ECCENTRIC TRAVELLERS. By John Keay. Pp. 216, 24 illustrations, 2 maps, 1982. (John Murray and B.B.C., London, £9.50).
Many Himalayan Journal
readers will be familiar with John Keay's earlier books When Men and Mountains Meet
and The Gilgit Game,
which describe in scholarly detail the nineteenth century exploration of the Western Himalaya. Eccentric Travellers
is more a pot pourri of vignettes - highly entertaining sketches of seven remarkable 18th and 19th century English travellers. Three of the characters visited the Himalaya: Thomas Manning was in 1811 the first Englishman to reach Lhasa. Joseph Wolff travelled extensively in the Western Himalaya and twice reached the forbidden city of Bukhara in Central Asia, Dr G. W. Leitner spent three days in Gilgit in 1865 and devoted the rest of his life to an exhaustive study of the languages of 'Dardistan' - the name he gave to the area which includes Chitral, Chilas, Yasin, Gilgit and Hunza. Keay's four remaining characters between them visited Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Siberia, the Antipodes and North and South America.
In his introduction the author quotes the villainous Amir of Bukhara's exclamation - 'thou star with a tale, thou eccentric' - upon the arrival in his city of the intrepid evangeliser from the London Society for Promoting Christianity amongst the Jews - Joseph Wolff, self-styled 'Grand Dervish of England, Scotland and Ireland, and the whole of Europe and America', dressed in full canonical robes and proclaiming the imminence of the second coming. All Keay's chosen characters share in their different ways this bizarre, larger-than-life quality. There is William Palgrave the fanatical Jesuit and James Holman, the compulsive tourist, who insists on sledging through Siberia in the depths of winter, despite the fact that he speaks no word of Russian and is completely blind. Dr Leitner pursues his Dardic studies with obsessive zeal and ends up founding his own 'Oriental University Institute' in, of all places, Woking. Thomas Manning, the foremost Sinolologist of his day, fails several times to reach China, but does on one attempt penetrate to Lhasa, crossing the Himalaya from Bhutan to Tibet, where he placates suspicious officials with an almost inexhaustible supply of cherry brandy. Captain John Thicknesse leaves the London of Dr Johnson to travel through Europe, collecting material for a best-selling travel book, and accompanied by his family, a pet spaniel, a parakeet and a monkey dressed in livery.
Perhaps the most engagingly eccentric of all is Charles Waterton, squire of Walton Hall in Yorkshire. In the Guiana forest he studies birds, vampires and sloths. He collects specimens for taxidermy and, to avoid damage to their precious skins, insists on catching the animals alive, before delicately slitting their throats. Shunning skin-tearing weapons, he is forced to wrestle single-handed with a fourteen foot boa constrictor, tying it up with his braces for safe transport back to carry and dissection. On another occasion he desires a giant fishing rod for catching and beaching an enormous cayman. The same man had earlier in his life annoyed the Pope by leaving a pair of gloves on the lightning conductor atop the dome of St. Peters in Rome.
On his second journey to Central Asia in 1843 Joseph Wolff took six months to travel from England to Meshad. The same overland journey, when I returned from the Hindu Kush in 1977, took just six days; my friends did the journey in one day by air. Travel is more popular than ever, but only because it is so easy. In the early nineteenth century lack of maps, non-existent roads, dangerous tribesmen and improbable political intrigue conspired against would-be travellers. Those who did reach Tibet or Gilgit or who travelled round the world were perforce men of exceptional stamina and courage, driven by obsessive curiosity and supreme self-confidence. They were extraordinary characters whose adventures were crammed full of danger and bizarre incidents. Some were best-selling authors and popular heroes in their own day, but are now almost forgotten. However, in Eccentric Travellers
John Keay has brought to life their neglected stories. Once again his scholarly research, skilful use of quotation, an eye for bizarre detail and a marvellously lucid prose style make for a highly entertaining book.
A MAN AND HIS MOUNTAINS. By Norman Croucher. Pp. 217, 32 colour illustrations, 3 maps, 1984. (Coye and Ward, Surrey, £9.95).
We come across a number of tales of courage, valour and bravery on the mountains. This book deals with the courage of a man with a difference. For, Norman Croucher, at the age of 19 lost both his legs below the knees under a train. Despite the mental and physical anguish, Croucher decided not to let the circumstances overcome him and spend the rest of his life as a cripple. After all, he feels, whether or not you are a cripple is all in the mind.
'When I resumed climbing after the loss of my legs, in essence nothing had changed; trying hard brought rewards, and enthusiasm produced the necessary effort.'
'It was time to grab some living again; it waited there to be taken, I only had to go out and get it. There was ambrosia for the asking, trees to be plucked of their magic fruit, call it what you will, if you knew how to find them.'
Fitted with a pair of metal legs and with crutches, Croucher ber-gins his training with an arduous 900 mile walk in England. After some climbs in the Alps he climbs in Peru and in Argentina. In Argentina, one of his artificial legs breaks and yet he goes on to make a solo ascent of the east summit of Ameghino (5115 m) where he literally crawls up on all fours.
Subsequently he is in Kashmir and climbs White Needle followed by Aconcagua in Argentina, the highest mountain in the Andes. Croucher reached the summit of Muztagh Ata (7546 m) in China, which, though not a very technical climb is physically an extremely demanding one. Yet, he is not satisfied only by high mountains. He has made ascents of several different routes in the Alps.
A fine book about a man who does not wish to take life lying down. He decides to shape his own destiny and that he does, in incredible fashion.
Illustrated Note 9 (6187 m) was climbed by 2 teams: Polish led by A. Zboinski in 1984 and Japasnese led by H. Iguchi in 1985, both by SE ridge from the col with KR 3.
Illustrated Note 10 A British expedition led by J. Lee in 1984 reached 7000m on Tirich Mir . They climbed Ghul Lasht Zom (6800 m) and viewed the Tirich Mir group. Saser Kangri II from 4300 m. On left peak climbed. on right peak marked on map.(K. Minemoto)
CONTINENTS IN COLLISION. (The International Karakoram Project). By Keith Miller. Pp. 212, 45 illustrations, 12 maps, 4 sketches, 1982. (George Phillip, London, £12.50).
In 1980 the Royal Geographical Society launched, as part of its 150th anniversary celebrations, a multi-disciplined expedition to the Karakoram.
