HIMALAYAN CLIMBER, By Doug Scott. Pp. 192, many colour illustrations, 1992. (Diadem Books, London, £20).
This is a beautiful and profusely illustrated story of the climbing career of Doug Scott. It depicts Doug's early adventures on rock and ice in Britain, through to alpine walls in winter and summer and follows his progress into the greater ranges. Starting in North Africa and Turkey on the steep faces of the Tebeati and Cilo Dag, we climb with Doug and his friends in the Afghan Hindu Rush - then onto Everest. The story side-tracks via big walls in Yosemite, Norway and the British Hebrides to Arctic Baffin Island, British Columbia and Alaska. On to the Karakoram, via East Africa - and so expedition follows expedition in this breathtaking book.
Twenty-seven major expeditions are described arid illustrated - twenty of these in the Himalaya and many are multiple objective trips. Most climbers would think that this was enough but in between trips, Doug describes climbing and travelling forays all over the world. Mountains in Australia, ice in Scotland, unclimbed rock in India and bush-whacking through the rain forests of Canada.
The pictures are superlative. I wonder if Doug appreciates what a talented photographer he is - with these marvellous pictures he shares his memories of the harsh, hostile and sometimes quirky world lie has chosen to inhabit.
The format -is complex, ther is page after page of story telling photographs, many of them unfamiliar insights of little-known mountains. There are action packed photos of legendary climbs. You can almost feel the rope and the cold. There are familiar mountains and countries of the Himalaya captured by Doug's lens in a new and refreshing way. The mountain pictures are puctuated by a wealth of laughing, graphic titbits - children, tribesmen, sacred cows, holy places, friends In groups, friends relaxed, friends in extremis. The images of local people jump out of the page with the same vibrancy of the climbing shots.
The great pictures capture the sheer exhilaration of hard climbing In lonely places whether on arctic rock or Himalayan giants. Most pictures are glamorous but Some depict the gripping struggle to survive in these eternal snows. Chris Bonington and Doug on the Ogre retreat, Nick Kekus attempting to find a snow-hole in an Everest blizzard, fighting a retreat from Makalu's eastern cwm and desperately searching for the body of Doug's friend. Ang Nima.
The captions are all good - usually understated and sometimes humorous. The book mirrors Doug in many ways - the sheer immensity of his achievements and travels are confusing to keep pace with. Sometimes the climbs are grouped chronologically, sometimes ethnically and sometimes geographically - which leads you to jump backwards and forwards in time throughout the book. The effect is that of a captionai kaleidoscope of mountaineering. The texts that preview each chapter almost merit a book on their own. Consequently they are a brief pastiche of fact, personal observation and spiritual insight. We catch glimpses of some one who can achieve peace and insight walking the razor's edge between life and death on the high windswept summits of the world. This same man, through his very powers of survival, returns again and again to the confusing world below.
Part of that confusing world seems to be Doug's analysis of high mountain ethics. He states dearly his views against the use of fixed ropes and large expeditions and yet, and yet - fixed ropes and big teams abound here. We even find Doug's ascent of Lobsang Spire drilling holes up the summit block. If alpine style is a team of two with no fixed rope and no base camp support, there are murky ethical waters here, 1 fear. However, ethics are for tired sports and climbing is not yet tired. In terms of aesthetics Doug's style is to be admired. Great Britain may not be the greatest mountaineering nation in the world but there is a long tradition of innovative, adventurous and sometimes eccentric mountaineering. This is the illustrated handbook of that tradition.
The huge content of the book and the wealth of thoughts and stories that must lie under this iceberg's tip leave the reader anxiously waiting for the full autobiography promised in the foreword. This is a marvellous film and I for one would like to read the book.
The postscript catches some of Doug's complexity and his attempt to make sense of his climbing life. He quotes Tao Tsu in defence of climbing being unexplainable but truly the pictures capture what words will always fail to tell. I quote from the same Chinese sage;
The very highest is barely known by men
When actions are performed without unnecessary speech
People say 'We did it'.
MY VERTICAL WORLD. By Jer^y Kukuczka. Pp. 189, 19 colour illustrations, 3 maps and 19 sketches, English edition 1992. (Hodder and Stoughton, London. £16.99).
When, in the early '60s, Walter Bonatti wrote his first autobiography On the Heights, he produced a classic account of great daring and total commitment at what was then the cutting edge of alpinism. Chapter after chapter sent shivers down the spine, because, above all, this was a book stacked with legendary epics. My Vertical World is the '90s equivalent. That same cutting edge has moved 4000 m higher and margin for error has narrowed considerably. Bonatti survived due to his extraordinary ability, resilience and a large dollop of luck. Although always a complex character, he was able to come to terms with this, finally bowing out while the going was good. Kukuczka, who had a more simplistic approach to life, unfortunately did not.
Before he died on the south face of Lhotse in 1989, Kukuczka had climbed all fourteen of the eight-thousand metre peaks and his book describes those successes. It could hardly be classed as great literature; a straight translation does nothing to improve the sometimes clumsy sentences, and the final text could have been better proofed. But it is an incredible story, told simply and with great honesty. There is no attempt to conceal the race to be first, yet while Reinhold Messner continued to pick off the normal routes, Kukuczka would allow himself no compromise in standards: each summit must be achieved by either a first winter ascent or a new route (remember also that Polish winter ascents take place in the 'deep' winter of January /February, and not in the relatively hospitable weeks of early December, as is normal with virtually all other foreign expeditions to Nepal). It was only his first eight-thousander, Lhotse, that failed to meet this criterion, and it was to rankle Kukuczka throughout his career.
This is a book that gives some insight into the difficulties in organizing major expeditions from Poland; the 'under the counter' tactics to gain funds, provisions and even, on occasions, summits. It is illustrated by fourteen excellent and informative mountain sketches (by Alex Spark) which contrast strongly with a disappointing collection of colour prints. Now and again there are some revealing statements about his attitude to both climbing and other climbers, though some of these fill one with incredulity. For instance, he refers to the ever reliable Zyga Heinrich as one of the leading figures of Polish, Himalayan and Alpine climbing, but someone with little push who had rarely set foot on a summit; this about a man who was reputed to have climbed more than 25 peaks of over seven-thousand metres, including new routes on Kungyang Khish and Cho Oyu.
