16. 1000 HIMALAYAN QUIZ.
  24. NILKANTHA EXP. 1993.
  27. LAHOUL.




THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY. By Phil Bartlett. Pp. 183, 64 b/w illustrations, 1993. (The Ernest Press, London, £, 15.95).

The author begins, 'This book is an attempt to celebrate the nature of mountaineering'. It is also a most comprehensive answer over a wide span of mostly English speaking climbers (and some non-climbing mountain lovers like the Romantic poets and Ruskin) to the questions, why climb, and why go to the mountains. A few words seem to sum up those answers in a wide range of experiences and people; expansion, or the heightening, the liberation, the growth of self; and exploration, the urge to go to the edge of the beyond, man's ancient curiosity to explore new worlds and himself. In so doing, Bartlett is scholarly and historical, as he intended to be; and also continuously analytical of the very different emotions, attitudes, and styles of a variety of climbers since Whymper. To that extent, this book is an exploration of the many selves in a climbing community, as diverse as any group of men. It is for the sensitive and the reflective; not for the flag-sticking chauvinist.

For some, big mountaineering in the first half of this century seemed like war, for some the discovery of terra incognita. For some it was inner character-building, for some it gave a strong companionship. For many it had a touch of religion or spirituality, even mysticism. Having abandoned holy orders, Leslie Stephen thought that if he was to 'invent a new idolatory', or 'prostrate himself', it would not be before beast, ocean or sun, but 'before one of those gigantic masses to which, in spite of all reason, it is impossible not to attribute some shadowy personality'. For him the religious experience was 'the only thing which in the end can justify our taking it seriously'. Most western climbers find it hard to put it so explicitly. Bartlett acknowledges 'eastern thought was more happily placed in this respect.' Referring to Westerners, the author feels 'we hardly have the language to express it any more'. It is deeper than that, a secular, technological culture perhaps. Partly a long tradition of closeness to nature, and partly because Asia is the birth continent of the major religions, 'dharma', Tao, Zen have led to mountain paths. But now we are rudely reminded, 'nothing is sacred'. We are Lionel Terray's Consquistadors of the Useless; and Messner was afraid that striking irons in the rock might kill the 'dragon' in the mountain, which most climbers do unfeelingly without his sensitivity. Was that dragon a deep primitive link?

Perhaps the least satisfying aspect in the book is of the man-mountain association in science. After a passing mention of de Saussure (the first geologist of glaciers), and Finch (the pioneer oxygen man on the early Everest expeditions), the author believes modern mountaineers don't climb for science any more. It is dismissed at that. In a scientific age no longer haunted by hobgoblins in high places, that points to a critical incompleteness of recent mountaineering experience; or perhaps to an arrogance that we know all the science there is to know about it. That is why, even the world's biggest names in mountaineering are belatedly concerned about Himalayan ecological degradation, and are at such a loss as to what to do about it in their old happy hunting grounds. They find they have been mere birds of passage, roosting in high camps for a few weeks. Not for them the fascinating geological structures of Lamayuru, where, in Ladakh one witnesses in the raw the geological formation of the Himalaya over 65 million years. Nor for most, the loss of the precious snow leopard, not to speak of the human misery after deforestation, soil erosion, and water run-off. When Mummery found the odolites and plane tables 'an abomination', he failed to share Shipton's adventure of exploration of the unknown in the scientific imagination. Nor do most mountaineers share Einstein's close intuitions between science and the forces of the universe as a kind of spiritual experience. They mistake science for oxygen cylinders and physiological tests; the one a tangible help, the other a bloody nuisance. If science comes in the way of the summit it just has to be kicked aside.

One of the ironies of the book is that whilst the author and many mountaineers think that the experience is a throw-back to the primitive, the simple, even the elemental; it has been an expression of the rise of the leisured class among those privileged to have the time and the money, besides the urge. C. G. Jung's 'return to the archaic' by those for whom the new urban civilisation floods out the empty spaces within, the quiet moments with the Earth's beauties and secrets we call Nature.