If the author (the leader of the expedition) had recounted merely the activities of the expedition it would still have been an extremely interesting account - but he has chosen to add history, .geopolitical background, survey and a triangulation up-date, sociological comment, seismographical and geological explanations on the birth of the mountain ranges we now know as Pamir, Alai, Tian Shan, Kun Lun, Hindu Kush, Karakoram, Pir Panjal and the Himalaya - a fascinating array of jig-saw pieces which eventually fit snugly in the reader's mind when he somehow begins to comprehend the complexity of inter-relations and the enormity of the Project that had only three months to complete its various tasks.
The tasks indeed were enormous. The handling of the total operations of a seventy three multi-national membered team working in a variety of locations must have been formidable to begin with - add the whims of the local village heads, the impossible terrain and logistics and you have an inkling of what they had to go through.
In describing the horrendous labyrinth of Pakistani bureaucracy in obtaining permission for the Project, the author finally gets a flash of insight: 'Pakistan in fact works on the "No objection certificate" ' he writes. Welcome to India, my friend - and have not both the countries learnt the original art from the British and refined it to the point of absurdity?!
The tale is told with the utmost sympathy to those Miller had to deal with, acknowledging the generosity he received, recognising and highlighting the devotion to duty of the local populace and praising the heroic efforts of those who maintain lines of communication - the Pakistani equivalent of our Border Roads organization.
This book now will serve for many years as one of the most comprehensive accounts of the Karakoram. The appendix on the history of exploration and the chapters on glacial disintegration and on the formation of the greatest collection of mountains in the world by the collision of the Indian sub-continent with the Eurasian mass, incorporating the theories of continental drift and plate tectonics, are alone worth the price of the book.
The photographs add their own spice to the written word and the sketch maps put the geography into its proper perspective.
The R.G.S. deserves many thanks from the scientific world for their contribution to a better knowledge of one of the least known and one of the most inaccessible parts of our earth.
Soli S. Mehta
HIMALAYA, ENCOUNTERS WITH ETERNITY. By Ashwin Mehta with introduction by Maurice Herzog. Pp. 109, 77 colour photographs, 1985. (Thames & Hudson, London, Price not stated).
This is Ashwin Mehta's first book. The book is divided into two sections. After an elaborate introduction by Maurice Herzog spread over 15 pages, there are 77 selected colour photographs taken by Mehta during his several visits to Himalaya. The photographs are from Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Garhwal, Nepal and Sikkim.
The photographs, their arrangement with suitable captions are excellent and are true representatives of the areas covered. They are mainly concerned with nature, human, animal and plant life upto, at the most, 4000 m and not the entire range of middle Himalaya (2000 to 5000 m) as claimed by Mehta. What one really misses in this collection are the close-up photographs.
Encounters with eternity in Himalaya is highly subjective and the book is not likely to stir this sensation amongst the readers who are already familiar with Himalaya as they have their own preferences and those who are not familiar with Himalaya can hardly
Appreciate the beauty of Himalaya merely from the photo graphs. The photographs may encourage a novice to visit Himalaya and to the familiar to recollect his experiences.
The introduction to the book by Maurice Herzog deals with several aspects of Himalaya, Experience of Tranquillity, Source of religious and spiritual inspiration, History and Geography and its potential wealth if properly explored. However the introduction has very scanty relation, if any with the main theme of the book. The introduction does not mention anything about the photographs to follow. One gets an impression, that the introduction by a world renowned public figure is added to the book to improve the sale prospects of the book particularly amongst the western readers.
The book is one more addition to several good books written by Indian and foreign authors on the subject which is of perennial interest.
Shailesh P. Mahadevia
FIRST ACROSS THE ROOF OF THE WORLD. By Graeme Dingle and Peter Hillary. Pp. 232, 93 colour illustrations, 7 maps, 1982 (Hodder and Stoughton, Auckland, £8.95).
From time immemorial Man has traversed the continents in search of new pastures, conquests, spread of ideas, explorations of the unknown regions and for pure adventure. No barrier could contain his spirit for long, be it a desert, sea, or mountain ranges. Man has found a way to penetrate all those. Indeed he is now penetrating the confines of the outer space! Himalaya has been penetrated in all directions. Man has settled in the folds of its ranges up to even 13000 ft. Many tales of adventure are enacted each year on the high peaks. However, here is a story, simply told, of what is stated as the first high altitude journey across the Himalaya, from east to west from the shadows of Kangchenjunga in Sikkim to K2 in Karakoram, through Nepal, Garhwal, Kulu, Lahul and Ladakh. It was made by a party of three, often joined during certain spans by others from the support team of five. The essential spirit of the endeavour was in the light weight outfit, fast moving and living-off-the-land approach. No train of porters and mules, and minimum of logistical support, spread at convenient locations of human habitation. The journey crossed 5000 km in distance and was spread over ten months.
The two New Zealanders were supported in the endeavour by the Indian Mountaineering Foundation, which provided one participant to accompany them all the way till Ladakh and a leader whose role in that capacity remained obscure, although he did accompany the main team for short spans intermittently. Accompanying the main endeavour was the support team of New Zealanders and Indians which met the trio at predetermined locations, bringing fresh reinforcements of supplies, both material and in spirits.
The story is told by two New Zealanders, by writing alternate chapters, each covering a specific part of the route. Their frankness in describing their attitude to each other is disarming. One would wonder whether the whole journey will ever get accomplished, when early on, in east Nepal, the two New Zealanders had reached a low ebb in human relationship.
Such situations often develop in any confined human interaction and in face of extreme physical and mental strain. However, in the end the common ambition to achieve the traverse kept the team going.
The account of the journey is quite readable, illustrated by a number of good coloured photographs which enhance the interest. There are sketch maps showing sections of the route followed between two specific points. However these have left much to be desired. Many locations which are referred in the text are not shown on the map; what are shown are in too small a lettering for convenient reference. Indeed one feels that an excellent opportunity is missed to record detailed information on the route. These could have been included in the sketch maps with larger scale or in an Appendix.