However, the overriding impression of Kukuczka is that of a talented mountaineer with superhuman strength and an almost fanatical drive. This is perhaps most apparent during the winter of 1984-85. Kukuczka arrives in Kathmandu some weeks after the expedition has departed for Dhaulagirj. By taking a short cut and ploughing through deep snow on two high passes, he joins the team in late December, goes straight onto the mountain and climbs it in appalling weather. Descending from the summit he is forced to spend two nights out in the open, with temperatures below 40°C and without food, drink and equipment, before struggling down to base camp with frostbitten feet. Even Mr Messner would, I am sure, have been perfectly happy to retreat to the armchair in his alpine castle for a few months; but not Kukuczka. The next day he is off on his own, racing back along the short cut; racing to Kathmandu; racing to Cho Oyu where another Polish expedition has nearly completed a new route up the south face. He reaches the summit on the last day of winter, spending more unplanned nights in the open and having more near misses. He returns home for treatment of his badly frostbitten feet, yet two months later we find him en route to Nanga Parbat and perhaps the most dangerous ascent of his career. And so it goes on: a single-minded approach to the mountain, an immense drive that is hardly dented by the various deaths to fellow team members, a drive that often takes him upwards into truly dangerous terrain when other powerful and experienced colleagues are sounding the retreat with words such as 'unjustifiable'. However, don't attempt to look for any underlying philosophy in the text. Kukuczka's ideals were simple. I leave you with his own words. 'There is no answer in this book to the endless question about the point of expeditions to the Himalayan giants. I never found a need to explain this. I went to the mountains and climbed them. That is all.'
THE CLIMBERS. A History of Mountaineering. By Chris Bonington. Pp. 288, 40 colour and 82 b/w illustrations, 6 maps, 1992. (BBC Books and Hodder & Stoughton, London, £16.95).
SEA, ICE - and - ROCK. Sailing and Climbing above The Arctic Circle. By Chris Bonington and Robin Knox-Johnston. Pp. 143, 41 colour and 15 b/w illustrations, 3 maps, 1992. (Hodder &• Stoughton, London, £15.99).
When Bonington visited Bombay in May 1992 he carried a copy of The Climbers, his 12th book. When he returned in September 1992, he brought his 13th book: Sea, ke-and-Rock. Not many writers, especially mountaineers can boast of such prolific writing achievements.
The second book is about about a sailing-cum-climbing expedition above the arctic circle. A small group sailed and climbed in Greenland. The sailing skills of the master mariner, Robin Knox-Johnson and mountaineering skills of Chris Bonington combine. Robin Knox-Johnson with 9 previous books to his credit, matches Bonington's writing skills too. The result, an interesting book. But it is the former book, The Climbers that would interest the readers of the Himalayan Journal more.
The Climbers deals with 'A History of Mountaineering'. There have been few books in this genre, starting with the most celebrated of them all, Kenneth Mason's Abode of Snow. Mason's book covered the period from the earliest time till the first ascent of Everest in 1953. He covered only the Himalayan and transhimalayan ranges. Chris has a different line up. He covers both the Alps and the Himalaya starting from 1881 to 1990. The bulk of the book, 200 pages, covers the adventures till 1953. The prolific period of climbing for the last 37 years is covered in 68 pages. 'A brief History of Mountaineering', compiled by Audrey Salkeld towards the end, ensures a complete record of adventure.
If Mason's book is a thorough experience, like a symphony playing, with all the pieces, Bonington's book is to be read on an arm-chair with a cup of tea and a violin concerto playing lively tunes. The difference is obvious, but what is lost by way of complete coverage, Bonington makes up by way of extremely good reading and fun. Here is a part of the history. Bonington, narrating the history, and he knows it:
It is difficult for me to be completely objective since I have been closely and directly involved with the development of climbing in the last forty years. It has filled my life, given me that combination of joy, excitement, wonder and inevitable sorrow at the loss of all too many friends, but I hope that has enabled me to empathize all the better with those early climbers who first explored the mysteries of the Alps and traced the course of this serpentine river of ours.
So, turning familiarity to an advantage, Bonington writes about the climbers (not explorers). For the younger generation, particularly, the first 200 pages tell all the well-known stories and weave different patterns. This is enjoyable and exciting with the right mix of events and stories.
The latter pages consider the last 37 years, a long period. The chapters present three main issues as such, leaving behind the attempts to be exhaustive. The major climbs and development of climbing the mountains the 'hard way up' are considered. In the next chapter 'The Art of Suffering' extreme climbing is taken up. Exploits of Messner, Kurtyka and Kukuczka and the death of Boardman, Tasker and Madntyre are covered in detail. But the last chapter is a stealer: 'Always a Little Further^ Here Bonington considers the major developments, which may affect the future attitudes. Sponsorship, commercial climbs, sport climbing and various developments in rock climbing advancements are touched upon. We are left with a vision of the future.
In his opening sentence itself, Bonington declares the scope of the book: 'In writing a one volume history of mountaineering I have had no choice but to be selective'. It is here that some can have a grouse against this book. To a lay reader it may appear that mountaineering is still a British preserve, or that only Americans and Europeans indulge in the sport. Not enough mention is made about the Japanese climbers or of climbers from many other countries such as South Korea, India and others. This has led to certain specific achievements of these nationalities being ignored. For example the traverse of the Nanda Devi peaks by the Indo-Japanese team, climbs of many high peaks in the East Karakoram by the Japanese in the 1970s are not mentioned. They marched for weeks to reach the base camps over high passes and climbed giants like Singhi Kangri, Teram Kangri and others. One may not like the fixed-ropes but they are there, even as a style.
The personal selection necessarily misses out on some areas. The entire Himalayan range from Nepal to Karakoram is covered by one sketch-map of Changabang, the peak climbed by the author. Thus Paui Bauer's attempts on Kangchenjunga from Sikkim by the northeast spur is taken up, but not the completion of the route in 1977 by the Indians. The 1979 British route by the north face gets a mention.
Considering the style and, as a major event for the development of attitudes, small teams and smaller, independent climbs, deserved a passing mention at least. The achievements of Shipton and Tilman still attract many. Stephen Venables' climb of Kishtwar-Shivling with Dick Renshaw and even Bonington's own ascent of Shivling West with Jim Fotheringham, were trend-setters, and this brand of climbing should be emphasised. That would be really looking into the future.
But then these are only small personal observations and do not detract from the merit and enjoyment of the book. To write 'the' history of mountaineering some one would have to fill half a dozen volumes and the author would still not be able to include everything.
The history of climbing is wonderfully rich - it is not so much a matter of hanging on to the tradition and
distrusting new developments^ for these must occur as they do in all forms of human development.
Bonington, even at his age and with his experience, refuses to be 'pickled' and looks forward to the future with an open mind and welcomes change. I am sure readers will look forward to many more books from Bonington in future.
K2 THE 1939 TRAGEDY. By Andrew J. Kauffman & William L Putnam. Pp. 224, 36 b/w illustrations, 2 sketches, 3 maps, 1992. (The Mountaineers, Seattle and Diadem Books, London, £14.99).
