1. RIMO — Mountain on the Silk Road.



RIMO — Mountain on the Silk Road. By Peter Hillary. Pp. 127, 57 illustrations, 1 sketch, 1988. (Hodder and Stoughton, London. £ 12.95).

Peter Hillary has written quite a revealing tale of a mountaineering venture to Rimo (7385 m) in the Eastern Karakoram, which one hopes is not typical of joint ventures by foreigners with Indian climbers. The reader is of course fed only one side of the story, but should have enough perception to realise the problems and practical difficulties encountered by both sides in I he argument.

First, some nit-picking; the Indian contingent of the Indo-British expedition of 1985 was from 'The Mountaineers' of Bombay, not from the 'Bombay Climbers' Club' (p.17) — it is not necessary to add the word River to Umlung Nala (nala itself is .1 tributary river) (p. 32 etc) — ponywallahs is one word (throughout the book) — Ram chikor should read Ramchukor (p.b53) — Rajastani should read Rajasthani (p. 20) — Mount is unnecessary in Mount Rimo (p. 83) — referring to a bank of a river (or a glacier), the word 'true' is unnecessary as the right or left bank is always the one while moving down with the How (and your back to the source) (p. 87) — Gaumukh, dear Peter, not Gormuk (p. 133) — Capt Sinna instead of Sinha (p. 153),. understandable as he could not possibly have presented his visiting card to Peter while frisking him for the expedition films — but 'chung' instead of 'chhang' (p. 164) is inexplicable from someone who has spent so much time amongst the Sherpas of I Nepal. The nit-picking is over, and we can get on with the review.

Normally, a reviewer's remit is to describe and comment on contents of the book. To some extent, I have cheated, by Checking up on the facts of the rather biased picture which the author wishes to paint for the edification of the reader. Half-truths never make good reading and the snide approach to the story would have been amusing (to some readers) if it had had a ring of honesty about it — which alas is absent in a large measure. I couldn't help referring this book to other members of the expedition — so obvious was the one-sided carping.

The problem really starts with the rules of the game. All foreign expeditions must have the approval of the Indian Mounineering Foundation, who will, on receipt of payment of not an inconsiderable fee, issue permits to visit the region and climb a designated peak by a particular approach route. In the case of senstive border areas, there is the additional hurdle of obtaining free passage from the local Army formation. The Army is normally co-operative as long as the route of the expedition is clearly spelt out. They are responsible for the safety of any civilian that enters a security zone and once the plan is approved, there is very little hassle that the expedition need face. Much has been made by Peter of the delay in clearing the party once they had reached Leh. What he doesn't reveal is that the original route over the Saser la and up and along the Shyok river was changed at the last minute to one crossing the Depsang Plains — a considerable diversion — because they realized then that the Shyok would be in spate. No homework done by the team, so the Indian bureaucrats must be blamed. No expedition before or after this has ever been allowed to change their itinerary, but an exception was made for this bunch after moving the highest authorities — in the name of goodwill. Going back one step earlier, this was not an Indo-International Rimo-Shyok Expedition as mentioned in the book. It was approved and sponsored as the Indo-Australian Rimo-Shyok Expedition which was initiated by the Australian Terry Ryan (the deputy leader). The I.M.F. has been cautious (after the death of Harsh Bahuguna in the International Everest Expedition of 1971) in avoiding more than one other nation where Indian participation is involved in joint ventures. Changes after the initial approval of the application causes delays and embarrassment to the I.M.F. in obtaining fresh clearances. In this case the purely Strain contingent was joined by climbers from New Zealand, Britain and the States. Here again the I.M.F. bent over backwards to make an exception.

Peter was well aware that all films need to be submitted to the I.M.F. for development for security reasons, yet he was silly enough to smuggle some out during the early part of the exercise; he then complains at the harsh manner the remaining rolls were collected from him. Surely a case of punishment fitting the crime. Making a dramatic issue of it in the script robs it of its objectivity. These are things that all foreign expeditions should be aware of and mentally prepare themselves to play fair, and not to over-react to the implementation thereby bringing upon themselves a like reaction from their counterparts amongst the powers-that-be, who have a job to do like everyone else.

The description of the journey towards their destination is quite picturesque, except that the lurid details of the state of the transport vehicles (they are often literally held up by pieces of wire and string) becomes a bit tiresome — we have all read it so often in so many mountain books that here it all sounds stale. The team breaks up into smaller parties to help with the shortage of vehicles, then of ponies, so that it is not re-assembled until the base camp has been established. This entails the crossing of Saser la, from the Nubra valley to the mighty Shyok, then across the Depsang Plains, over the Depsang la, down to the Chip Chap river and eventually to the South Rimo glacier, where the base camp is sited. One can have no idea of the isolation and hostility of the environment until one reads the description that Peter offers us. His prose is poetic at times and the reader almost the feels the dust in his lungs as he visualizes the magnificent variety of coloured rock that he passes by in this dry sand landscape. The team try to lighten the daily monotony by playing cricket (at 17,000 ft). Peter has a sense of humour, which he tends to spoil by a mixture of cynicism and insensitivity to the eastern culture. Finally they reach the base camp and they can get on with the job of climbing the mountain.

The job of serious climbing is hindered by lousy weather — it is not true that Ladakh is mostly dry. 'The blue skies of Ladakh' becomes a bit of a sick joke to the climbers, as they shelter in their tents from the high winds and snowstorms. Slowly but surely the ABC and the higher camps are stocked. The short bursts of good weather enables the south face to be negotiated and after much effort the southeast ridge is gained and C2 established on it.

There is some excellent description of the state of the SE ridge above C2. The going is not only tough but wind-slab snow flaking away from under their feet and the crevasses in the most unexpected places combine with the fast deteriorating weather to put an end to the gallant attempt. There is no time to wait for fair weather — in fact time is running out in other ways.

Now comes the truly inexplicable part of the whole expedition. When the climbers descend to ABC, surprises are in store for I horn. Col Prem Chand (the leader) has left earlier, as have a lew of the Indian contingent. One Indian member packs up because his astrologer has advised him against any risk taking, one month before his marriage! One wonders at the behaviour of I ho Indian members who are made to appear as if they have abandoned their foreign friends. But the perceptive reader has some nagging doubts, fed by the author's own little 'asides' in his tale. I thought some explanation was surely necessary and Ihe views expressed by some of the Indian contingent now shows the other side of the coin. You already suspect that the Indians are being subjected to pin-pricks, but now you learn of the constant barrage of abusive language often accompanied by taunts and ridicule. Even the leader Col Prem Chand had had enough, and the 'astrologer' was an off-the-cuff excuse to get the hell mil of their odious company. The immature rumbustious behavior continued well past the warning signals which flashed to exercise restraint. The Indian Army, let it be clearly known by all, comprises fine men of discipline, courtesy and courage. Some awful lot of baiting must have been inflicted for them to behave as they did, and eventually Peter loses whatever sympathy the reader may have had initially for his travails. 'Serve the blighters right' was certainly my reaction.