Perhaps, in a community of climbers torn between asceticism and what Shipton called 'the fleshpots', between acknowledged selfishness (Bonington) and the higher spirit of man, between progress (all the latest gear) and primitivism (Messner's dragon); the most satisfying chapter is on 'Fusion in Diversity'. 'The core of the thing', writes Bartlett, 'lies in the realisation that the sum is greater than the parts'; the physical exhilaration and the mystic feel are both there, one promotes the other. 'The idea of balance is at the very centre of mountain experience', between the simple approaches and the sophisticated rewards, between danger and survival, between the finite and the infinite. When that balance is not there, we invite disaster as in the tragic summer of 1986 on K2. I like this sentence: 'It is when the finite and the infinite are both strong that mountaineering seems intuitively right.' That seems the right and last word among many words. A good book; a pleasure to read; two hundred years of modern man's obsession with the mountains to think about.

A. D. Moddie



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ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION OF THE HIMALAYA. A Mountaineers' View. Edited by Aamir Ali. Pp. 112, 11 b/w illustrations, 1994. (For The Himalayan Club, Indus Publishing Co., New Delhi, Rs. 150).

From the base camps of popular mountains to campsites along trekking trails, a message is finally being heard loud and clear: cleaning the mountains and keeping them clean is an idea whose time has come. What isn't so evident, however, is just how this is to be done. At one level the problem is easily defined: how do visitors to the mountains do their bit to preserve the Himalayan environment? At another level, the question is more difficult: how do people who love the mountains and enjoy all that they have to offer, but have no official authority or mandate, participate in the larger issue of preserving the mountain environment from the pressures of local populations, pilgrims and development activity.

This slim volume, with its diversity of contents, is something of a bridge between these two aspects of the visitors' dilemma. It's value lies in its authors: experienced mountain climbers and travellers who have distilled their experience and sought to put it across in simple yet considered ideas. We all know that the mountain environment is threatened by the combined pressure of people and trash; in this book we find out what people, some of who have spent the better part of their lives exploring the Himalaya and other mountain ranges, feel needs to be done. It is a rich aggregation of experience that deserves to be disseminated widely.

The helpful tips, observations — and even lists of do's and don'ts such as the ones provided by Balwant Sandhu — that sprinkle this volume are particularly striking. But this isn't really a 'how-to' book in the traditional sense. Aamir Ah, who has thoughtfully culled its main elements in his introduction, acknowledges that much of this has been said in the past but that these contributions aim to 'slant it a bit more towards possible action by individuals and their mountain clubs.'

More than .this, however, this slim volume's main value lies in stimulating thought. Individual contributions vary in value and length, but juxtaposed they're a useful churning of ideas on environmental protection from a user's perspective. Anyone who is stimulated to think things through will undoubtedly emerge from a reading better equipped to deal with these issues.

That's important because the root of the environmental problem is not, in fact, the mountaineering and trekking community. While a few notable exceptions have gone farther, most of us do ensure that individually we don't contribute to the problem. True, as Joss Lynam says, climbers and trekkers can be more disciplined about not polluting sources of drinking water, and parties on the move, should, as Robert McConnell points out, carry out what garbage they bring in. But, as a community, mountain travellers and climbers do tread gently and do their bit to prevent degradation.

What we need, perhaps, is to find a way of making a greater contribution to the overall preservation of the environment, by throwing up ideas, as Doug Scott has done, that will strengthen the resolve and ability of people who inhabit the high valleys and make their living there to protect this threatened heritage. 'The only sure way to improve the environment is to improve the wealth of the ordinary villager in Nepal', he writes, in one of the most pertinent sentence in this volume.