Most British climbers know far less about the history of attempts on K2 than they do about equivalent attempts on Everest, mainly because the latter were predominantly British, so a potted history of K2 may be relevant. K2, only a few hundred feet lower than Everest, is considerably steeper and more difficult, and a much greater challenge to serious mountaineers. It has quite an early history.
The first attempt to climb it was ahead of its time, an expedition in 1902 led by the controversial Englishman, Alastair Crowley. They did some reconnaissance and climbed the lower part of the N.E. ridge. Next was a big Italian expedition in 1909, led by the Duke of Abruzzi. They did a little better, getting to 21,870 ft (6666 m) on the Savioa Saddle at the start of the N.W. ridge, and to 20,300 ft (6200 m) on the S.E. (Abruzzi) ridge.
Then a gap followed until Charles Houston's excellent expedition in 1938. His party was first to get high on the mountain. They climbed the most difficult part of the Abruzzi ridge, and reached a high point at about 26,000 ft (7920 m), only some 2,000 ft (600 m) from the top. The 1939 expedition was a follow-up of the previous trip, but with a weaker party which nevertheless got to about 27,000 ft (8230 m).
Another American attempt was made in 1953, also by Houston, and the mountain was finally climbed by a big Italian expedition in 1954 via the Abruzzi ridge. Over subsequent years, most of the other ridges, and a few faces have been climbed, with a rush of activity in 1986, when there were more ascents of, and more deaths on the mountain than in all of its previous history.
The topic of the book under review is the 1939 attempt, noted for its controversial disaster involving the deaths high up of Dudley Wolfe, a rich but incompetent American climber, and three Sherpas.
1 was myself on K2 in 1986. After my brush with the mountain, less conclusive either way than many others that year, I do have an active interest in most K2-related writings. But I did not find this book tp be compulsive reading. I think the authors intended their book to be a ""historical work, putting the record straight, rather than a gripping yarn. The style of writing certainly indicates this, with painstaking attention to detail, rather than an easy-flowing narrative.
They wished to throw light on the complex circumstances leading up to the disaster, an objective they pursued with meticulous care, but only limited success due to incomplete factual information. They did make good use of a number of fresh sources of original information, notably the expedition diary of Jack Durrance, one of the expedition members. The diary was previously unpublished due to Jack's reluctance to become caught in the web of post-expedition recriminations which had ensnared others. Although the diary cannot be regarded as completely impartial, it does seem to absolve Jack from much of the blame for the. tragedy, that had previously and unfairly been laid on him. On the other hand, expedition leader Fritz Wiessner was, it seems, only human after all, and must shoulder his share of the blame. Much remains unanswered.
Personally, I was interested less in such detailed fault-finding, and more in general long-term matters which the authors touched on, but did not emphasise. The main blame for the tragedy was in the weakness of the team. Fritz was the only one who was really qualified for such an ambitious objective. A naturalised American of German origin, he had much experience in the Alps and Rockies, and in 1932 he had been to 23,000 ft. (7000 rn.) on Nanga Parbat with Willi Merkl. The other five members of the team were much weaker, none had previous Himalayan experience (but who had in those days ?), most had climbed in the Alps or Rockies, but unexceptionally, and some only in the company of guides. The 1938 expedition members, mostly with stronger credentials, were unable to get away again so soon. No doubt Fritz realised the limitations of his colleagues, but his optimism, ambition and Teutonic stubbornness prevented him from cancelling the expedition, or withdrawing the party from the mountain when things were going wrong, but disaster might still have been averted.
The American Alpine Club, officially organised this expedition and the previous one, should also take some of the blame, for sending so inexperienced a team on so major an undertaking. They should" surely have been more objective in their appraisal of the party's chances than the ambitious and headstrong Wiessner. But the authors, both experienced mountaineers, fail to give this point due stress. They were
both former dignitaries (one a president, the other a vice-president) of the A.A.C., and failed to bite* the bullet of blaming their own organisation.
An extenuating factor was the late withdrawal from the expedition of three of its strongest potential members. But they were not very much stronger than those who did go, so I feel the authors overstress this point. The A.A.C. should have made the hard decision to cancel! the trip, or divert it to a more appropriate and lesser objective.
The book would best be read not for its weak narrative worth, nor for its strong attention to historical detail, but rather as an insight into what can go wrong on a big mountain with a party most of who have the wrong sort of experience. You wouldn't fill an Olympic marathon team with 100 metres runners.
LADAKH THROUGH THE AGES. By Shridhar Raul and H. N. Haul. (Pp. 368, 38 b/w illustrations, 1992. (Indus Publishing Co., New Delhi, Rs. 450).
Begun by Shridhar Kaul, this book was completed by his son H. N. Kaul and represents a labour of love for both. In trying to squeeze between its covers the full sweep of Ladakh's history, geography, heritage, political and administrative neglect, the book aims to present and impassioned plea to grant the Ladakhis power to steer their own destiny.
The first half of the book serves only as a backgrounder: the centuries of Ladakhi kings, the rule of the Dogras after the exploits of Zorawar Singh; the complex social* organization of the Buddhist community and the rise of a few modern leaders like Kushok Bakula: all these are covered rapidly, with a pedantic, linear approach. The material is sourced from the Ladakhi chronicles, early British commentators like Cunningham, Drew and Moorcroft, the Tarikhi Rashidi and, except for the last named, does not offer any new insights.
The real significance of the book lies in the chapters covering the pre and post-Indian Partition events in Ladakh, events in which Shridhar Kaul participated personally: thus we get a ringside view of the historic upheavals from a civilian point of view as opposed to the plethora of memoirs by the army brass who over the years have told their 'untold stories' to the nation.
As the second half of the book, penned by H. N. Kaul, takes over, political events gather momentum and here the author has been quite successful in detailing the sins of omission and commission of the successive state Chief Ministers - beginning with the 'Lion of Kashmir' Sheikh Mohamed Abdullah right through to the mid-eighties when his son Farookh Abdullah held the reins of the state government - and their betrayal of the faith of the Ladakhi people. Thus we have the 'glaring contradiction that even 45 years after the Indian Independence, a Buddhist Ladakhi child is taught in Urdu in the few state schools when Bodhi, his mother tongue, has a perfectly sound script and literature; whereas in the Kashmir valley, a Kashmiri script was evolved and used to replace Urdu as a medium of instruction. This section of the book is a disturbing litany of neglect, discrimination and corruption; brought up to date and including the disturbances that rocked Leh and shocked the rest of India in 1989.