We do not learn from the book that when Col Prem Chand had decided to abandon the attempt in the face of bad weather and time limitations, Peter and his mates decided to ignore the leader's call and continued to remain on the mountain in defiance, throwing logistics and administrative arrangements into confusion. The Colonel and most of the Indians therefore leave on time, as planned. On arrival at the base, the foreign members are ordered to leave the next day.

Magan Bissa who is left 'in charge' refuses to wait one more day to allow the equipment to be brought down from the ABC. It is left to the foreign members to bring all that down to base and hump 45 kg each to rejoin the departed main body. As the heavily burdened group descends down the valley to Gapshan, they are accosted by an Army Captain who has them all lined up with the contents of their packs out for inspection. Purpose? the collection of all exposed film in their possession. An odd spot to carry out such a simple chore, but that is what you deserve for smuggling out some films earlier on. The descent continues and at last they re-unite with the pony caravan. Col Prem Chand orders Magan Bissa by radio to wait for the beleaguered climbers an extra day. From then on, the accumulated frustration on both sides flares up again and again. A truck to carry them over the Khardung la arrives — it packs up below the pass and the loads have to be carried over to the other side where another truck would arrive to take them down. While the loads are being ferried from the break-down point to a construction workers' hut, there is one more explosion of tempers between Peter and the liaison officer. A fit of pique and abusive language answered by a frightening reaction - this was probably the absolute last straw. Obviously, contrary to what the author might have to say, this was not a happy compatible team, that most other joint ventures with Indian climbers have been.

One assumes that the developed films were eventually handed back to the expedition — one would have liked to see more of the climbing route rather than the close-ups of the climbers in the act of climbing. The view of the SE ridge is breathtaking.

Peter has written about it all with frankness from his point of view; it is a pity that he avoids all the details where he and his companions would show up in poor light, and we are still left wondering whether he has learnt his lesson. The book ends with a somewhat subdued epilogue.

There is one thing that would definitely ward me off any of Peter's expeditions — the stereo system (speakers and all) belting nut the revolting hard metal and other punk music at high levels of decibels. Future climbers, you have been warned!

Soli S. Mehta



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NATIVE STONES. A Book About Climbing. By David Craig. Pp. 218, 8 illustrations, 1987. (Seeker and Warbug, London, £ 10.95).

This is a book nominated as runner-up for the Boardman—Tasker Prize in 1987. It gives to the reader exactly what the appropriate sub-title (probably better interpreted to mean 'climbing through life' rather than simply climbing rocks) promises. The author has, with remarkable dexterity, blended together his vivid descriptions of climbs, numerous delightful verses and a myriad of impressions about life in general and climbing in particular.

The book seemingly lacks a central theme, but instead presents various facets of 'climbing' organized rather like a collection of essays and poetry. More intellectually stimulating than physically, it lures one into a contemplative state of mind; don't expect it to propel you into gathering all your equipment and heading for the nearest crag.

The descriptions of climbs are clear and focus sharp pictures on the reader's mind. Although Craig describes himself to be a middling climber' and not an expert, he has climbed scores of popular routes in the Lake and Peak Districts, Cornwall, Scotland and Wales. The sheer pleasures of climbing experienced by the author overflow to captivate one's immagination. Every emotion — the challenge, the fear, the helplessness, the despair, the glee and the triumph are conveyed with intense conviction. There is much that rings familiar to both the novice and the experienced climber.

Throughout the book, Craig introduces the various dimensions of rock-climbing and their parallels in life. Parent-child relationships are often responsible for the creation of inhibitions which are nothing but the phobias of others. Parents who shout to their kid 'Don't go near that edge' are preventing them from developing 'their own perceptions of space and drop'. The fear barrier Is something which every person has to overcome and which repeatedly rears its head on many an occasion. The book urges you to respect and preserve nature with forceful arguments, experiences and verses. Universal ideas such as these succeed in making the hook enjoyable to climbers as well as non-climbers.

The author arouses in us an awareness for the frightening trends of modern rock-climbing and its drift towards a narrowing sense of ethics. Siege tactics, chiselling of holds, top roping and the over-protection of routes by use of modern equipment are discussed. Craig's climbing philosophy is epitomised in the statements that ' "the friend" (a modern cramming device used for protection on rock) "is a machine" and that the only way to climb is "from the ground up" '.

The paperback copy of the book, published by Flamingo, unfortunately lacks the plates often referred to in the text.

Here is a book to be enjoyed by those who love nature and climbing and the joys of life. The feeling perceived while reading may best be described as immensely refreshing.

Ajay Tambe



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MOMENTS OF DOUBTS. By David Roberts. Pp. 237, 1986. (The Mountaineers, Seattle, $ 13.95).

This is a collection of 20 essays and articles on mountaineering and adventure. They were written over two decades. The collection is divided in three sections, Adventure, Profiles and Reflections. Each section deals with a variety of subject. The book covers a wide area, from Huntington, Kilimanjaro, K2, Gunks and ethers. It covers many personalities and mountain philosophy.

David Roberts writes intelligently and makes every piece interesting. There is frankness, criticism, anger and accurate narration. Each article is introduced with a short note. He ruminates about his own climbing and writing; 'There is a pleasant irony In the reflection that an activity (mountaineering) which in college seemed to me as detrimental to career advancement as a bad drug habit, should turn out to be the bread and butter of my career today — . . . . '

For the Himalayan enthusiasts 'The K2 Mystery' is a reflection on Art Gilkey's death, 'Messner and Habler: Alone at Top' covers the philosophical aspects. There are articles on John Roskelley and five leading mountaineers of yesteryears.

The story of Hugh Herr 'The Mechanical Boy Comes Back' is unique for understanding the human tenacity. He lost both legs in a climbing accident. But with two artificial legs continued to do first rate rock climbs. But it is in understanding the courage of Hugh and penning it that Roberts scores. He quotes Maurice Herzog.' "The marks of the ordeal are apparent on my body. I was saved and I had won my freedom. This freedom, which I shall never lose, has given me the assurance and serenity of a man who has fulfilled himself. It has given me the rare joy of loving that which I used to despise. A new and splendid life has opened out before me."

May Hugh Herr, several decades hence, be able to echo Herzog's words. The kid deserves as much.' (p. 144)

The piece that appeals the most is 'Patey Agonistes' where he considers the autobiographies of climbers. He singles out Ship-Ion's That Untravelled World and Terray's Conquistadors of the Useless as 'conveying more of the truth than any of the other books'. The entire concept of thumbing through autobiographies is interesting and Roberts comes out with interesting conclusions.