It is of little use bemoaning the growth of tourism and the numbers of visitors — pilgrims and tourists — who are making their way into the mountains and valleys. Though there's a lot of room for regulation, self discipline and investment in facilities, as many contributors point out, tourists are here to stay. There was a time when the high mountain valleys were largely accessible only after days of walking, and their remoteness was a protection.

That isn't any longer true. But these are also largely inhabited valleys. And where there are people — with or without votes — especially people as poor as many hill people are, they will be perfectly legitimate in making demands for jobs, better consumption and material progress. Roads will come bringing more people, plastic and pollution. But just as the Sherpas of the Sagarmatha National Park have done, so must the people of other hill districts and valleys take control of their own destinies. Better than any outsider, they know first hand the problems that environmental degradation brings, and if, today, poverty prevents them from doing something about it, tomorrow betterment will.

In the mean time, enlightened visitors and local authorities need to speed up the process of awareness and empowerment. And if this Himalayan Club sponsored volume (to celebrate the publication of 50th volume of the Himalayan Journal) contributes to doing that; by telling visitors how to handle their garbage and themselves, as well as in stimulating a wider debate, perhaps even leading to some sort of joint action with local people and the authorities; it will have served its purpose.




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THE NANDA DEVI AFFAIR. By Bill Aitken. Pp. 194, 1994. (Penguin Books, New Delhi, Rs. 100).

This is a book about Nanda Devi — the mountain, the sanctuary, the peaks and lakes around it, the legend, and superstition, but above all Bill Aitken's fascination for a beautiful area in Garhwal.

Bill Aitken's love and obsession are evident. The discomfort I felt while reviewing the book was of a voyeur to another man's passion — not becoming a part of it. When I did come near to sharing the excitement, it was in the second half of the book where Bill Aitken at many places allows one to savour the pleasure of a simple story, well told. Through most of the book, the style is heavy and although it runs fluent, the long and complex sentences are a tedium of which the foreword provides a foretaste:

If its emphasis on the warm updraughts of devotion is occasionally disturbed by the cold blasts of New Delhi's bane — bumptious bureaucrats — the lesson for these self styled sporting administrators bears repeating, that in spite of narcissistic illusions of indispensability they remain the servants of those of us who pay the nation's taxes.

It was Shipton's classic of mountaineering literature, Nanda Devi, on the first successful penetration to the base of the mountain (after eight attempts) that inspired Bill Aitken to make up his mind 'that come what may, one day I would visit the blooming gorge and win a way to this Hindu Garden of Eden'.

The environment of the Nanda Devi Sanctuary suffered after the Second World war from several siege style expeditions and 1964 onwards from hush-hush expeditions seeking to put in and then retrieve a nuclear spying device from the summit. The severe damage to the environment was only to be recouped much later through a ban on trekking and mountaineering expeditions in the area.

Bill Aitken is a believer in the Goddess and the folk lore that surrounds the mountain — the Goddess' magic, her blessing and her anger. He describes these aspects with sensitivity and with humility both of which are admirable for anyone culturally outside the web of belief, prayer and superstition in respect of Nanda Devi.

The Nanda Devi Affair is very much an account of a personal infatuation and fulfilment. As Bill Aitken says, 'To find the real woman of one's choice is indeed a mountaineering task since achieving the impossible is what climbing is all about!'

Naren Nanda



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EVEREST CALLING. Ascent of the Dark Side: The Mallory-Irvine Ridge. By Lorna Siggins. Pp. 189, 92 colour and 10 b/w illustrations, 1 map, 1 sketch, 1994. (Mainstream Publishing Co., Edinburgh, £14.99).

In 1993 an all-Ireland expedition made the first British and first Irish ascent of the North Col route from Tibet. Thereby an era of British mountaineering was completed, and arguably a new one opened for Irish climbers. Despite the first ascent of Everest in 1953 from Nepal, the North Col route had retained a special aura for those steeped in the story of the six British expeditions before 1939. George Mallory and Sandy Irvine's deaths high on the North Ridge in 1924 made this seem like the route, as did valiant but unsuccessful British attempts in 1933, 1936 and 1938.