Underlying the apparently partisan accounts, biased in favour of the Buddhist majority of the Leh district, it is the author's firm belief that they are the wronged people: and he argues logically and also substantiates his claims. What ultimately emerges from all this is that unless the Ladakhis run their own affairs, instead of being victims of a state power which is far removed from them, in distance sympathy and understanding, there is little hope that the poverty, backwardness and extremely hard life of its simple, cheerful and hardy people will improve. In the world's largest democracy, it is the least that the nation can do for them. Except for a total lack of maps and rather slipshod proofreading, the message the book aims to deliver, hits the target.
ISLAND AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD. By Stephen Venables, Pp. 177, 32 colour illustration, 3 maps, 1991. (Hodder & Stoughton, London, £ 16.99).
Island at the edge of the world is not only a narrative of a five man expedition to South Georgia. It also provides a perceptive insight into the history of the island and a description of the abundant and varied species of wildlife found in the Antarctica, which are quite unfamiliar to most of us. It is a multjfaceted book - a work which reflects the sensitive and perceptive nature of the author.
It was around the time that Stephen got back from his ascent of Everest and visited his friend Julian Freeman Attwood towards the end of 1989 that they discussed the possibility of an expedition to South Georgia. Ever since 1775, when Captain James Cook had landed in Possession Bay and taken possession of the country in his Majesty's name (George III), South Georgia has belonged to the U.K. Over the years Argentina made several claims to the island. Since 1968, MMS Endurance, an ice patrol vessel, had symbolised Britain's presence in the Antarctic, tvery year on its southern journey via the South American ports, it had been traditional for it to take some civilian passengers along. Julian and Stephen decided to persuade the Navy to take them along.
When it was dear that the expedition was definite, Julian and Stephen got down to choosing the team. They had been set a maximum of 5 members by the Captain of the Endurance. They decided on Lindsay Griffin and Brian Davison, both experienced climbers who had climbed in Tibet with them and Keest Hooft, a Dutch film maker to get video footage for the expedition. 'Hooft's sensitivity as an observer would probably be more valuable than the technical skills of a seasoned cameraman'.
When the team was finalised, they decided to find out more about the mountains in South Georgia. Who could be better informed than Duncan Carse - after whom Mt. Carse, the highest peak in South Georgia was named. Duncan Carse had gone to live alone in South Georgia for 18 months. One night, Carse's hut was completely destroyed by a freak wave and this left him in a tent, surviving 116 winter days before a passing sailing vessel rescued him. Carse gave them valuable information on the island.
On Sunday, 3 December, 1989, the 5 man team left Britain for South Georgia. They first flew to the Falklands, stopping at Ascension Island to refuel and then joined the Endurance to sail 850 miles to South Georgia.
South Georgia's main mountain range is at right angles to the wind. However, there is a mile-wide break between the ranges, the Ross pass, which was the expedition's proposed base from where they would attempt the undimbed peaks. Ross pass was also a wind funnel directing all the force of the notorious westerlies down Ross glacier and into the Royal Bay. It was at Royal Bay that they learnt about the wind. 'It was a new malevolent force, battering mercilessly at our tents, flinging storage barrels across the valley, whipping sand and snow in our faces, and when it got the chance throwing us bodily to the ground.'
They started ferrying supplies to Ross pass and also built a snow cave to move into (because a tent had already been wrecked at Royal Bay). However, an unusually warm wind melted the ice and the cave got submerged in the lake that formed, forcing them back to Royal Bay. The weather was bad for the next few days, but it got better on Dec. 30th Brian and Stephen set out for Ross pass, to build an 'Ice Palace' while the other three followed later. By the next day the 'Ice Palace' was completed and was to be their home for the next twenty one days.
The first peak they attempted was Vogel. However by following the prospective route, they realised that a deep trough separated them from Vogel. *«Tt was Friday morning, 4 a.m., Brian woke the rest as the weather was clear and there was time to climb a virgin peak they had been eyeing. Their first summit was called 'the Thing' or the 'Blob' and this success was followed by another one - Vogel peak, approached this time round the southwest flank. By the time they had climbed Vogel, they had spent 16 days in the ice Palace' and had only a week's supply of food left. Brian and Stephen were the optimistic ones, aiming for Mt. Carse, while Julian had his eyes on -Mt Kuing - a closer, undimbed peak. But the weather was not on their side. Three days of relentless rain, and the snow cave dripped incessantly. A slight clearing allowed them to conquer point 2422 and then the wind changed direction, the barometer showed some encouraging signs - would there be time for Mt. Carse? Brian and Stephen were up at 4 the next morning. None of the others were anxious to go. They left by 7 and made their way up Spencley glacier. By one, they reached the final pass and studied the mountain __ and decided on the northwest ridge. They decided to press on
while the weather was good, and 'take the mountain by storm before it knew what happened.'
Island at the Edge of the World is about a dream. A dream which unlike many others, was fulfilled. Stephen Venables writes with easy informality, vivid expression, humour and a human touch. This is not a mere technical account of an expedition. It is also an account of the history (could he have been more brief?) of South Georgia, its unique wildlife and its landscape. The photographs were a pleasure, some breathtaking. The one of lenticular clouds in East Cumberland Bay stays in one's memory like a beautiful painting.
THE CALL OF EVEREST. First ascent by an Indian woman. By
Brig. D. K. Khular, Pp. 200, 8 b/w and 6 colour illustrations,
2 maps, 1992. (Vision Books, New Delhi, Rs. 190).
Here is a small sized book without any pretence to aesthetic excellence
or quality of pictures, purporting to be an account of the officially
sponsored Indian men-women expedition to Everest in 1984. However,
it deserves special attention since the style and contents of this book
lay bare the unsavoury story of a major Indian expedition, which
is generally not found in print, being preferred to be pushed under
Mountaineering activity in India, whether official or otherwise is undertaken with an overdose of glorification and national pride. More so on Everest, which promises a passport to places and privileges to a summiter. In narrating this race the author has gone counter to the element of glorification. He admits alarmingly to serious short-comings in administration, organisation, material and financial resources, the process of selection of the leader and members, the Sherpa teams, and above all the clashes of ambitions of the personalities that were pitted on the highest mountain in the world. As Brig. Gyan Singh states in his opening remarks, 'Competition, jealousies, vaulting ambitions seem to have replaced camaraderie and team spirit in many cases, particularly in prestigious ventrues.' It is significant that the book was published seven years after the event.
The author was the Principal of the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute at Darjeeling from 1981 and commences his story with the goings-on there and the process of selection of the leader and members of the team. There is the strain of bureaucratic reporting in the prose, interspersed with titbits of gossip on the frailties of men and women. The reader becomes restless with such pages filled with innuendoes fit in a memoir but not germane to the main story. Expedition writers in India seem to be bogged down too much with the irrelevant bureaucratic process which may be dispensed with in a few lines in the preface. True mountain literature would emerge if only the writers describe the action of men and mountains as their principal theme and not how they were assembled and announced simultaneously from Delhi and Kathmandu, where then the I.M.F. President, H. C. Sarin, was on a posting as an Ambassador. The author describes at length the goings-on at Delhi for fund raising, purchases and packing.