'How much of the appeal of mountaineering lies in the simplification of interpersonal relationships, its reduction of friendship to .smooth interaction (like war), its substitution of an Other (the mountain, the challenge) for the relationship itself? Behind a mystique of adventure, toughness, footloose vagabondage .... may lie a kind of adolescent refusal to take seriously aging, the frailty of others, interpersonal responsibility, weakness of all kinds the slow and unspectacular course of life itself.' It is .studied in the other essay, 'The Public Climber' what price a mountaineer pays in real life, when out of his dream world of mountains.

All this brings us to the title essay 'Moments of Doubt'. It discusses those times which come in every serious mountaineer's life — whether to continue with a particular climb or not; or whether to climb at all. Roberts puts it in proper perspective.

'Some of the worst moments of my life have taken place in the mountains .................. But nowhere else on earth, not even in the harbours of reciprocal love, have I felt pure happiness take hold of me and shake me like a puppy, compelling me, and the conspirators I had arrived therewith, to stand on some perch of rock or snow, the uncertain struggle below us, and bawl our pagan vaunts, to the very sky. It was worth it then', (p. 209)

It is ironic that the mountaineers themselves, least of all, have not understood the 'why' of it. This book narrates various experiences, thoughts and questions to think about it all. It is worth pondering over. Or perhaps as someone put it, 'if you must ask "why", you will never find an answer'. But if you have suffered moments of doubt do read this book.

Harish Kapadia



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TOUCHING THE VOID. By Joe Simpson Pp. 172, 21 illustrations, 2 maps, 1988 (Jonathan Cape, London, £ 10.95)

It was a chance invitation that found me at the Alpine Club on Friday 14 October J988 to witness the announcement and presentation of the Boardman-Tasker Memorial Award for Mountain Literature, 1988. Chris Bonington remarked at the time that he thought that his descent of the Ogre with Doug Scot (with both his legs broken and himself with broken ribs) was heroic enough, but compared to Joe Simpson's experience, it begins to pale.

After the ceremony, I was lucky enough to be able to buy a copy, and couldn't resist the temptation of having it autographed by Joe himself. I hadn't read the book; I hadn't even heard of Joe Simpson, but I was certainly curious to read the prize-winning book, so as to get to know what all the fuss was about.

I was totally unprepared for the story. If I hadn't been with the mountaineering literati, all marvelling at the author's four day ordeal and his fortitude to crawl back to camp after having been given up for lost, I would have certainly been exhilarated by what I would have thought to be as fine a piece of adventure fiction as I've ever read. Some such sentiment was expressed by Janet Adam Smith while presenting the award, when she suggested that a fiction writer would not dare invent such an improbable tale.

That evening I started on the book — early next morning I finished reading it — at one sitting. It is slow to start, the usual preliminary chapters — the idea of climbing Siula Grande — the teaming up with Simon Yates — the meeting up with Richard who would look after the camp while they are on the mountain - the villages they pass through — the base camp — the ascent — the bivouacs — the technical bits of rock and ice work — and finally the summit. Now, the descent, and you can sense the danger drawing near — the book can't be that long if everything is going to be all right. It happens — Joe slips over the ridge he is trying to ease himself down; his axe holding him cracks the ice, and the hammer in his left hand had just been removed so as to have another go at securing himself — with nothing holding him now, Joe falls and hits the steep slope below shattering his right knee. Simon climbs down to him — both know the critical and desperate situation they are in, but refrain from airing their fears. They decide to abseil down — Simon lowering Joe and then following him — a complicated manoeuvre on two ropes tied together, where every time the knot reaches the belay point it is required to be disconnected from the belay-plate and reconnected with a knot on the other side. A dim ray of hope appears and they can even manage a smile as they progress steadily down — even with the ever-present possibility of both of them slipping from their precarious anchor during each change of knots. Almost there now and confidence rises — next moment absolute disaster. Joe has been lowered over an edge and is hanging freely in air — no chance for Simon to get the knot past the anchor. The constant weight threatening to drag Simon with it and his bucket seat dissolving slowly from under him and the snow slides around and over him gently pushing him down towards Joe. A quick decision — the only one under the circumstances which could save lives or atleast one of them — Simon cuts the rope. Joe falls on to an ice-bridge in a crevasse. Simon descends the best he can and searches for his friend — can't find him and returns to camp in a state of shock and guilty feelings.

I don't think I'll spoil the readers interest by relating the details of Joe's crawl back — his self rescue — his tremendous will — it was only the mind and its unsuspected strength that brought him out and forced him by queer contortions of motion to propel himself ultimately toward his friends who were, by that time, packing up to leave.

What is indescribable are the emotions of Simon — stricken with guilt — how was he going to explain all this to the world — what argument could he sustain — would they accept his side of the story. Joe's physical agony is fully matched against Simon's mental dilemma. The re-union is an emotional tour de force — the reader is forced to experience the whole gamut of sensations felt by both the climbers. While Simon takes over Joe's physical disability, Joe tends to Simon's psyche — both badly damaged. Having reached his rescuers, Joe literally gives up the physical struggle, collapses and allows the others to take over and nurture him; but he concentrates on rescuing Simon from his guilt — it was in the end the cut rope that saved both of them.

No more — just get that book — there will be plenty of editions and reprints — it hasn't won the Boardman-Tasker Award for nothing — the future award winners will be be very hard put to match this epic.

Soli S. Mehta



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ALAN ROUSE. A Mountaineer's Life. Compiled by Geoff Brittles. Pp. 224, 10 colour and 15 b/w illustrations, 1987. {Unwin Hyman, London, £ 12.95).

Alan Rouse — A Mountaineer's Life takes you through the life of this extraordinary person — one of Britains most well-known mountaineer. Rouse was born in 1951 and died on K2 in the famous savage summer of 1986 which claimed eight lives on the mountain. The book is a collection of contributions from various persons who knew Rouse best — his sister Susan his school friend and first climbing partner — Nick Parry and numerous other climbing partners and friends including Chris Bonington, Rab Carrington, Brian Hall, Paul Nunn and Doug Scott among others. The book also features three articles written by Rouse himself. The final touching chapter is written by Jim Ourran, Alan's close friend and filmmaker for the K2 expedition, who stayed with him up to the very end, even when all the other members of the expedition had left.

Alan Rouse's wild, dashing and colourful mountaineering career started at the age of 16. He was soon solving 6a problems at his local Welsh crags and his passion for climbing took him far and high. In a career which spanned 18 years he climbed extensively in the Alps, the South American Andes and the Himalaya apart from his own country including the Scottish mountains. His more notable successes in the Himalaya include an Alpine-style ascent of Jannu, the first ascent of Nuptse's north face from the Western Cwm, first ascent of Kongur in China, an Alpine-style ascent of Broad/Peak, and of course the first British ascent of K2 which cost him his life.