One is also struck by the number of inaccuracies about the terms for locations and the like; e.g., Sandakphu written as 'Sundarpur', Singla Bazar as 'Simana Bazar', Dhaulagiri as 'Daulagiri', Sundar-dhunga Khal as 'Sundorhunga KhaP, Lhakuri as 'Dakuri', Berhi Ganga as 'Bercehi Ganga', and so on. Even their sponsors' name is given incorrectly at one place as r
Indian Mountaineering Federation' (instead of Foundation). There are other inaccuracies in the use of local words as in Gujar men written as 'Guja', mela as 'mala', chang as 'chung' etc. One would wish the authors had a support team to scrutinise the manuscript as well to lend accuracy and to enhance the permanent reference value to the contents for others to emulate the excellent endeavour that the team has undoubtedly accomplished.
FOREIGN DEVILS ON THE SILK ROAD. By Peter Hopkirk, Pp. 252, 13 illustrations, 2 maps, 1984. (Oxford University Press, Oxford, £3.95).
TRESPASSERS ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD. By Peter Hopkirk, 18 illustrations, 3 maps, 1983. (Oxford University Press, Oxford, £3.50).
It is not everyday that thieves are eulogized. Though bandits vie with heroes for space in ballads, it is seldom that their booty is displayed in marbled halls of national museums. Such is the subject of the first of the reviewed books, Foreign Devils on the Silk Road.
The book aims to tell the story of the long range archaeological raids made by foreigners into Chinese Turkistan in the first quarter of this century. Between them, before the Chinese put a stop to it, these raiders removed wall paintings, manuscripts and sculptures by the ton from the lost cities of the Silk Road. Few of these early adventurers had moral qualms about the Tightness of what they were doing. The fact that this pillage had the sanction of national governments dees not lessen the crime; it merely extends the complicity to a higher level. Unfortunately, nations seldom judge themselves by standards that they establish for their citizens.
In all fairness to the author it must be stated that he does question the morality of these robbers. He dissects the flimsy excuses of those who participated in this archaeological theft and entreats the readers to judge for themselves the morality of the act. But having thus absolved himself of sin, the author proceeds with the narrative, his admiration for his 'Devils' ill-concealed*
The drama is enacted along the Silk Road, mostly around the peripheral oasis of the Taklamakan desert. Once a part of trans-Asian trade routes, the fortunes of these oasis-towns were linked to those of the Tang empire on its eastern end. The trade dwindled over time; so did the glacial streams that were responsible for the physical survival of these oasis towns. By the fifteenth century, the Silk Hoad finally closed, most of these towns lay buried under the sands of the Taklamakan. The Buddhist monuments that did survive the sands fell prey to the armies of Islam as it spread to the Taklamakan.
It started with the discovery of certain manuscripts and their publication in the late 19th century. Deciphered by the Anglo-German orientalist, Dr Augustus Hoernle, these were believed to be older than any other written work. So started the great manuscript race, its culmination being the discovery of the library at Tun-huang. The race was not without deceit - in his excitement Hoernle himself vouched for the authenticity of manuscripts that later were proved to be the nonsensical handiwork of a clever forger.
The pioneer in the race was Sven Hedin, perhaps the greatest explorer in the Central Asian scene. A Swede by birth, his exploits in Central Asia won him many friends and patrons and a knighthood in Great Britain. Fluent in many languages, he was a 'Scientific explorer' who had studied geography under Baron von Richthofen, the celebrated Asiatic explorer. Attracted by stories of buried cities in the Taklamakan desert, he ventured into the desert itself in 1895, and almost perished in doing so. His greatest archaeological triumph was the discovery of the ancient Chinese garrison town of Lou Lan, the circumstances of discovery being accidental rather than methodological.
Hot on his heels, came Aurel Stein, 'the most prodigious combination of scholar, explorer, archaeologist and geographer of his generation and notoriously the greatest among the devils'. Using the recently published works of Hedin, he made repeated forays into the Taklamakan - starting with Dandan-uilik and ending with his phenomenal discovery of the library at Tun-huang - the cave of a thousand Buddhas. He removed from these sites large quantities of manuscripts and pieces of what he would later describe as Serindian art. His booty won him accolade and praise in the European world. The path was now open to all. There were four German expeditions between 1902 and 1914, the first led by Professor Griinwedel of the Ethnological Museum in Berlin and later by Albert von Le Cog.. Concentrating largely in the Turfan region, they managed to procure considerable frescoes, paintings, manuscripts and statutes; ironically some of these were later destroyed in the Allied bombing of Berlin in 1945. Among others there were a French Sinologist called Pelliot, Langdon Warner of the United States and Count Otani of Japan. While one might argue about the morality of their intentions, their efforts in this direction are certainly beyond doubt. The Chinese authorities woke up to this theft soon enough and hastily put an end to a rather successful plunder.
Closely intermingled with the above - both in terms of geographical setting and in its cast of characters is the second book Trespassers on the Roof of the World.
Hopkirk's fascination with Tibet makes absorbing reading. It is with relish that he describes the 'cruellest environment on earth (one can suffer frostbite and sunburn simultaneously in Tibet)' and the stoicism that this environment breeds in its people.
The primary inaccessibility of Tibet was natural. Surrounded by high ranges on three sides and hostile tribes on the fourth, this highland desert lay at about 15,000 ft demanding uncommon determination and physical stamina from those who chose to beat its trails. As if this were not enough, a further deterrent to visitors
was the xenophobia of a race content in its isolation. The lamaite theocracy did its best to keep Lhasa free from all external influence -• any external influence could be construed as a threat to its own position.
As a consequence of this, Tibet remained a white blank in the survey maps till late in the 19th century. A remarkably ingenious solution was found by Capt Montgomerie of the Survey of India -to send especially trained 'natives' under cover into Tibet to gather geographical information. Often disguised as Buddhist pil grims, the pundits (as these spies came to be called) made numerous forays into Tibet - measuring distance by counting measured steps on a rosary, taking surreptitious bearings with instruments concealed in their baggage, these men were largely instrumental in mapping Tibet. One of the greatest among these was Nain Singh who went to Lhasa in 1866 and stayed there for 3 months - he was able to measure its latitude to within 2 minutes of its presently known value. He also met the Dalai Lama in Potala and later visited the gold fields of Thok-Jalung. Kishen Singh, another pundit ventured as far as Tun-huang itself, where Aurel Stein would discover a library 25 years later. For all their efforts and the risk undertaken by these pundits, (discovery would have meant sure death) they were not always adequately rewarded - some of them did not even get pensions.