It ws a tragic expedition. A strong team of climbers were selected. An advance party had negotiated the icefall in five days with deputy leader Prem Chand. The author disarmingly narrates the loss of personal understanding between himself and his prospective summit climber Dorjee Lhatoo, who was also his subordinate at the mountaineering Institute. There are numerous anecdotes which caused friction between them before the expedition left Delhi, largely due to certain behaviour that infuriated the leader which nearly ended in Lhatoo threatening to leave the expedition a few hours before the departure. Eventually this did not take pake. Writing with hindsight, the leader felt that this was a precursor of the rift that was caused with the deputy leader, upon instigation by this member.
The expedition's advance party was dogged by lack of proper provisions, .idministrarjve and financial support that caused a near rebellion by one of the Sherpa teams. As the leader's party was on the march to the base camp, news came of an avalanche tragedy causing the death of a Sherpa and injuring five others. On top of that, the cook was found dead near Lobuje. The lack of funds compelled the leader to send his lead climber with an S.O.S. to Kathmandu to meet I.M.F. President/Ambassador. Upon arrival at the base carnp the leader received a long note from the deputy leader, from a lower resting place, pouring out his mind at the chaotic nature of the expedition.
Eventually the expedition got going and quickly set up a series of camps up the Western Cwm and even reached the Sourth Col as early as 29 April. It was still beset with Sherpa porter shortage to carry loads as different teams of them apparently did not pull together. To top it all, the oxygen equipment which reached the expedition was deficient, forcing the leader to trade-off a sporting offer from a Bulgarian team climbing the West Ridge and desiring support for a traverse by the Indian route, in exchange for lighter and more efficient Russian oxygen equipment, so vitally needed for the Indian push. When the leader and the deputy leader announced the first summit teams there was discord from those who were not included in the first push, to the extent of a lady declaring her desire to quit!
The summit party was all set on 9 May. By a strange turn of events the two Bulgarians on their way down from the summit traverse found themselves benighted on the SE ridge. The leader of the Indian expedition had to respond to a call for emergency help from the second summit team of Indian climbers at the South Co! who were in position. The second summit party of Bulgarians met lone Indian climber Phu Dorji below the summit. Two others from the Indian team had earlier retreated. After reaching the summit without oxygen an the last sections, Phu Dorji descended to the South Col, meeting Bulgarians on the way. The two Bulgarians escorted a benighted member of their first traverse party to the South Col.
The Indian leader called-off the second summit party poised for the attempt and diverted the manpower and resources for the rescue operation for the two Bulgarians who were left in their hands at the South Col, the second Bulgarian party having left for the base. This dramatic turn of events fatally affected the destiny of the Indian expedition. The Bulgarians had co-operated considerably with the Indians, giving them oxygen equipment and walkie-talkie sets. It was the Indians' turn to express gratitude and sacrifice.
It should be mentioned here that one of the principal assignments of the Indian Everest expedition 1984 was to place a minimum of two Indian girls'on the summit. This was drummed into each member of the team. However the leader notes with regret that when Phu Dorji in the lead found Rita and Ajjg Dorji trailing behind (all unroped), he did not bother to communicate with them and instead dashed dlone for the summit, ditching the principal objective of taking the girl along. Ang Dorji had to turn back as his feet got cold. Rita had no other alternative but to give up.
On the part of the ladies there was keen contest to be on the summit team. On a trial run two ladies claimed to have reached C3 when they had turned back for short of it, as seen by the leader from the advance camp. 'A small lie is not much of a price, if it secures a summit birth'.
After regrouping, two summit teams were put to action only to be foiled by a severe avalanche which hit C3. It was occupied by one summit team. Members and Sherpas were badly injured. The Indian penchant for records is evident in a short quote attributed to Sanjeev Saith. While waiting for the injured being attended and with the avalanche debris strewn all around, he had something else to do.
Pretending not to be breathless, I pulled out my flute and proceeded to play a Bhairavi for the sherpas, thereby establishing a high-altitude record for an Indian classical flute recital. I had to. I wouldn't have been invited to the IMF parties in Delhi without some sort of record to my credit.
Shades of Nero playing the fiddle while Rome was burning ?
The rescue effort was heroic but this made the team's objective almost unattainable now. The earlier team at the South C6l retreated in bad weather. Morale was low. Fear had gripped the party. However, the objective to put a girl on the summit looked attainable with the enthusiasm showed by Bachendri Pal who, although involved in the avalanche at C3, was undaunted in spirit. It was decided that she would participated in the final push with two men and with two more in support. A follow up summit party of Lhatoo and Paljor was also planned a day after. However what followed was bizzare. The second party using oxygen in full throttle, instead of halting at C3 as ordered, overtook the first party to occupy the South Col along with the latter. Next day there was a shameless show down with the second party not giving up their scarce oxygen cylinders for the first party - six left-over cylinders were found to have mysteriously leaked! The leader suspected foul play by the second summit party, having sabotaged the leak earlier, but he is not definite. He writes a special Appendix 4, titled 'Leaked Cylinders'. There was one girl in the crowd at the South Col and the second party was fitter than the others. The leader's order on walkie-talkie to Paljor to hand over oxygen cylinders to Magan Bissa was disobeyed. Paljor walked away to the summit. The leader instructs Kiran Kumar, the member of the first team to hand over the remaining Bulgarian oxygen cylinders to Lhatoo, who by now had attained the position of strength. The leader remarks:
There was a basic dichotomy in our team, which surfaced quite unmistakenly now. There were the professionals who had dean and simple single-minded motives, get-to-the-top-and-back-safely-looking-after-myself-first-and-then-after-others, and then there were the amateurs, who had mixed-up notions about friendship and decency and chivalry and sportsmanship and sacrifice and fair play.
The race that commenced on the 22nd ended on 23 May when on a magnificent day the first Indian girls set foot on the summit of Everest at 1.07 p.m. along with two men and one more to follow after some time - Lhatoo, Ang Dorji and Paljor. (Ang Dorji was rewarded Rs. 15,000 for roping up the girl to the summit).
There was rejoicing all around in I.M.F. quarters at Kathmandu and Delhi. The I.M.F. President exhorting the leader to put one more girl to the top to make the lady 'P.M. and I.M.F. happy' and that will win 'the leader, deputy leader, the team a welcome given only to big heroes'. But the depleted team was in shambles, physically and psychologically. The leader called off the expedition. It is indeed comical to find attempted backseat driving from Delhi and Kathmandu, as if the leader was a babe in the woods. Even answering the press conference at Kathmandu on leader's return was taken over by the I.M.F. President.
