that we never do a moderate climb any more. Far from it, we are not quite so poverty-stricken as that.' and

'The true mountaineer . . . gets as much pleasure out of an easy climb or out of a good walk as he does when next he returns to the borderline of human capabilities.'

From the Kaiserwilde, Buhl progressed to the Dolomites making, in his eagerness to climb there, an illegal foray that nearly put him in jail. Here he added, among others, the NE walls of the Furchetta and the Clvetta, to his increasing list of climbs, and this despite a two-year gap due to the war and consequent internment. Of particular relevance to young climbers is Buhl's tenacity; impecuniosity, irregular employment and all the other deterrents that prevail in a vanquished country did not halt his climbing. His argument: the mountains . . . are indeed implacable in their demands upon him who subjects himself to their law. And I had to be obedient to that law.

Later, Buhl found a wide and satisfying avenue for climbing in the Western Alps; here he matured as an ice-climber. Marriage was followed by a career as a guide, as also by an ascent of the NE wall of the Piz Badile (solo) and the N wall of the Eiger. On being evicted from Inssbruck, he worked as a salesman in Munich and was invited to the Nanga Parbat expedition being planned by Dr Karl Herrlig- koffer. Most accounts of this expedition are marred by controversy but Buhl has the grace to say that the humdrum is still the humdrum; the petty, petty; the ugly; ugly. But what was great and beautiful must transcend it all, containing everything else within its own narrow limitations.'

Characteristically, the description of the actual ascent is detailed without being dull, and absorbing without being unduly dramatic.

The importance of this book, however, goes beyond the description of Buhl's climbs. What is really emphasized is the discipline and courage that made them possible and the fact that these qualities strengthened within him because to climb was, for him, to grow, indeed climbing was the kind of passion which knows no frontiers, no attainable end.

M. H. Contractor



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QUEST FOR ADVENTURE. By Chris Bonington. Pp. 448, illustrated, maps, 1981. (Hodder & Stoughton, London. £14.95).

This must be Chris Bonington's first venture into narratives about other men's heroism. His latest volume encompasses a variety of tales dealing with over twenty great or well-known adventures. He has been fairly rigorous in his research, not only in delving out the facts but also in trying to make a careful assessment of the motives. He has been aided in many instances by personal contact with the people involved, and I suspect that he has been goaded to a great extent by a personal curiosity to compare the forces that drive men to stretch themselves to the limit whether the environment be mountains, oceans, deserts, rivers, hot-air balloons or caves underground. In the last lines of the book the author seems no nearer to a discovery of the motives. 'Man's quest for adventure is not so much "because it is there"; the answer lies concealed, mysterious, in the complexity of man.' The final chapter tries to equate the basic motivations that lead men into seeking adventurous situations. Superficially, parallels might be found. But the fact remains that no two men are driven towards adventure by the same motives. There are, however, some common physical and mental qualities that mark all great adventurers : intense physical stamina, and an ability in a crisis to retain control of oneself and of a situation.

What are the elements that make up a great adventure? Man against natural forces — oceans, deserts, mountains. Exposure to extreme danger, risk, deprivation, bringing out feats of exceptional courage and endurance and the will to survive. Success or failure are not always relevant. Motivation is often the overriding factor in determining the quality of the venture.

Of the cross-section of stories presented one-third deal with mountains, and probably the most graphically written chapter is about Bonington's own expedition to the South Face of Annapurna in 1970.

There are six stories of varied interest dealing with oceans, including the unusually motivated saga of Donald Crowhurst's Atlantic voyage. The Polar stories seem to me misplaced. The dominating emphasis given to personality clashes greatly mars the quality of Wally Herbert's North Polar expedition. Whilst the Hillary/Fuchs journeys to the South Pole had more in them of practical or scientific objectives than adventure. Similarly, the first moon landing by two U.S. spacemen in 1989 was less an adventure than the culminating point of a lengthy series of carefully calculated and enormously costly scientific programmes.

In this large and expensive volume there is a bit of everything for those with a taste for adventure stories. It is lavishly produced and illustrated with some colour photographs of fine quality. Inevitably, the price is probably too high to enable it to reach the wide readership that it would be expected to attract.