Then began the race for Lhasa itself. One of the earliest visitors was Sarat Chandra Das (to be immortalized later as Hurree Chunder Mookerjee in Kipling's Kim).
Among the Europeans the first to attempt to gatecrash into Tibet was Col Nikolai Prejevalsky of the Imperial Russian Army. Fearing him to be the spearhead of a Tsarist invasion, he was stopped a week's march from Lhasa. William Rockhill of America decided to go into Lhasa by stealth - starting from the northeast, he ran out of money some 400 miles from Lhasa. Similar was the fate of others - the French Bonvalot who came from Allyn Tagh in the north and the Rijnharts who embarked on the journey with an eleven month old child - after months of ardour through the hostile land, they had to return short of their destination as Tibetan officials would not let them proceed
further. Their methods were interesting. Rev Lansdell came with a letter from the Archbishop of Canterbury, wanted to go as an 'English Lama bearing a communication from the Grand Lama of the West to the Grand Lama of the East', but could not convince the Tibetans of his divine mission.
Not all were as lucky as these were - Dutreuil de Rhins ran out of luck in a Tibetan village and ended up bound, into the river. The 'barbarity* of this oriental race was to better image from the somewhat controversial accounts of Henry Savage Landor. Landor wrote in graphic detail of his capture and torture in Tibet, apparently having relished every bit of the 'gruesome* proceedings.
The race to Lhasa ended in 1904, as Colonel Francis Young-husband marched into Lhasa at the head of the British Imperial Army after London decided that the Tibetans be taught some manners. In a sense, the race was never won but only ended - storming into Lhasa with cannons was a far cry from what Young-husband himself wanted to do 15 years earlier - to go Lhasa disguised as a Yarkandi trader.
The ultimate trespass came at the hands of the Chinese - when the Red Guards moved into Lhasa in the fifties, it marked the end of a long period of uncertain relationship between Lhasa and Peking, The question of the Chinese presence in Tibet is tricky. 'No one today pretends that old Tibet was a feudal paradise or that the Chinese have done nothing at all to improve the lot of ordinary Tibetans. It is merely tragic that as much Tibetan blood had to be spilled to achieve as little.* The romantics continue to lament the passing of what was essentially an inegalitarian theocracy - the romanticism is common to our own Raj memorabilia.
Writing a book on exploration is not easy; one gets bogged down in the wealth of historical details even when one intends to keep alive the readers' interest. Whatever traces of this failing Hopkirk has shown in the first book, the second one is a masterpiece. The two shall remain, at least for some time, the only method of exploration into Central Asia and Tibet.
MOUNTAINS OF THE GODS. By Ian Cameron. Pp. 248, illustrated, maps, 1984. (Century Publishing, London, £12.95).
‘I have written Mountains of the Gods
because it seems to me that the more we know about this threatened paradise and its fiercely independent people the better’, (p. 9)
The 'paradise' referred to is the mountain complex of Central Asia and the author undertakes the daunting task of condensing the saga of these mountains in an appropriately abridged form.
The formation of the mountains is explained concisely. Facts are presented along with inter-related mythology. A brief description of the terrain and inhabitants peculiar to each mountain region follows. In particular, the ethnic contrast between people separated by the ranges is highlighted; most strikingly perhaps, by the case of the Mongols and the Naga. The author emphasises that where the mingling of diverse races has occurred;
'The result has been to create a multitude of small, not-very-stable communities.' (p. 29) Thus in Nepal, there are 4 Mongoloid peoples, 9 Mongoloid-cum-Negroid peoples and 6 predominantly Negroid peoples. It must be mentioned that to refer to Indians as race (ibid)
is as erroneous as saying that in India the spoken language is Indian.
The author distinguishes between the early incidental travellers through the mountains and the explorers. The former, whom he labels 'pathfinders' were:
'Men who passed through or skirted the mountain complex for reasons other than a wish to explore it.' (p. 31)
the pathfinders, he lists personalities as diverse as the Chinese scholar, Hsuan Tsang, Genghis Khan and the Jesuit missionaries.
The chapter on exploration draws attention to the underlying motives that prompted the early explorers. Many considerations of politics and trade hinged upon a proper demarcation of the mountain areas and this inspired extensive exploration by the two major contestants for the spoils, viz the Russians and the British. The most significant effort by the British was the Great Trigonometrical Survey of India, and befitting tribute is paid to its lesser known heroes. The most remarkable of these was William Henry Johnson who mapped vast areas and included in his achievements the crossing of the Karakoram Pass in 1863, establishing observation points in the course of his duties at heights of over 21,000 ft. The contribution of the khalasis is also recognised, as is that of the Pundit explorers, Nain Singh and Kinthup.
The largest single chapter in the book is devoted to the exploits of the climbers. This is justified since climbing is perhaps the only activity which attaches such importance to the mountains per
se. Many of the major pioneering climbs are mentioned, including a not much known but nearly successful attempt on Kabru (N or S?) by a Norwegian pair in 1907. For the sake of completeness, there is also a brief chapter on scientific activity in the mountains.
The appendices are informative in their brevity. The plates, both colour and black and white, are well selected and of excellent quality. There are a few glaring mistakes in the book, and a few significant ones need to be mentioned. Now Shilla (p. Ill) is not 23,050 ft but 20,120 ft. A 1000 miles (p. 121) do not equal 600 km. Lake Manasbal (p. 123) is in Kashmir, not Tibet. It also seems unlikely that W. W. Graham could have climbed an unnamed peak near Kangchenjunga and later in the same season have attempted Nanda Devi and Dunajiri (sic)
(pp. 131-132), Willi Merkl's expedition to Nanga Parbat (p. 180) is backdated by a hundred years to 1832 and there are several typographical errors ('Rakhoit' for instance, p. 180) which tend to jar an otherwise smooth journey through the book.
Ian Cameron succeeds in sustaining one's interest from one page to the next. In presenting facts succinctly from well-selected subjects, the author has produced a very readable and informative book.
Muslim H. Contractor
ERIC SHIPTON THE SIX MOUNTAIN-TRAVEL BOOKS. Introduction by Jim Perrin. Pp. 800, illustrations, maps, 1985. (Diadem Books, London and The Mountaineers, Seattle, £ 16.95).