His academic abilities was no less impressive. At the age of eleven he won a place at the prestigious Birkenhead school. He played an excellent game of chess, became the Wallasey undereighteen champion and even dreamt of being a Grand Master. At eighteen he secured a place at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, but by then his priorities were changing. He managed to graduate despite minimal attendance but did not pursue his academic career further.

Not everything in life was made easy for Alan Rouse. It took him many years to overcome a terrible stammer which sometimes made even pronouncing his own name a major obstacle. He was not a gifted athlete by birth and Nick Parry remembers him as a 'thin bespectacled, punny lad, a most unlikely candidate to become a mountaineer'. What he did not lack however was the single-mindedness and dedication with which he pursued his interests, be it chemistry, maths, chess, pot-holing or mountaineering.

'The -evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.' To the credit of every writer in the book these words of Shakespeare were not applicable, as their assessment of Alan is fair and objective, at the same time being light and sometimes even humerous. The idea of having many authors has had the advantage of throwing different light on such complex a character, and Geoff Brittles must be congratulated for the compilation. The book is dedicated to Alan's daughter, Holly, who was born three weeks after he perished on K2, with the hope that: 'When, one day, she reads this, she will know of her father, that he was a fine man'.

Allwyn Carvalho



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LIVING ON THE EDGE. The Winter Ascent of Kanchenjunga. By Cherie Bremer-Kamp. Pp. 213, 4 illustrations, 2 sketches, 2 maps, 1987. (David and Charles, London, £ 12.95).

Living on the Edge is a book of gripping adventure, of unflagging human endeavour and enduring capacity. Starting with the raging storm in the North Pacific, the battle to survive aboard the small sail boat, Laylah, the book works its way to the brilliant finish on the slopes of Kangchenjunga. The chord is struck in the first few pages of this engrossing account.

The days of careful planning and deciding, of organising an infra-structure that would withstand the worst rigours of one of the toughest climbs undertaken — Kangchenjunga in the winter, .stands as the resolution of a dream and the culmination of all that lakes man beyond the limit of the mundane, regular, and predictable.

'How can I describe what climbing 'Kanche' in winter is like? In the background is a constant roar, terrifying in its simple persistence .... Mostly the winds have been from the west, and then they shift to a more southwesterly direction. Theoretically we should be protected, but every so often the torrent spills over unleashing its fury upon us. A subtle but unmistakable change of sound warns us several seconds ahead of its approach and we brace the tent, tense with readiness. Soon we are pinned down by the force, clinging with all our strength to the structure that makes up our protective nylon womb. Ten, twenty seconds elapse. Finally it passes and we are able to rest before the next onslaught. Yet this is a mere taste of the fury going on above.'

Chris Chandler and Cherie Bremer-Kamp, attempted the winter climb of Kangchenjunga's north face in 1985. This was the culmination of all their dreams ever since their first meeting on the slopes of K2 in 1978. The mountains had brought them together, and developed a love that was to make them return to the Himalaya again and again — the ascent of 'Kanche' being their final challenge.

Cherie describes the expedition right from the marathon effort to organise supplies in San Francisco, the culture shock of landing at Kathmandu, the frustrating efforts to gather an appropriate team. The beauty and solitude of the bitterly cold winter months, the efforts to acclimatize at a pace that seemed impossible, the days of waiting and longing in snow-bound tents, the harrowing efforts to face 'Jetstream' winds and the sheer impregnable ice and rock barriers, the deep-seated satisfaction of being with Chris in environs of the ultimate solitude, beauty and peace, and the final despairing descent through illness and the inability to cope with nature's magnitude, the return to base camp without Chris — is all part of this book, described with sensitivity and immediacy and urgency.

Living on the Edge is also the poignant story of Cherie and Chris's life together — their first encounter on the K2 expedition, their subsequent ventures into a world remote from the humdrum existence of daily life, their passion for excitement and danger, and their ability and need to court the unknown, perched at the very edge of the living world.

There is the excitement as Cherie speaks of their last lap on the way to the summit. The long wait was to finally end in a few "hours, when they would start their climb. And almost as a rude shock comes the surging fact that Chris has contracted cerebral oedema. The effort to pound life back, into a body rapidly deteriorating, turns almost to a hysterical pitch as the climbers start their descent. And as they move farther and farther away from the summit, so does Chris move closer to the world of the dead.

Even as one encounters the despairing note towards the end of the book, the,overpowering sensation is not one of man's helplessness and inability to face the awesome forces of nature. Instead, what comes through is the glory of man's endurance, his determination and persistence. Loss of life does not signify the end of all that is; it marks a pause to reach out for all that lives and thrives. Perhaps that spirit of the mountains sustains all; it is the anchor for a soul distraught; it is the resolute symbol of the permanent and enduring! And perhaps that explains the lure, the need to be part of this dangerous existence time and again.

As one reads Cherie's accounts of Hindu women, religion, and culture, there is a strong feeling that all her observations emerge not out of a thorough understanding of the people, but out of a set of haphazard encounters, supplemented by accounts which seem to relate still less to the here and now. It is not easy to understand a society with its very special traditions, a millennium of history to account for, and a course of evolution that encompasses all in its stride. A few days spent trekking through villages, supplemented by accounts from books, can hardly justify assessments for an entire people.

It is also appropriate here to comment on the author's spelling of 'Kanchenjunga', used throughout the book. The official spelling has always been 'Kangchenjunga', and it does appear jarring to face anything other than this, especially in a book that has this mountain as its subject, meaning and experience.

But the final experience of reading the book is tremendously rewarding. Living on the Edge is a book that will appeal not only to climbers and mountaineers, but to anyone who understands and appreciates a fascinating account of human survival, and the the ultimate endurance to which the human body and spirit are subjected.

Anjali Karpe



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AKSAICHIN AND SINO-INDIAN CONFLICT. By John Lall. Pp. 356, 14 maps, 1989. (Allied Publishers Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi. Rs. 150)

To attempt to write a book on this vast and extremely complex topic is to burn several gallons of midnight oil, to delve into archives, both in India as well as the U.K., to talk and discuss with several major actors in the drama (atleast those who are still alive) and to piece it all together in an overall view in as objective a manner as possible. The subject is one where very tittle is black and white — opinions, interpretations, legitimacy, claims and counter-claims are stewed in the same pot — it all depends how far back in history you want to go in order stake your claim. John Lall has all the geo-politicians interested in the Himalaya in his debt by a monumental piece of research enlightened by personal experience and accurate piecing together of the giant jig-saw.