Trevor Braham



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A MOUNTAIN IN TIBET. By Charles Allen. Pp. 255, illustrated, 1982.
(Andre Deutsch, London. £12.95).

The sub-title of the book is 'The Search for Mount Kailas and the sources of the great rivers of India'. After an introductory chapter on the legendary and religious background to Mount Kailas and Lake Manasarovar the author tells the story of the exploration of the region from the earliest times. The book is written for the general reader and it may not contain much that is new to members of the Himalayan Club and those familiar with the literature of the Himalaya but the story is a fascinating one and can be reread with pleasure.

First there were the early Jesuit explorers who crossed the Himalaya into Tibet in pursuit of their mission rather than as geographers. The same paths were trod a hundred years later by Moorcroft and Hearsey who were the first Britishers to discover Lake Manasarovar. At about the same time Hodgson and Herbert established Gaumukh as the source of the Ganga. No history of the exploration of these areas would be complete without reference to the valuable work of the intrepid Pundits whose exploits occupy a well deserved place in the story. There is also a chapter on that bizarre character, Henry Savage Landor and the sharply contrasted Buddhist monk from Tokyo, Ekai Kawaguchi, who both travelled to Tibet for very different reasons.

For many years there was doubt about whether the Tsangpo in Tibet and the Brahmaputra in India were one and the same river. The early explorations of the lesser known North East Frontier region which were hampered by the hostile and intractable tribes of the area are dealt with in some detail. It was not until 1913 that the journey by F. M. Bailey (later a distinguished member of the Himalayan Club) and Morshead established with certainty the connection between the Tsangpo and the Brahmaputra through the Tsangpo Gorge.

The last two chapters are devoted to the journeys of Sven Hedin who was probably the most famous explorer of Western Tibet and what he was pleased to call Transhimalaya, a term unacceptable to the geographical establishment of the day. Hedin, a controversial character to say the least, had no time for the work of those who had gone before, and his views and attitudes caused him to clash with the Royal Geographical Society.

This very readable book is well produced and illustrated by maps, photographs and sketches; it is a pity the illustrations are not listed. There are one or two small errors; Sir Clarmont Skrine is incorrectly referred to as Sir Clement. There is a comprehensive glossary of terms, and the Notes and Sources at the end include the bibliography.

V. S. Risoe



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TAKE IT TO THE LIMIT. By Lucy Rees and Alan Harris. Pp. 197, 1981 (Diadem Books, London, £5.95)

The Setting : Wales (mainly); sometime in the '60s, where a promiscuous set of people disguised as climbers live in predictably non- conformist style. Life centres around bragging about climbs and boozing. The climbing itself is largely secondary.

Dramatis Personae: Bob; alias 'Mr Clean', wants to work and climb and mixes minimally with the lot around him.

Luke: Brilliant scholar and climber, hard drinker, prurient, puerile and simply neurotic. Is also Bob's climbing partner.

Kate: Loves Luke and stays (and occasionally beds) with Bob. Referred to, as are other women, as a 'bird'. Even though the vulgarity offends, the term does characterize her role in the book. She just flits through.

The Story : Bob and Luke meet Kate while climbing in the Orkneys and rescue her dramatically. Luke gets infatuated with Kate, finds out that it's mutual and so she joins the duo in Bob's house in Wales. A few climbs and booze parties later, Luke causes an accidental death and takes to drinking heavily to quieten his nerves. Finding himself failing in his studies, Luke quits and steals money from his father so that the three can climb in California. There, on a climb, Luke, guilt- stricken, confesses. Later in the climb, Bob falls off and Luke is left alone with his neuroses on the wall.

The Attempt: If one were charitable (or the book's publisher) one would say, as the blurb does, that the book poses serious questions about the relationship of climbers to mainstream society. However, the characters in this book form their own hierarchy where Bacchanalia and permissiveness are de rigueur; they do not draw one's sympathy; climbing, to them, is just an extension of their untrammelled living. While all climbers are misfits in conventional society to a lesser or greater extent, few, one hopes, are as irresponsible as to give up their self-respect and integrity.