N. E. Odell, who climbed Nanda Devi with Tilman, once narrated an incident. While returning from the Nanda Devi Sanctury after the first ascent in 1936, they heard the voice of Shipton drowning in the Rishi ganga. He was made to cross and Shipton said that he had 'just been back' from Everest and received the news of the ascent. He came here to congratulate them! In 1936 Shipton was on Everest, missing out the ascent of Nanda Devi. They had extreme bad weather on Everest and the large scale of the expedition frustrated Shipton. But not to be left out in the spirited ascent he joined a survey party to congratulate his friends for climbing 'his' mountain!
More than any other venture Shipton's exploration of the route through the Rishi gorge attracted visions of a formidable terrain, undaunted men and great achievement. So much so that almost 30 years after the event when we planned an expedition to the Sanctuary, there were comments: 'You all are heading for trouble. What do you all think, you are Shiptons and Tilmans?' We did manage but none of us became a Shipton; for Shipton had many varied aspects of greatness which very few can hope to match.
There were three major facets of Shipton. First was his teaming up with Maj H. W. Tilman, forming a most formidable partnership which led to many explorations. They brought back meticulous knowledge about the area and contributed fascinating books to the mountain literature. Jim Perrin in his introduction mentions:
'The differences in their characters probably acted as a bond between Shipton and Tilman, and account for their sharing of some of the most ambitious undertakings of their lives. For Tilman, his own youth lost, Shipton's enthusiasm and boundless energy must have been inspiring and invigorating, whilst the fatherless Shipton may well have found that Tilman's wry, benevolent maturity fulfilled a need in him at a certain stage of his life. In mountaineering terms, the roles were reversed, and the more experienced Shipton was the leader.'
Based on this was Shipton's urge to travel, explore and climb. He was instrumental in the explorations of the route to the Nanda Devi Sanctuary, Shaksgam valley and many areas of the Karako-ram. This was the most fruitful period of his life and Shipton would be best remembered for these explorations. At the apex of these explorations was the finding of the route to Everest from the south, the route by which Everest was ultimately climbed.
The infamous episode about the leadership of the 1953 Everest expedition was the third major event in his life. The details of how Shipton was first made as leader and then disposed of are too well-known. It Will suffice to quote:
'What emerges, from close examination of relevant Himalayan Committee minutes and written submissions from its surviving members, is a bizarre tale of fudging and mudging, falsification of official minutes, unauthorized invitations, and opportunistic and desperate last-minute seizures of initiative by a particular faction. It is a perfect illustration of the cock-up rather than the conspiracy theory of history, from which little credit rebounds upon the British mountaineering establishment of the time.'
Shipton never returned to Himalaya for any serious trip for the rest of his life. This collection of six books of Shipton covers his life as an explorer and we come to know what was a Shiptonian era. Excellent re-drawn maps, new photographs and a list of literature and travels by Shipton complete the book. Recently it was suggested (Mountain
105) that perhaps Shipton 'was in habit of telling tall stories about his expeditions whenever he felt the occasion needed a lift . . . .' But then while talking don't we all do that to some extent? There is no doubt that his written word and books are a most authoritative source of reference.
Now that the Everest is climbed, lets get on with the real game: this is credited to be a Shiptonian remark (on the first ascent of Everest). The publication of this book makes that 'spirit' available to the younger readers easily. It is hoped that the mountaineers will 'get on with if as a true tribute to this great explorer.
A JOURNEY IN LADAKH. By Andrew Harvey. Pp. 236, sketch, 1983. (Jonathan Cape, London, £ 8.50).
Andrew Harvey develops an interest in Buddhism while at Oxford in the early 1970s. He is attracted towards Buddhism's rejection of all the self-dramatising intensities by which he feels he is living. The five years that follow are a period of haphazard enthusiasm for Eastern philosophy.
In 1976, Harvey begins a series of journeys to Buddhist shrines in and around India. Eventually he decides to travel to Ladakh, one of the last places on earth where Tibetan Buddhist society can be experienced.
July 1981. .Harvey finds himself on a bus from Srinagar to Leh, the journey being 'a rite of initiation'! Harvey is mesmerised by the physical beauty of the land. Nothing he has read or imagined has prepared him for the splendour and majesty of the mountains - the first gift Ladakh gives him. It leaves him in a silence so truly stunned and wondering that words of description emerge from it very slowly, and at first only in broken images - 'a river glimpsed a thousand feet below the road, small flowers nodding in the crevasses of the vast rocks, sudden glimpses of ravines pierced and sheltered by the light that breaks down from the mountains'. The images he sees seem to exist in a time of their own, glimpsed purely as they are in their essence. He is struck by the abandoned happiness that pervades in lieu of the civilised ironies and melancholies of Europe. Gradually he is able to get physically and emotionally closer to Tibetan Buddhism as it is lived' and practised; in monastries and through warm and intimate relationships that he cultivates with the local people. Harvey seems to almost 'discover' the essence of Tibetan Buddhism in the course of his contact with the Rimpoche (a spiritual head).
Each of the three sections of the book is broken into a myriad independent paragraphs. The author skips from one experience to the next. I found this technique a trifle disturbing. With the exception of this negative sentiment, I found the book delightful. Harvey writes beautifully and stylishly (as only an Englishman can write English!). That he is a poet is unmistakable. His command over the language is absolute. He paints pictures with words. Through his lucid style, he brings to life a picture of every scene he describes in the readers mind. He succeeds in casting on the reader too, the spell that the dream-like mysticism of the land casts on him. He is most articulate and coherent in conveying the philosophy of Tibetan Buddhism, no easy task, considering that the Tibetan tradition is one of direct oral transmission of its teachings.
At the end of it all however, I was left with the feeling that East is East, and West is West
While Harvey has almost grasped the essence of Tibetan Buddhism, something eludes him. It is as if the Westerner can make this emotional and spiritual voyage only on a two-way ticket.
THE FALL OF A SPARROW. By Dr Salim Ali. Pp. 265, 71 illustrations, 1985. (Oxford University Press, Bombay, Rs 110).