Lall's initial chapters give us an historical background dating a few centuries ago. In the days of yore, empires expanded and contracted with the strength of the seat of power. Small autonomous states thrived and disappeared with the domination or lack of it from its greater neighbour. The great powers themselves aggressively claimed their fiefdom or tacitly eschewed governance depending on their ability and strength at any one time in their history. This was the point at which the British came on the scene in India. A good bit of 'The Great Game' played between Russia and Britain is described here, and it is a little known fact that the British actually encouraged China to claim areas around the northern borders of India which were otherwise being eyed by the Russians.

Then follows the real exploration and the surveying and Lall slowly brings us to the present boundary question. The British at the turn of the century were anxious to sign and seal the Indian border with the northern neighbours, including that along the Himalayan range. The Tibetans were willing, but the Chinese chose to wear their most non-commital mask. It has been so in the history of Chinese diplomacy that when they are strategically weak, they would never commit themselves to any agreement with a foreign power — in writing or by verbal message. Thus they could reserve the right to a fresh and perhaps a more advantageous position when the time was ripe later on in years. Try as they might, the British failed to negotiate with the Chinese at any point of time on the border issue. China merely did not turn up at the conferences. But the British too were not entirely blameless. What is generally less known is that there was considerable argument amongst the administrators in India — between themselves and between the Foreign Office in London. The line for a border settlement in the north with the Chinese kept waxing and waning — various official recommendations were argued and debated endlessly, depending on the political relationship of the moment. Some suggestions were extremely expansionistic and were justly ruled out; others had their pros and cons, but the fact remains that an agreed offer to the Chinese even at that time was hard to come by. Eventually a 'Composite Agreement' was placed before the Chinese with a complex set of quid pro quo and provisos. The Chinese, as usual, did not bother to reply.

The scene now turns to post-Independence in India. Here Lall has his work cut out in maintaining objectivity. The cards played by India were right at the wrong time and wrong at the right time (to say nothing of wrong at the wrong time). In the early 1950s, there suddenly appeared a jingoistic surge of Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai, a love affair which was as one-sided as it was blind. Nehru, the founder of the Panchsheel concept paraded the great India-China friendship, and the sub-continent applauded; the so-called freedom from Western power struggles and the birth of the non-alignment movement was the bright star in the Indian diplomatic sky. Nehru's idealism is not to be doubted — his sincerity is not questionable — his integrity and honesty of thought and deed is something India is justly proud of, but the sycophants he surrounded himself with had other ideas — power-hungry and determined to foist their slimy ideologies on their country through their revered leader.

In 1950, Tibet was occupied by the Chinese — India's hope that China exercise its suzerainty over Tibet with harmony and negotiation, was rebuffed in no uncertain terms. K. M. Panikkar (one of Nehru's side-kicks) as Ambassador to the People's Republic of China had already decided by himself that the 'special political interests' in Tibet which India had inherited from the British could not be maintained. His tainted despatches and mischievous alterations to Nehru's instructions gave China the freedom and the legitimacy it desired. The Indian trading posts and presence in Tibet was withdrawn. India, thereafter had its tail firmly between its legs on this issue; Tibet fell, after some measly halfhearted protests from the bastions of democracy in the West — a dispensible commodity in the Superpower game.

Suddenly the honeymoon is over — the 'battle of the maps' begins — at first, the Indian concern over the Chinese maps is brushed aside . . . 'these are old maps, we haven't had time to survey and print fresh ones'. . . But the old maps showing Indian territory as Chinese, keep re-appearing and now physical patrolling and border posts re-inforce the outline on paper. Much has been argued about the Aksaichin, claimed by India and through which the Chinese had built a road. For several years the Indian government was not even aware of the existence of Ihe highway — so much for its administrative control of the area. All of a sudden there is an outcry. Clarifications are sought, but Panikkar avoids broaching the issue with the Chinese Prime Minister and even persuades Nehru that it is of little importance for the moment — everything would be as we claim, once the Chinese revolutionary government settles down. This consistent and deliberate misleading on Panikkar's part was a gross abuse of the trust Nehru had conferred on him, and Nehru was to pay dearly for it later on.

Claims, counter-claims, exchange of letters on the exact demarcation went on throughout the 1950s. Faced with an avalanche of corroborative evidence from the Indians, without matching argument from their side, the Chinese now disclaimed the whole border, including the McMahon line in the east. Lall writes . . 'It was as if two formless countries had sprung into being in 1947 and 1949 without a history, with the past completely blanked out . . .'

Lall now gives a blow by blow account of the total lack of a deliberate strategic policy. No account was taken of the considered views of not only the geographers and the historians, but those of the Chiefs of Staff who could guide and formulate a possible line for demarcation on the ground which could be physically defensible and politically acceptable, if both sides approached the whole problem in a spirit of accommodation. But by that time Nehru had already taken an unyielding stance both in Parliament as well as in his utterances at outside functions. Here he was goaded by the elder statesman in his cabinet and the Machiavellian Krishna Menon who, as Defence Minister, shares the greater part of the responsibility for the fracas that followed.

Along with the bluster, the Government also chose to continue to be unprepared. The advice of the Forces' Chiefs that India equip itself with more modern arms, went abegging. The Defence Minister was at that time boasting about the Ordnance Factories producing washing machines and toys (if you please), while the Chinese were building a complete communicaiion network and moving all their men and armaments to the border. A start was made in 1960 by the establishment of the Border Roards Organisation, who have since then carved out a name for themselves in road building over impossible terrain. Deployment and acclimatization of the forces for high-altitude warfare was also left till too late and the enemy had ample time to choose its target and plan its strategy.

In October 1962,' the Chinese came over at Tsenjang (near Tawang in NEFA) like swarming bees — a feint of India's Achilles' Heel — the operations at the real bone of contention in Ladakh would follow in due course. Gen B.M. Kaul the CGS (and incidentally Nehru's cousin) whose views on the viability of forward positions prevailed over the more cautious advice of the seasoned Army Chief, was now at the receiving end of his decisions that had been stupidly accepted. Krishna Menon had lost all credibility and had by then fractured the morale of the officer corps by his idiotic sniping at the Chiefs of Staff. Thanks to him the brave soldier at the front was equipped with a mere 50 rounds of ammunition, and wore clothes at 4500 m more in keeping with a tropical jungle operation. He died when his ammunition ran out. Some of his friends died of hypothermia and pulmonary edema. Many needlessly suffered frostbite and lost limbs. Their gallantry in the face of annihilation was the only redeeming feature of the whole sorry episode. The brief war is history. Both, Kaul and Krishna Menon, were relieved of their duties (alas far too late). The Chinese withdrew beyond the borders as suddenly as they had entered — all this was done ... 'to teach India a lesson, and shall do so again and again'. . . Nehru by that time was a broken man — his dreams shattered — he was still under the illusion that he had been stabbed in the back by China — the 1962 invasion was the "unkindest cut of all". He died eighteen months later.