The expedition ended in disenchantment all round. The leader published his story after a seven year digestive process. There could be many facets of this sad story. The author has revealed his inner thoughts and frustrations. He even admits his own misjudgements and errors. He had not hesitated to comment on the frailties of his team members. Although the book cannot be included in memorable mountain literature, it has the unique distinction of laying the affairs of the expedition bare. The leader has listed the lessons of this expedition and some of self-critical comments by members. He also gives a verdict as seen through the comments by members, 'Avoid mixed expeditions. It turns out to be a honeymoon'. A sad commentary on Indian morality, in the second last decade of the 20th Century. The book has a lot to ponder over.
Jagdish C. Nanavati
Note: Please also refer to the letter on the same expedition by Dorjee Lhatoo in the 'Correspondence' section in the present volume. - Ed.
GANGA DESCENDS. By Ruskin Bond. Pp. 95, 12 sketches, 1992. (The English Book Depot, Dehra Dun, Rs. 50).
SEVEN SACRED RIVERS. By Bill Aitken. Pp. 196, 16 b/w illustrations, 1 map, 1992, (Penguin Books, New Delhi, Rs. 75).
Ruskin Bond has done more to introduce Nature to Indian children than any government department or enthusiastic environmentalist. Trees, animals and birds play an important role in his stories. His forte is simple language and short, easy descriptions. Bond lives in Mussourie and it is the vicinity of his home that he describes in Ganga Descends, a book comprising a collection of essays about folk-lore, lives of villagers, birds, rivers and his own personal experiences in the Himalaya. As the start and end of the book, he has included chapters about himself as a writer and mountain-dweller, and his lifestyle. In two chapters, he has written about the history \of Dehradun and Mussourie. By telling the reader about a young lad waiting for a letter, about an old man selling peanuts in a bazar, about the pilgrims that struggle to Badrinath, with only their faith to keep them going, Bond had brought out the difficulties of living at such great heights. Unkind weather and little food, bad transport and loneliness are overcome by a certain ability to endure.
Besides spurts of descriptions, always crisp and short, he frequently includes mentions of Englishmen who visited the areas he has been to, as well as the towns along the way. The book is good to take a peek at the living conditions in Garhwal Himalaya. The view offered is of a lay-person, part-naturalist, part-trekker, part-writer. The book is easy to read, easy to finish.
Bill Aitken's name is a familiar one amongst readers of national dailies and magazines in India, published in English. His theme, is travel, his talent, humour. Though Scot, he has made India his home for over three decades, we has imbibed the traits and attitudes of his adopted countrymen. The mixture has resulted in a refreshing approach towards people, experiences, cultures, problems, and Aitken pens them lucidly in his essays.
In Seven Sacred Rivers, Aitken has described his journeys up and along the Ganga, the Brahmaputra, the Mahanadi, the Narmada, the Godavari, the Kaveri and the Indus. He has traced the rivers upto their source, be it in the lofty, inaccessible heights of the Himalaya or the primitive wilds of Madhya Pradesh. He has 'travelled along India's rivers by foot, motor-bike, bus and train for the sheer pleasure of proximity'. In the process, he has faced hardships and seen Indian life at grass-root level, and most of the time with little money to spare. The book reveals more than just the flow of the rivers; it is a fine comment on the social fabric of Indians from Assam to Rajasthan to Tamil Nadu. Whilst glorifying the abundance and variety of Nature's bounty along the banks of the rivers, the author* has brought out the extent of environmental damage wherever he has witnessed it. «T
Philosophical paragraphs are interspersed with autobiographical ones. He has met and expressed his opinions (often unflattering) on various important personalities, both political and social. The geography and history of the places he has journeyed through have been weil-researched and briefly given - enough to acquaint the reader, not bore him.
What makes the book different is the way Aitken has treated his theme. He has compared each river to a human female form. Thus he 'fell in love with the Narmada the moment (he) saw her. She was incontrovertibly feminine, more so than any other river I have
seen..... The blueness of the Godavari was a lighter, more spiritual
shade while the dark blaze of the Krishna was openly erotic. Only the Narmada seemed to offer a lasting relationship based on warmth and affection. Who was she?'
Aitken's journeys on motor-bike, alone, and with little money to spare have enriched his experiences (and the book) and he has injected his work with plenty of anecdotes, too. Aitken's other writings have ranged from complaints about and against the Indian tourism industry, to descriptions of the 'toy' trains that carry vacationers to hill-stations, to life in the Capital, to___ Seven Sacred Rivers, indeed a worthwhile addition to any library.
The selection of the seven rivers narrated here itself shows a deep understanding of the Hindu psyche by the author. It is the blessings by these rivers that a traditional Hindu marriage is solemanised and the ancient texts give mantras which state these. The author makes the readers understand why these rivers were selected by the sages. This is a commendable job for a Scotsman turned Indian. Both the authors, Bond and Aitken, live near each other at Mussourie and between them understand Indian culture and write about it more than anyone else.
100 HIMALAYAN FLOWERS. By Ashwin Mehta. Text by Prof. P. V. Bole. Pp. 144, 100 colour illustrations, 1991. (Mapin Publishing pvt. ltd., Ahemdabad, nps).
Last summer I had the good fortune to visit the Kumaon Himalaya for the first time. That expedition to Panch Chuli is extensively documented in this journal, but the articles are reports mainly on the climbing that took place. The mountains were indeed very fine and the glaciers impressive, but for me the real fteat was to travel through primal virgin forest and up onto alpine meadows that were probably identical to Smythe's famous 'Valley of Rowers'.
The flora of Kumaon is the perfect Everyman's compromise, encompassing most of the Western Himalaya species and a good smattering of flowers associated with Nepal and the far eastern Himalayan. Ashvin Mehta's beautiful new book is drawn from this wealth of variety, presenting a personal selection of 100 better known species. Most readers will be familiar with Mehta's earlier photographic study, Himalaya : Encounters with Eternity. His new book focusses down from the grand view to the intimate, but is printed to the same high quality.
The book is not a botanical reference work. For plant identification, one turns to the standard work by Polunin and Stainforth. Mehta's photos are deliberately subjective, artistic rather than botanical, frequently isolating flowers without accompanying foliage. Although each photograph is backed up with a precise botanical description, the book is essentially an aesthetic celebration of the glories of the Himalayan flora, to titillate the beginner.