This book makes a fascinating reading about the life of the world renowned ornithologist. To the specialist, it gives an opportunity to study the background of the various achievements despite resistance from elders and circumstances. To the general reader, it unfolds the significance and value of the study of life of birds,, animals and environment in general. Starting from his early life Dr Salim Ali narrates chronologically about his various birding expeditions to a number of princely states viz Hyderabad,. Bharatpur, Kutch and to Burma, Tibet (Kailas and Manasarovar)r
Sikkim, Bhutan and Afghanistan.
Dr Salim Ali was always prepared to undertake birding expeditions and seized the opportunity whenever the circumstances were favourable. During the expeditions he kept meticulous notes and records about his observations and subsequently published authoritative scientific papers and books. The information obtained from the books and articles written earlier is only the starting point and the facts presented therein are to be verified from field-studies. His achievements as an ornithologist are mainly based on his detailed and painstaking field-studies about life and behaviour of birds. His first correct interpretation of the extraordinary breeding biology of the Baya Weaver bird, given on pp. 221-223 makes interesting reading.
The first-ever organised scheme for bird ringing and migration study in the sub-continent was launched by Dr Salim Ali with the support of World Health Organisation in 1959. The project has produced information, based on solid factual data, of great scientific value concerning bird migration in India.
The Keoladeo, Ghana Bharatpur bird sanctuary and now a. National Park, which is on the national and international tourist map, was once only a private duck-shooting preserve of Bharatpur rulers. Dr Salim Ali realised the value of this wet land and at his initiative converted it into a world famous sanctuary. The sanctuary provides an excellent opportunity for bird watchers with distinct concentration and varieties of species of resident and migratory water birds at appropriate seasons. The prolonged unbroken period of more than 6 months for watching of water birds is a feature unequalled elsewhere in the world. It is the only wetland in the sub-continent where rare and beautiful snow-white Siberian cranes winter.
Prof J. B. S. Haldane, appreciating and referring to the work of Dr Salim Ali, in his popular lectures and scientific conferences was giving example of what was possible to achieve by industry and dedication with no more sophisticated a tool than a pair of binoculars. This should be an eye-opener to a number of our young scientists who complain about lack of facilities for their failure to contribute substantially to original research work.
The narration of Dr Salim AH is punctuated with several humourous anecdotes. Early in his book he writes how a telegram sent as shall I come and help
was converted by postal authorities and delivered as small income send help.
During visit to Bhutan, he notices a sign board, No entry. Road in dangerous condition. Survivors will
Again, when he writes about his brother Hamid Ali, he recollects how Hamid Ali after 50 years of happy married life sent invitations to his friends announcing that he was getting married and inviting them to be present to witness the ceremony. The friends could not believe, and they were genuinely relieved and burst into laughter when they learnt the secret about the marriage - namely; according to Shariat law, a Muslim may in his life-time give away his property to whomsoever he pleases. But once he has died, it is obligatory that his property would go to his legal heirs however distant or indirect and irrespective of any Will. Hamid Ali being a Muslim and childless, the only way in which he could ensure his property going where he wished was by getting his marriage registered under the Civil Marriages Act, thereby making Shariat law inoperative in his case.
One can discern sterling qualities in Dr Salim Ali when one reads about his love for his institution: Bombay Natural History Society. When Dr Salim Ali was invited in 1974, to nominate an individual, or institution for the first J. Paul Getty Wild Life Conservation prize of $50,000, he nominated B.N.H.S. and submitted the achievements of B.N.H.S. in the cause of wild life conservation and nature education in India. When his nomination was not upheld by an international jury comprising 13 outstanding conservationists of world stature he took satisfaction in at least drawing their attention to the remarkable work done by the Society ever since its inception more than 80 years ago. In 1976, when he was awarded the same J. Paul Getty Wild Life Conservation award, a lion's share of the prize was immediately given by him for the benefit of B.N.H.S.
Dr Salim Ali has written several popular and scholarly books. His book with Dr Dillon Ripley on Handbook of the Birds of India and Pakistan
in 10 volumes provides a permanent record about the birds. The publication of National Book Trust Common Birds,
translated in a number of regional languages has reached masses in India. The books The Indian Hill Birds, The Birds of Sikkim
and Field guide to the birds of Eastern Himalaya
would be of particular interest to trekkers.
It is interesting to know precise reasons for Dr Salim Ali's love for wild life. He had been an avid hunter and gave it up 'not as an act of contrition but for a more pragmatic reason namely, all round deterioration of the wild life position in the country with many species pushed to the verge of extinction'. 'For me. wild life conservation is for down to earth practical purposes -as internationally accepted - for scientific, cultural, aesthetic, recreational and economic reasons and sentimentality has nothing to do with it. I consider the current trend of conservation education as given to the young on grounds of ahimsa
alone-something akin to the preservation of holy cow - unfortunate and totally misplaced.'’
The scientific work of Dr Salim AH has been understood and appreciated by scientists all over the world. However it will take many years before the value of the work of this Father bf Indian Ornithology is understood and appreciated by the masses in India. It is appropriate to reproduce and endorse some of the lines written by Sir Dillon Ripley on the occasion of Dr Salim Ali's 75th birthday.
For our part we know all his knowledge will glow
For ages to come his lamp will shine out.
71 photos from his personal album, glossary and index enhances the value of the book considerably. The book is a must for all thinking persons.
Shailesh P. Mahadevia
LIGHTWEIGHT EXPEDITIONS TO THE GREAT RANGES. Edited by Charles Clarke and Audrey Salkeld. Pp. 87, 1984. (The Alpine Club, London, £6).
This booklet contains the proceedings of a symposium sponsored by the Alpine Club for mountaineers and expedition organisers. The present doyens of British climbers had assembled to discuss the problems of lightweight expeditions to high ranges. In the words of Lord Hunt, 'we have surely endorsed the principle -' we have rediscovered, if it needed to be, the proposition - that "small is beautiful". We have noted the shift towards smallness and simplicity in setting up expeditions, lightly equipped and with parties composed of close and trusted climbing companions.' However, having said this the problems of small expeditions are quite large and real. These are set out by the speakers in the preliminary talks, covering the regions to go to, minimising the costs, permits and bureaucratic hurdles, medical issues, gear and food. John Cleare states that the mountains of Nepal, India and Pakistan are most interesting mountains in the world and contains excellent goals for lightweight expeditions. He defines lightweight expedition 'to mean that you don't have to carry a rucsack full of money . . ., where at least one can have an excellent climbing holiday on a worthy peak for under £1000 including one's air fare - if you know the ropes'. This booklet on the symposium contains the vital tit-bits of this rope trick given by the experts in the field.