There is an undercurrent of a suggestion in Lall's final chapters that the war was totally avoidable. It needed a high degree of statesmanship and a concensus operation in Parliament with the men in the government and in the opposition who could advise without bias and the over-powering ambition to score points off each other; and they in turn carefully consider the implications with men whose lives had been devoted to serving in the Forces in defence of their country and who had risen to their high rank by virtue of their vast experience, knowledge and integrity. This did not happen then, and the reader closes the book with the thought that it will not happen (and the problem solved once and for all) until all the above ingredients find themselves in the same room at some future conjunction of the stars and good fortune. With the present political scenario, the country has a long wait indeed.

Soli S. Mehta



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ALL 14 EIGET-THOUSANDERS. By Reinhold Messner. (Translated by Audrey Salkeld). Pp. 248, 143 colour, 78 b/w illustrations, 25 sketches, 1 map, 1988. (Crowood Press, Marlborough, £ 19.95).

Reinhold Messner dominated Himalayan mountaineering for sixteen years, from his epic traverse of Nanga Parbat in 1970 to his completion of all 8000 m peaks in 1986, and his influence will be acknowledged for many years to come. Right from the start he was pushing out the frontiers of possibility, with his unintended on-sight descent of the Diamir Face. Five years later he and Peter Habeler opened the world's eyes with their brilliantly executed, genuinely 'alpine style' ascent of Hidden Peak. In 1978 they reverted to heavy siege expeditioning, but only as a means of achieving another breakthrough — the first oxygenless ascent of Everest. As if to purge himself of this 'big expedition' involvement, Messner went straight on to solo Nanga Parbat and then, two years later, pushed himself further to make the first (and so. far only) solo ascent of Everest. The next test, in 1982, was to climb three eight thousanders (including a new route on Kangchenjunga) in one season and then, in 1984, with his protege Hans Kammerlander, the double traverse of Gasherbrums II and I. By now he had admitted to himself that it would be interesting to climb all the eight thousanders. Two years later, in a storm-swept dash to the summit of Lhotse, the job was completed.

Messner's achievements have now been surpassed, but it was he who showed the way: it was his imagination, his innovatory flair, his ability to break the rules and invent new ones, which made the recent revolution in Himalayan climbing possible. Anyone with an ounce of historical sense must realise that he is probably the most talented, successful high altitude climber there has ever been. So why on earth does the man have to keep defending and justifying himself?

Messner begins his book All 14 Eight Thousanders by saying that he is not really interested in numbers and records and collecting summits. Turn to the back and, amongst the various statistical graphs and pie charts, you find a detailed list of all the 34 people who had, in October 1986, climbed four or more of I he big 14, with Reinhold topping the list. The 'race' of course was a fiction put about by Messner's critics — critics who, judging by his constant references to them, have filled him with a . paranoid need for self-justification.

Some of the climbing shots are good but many are tilted to a ludicrous degree. We have all been guilty of the occasional discreet tilt, but do we really have to have people leaning out backwards on overhanging snowfields with their hands in their pockets? We know big mountains are difficult. The general public, at whom this book seems primarily aimed, also know that it is a difficult, dangerous game. Why try to deceive them unnecessarily?

The overall effect of the illustrations is colourful and varied. I would have liked more portrait shots of the mountains related directly to accurate topo diagrams. Instead we are given highly stylized 'Boy's Own' picture diagrams with little useful information. Manaslu SW face, for instance, is a little-known route which I had always wanted to know more about. The diagram in this book bears no relation to the accompanying photos and does nothing to elucidate the complete topography of the mountain.

Messner's writing has always been fascinating, if only because of the intrinsic interest of the man and his climbs. Apart from the recurring jabs at his critics, which I have already mentioned, my only criticism is the lack of good detail about the actual terrain climbed.

However, what does emerge in Messner's writing is the man's ideas. He has an acute sense of his place in history and acknowledges his debt to people like Mummery, Norton, Buhl, Tichy and Schmuck. He analyses his own motives in pushing beyond their frontiers and he shows how costly the journey has been. He has learned to cope with disappointment, boredom, the tragedy of losing two brothers, the horror of the Manaslu disaster, the devastating sadness of losing wives and girlfriends who could not stand his Himalayan obsession. Above all, he has that essential attribute — patience. He is able to return three times to Nanga Parbat, waiting until he is absolutely ready for the great trial of the solo ascent. He is prepared to abandon attempts on Dhaulagiri and Cho Oyu south faces when they become too dangerous, and he returns four times to Makalu before succeeding!

All that watching, waiting and learning pays off when there is a lucky break, for then the man's speed, flair and deeply instinctive feel for the mountain enable him to make the quick dash up and back down to safety.

All 14 Eight Tousanders is unashamedly a glossy coffee table book aimed more at the undiscerning fans than the serious student of Himalayan history. However, through the vague diagrams, the occasional vacuous pseudo-profundities and the unrelenting hype of the marketing machine, there does emerge a fascinating picture of a remarkable man.

Stephen Venables

(Reprinted abridged from Mountain 125 with the kind permission of the editor and the author.)



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A DREAM OF WHITE HORSES. Recollections of a life on the rocks. By Edwin Drummond. Pp. 224, 16 illustrations, 1987. (Diadem Books, London, £ 10.95).

Drummond has been surrounded by a perpetual notoriety ever since he hit the climbing news. This book, a selected collection of his writings through the years, dispels some of the aura and adds its own.

The style of writing is at least as important as the contents, and whether one rambles along with him through early self-imposed religious righteousness or later, less easily predictable relationships with rocks, mountains and people, it remains rivetting. To readers seasoned on classical climbing literature, Drummond appears out-landishly individualistic. His writing demands an attention that few books of this genre do and reciprocates by making one react; one may not agree but one cannot remain in-different either. Drummond comes too close to home truths, that climbers prefer to ruminate over in private, for comfort. Thus homesick and upset on Makalu, he writes:

'Was that it? Had I really come here in order to find out I didn't need to? Had I stuffed myself full of loneliness in order to make myself sick? Stuck my neck in the tunnel but retreated it in favour of candlelight and not the gleam of star-struck ice at 18,000 ft?' (p. 136)

He uses language adventurously. 'So. Back to work. The problem is — like darning: Applique yourself Drummond. The rock is a fabric. There are holes in it. But I need repairing — I put in a pin. There, that won't rip. And I start weaving - will's the loom — shuttling back and forth, fine lines of feeling, hemming an atoll from the waves, tucking the loose ends in, lingers bobbing up and down, a bit of sewing machine leg — Then, strange as ripples, after making a splash, coming back — the sinking feeling disappears and I strike out of fear and elation ...........' (p. 73)

The epigrams flow easily, though with a likeable lack of certainty. Thus;

‘Perhaps real instability lies in silence and uniformity, in keeping ill nil quiet.' (p. 53) and 'Perhaps fear is the possibility of ecstasy.' (p, 55)

The winner of two Keats Prizes and the National Poetry Prize (U.K.), his poems often give us a lot more to think over than just (he 'climber's condition'. 'Starting up' is a favourite, and another is 'Between a Rock and a Soft Place' where;

'.Light fading .............
At the last rappel,
First one, then
another .... mouse?
mouse! flickers
from a crack.' ends in;
'on a long, dark descent
to the upturned faces
waiting for us
to come back.
The ropes are heavy, wet.
Do they
reach ?'