In the 1980s repeated British attempts on the Northeast Ridge and the North Col route echoed the enduring fascination of the northern approaches among British mountaineers, despite the loss of Pete Boardman and Joe Tasker on the NE ridge and frustration in 1988 when Russell Bryce and Harry Taylor crossed the NE ridge pinnacles but were prevented by conditions from completing the North Ridge to the summit. The Irish expedition's success was therefore especially poignant in this context, of enduring interest when the frequent ascents from the South Col in Nepal are no longer serious news.

In the foreword Dawson Stelfox reminds the reader,

In a divided community, few events attract enthusiasm from all quarters, but for one brief moment in 1993 the first Irish expedition to Everest became a symbol to those looking for an alternative to conflict.

We were there to climb, not to set an example. We revived the tenuous Irish link with Everest by following Howard Bury's footsteps through Tibet to the North Ridge.

Lorna Siggins, who accompanied the expedition and sent despatches to the Irish Times recalls that the preparation for the expedition began with Joss Lynam's expedition to Changtse in 1987. There was much preparation over the intervening years, a gathering of experience in the Alps, Andes and Himalaya which eventually created a cohesive and able cohort of climbers from a small nation. There were setbacks and disappointments too, with several able climbers dead in those years. Even at the end in 1993, Belfast architect Dawson Stelfox's success alone after Frank Nugent was forced to turn back, was in doubt until the last moments, with a terrible long haul back down afterwards.

Of course there are too many books about Everest, or mountaineering expeditions perhaps! The hypercritical might point too at the use of bottled oxygen and traditional expedition tactics as a defect. Yet the tide of popular enthusiasm which the ascent engendered within Ireland, north and south, seemed a benefit in itself and likely to promote further constructive developments in a country too steeped in bad news. This made the letter from the Queen, a rash of public lectures to large audiences, TV appearances and meetings with Mary Robinson and John Major more than mere hype. It contrasted starkly with muted mainstream journalistic responses in mainland Britain.

Happily the book is a good read, well constructed, dramatic and richly illustrated. Lorna Siggins shows studied professionalism as a journalist, has known the participants' plans since 1987, and wisely weaves in material written by them. How could she do otherwise, when they included the lucidity and analytical skills of leader Stelfox, the imagination and literary verve of Dermot Sommers, the warmth, power and team-building principles of Frank Nugent ? They, and their companions, were a complex, talented, sceptical lot, temporarily suspending aspects of individuality for the purpose, but in no one's pocket!

A reflective critical stance radiates from a book with everything to celebrate. Without being naively triumphalist. In this Siggins and the team do great credit to themselves and their success, and provide appropriate models for those with high aspirations in the future everywhere.

Paul Nunn



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THE ASCENT. By Jeff Long. Pp. 272, 1992. (Headline, London, £15.99).

The Ascent is a gripping story about a group of mountaineers attempting Everest's summit from the dangerous and unclimbed Kore Wall, which is an 'imaginary monster' on the North Face of Everest. Underlying the fictional theme of this tense and difficult climb, is the gruesome truth of the Tibetan people, fighting for their very survival in a cold and desolate land. To add to this is a young Tibetan monk, seeking refuge amidst the climbers and whose divine presence may just be the key to their success. What unfolds is a powerful and moving tale of a fierce battle in a world on the edge of time___

Each morning the climbers infiltrated the mountain in tiny platoons, probing it for its weak points___ the mountain reassembling its arsenal, shifting its defences, (was) readying for the kill__

The saga is narrated as seen by Abe Burns, the expedition's doctor, whose perceptions as a newcomer to the Himalaya add a beautiful personal and human touch to it.