Due to inherent weakness in numbers, the lightweight expedition in alpine style to high ranges must be restricted to climbers with extensive experience and in supreme fitness. High speed and mobility are the key to success and safe return. There is a stimulating discussion about the utility of the maximum oxygen uptake in predetermining potential altitude adaptation. However in the end, the real experience seems to be the best indicator. Chronic oxygen lack above 17,500 ft causes not only 'slow dying', but leads to poor judgement. This is potentially lethal at upper altitude. Don Whillans gives sound advice not to let ambitions override your caution.
At the end of his very practical talk on 'Where is Himalayan Climbing Going?', Doug Scott sums up: 'How often it happens that it seems the attempt will have to be abandoned because of bad weather, illness, team dissention, etc then a series of unexpected events allows you to achieve the original ambition but only when free of that ambition; beyond ego but now with some humility . . . knowing you're lucky to be there'.
This booklet is a stimulating reading for all those who desire to achieve high targets with a team of few committed climbers.
Jagdish C. Nanavati
THE HEART OF A CONTINENT. By Sir Francis Younghusband. Pp. 409, 18 illustrations, 4 maps, reprint 1984 (first published 1896). (Oxford University Press, Hong Kong, Rs 215).
VISITS TO HIGH TARTARY, YARKAND AND KASHGAR. By Robert Shaw. Pp. 486, 14 illustrations, 1 map, reprint 1984 (first published 1871). (Oxford University Press, Hong Kong, Rs 200).
BAYONET3 TO LHASA. By Peter Fleming. Pp. 319, 30 illustrations, 5 maps, reprint 1985 (first published 1961). (Oxford University Press, Hong Kong, Rs 80).
Some of the classics of Central Asia travel and exploration have now been made available to us, thanks to reprints. The Great Game, played between England and Russia over Central Asia was indirectly responsible for bringing about the adventures narrated and together, these would be amongst the most authoritative references on Central Asia. Two of these books were first published in the late nineteenth century which is much before the birth of the Himalayan Club and hence these would not have been reviewed in any of the earlier volumes of the H.J.
The reprint of The Heart of a Continent
contains the addition of an introduction by Peter Hopkirk who outlines the life of the author. The book describes Younghusband's journey to Manchuria in China, visit to Peking, across the Gobi desert, then into Turkestan and onto Yarkand. He then enters India by crossing over the unexplored Mustagh Pass, travels in Hunza, goes to the Pamirs and also to Kashgar. He not only describes vividly his extensive travels but also covers the people, history and cultural aspects of the areas.
Visits to High Tartary, Yarkand and Kashgar
also contains an introduction by Peter Hopkirk where he explains the intricacies of the Great Game and the part played by the author in it. As the title suggests, Shaw's travels were from Leh, Ladakh to Yarkand and Kashgar. A background of the region is provided by chapters on 'The tribes of Toorkistan and Tartary* and 'Recent History of Eastern Toorkistan*.
Francis Younghusband figures prominently once more in Central Asia exploration and this time it is the famous Younghusband Mission to Lhasa of 1903-04, narrated by Peter Fleming in Bayonets to Lhasa,
with an introduction by Brian Shaw. This is a move in the Great Game which is again discussed in detail and the expedition has more than a fair share of dangers and obstacles leading to the signing of the treaty between Britain and Tibet.
All will welcome the availability of these rare books, particularly now that these areas are easy of access and open to visit.
RUNNING THE HIMALAYAS. By Richard and Adrian Crane. Pp. 129, 1984. (New English Library, England, £ 10.95).
The unprecedented feat of running across the whole length of the Himalayan foothills was performed by the brothers Richard and Adrian Crane in a mere 101 days in 1983. It startled and impressed both hardened trekkers and mountaineers alike, and confounded the scepticism of all the experts of whom they had asked advice in its planning. Even more admirably they used their 2000 mile run to publicise and promote the work of Intermediate Technology - a British based charity providing the technology, finance and administration for a wide range of small scale development projects throughout the developing world and including several in Nepal and India. It is estimated so far that the donations and contributions to IT'S funds generated by their effort are in excess of £ 50,000.
Now we have the book of their expedition, largely compiled from the diaries which both brothers maintained en-route, but drawn together with the help of a collaborator. In many respects it is unfortunate that the quality of the book fails to match that of the achievement it describes.
The organisation of the chapters is often disjointed, obviously reflecting the influence of several hands in their preparation. The power of the original raw diaries appears to have been muted in effect, in order to try to provide a general scenic and social commentary on the country through which they passed. As a result one neither receives the full flavour of their personal adventures, nor obtains a wholly adequate geographical guide to their route. One feels in reading, that such conflicting themes could have been easily reconciled if more time had been taken in preparing and editing the book and perhaps also if its content had been slightly expanded.
The reproduction of the colour photographs is appalling for so expensive a publication - the colour balance grossly distorted in favour of the reds, so that the brothers appear to be suffering from 2nd degree burns in many of the action shots!
There is also the problem of avoiding monotony and repetition in an account of such a long journey where the content of each day is unvarying. This is generally successfully overcome by the insertion of brief recollections of home and family life at several stages of the book, as well as the skilful portrayal of the major dramas such as the return trip to Everest base camp. However the middle section of the narrative is unable to hide the daily tedium and the series of brief diary notes covering the section from Baijnath to Manali is especially uninspiring.
Yet in spite of these shortcomings the book has many positive recommendations, not least in the honesty of the brothers' diaries in expressing their sometimes unfairly hostile reactions to the local peoples upon whose hospitality they entirely depended, and their often turbulent relations with each other. The mental stress which their massive challenge had placed upon them is clearly evidenced and excellently communicated in the book. Both brothers exhibited rapid fluxes of mood and opinion, criticising the affectations of the other yet at a later stage displaying those very same traits themselves. They make no attempt to present their personalities in a falsely virtuous light, and the result is two 'real' and at times exciting personal accounts, in which we as readers can see our own weaknesses and hypocrisies clearly mirrored.