1 was thrilled to see his massed pink polygonums, reminding me of the high meadows of Kishtwar, his close-up study of a blood red' potentialia and his tight cluster of Iris Kumaonensis, bringing back a flood of memories from the Panch Chuli expedition. By contrast, I was disappointed by his Primula macrophylla, which did not seem to extract the deep, vibrant purple I recall. However, one has to remember that there are numerous variables, not only in the flowers themselves and the particular light in which they are photographed, but also in the colour film and the ,many processes that lead to the final printed page. By and large the colours seem vibrantly accurate: to give one specific example, the unique, exquisite, electric blue of Corydalis kashmeriana is captured perfectly.
If I have one criticism, it is that sometimes the depth of field is so restricted as to leave nine tenths of the picture blurred. However, these photographs are not studio portraits - they were ail taken in the field, making do with available light and the blurring tendencies of wind. In any case, the book is not intended as a scientific study. The introduction and notes at the end are directed at the amateur like me, who can be driven to ecstatic rapture by the Himalayan flora, without necessarily knowing a great deal about it. Mehta's beautiful book certainly tempts me to return and has made me desperate to find the wonderful crimson spotted Lilium polyphyllum.
THE HANDBOOK OF CLIMBING. By Allen Fyffe and Iain Peter, Pp. 373, many b/w and colour illustrations, sketches, 1990. (Pelham Books, London, £20).
A handbook which has been endorsed by the British Mountaineering Council. It is1 useful for those who want to learn to climb and for those who wish to improve their skills and technical knowledge of climbing.
Many books on the climbing, techniques have been available for many years. Some cover specific areas like ice-climbing and related techniques. Many cover specific aspects like leadership for children or organising small expeditions. Few are exhaustive, hoping to cover almost all a climber should know. One such well known book over the years is Mountaineering by Alan Blackshaw. But techniques change, attitudes change and equipment is upgraded. Thus it is always welcome when someone who is in forefront of climbing writes about it from experience. Here we have two of them.
Both authors are fully qualified to undertake such an exhaustive work. Allen Fyffe is a full time climbing instructor at Glenmore Lodge, Scotland. He has made a number of ascents in the higher ranges also. Iain Peter is, at present, training administrator of the British Mountaineering Council's Mountain Walking Leader Training Board. He also has pursued a full-time career in instructing and guiding all over the world. Thus what they write here is backed up by experience and authority.
The book has been divided into three major sections and appendices. Section one is on 'Rock Climbing' and section two is on 'Snow, Ice and Winter Climbing.' Both these sections cover major aspects like equipment, technique, protections and belay. The section on rock climbing also covers Emergency Procedures and Pegs and Artificial Climbing. Section three is on 'Alpine Climbing' divided into chapters on The Alpine Experience, Glacier Travel; Alpine Rock, Ice and Mixed Climbing; and Mountain Huts and Bivouaking. The appendices cover chapters on Guides, Grades and Games, Sea Cliff Climbing, Navigation, Snow & Avalanches, Snow Shelters, Training, Psychological Skills in Climbing and First Aid.
All sections are written in a simple dear and logical manner and are supported with illustrations and photographs. The sections on equipment, technique, protections and belay are exhaustive and cover the latest developments. 'Emergency procedures'. The chapter on first aid could be well complemented with a section on search and rescue.
In the chapter on 'The Alpine Experience' the authors have described only the alpine style of climbing.* The book could have also covered the traditional style of climbing mentioning the trend towards alpinism. In reality, many of the climbs to the high mountains end up as a mix of different styles of climbing. This chapter would be useful to those who are starting out on their alpine experience, for those who wish to extend this alpine experience to the high mountains, the authors could have also described the procedure of organising an expedition to the high mountains with its related problems of travel, equipment, medical background and logistics. From its title one would look forward to an insight into all aspects of climbing, including that of the high mountains of the Himalaya, Karakoram etc. but is restricted to purely alpine climbing.
The Appendices are informative and cover various related topics. A chapter on weather patterns and forecasting would have been useful. Much credit needs to be given to the authors for including the chapter on Psychological Skills, since this subject has been neglected in the past. The chapter on First Aid touches only a few areas. One must go through a good book on first-aid for mountaineers in addition.
Hamish Macinnes aptly writes in the Foreword to the book, 'But it is not just a book for the beginner, even the experienced mountainer will find gems of information and the excellent Glossary and Index make it also a comprehensive reference work.'
Finally as the authors say in introduction, 'The best aspects of climbing are your personal experiences. No attempt has been made in this book to describe what climbing can give its participants: that is for you to discover, and it has been very well described by others.' This book will certainly make attaining that experience safe and possible.
AS I SAW IT FROM SHANTI NIVAS By Jack Gibson, Pp. 191, 6 colour illustrations 1992, (Published by the author, Ajmer, Rs. 200).
The author came to India in 1937 to join the teaching staff of the newly opened Doon School in Dehra Dun. Till he retired in 1969 from Mayo College as its Principal he worked with educational and military institutions from time to time. He had keen interest in out-door life and introduced his pupils to skiing and mountaineering. He was the President of the Himayan Club from 1970 to 1973. This period of his time in India is covered in his early book As 1 Saw It published in 1976.1
1. See H.J. Vol. XXXIV, p. 203, for the review. - Ed.
The author decided to retire and settle in India. For most of the period till today he has resided at Ajmef in Rajasthan. This new book As I Saw It From Shanti ISivas records his experiences mainly in India from 1969 to 1984.
The book offers a bird's eye view of a British educationalist, of what it has been like to stay on, after 32 years of work in India, both during the time of British Raj and after the Indian Independence. His views are freely expressed on political, judicial and social systems, educational and moral standards. These are of great value but to those who are interested in genuine introspection. His love for his kitchen gardern his struggle to adjust with the deteriorating values, not only in the India but the world over, his deep concern for the protection of environment and well-being of India come out very strongly.
The author has preferred to tell his story in the form of letters in chronological order. Though the continuity is lost in this format he believes that a better picture is painted in this way.
His views are not pessimistic but one definitely comes across a feeling of hurt and sadness in his writings as people around him and the turn of events keep failing to stand up to his high expecttations. Just to quote an example he handed over hundreds of meticulously prepared, valuable exercises he had set in Geography and English to masters at Mayo College in 1984, a part of his heart hoping that they could be put to good use. At the same time, however, the other part of his heart very well knew that the papers would be probably chucked into a waste paper basket. And he felt perhaps that was what he should have done in the first place. But everything is not lost. Gibson has created awareness and passed on his values to many in the next generation.
THE MERRY-GO-ROUND OF MY LIFE, Pp. 219, b/w illustrations 1991, (Vantage Press, New York, £13.95).
The book is an account of Richard Hachtel's various climbs, expeditions and excursions in various parts of the world over a few generations. The author Richard Hachtel was born in 1913 at the small town of Schwabach, near Nuernberg in what today is the Federal Republic of Germany. He belongs to the revolutionary era of World War II when concepts of sports and life in general were constantly changing. Mountaineering as a sport was not very well recognised and there was no special clothing or climbing equipment available to climbers unlike today. He has weil brought out these changing concepts in attitudes and equipment over the last few decades.