Drummond does, with this very readable book.

M. H. Contractor



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THE THUNDER DRAGON KINGDOM. A Mountaineering Expedition to Bhutan. By Steven K. Berry. Pp. 166, 22 illustrations, 3 maps, 1988. (The Crowood Press. Marlborough, £ 12.95).

A book on Bhutan is always welcome for there is precious little written on or about this country — especially as mountain climbing literature. It was thus with great expectation that I picked up this book.

This book though fascinating (probably because of the subject) eventually leaves one 'unfulfilled. A part of this book is spent giving the reader a synopsis of the history of the land. Another chapter is devoted to the misadventure of one of their trekking: members. One whole chapter is dedicated to the festivities in Thimpu, Bhutan's capital. All these are fairly interesting by themselves, but one wonders how these fit in a book on mountaineering in Bhutan. Three other chapters are spent on writing about the drive-cum-walk-in. That is in all eight chapters or almost half the book is devoted to things peripheral to mountaineering.

The map on p. 63 (regarding the walk in) is sketchy. It seems that the details available on Bhutan are very few, for I am sure that Berry, among the first few people to get permission to climb in Bhutan after it was opened would have put in a slightly more detailed map of the walk in. As regards to the other map on p. 13, Berry should have done his homework more carefully. It shows Sikkim as a separate nation, when it is an integral part of India.

That the team achieved precious little on the mountain is besides the point. Bigger and better teams have been beaten by that mighty Himalayan guardian called Weather. In this section of the book, fortunately, the route taken by the team, and the Previous Japanese high point have been well illustrated on Pp. 109 and 120 and would definitely help the mountaineers that follow. The photographs and the illustrations establish that climbing Gangkar Punshum, at 7550 m, the highest peak in Bhutan is not for the weak hearted. That they climbed as much as they did in aplling weather, speaks volumes for the talent of the team as a whole.

Climbing under such circumstances definitely puts a strain on the members, and it shows. Berry had to bring out in the open the.strains, tensions and altercations that occurred on this trip.

His own personal bickering about the Indian helicoptors is totally unwarranted. The fact that the helicoptors did manage to evacuate the members, when no one was injured or seriously ill, goes beyond the norms of usual decency. If a few fit mountaineers cannot walk out of base camp, just because there had been a little snowfall is shameful. The other camp staff did manage to get back on their own — didn't they?

Over all one gets the impression that this book could have been in two sections, with the first section talking about the local history, mythology culture, flora, fauna etc. and the second section devoted exclusively to climbing. A book certainly not recommended for any prize but one may read it because it talks about Bhutan, a country (and to quote Chris Bonnington) 'tucked away among the primeval folds of the Eastern Himalayas .......... a land to be discovered, mysteries to be unravelled and a culture from which to learn. And for a few enterprising and privileged people, there are mountains to be climbed.'

Sandeep Talpade



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TIIK FRONTIER SCOUTS. By Charles Chenevix Trench. Pp. 298, 38 illustrations, 11 maps, 1985. (Jonathan Cape, London, £ 12.95).

The North West Frontier of India before the partition required a special attention from the British. It contained the vigorous Pathan tribes who followed their own law. The British devised a policy to recruit Pathans to fight Pathans. This regiments were called 'Scouts' under various names. Generally the Pathans were left alone and only in the cases like murder or treason the Scouts Intervened. The book narrates such stories of the Frontier Scouts campaigns. It brings home various traditions, self-made laws and wars. After an operation, where the Scouts will fight against their own tribes, all will get together to discuss the mistakes both sides made and the war will be washed down with drinks! These brave people have not lost their valour in the present day, as recently demonstrated. It is enlightening to learn of their early days and mountains.

Harish Kapadia



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MOUNTAIN LIGHT. In Search of the Dynamic Landscape. By Galen Rowell. Pp. 224, 80 colour illustrations, 1986. (Sierra Club Books, San Francisco, £ 25).

Mountain Light is a stunning collection of eighty of Galen Rowell's finest photographs. Rowell who is America's prominent wilderness photographer, offers in this book, glimpses of the many moods of the mountains and landscapes of California, Canada, China, Tibet, Pakistan and Nepal.

Accompanying these photographs, which are arranged according to visual themes, is a lively and informative text which discusses the making of these pictures — the author's discovery of each situation and his rendering of it on film — and reflects Rowell's intense fascination with the infinitely varying qualities of light to be found in mountain landscapes.

The results are images which present the landscapes not only as recognizable natural scenes, but also as images which often border on the fantastic. Situations which may seem ordinary to the naked eye, are through an interplay of light and Rowell's personal vision, rendered close to the surrealistic. The book certainly shows how film and human imagination can be fused together to produce images which may seem strange at first sight, but which in effect are more powerful then reality.

The book records Rowell's personal growth as a photographer. His interest in photography evolved 'from an intense devotion to mountains and wilderness.' Rowell also recounts his climbing exploits. One need not add here that Rowell is an excellent mountaineer — the photographs offer ample evidence of this fact.

To the photography enthusiast, Rowell offers ample practical information on content and composition. The book abounds in useful tips on the types of films, filters and lenses to be used, on camera angles and light required, to bring to life the three dimensional world within the two dimensions of film.

What Rowell refrains from doing, and rightly so is any attempt to discuss the meaning underlying these photographs. 'The best photographs,' he states, 'speaks for themselves---- the photographs that move me the most propel me into an emotional realm when my experience is no longer verbal.'

And that has been my experience whilst reading this book. A must for all photographers and mountain lovers.

Sandeep Talpade



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FLOWERS OF THE HIMALAYA. A supplement. By Adam Stainton. Pp. 86, colour illustrations, 3 maps, 1988. (Oxford University Press, Delhi, Rs 225).

This supplement provides colour pictures of 350 species described in the parent book Flowers of the Himalaya by Oleg Polunin and Adam Stainton. (Reviewed in H.J. Vol. 41, p. 236).

Additional 250 species have both the scholarly description and colour pictures.