In particular Adrian is able to see the transient nature of their experience as he sits enjoying the spartan comforts of a fire and tea at Kingdom gompa, which he comments were 'all a man needed and during our journey we have come to appreciate these simple things. But it was still unreal, like being in a play. We knew that barring disaster we would be stumbling back to civilisation. Suddenly these things would not be enough ‘. How many ot
us have extolled the simple values learnt in the mountains and yet on returning to our normal lives have continued to pursue our everyday indulgences, and demands without so much as a glimmer of self-reproach? Such simply expressed reflections may strike a note of truth for us all.
THE GARHWAL KUMAON HIMALAYAS. By Jashbhai Patel. Pp. 248, sketches, 2 maps, 1985. (For Private Circulation, Distributed by The Himalayan Club, Bombay, Rs 75).
This is a labour of love and surely a lot of labour has gone into its compilation. The idea of the book started when the author accompanied his aged mother on a pilgrimage (described in the opening chapter). It was then that he realized the paucity of information either in existing literature or the various Government tourist information centres - at one of these he was asked by the receptionist to write an account of his pilgrimage on his return!!
Patel has gone well beyond that. He gives a general topographic account of the Great Himalayan Range and then returns to Kumaon and Garhwal for a more detailed account of trekking possibilities.
The maps are as varied in style as the number of authorities he has quoted. Unfortunately, not all of them are of adequate quality and the need for uniformity in presentation calls for some help for the second edition. The author was strapped for funds and this aspect is therefore understandable.
Elsewhere the inaccuracies centre around the spellings of peaks and that of Himalayas
instead of Himalaya.
None of the above should seriously detract from an extremely readable reference book.
The later chapters give a brief catalogue of flora and fauna of the Kumaon region. Patel deserves our gratitude for his devotion to a task well and truly begun. This work cries out for continuation. Copies are available with Hon. Secretary, The Himalayan Club.
Soli S. Mehta
PETER AUFSCHNEITER: SEIN LEBEN IN TIBET. (His Life in Tibet). 1983. (Innsbruck).
This is absolutely one of the best books on Tibet published after the last World War. It is on Peter Aufschneiter, already more or less a legendary person and great explorer of Tibet, also companion of Harrer on their escape to Lhasa: Seven Years in
We must be grateful to Martin Brauen at Ethnographic Museum in Zurich for making it possible to compile and publish this book. But also the well-known Nepal-expert and movie producer Jan Boon should be mentioned - as well as others listed in the beginning of the book like Paul Bauer and Blanche Olschak.
The text is most substantial, the quality of the photos is high, the printing is fine and the map sketches are clear and instructive. In the appendix there are more valuable facts of different kinds.
No doubt: among all Germans dealing with the Himalaya, Peter Aufschneiter was the outstanding man for decades - as linguist and scientist and expert on Tibet. The book about him, is in the same spirit and traditions as from the great days of Sven Hedin. No'one will read this story of a modest character and great modern explorer without being impressed. The make-up and quality of the German edition is certainly notable.
THE RIDICULOUS MOUNTAINS. Tales of the Doctor and his friends in the Scottish Highlands.. By G. J. F. Dutton. Pp. 158, 1984. (Diadem Books, London, £ 7.95).
Since 'the oromaniacal quest takes the same sanely irrational course* everywhere, it does not matter that this book is very localised in its contents. The tales centre about a mildly eccentric Doctor ('multijointedly competent as a harvestman crossing a fly-sheet') and his two companions, the Apprentice and the Narrator. The Doctor possesses a recurring propensity to land into seemingly improbable situations, often to the dismay of his two companions and, occasionally, to the delight of the reader. The stories are written with a quiet sense of humour bordering on restraint. Among other things, the Himalayan climber learns from this book that the Inner-Line permit system has its equivalent in Scotland.
This book is recommended for a bedside chuckle.
Muslim H. Contractor
TREKKING IN INDIA. By Gian Chand and Manohar Puri. Pp. 137, 16 maps, 1983. (International Publishers, New Delhi, Rs 75).
This is a guide book that covers the popular places for trekkers in Indian Himalaya (that is except Nepal) and a brief mention of Bhutan. First 40 pages are devoted to introduction and suggestions about various mundane aspects like 'planning', 'clothing' and 'environment'. Himachal Pradesh is covered in detail and the other areas are full with suggestions.
Like all other guide books only those areas which are before the 'inner line* and open to sahibs are covered. A more fascinating and wider trekking area exists beyond this. For the price, the get up and information is routine.
It is only hoped that such books at least give a suggestion to trekkers to visit different areas and save a few popular areas from ruin.
TREKKING IN NEPAL. By Toru Nakano. Pp. 232, 470 illustrations, 14 maps, 1985. (Allied Publishers, New Delhi).
The much needed English edition is here. Various treks of Nepal are covered by innumerable photographs and useful maps region-wise. The printing is, of course, excellent and almost every inch of every trek is described - day to day which may take away some of the enjoyment of a trek. In addition there is a town guide of Kathmandu and general advice for trekkers. Now you can trek with the affluence of a Japanese trekker, at least as far as the information is concerned. Almost the ultimate word on trekking in Nepal!
MAPS OF NEPAL. By Harka Gurung. 1983. (The Orchid Press, Bangkok).
Dr Gurung's latest book is perhaps his most important so far - and also a very important basic volume for all interested in the Nepal-Himalaya. The sub-heading is: 'Inventory and Evaluation' and the various chapters are thus dealing with all so far published maps on Nepal, of all kinds. One can only congratulate the author for this distinguished work, containing all possible known information on Nepalese maps. An appendix is adding more valuable facts and especially a list of all peaks along Nepal's northern frontier with their coordinates and heights according to the latest survey results. Also an author index is to be found at the end, and the colour Landsat map of the country.
The standard of printing and binding is nearly of Japanese class, the colours are generally clear and well composed too. The publisher deserves to be credited for this product which no doubt can be recommended for all those who in any way are dealing with Himalayan and Nepalese maps.
ALPINE CLUB LIBRARY CATALOGUE. Volume one. Books and Periodicals. The Alpine Club. Pp. 600, 1982. (Heinemann, London).
An exhaustive catalogue of the books and periodicals in the Alpine Club library at London. The books are classified in the various categories with individual details and references. A 'Classification Scheme* index allows for easy reference to the subject of interest.
A most useful and monumental work, useful not only for reference at the library but for all researchers. The library also offers photo-copy service. One looks forward to the next volume.