He used to ride a bicycle upto whatever distance possible to reach the base of the mountains on dirt'tracks because in those days there was no means of easy transport to the base of some of the climbers in the Alps. From his narrations of adventure the reader shares his feelings of fulfilling the spirit of adventure and the satisfaction of enduring physical hardships. In addition to all the drawbacks of that time the author is consciously aware of his clumsy physical appearance. Through his determination and strong will power these never came in the way of his mountaineering.
He climbed in different parts of the world. Though the climbers are distinct, his narration is plain and sometimes it is tiring to read details of excursions. He rarely expresses his feelings while on the mountain thus not allowing the reader to be an active participant of his adventure. However, his stories bridge the generation gap between climbers of past and present as he is well aware of techniques, grading systems for rock climbing, and clothing of modern mountaineering which may be attributed to the fact that he has climbed with different generations of climbers with ease.
His major expeditioning period was between 1961 to 1978. He turned seventy in 1983. Reading his adventures from 1983 till the publication of this book in 1991 one admires his perseverance.
In the last outing mentioned in the book, he only says 'You cannot win them all' but is contented with his life. He has aptly called the book an adventurer's diary and not an autobiography to suggest that the spirit of adventure is immortal.
BUDDHIST MONASTERIES IN HIMACHAL PRADESH. By O. C. Handa, Pp. 216, 37 plates, 54 sketches, 1987. (Indus Publishing Co., New Delhi, Rs. 150).
This book is a detailed study of the Buddhist monastries in Himachal Pradesh, a historical record from ancient India to medieval Renaissance, and to modern transformation.
The author has divided the romantic centres of Himachal Pradesh into four valleys.
The author starts from Lahul Valley where Buddhism must have entered around the 2nd century A.D. The Vajravarahi temple, Trilokinath temple, Guru Ghantal monastery have all the common link of carvings of the same era. The present structure is a fascinating monument of Hinduism and Buddhism through the ages.
Lahul monasteries adopt the Tibetan construction technique marked by flat roofs and sun dried brick walls. But in the layout they follow the ancient Indian scheme as a matter of tradition.
Spiti valley has seven monastrics which profess the unreformed form of Lamaism, the Nyingmapa order. There are 21 monastries belonging to the Ge-Lug-Pa order. The author studies each in great depth, about the structure layout, comparison with Tibetan and Indian temples. Well drawn sketches accompany each section.
Satluj valley: This is the Kinnaur region, narrated in the Indian epics and Puranas. Here the Buddhist influence can be seen on the demoanical Kinnaur dieties.
In Kinnaur, the primitive deities are propitiated and the Mahanayanist pantheon worshipped by all. This region is a socio-economic divide between the Buddhist Tibet and the Brahmanic India.
Beas valley: It was till the 9th century that Buddhism thrived here, then the Brahamanism held sway again in the 14th century Lamaism found its way, and the most prominent example is of Rawalsar.
The explanation of a minor structure like chorten, its significance, are in details with diagrams. Further chapters explain the educational, social economical and political aspects of this region. The architectural development with local construction technique is studied in detail.
The monastic art makes interesting and knowledgeable reading about the paintings in thanks, the motifs, and the different types of casting and carving of statues.
This history of this the Western Himalayan region is well preserved in minute details by O.C. Handa in this book.
LAHAUL-SPITI. A Forbidden Land in the Himalayas. By S.C. Bajpai. Pp. 164, 10 b/w illustrations, 1 map, 1992. (Indus Publishing Co., New Delhi, Rs. 200).
KINNAUR. A Restricted Land in the Himalaya. By S.C. Bajpai. Pp. 240, 13 b/w illustrations, 1 map, 1991. (Indus Publishing Co., New Delhi, Rs. 250.)
A HANDBOOK OF THE HIMALAYA. By Dr. S. S. Negi, Pp. 350, 34 b/w illustrations, 18 maps and sketches, 1990. (Indus Publishing Co., New Delhi, Rs. 400).
HIMALAYAN RIVERS, LAKES ANJD GLACIERS. By S. S. Negi, Pp. 182, 8 sketches, 1991. (Indus Publishing Co., New Delhi, Rs. 200).
The Britishers, during their rule in India, compiled information about each district. These were published in the District Gazeteers and covered each area in great details. The details generally covered location, geography, social attitudes and political events, economy and revenue matters. These gazeteers were an invaluable reference to the areas, its history and administration. They were periodically updated. In recent decades these gazeteers are not published regularly.
The above books, particularly the first two, cover their respective areas in similar details. They cover most of the items of the early gazeteers and update it till the present day. These books will be a good source of reference about these areas. The title 'LahauP is not in conformity of the accepted spelling 'Lahul' on the maps. And it must be the 'Himalaya' (not s), particularly for an Indian author.
The last two books covers the entire Himalayan range systematically regionwise at first. Then all the subjects like forests, geology, wild-life, environmental problems, etc., are covered. Rivers of India, Bhutan and Nepal with some of the lakes and glaciers are covered in the last book. The style of all these books are more suited for reference.
These books also represent a sample of mountain-related literature now being published in India by Indian authors and Indian publishers. The photographs are of rather poor quality, but the information makes up for it. For those interested in these areas and the range of the Himalaya, more than just climbing mountains, the titles will prove useful.
THE STATE OF THE WORLD'S MOUNTAINS: A Global Report. Ed. by Peter B. Stone on behalf of Mountain Agenda. Pp. 391, i-xx, 1992. (Zed Books Ltd., London and New Jersey, SFR. 25).
This complete, well-illustrated report was prepared by a group of people, collectively known as Mountain Agenda, as a 'back up' to a shorter document submitted to the Rio Summit Conference on Environment and Development. It is a detailed analysis of the impact of human activity on mountain regions, describing what is going wrong, why, and what can be done.
The report covers all the mountain regions of the world: the Alps, the Himalaya, and the Andes, of course, but also the mountains of Iceland, of Papua New Guinea, of Hawaii, the Appalachians, the Scottish Highlands and others. It deals with maximum global diversity, from sea level to<a!most 900 m, from the tropical rainforest to extreme highaltitude deserts.
The report sets out to answer three key questions:
1. What is the role of mountains in the global environment and in development ?
2. What are the present threats to the highlands of the world?
3. What needs to be done for the world's mountains and their inhabitants ?
The section on the Himalaya was prepared by J. Bandyopadhyay of the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in Kathmandu with the help of his colleagues. It deals with the 'Himalayan Dilemma'; the need for accelerated use of natural