The Impact: Tedium unabated.

M. H. Contractor



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K2 MOUNTAIN OF MOUNTAINS. By Reinhold Messner and Alessandro Gogna. Pp. 177, illustrated, maps, 1981. (Kay & Ward, London, £12.50)

Once again, Reinhold Messner has fashioned the book in his own inimitable style. Here is the translation, which brings home, so beautifully, the grand effort put in by a relatively small team on the second- highest mountain in the world.

The fact that the 'magic line' had to be abandoned, makes the climb no less inspiring. Even Reinhold has come to appreciate that 'the summit is the place where all knots untie themselves, the place without which no mountain is conceivable'. Of the 16 expeditions that had attempted the peak till the end of 1979, only 4 have been successful, of which 2 have been twice so. Thus, 'K2 is a Magic Mountain, and even the known route, has its own magic'.

Most of the text has been taken from the personal diaries of members, and gives the reader an invaluable insight into group-interaction at high altitude. The tempo of the story mounts, as the book progresses, and reaches its zenith with the chapter The Shadow of K-2'. Reinhold devotes the last 18-20' pages to the history of K2, giving the reader an idea of the climbing problems, which go to make K2 harder than Everest'.

Fascinating photographs of very good quality make this saga of human endeavour worth reading. Excellent value for money.

Z. S. Boca



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MANY PEOPLE COME, By Galen Rowell. Pp. 164, illustrated, map, 1980 (The Mountaineers, Seattle, $30)

HIGH AND WILD. By Galen Rowell. Pp. 160, illustrated, 1979, (Sierra Club Books, San Francisco, $29.95)

Galen Rowell belongs to a class of people who are genuine lovers of mountains and nature and who also share their experiences. Rowell expresses himself well through his excellent photographs and vivid descriptions.

The title of the first book is taken from the words said by Dawa Tenzing, 'Many People come; looking, looking taking picture. Too many people. No good . . . some people come, see Good!' With this as the basic theme, the author describes the startling, yet many unknown effects of the tourist boom in the Himalaya. He conveys this by recounting the details of three expeditions to the Himalaya in the late '70s, of which he was a member. Each one is to a different region, unique in its own way, yet they have a common factor, tourism and the problems it brings. The extent of the effect varies in the different regions, but they all predict a gloomy future for mountain regions.

The expedition to Nun Kun in Kashmir, India, is a large, commercial, successful one. More revealing, however, in terms of repercussions of tourism is the 250 mile trek around Annapurna in Nepal undertaken by the author and a few close friends. Nepal, being easily the most popular and accessible mountain region in the Himalaya, is already suffering from problems like a damaged rural economy, and severe deforestation. The facts and figures are shocking and show that this is only the beginning.

The access to the Karakoram is more difficult but the symptoms are the same as those of Nepal, to a smaller extent. Here, the author was a member of a light party which made the first ascent of the Great Trango Tower. In the surroundings of greater wilderness Rowell describes more of what is within him. Aided by some highly imaginative photography, he communicates this aspect very well to the reader. He ends beautifully: 'I have found Shangri-La but no one can travel there, for it is not a place but a state of mind.

The second book deals with climbs of the high walls in North America and Alaska. Amongst them are Moose's Tooth, South face of Half Dome and one-day ascent of Mt. McKinley. All climbs are light, fast, exciting and in small groups. The author starts off with the history of exploration, difficulties faced by the pioneers and then the shift towards technical excellence and the competitive spirit. The evolution in his own style and taste is evident - making some fabulous first ascents in the '60s and then the accent on climbing with lesser equipment with the emphasis on exploration and the experience and absorption of the solitude of the high and wild places. Going through all the excitement of the climb, the reader is actually transported to all those remote regions which only a privileged few can visit.

Both books are outstanding especially for the selection and quality of the photographs, not only from, the mountaineering point of view but also the artistic. And that drives home the fact that the mountaineer must also be an artist at heart to enjoy mountains to the fullest.

Both books also carry a note on the photography.

Dhiren Toolsidas


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