Line drawings favourite mostly with the students of botany are happily excluded.

The book is a boon to lovers of flowers as it considerably helps in recognising and identifying flowers in the Himalaya by faithful colour pictures, though quite a number of them lack in fine focus and sufficiently close view.

The flower Dracocephalum Hetrophyllum has two pictures (419). One a fine close up of superb clarity and the other in the endemic habitat of the flower. This method enhances the correct identification. However half a dozen such double pictures lack the high photographic standard of 419.

The picture of Eremurus Mmalaicus on the cover is very beautiful though the name finds no mention in the book.

This book is a must for anyone who owns the original volume by Oleg Polunin and Adam Stainton.

S. R. Shah



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THE EIGHT SAILING MOUNTAIN EXPLORATION BOOKS. By H. W. Tilman. Pp. 956, illustrated, maps, sketch, 1987. (Diadem Books Ltd., London, £ 16.95).

As the name suggests this is a collection of the sailing books of Tilman in 'Mischief. Like his mountain travel-writings, these also have a flair and the humour. It covers his sailing trips to various places in the southern continent, Greenland and Patagonia. The other love of Tilman and its writings are as good as his first love, mountains. Or is it vice-versa?

Harish Kapadia



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GOTNG HIGHER. By Dr Charles S. Houston. Pp. 320, 38 illustration, 1987. (Little, Brown and Co. Boston $ 10.95).

The first edition of this book Going High (1980) was reviewed in H.J. Vol. 38. This, the third and enlarged edition has all the ingredients of the earlier volume plus the more recent trends and knowledge of the work done on hypoxia and other related physiology.

The real value of the book lies in its utmost clarity of explanation of what goes on inside our bodies when we go up to the heights. The author leads us from historical times, the experiences of the past, the evolution of the chemistry of oxygen as it affects humans, right upto the state of oxygen in the air at different heights. Inter-woven in this tapestry is the functioning of our blood circulation system and the critical area of oxygen transfer in the lungs, and its transport throughout the body — the functions of the various organs that play an important part in the complex business of acclimatization.

With this background we move towards the ailments themselves — Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), High-Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE), High-Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE) and Chronic Mountain Sickness (CMS). Theoretical explanation (always in simple language — easy to understand and follow, without falling into the trap of oversimplification) is presented alternately with live example.

This really is essential reading for all trekkers and climbers going to heights. The common sense precautions and the early recognition of altitude ailments could actually save the mountaineer some disabling incarceration, if not a quick trip into the next world! We are all in Charles Houston's debt for this enlightenment. The sub-title of this book should read... 'This book can save your life'...

Soli S. Mehta



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CLIMBING FIT. By Martyn Hum and Pat Ingle. Pp. 96, illustrated, charts, 1988. (Crowood Press, Marlborough, £ 6.95).

It could be titled as 'Rock Climbing Fit', for the book covers various exercises to get fit for super alpinism. It has little to do with the Himalayan expeditioners. A variety of exercises are shown which are typical of any exercise book, nothing special about the climbers. There is a chapter on 'Mental Training' which could be interesting.

'Training, of course, is not for everybody, indeed some climbers will find that the regime of a properly structured training programme interferes with the very freedom that climbing offers them'. The authors recognize this and suggest programme only to those who feel motivated. Many may like to follow the Shiptonian advice that 'all you need is a reasonably fit body and very strong motivation'.

Follow the book carefully, if you must. But don't pull a tendon following those pretty girls in their various poses. It is not for everybody.

Harish Kapadia



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DEGREES OF DIFFICULTY. By Vladimir Shatayev. Pp. 195, 14 illustrations, 1987. (The Mountaineers, Seattle. $ 10.95).

Shatayev is a prominent Soviet climber who has made several important ascents in the Pamirs and the Caucasus. This book is autobiographical in nature and contains personal accounts of climbs spread over a period of fifteen years. It appeals due to its plain talking and scores to remind readers of the commonality of the hopes, joys and fears of mountaineers all over the world. The publishers have done the international mountaineering community a favour by publishing this book.

M. H. Contractor



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THE ASCENT OF RUM DOODLE. By W. E. Bowman. Pp. 134, reprint 1983. (first published 1956). (Arrow Books, London, £ 1.75).

Many eyebrows may be raised at the inclusion of this review. Somehow this book was never reviewed in the H.J. Someone may feel that our readers don't care for a laugh for this is certainly 'one of the funniest books for years'. It has held its charm from 1956 and certainly justifies the comment on the first page; .... 'The Ascent of Rum Doodle should be stocked in every home. Two copies, if you have a daughter'.

It is a must for all the mountain lovers and it must be brought to a 'formal' inclusion in the list of books covered, so that the editors are not 'laughed at' for its earlier non-inclusion!

Harish Kapadia.



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K2, TRIUMPH AND TRAGEDY. By Jim Curran. Pp. 219, 42 colour illustrations, 1 map, 1987 (Hodder and Stoughton, London, £ 12.95).

K2, the second highest mountain in the world, was attempted by a British team led by Al Rouse. They attempted it from the NW ridge during the summer of 1986. Simultaneously eight other expeditions from different countries were also attempting by different routes. When tragedy struck 13 mountaineers died out of which 7 were summiters out of the 27 who had reached atop K2.

Jim Curran went as a film maker and in his words, 'So this book is not a British expedition book. It is a look at what was happening on the mountain throughout the summer.' (p. 15)

Their attempts on the virgin NW ridge were many a times hindered by unpredictable weather. Finally their team, returned unsuccessfully to BC and all except Al and Jim returned to the hub-bub of city life. Al desperate to climb K2 managed to arrange with other expedition friends. Jim stayed back at BC when finally with six other members, Al and his team left to attempt K2 by the Abruzzi ridge. They followed the Korean route upto C4 and they targeted to scale K2 in four days, thus they had only four day's ration and fuel.

Seven members scaled the summit of K2 on 3-4 August. While descending in bad weather five of them met their death while the other two Kurt and Nick came back with heavy frostbite. Curran hus vividly described the tragedy that took place beyond C4 from what he was told by Kurt and Nick. The tragedy sent ripples of shock in the mountaineering community.

Curran has included interviews with Nick, Kurt and Wanda which further clarifies things.

This book gives the most helpful historical record of K2 as Jim has tried to cover all past expedition information with the interesting ongoing expedition report.

The lady cleaner at the Heathrow Airport remarked, 'Oh climbers.....what you see in it I just don't know. Mind you, you normally loose one, don't you? But you always get a replacement for next year.' (p. 28) Her words were prophetic but 13 of the best mountaineers who died on K2 can never be replaced.

The book will give mountaineers a lot to learn. And it should be an eye opener to the authorities not to allot one mountain to many expeditions.

Dhiren Pania


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