The story begins on a bitterly cold morning in 1974 when Abe was only a boy of seventeen, and a volunteer for the 'Rocky Mountain Rescue' on his first rescue trip. They were looking for a lone mountaineer, lost in the heart of Wyoming mountain range;

Perhaps a thousand feet higher, a lone figure was kneeling upon the glacial apron, unaware that rescue had arrived. His head was bare, black hair whipping in the wind___ Abe could see him shouting soundlessly___And then they heard a voice. Dreamlike, it called from far away___ 'Daniel?' it said.

The climber, Daniel, was severely injured and was hypothermic — he had to be evacuated immediately. His girlfriend had fallen deep into a crevasse and could not be rescued... Abe alone stayed by the crevasse, keeping her company. He was with her till her death.

Many years later in 1991, Abe, by then an experienced paramedic, was invited to join an expedition to Everest as the team's doctor — the expedition leader was Daniel Corder — the very climber Abe's group had saved 17 years ago, and whose girlfriend's death still haunted them both. Perhaps they would both be redeemed of her ghost if they conquered the summit of the Mother Goddess together. But for that the expedition would have to overcome obstacles in realms where man had never set foot before. Would they reach their goal or would the Kore Wall remain elusive, sentencing them to their separate destinies? As Daniel remarked to Abe one morning at base camp, 'The climb began long before we ever got here.'

It was Abe's first time in the Himalaya and he was awe struck by the Tibetan landscape and the people,

High in the distance, in a scoop of morning sunlight, a Tibetan village lay carved into the stone and the clouds___ it looked remote and peaceful— Poverty lay everywhere— in the soil, in the adobe dwellings, in the children's astonishing nudity beneath the cold wind.

But these people's hardship was not restricted to poverty and cold, as Abe was to discover when a Tibetan monk who had escaped from a Chinese prison came to him for treatment. The Chinese not only used them for slave labour, they tortured anyone who resisted them. Daniel told Abe, 'These are torture wounds, Abe. He got these in a Chinese prison__ what they do to these people. Raping nuns with cattle prods, flogging monks to death with iron bars—'

Through his paramedic work, Abe had seen terrible things. But in all of that the suffering had never had a purpose, a reasoned cause. What made this unthinkable was that someone had written this suffering into this boy's flesh, one wound at a time. Abe's teeth were gritted and he felt tears or frustration forming in his eyes. This wasn't supposed to be part of the deal. He'd come to see beauty and strength and utopia___

It is this bitter irony felt by Abe that Jeff Long brings out so beautifully in this book. He contrasts the light of hope with the darkness of a cruel fate, and shows us that love too has a dark and bitter side to it. He shows us the futility of a 'war' against the mountain, indeed he makes us question why we want to climb in the first place. Yet through the beautiful imagery he shows us why climbers are lured back to the cradle of the Mother Goddess time and time again. 'Far from anointing them, the mountain had reduced them to virtual idiots, with spit in their faces and shit in their pants___ He tried to remember the treasure he'd come to find.' Yet Abe had said, 'Our valley is like a gigantic prison.... Time has stopped. Everything occurs in enormous proportions — the sky, the mountain sides. I've never known such vastness. It humbles me.'

The book transports the reader to a world where time has ceased to exist. It is a brilliant piece of writing weaving an intricate and heart-rending story which anyone, from a layman to a mountaineer, would enjoy. Though it does tend to lose track and meander slightly in the middle, and at times one marvels at the apparent immortality of the climbers in the face of incredible disasters, it still maintains a wonderfully mysterious aura and charm. I recommend it to anyone who is interested in mountains or just likes a good action packed story! Not surprisingly, the book won the Boardman-Tasker Award in 1993 for the best mountaineering literature published during that year.

Ramana Nanda



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MOUNTAIN DELIGHT. By Bill Aitken. Pp. 138, 1994. (The English Book Depot., Dehra Dun, Rs. 85).

Bill Aitken is a man who has fallen in love with Uttarakhand — not any particular aspect, like the beauty of the mountains and the forests, but also the genesis, the history, the culture and the mystery that surrounds what is referred to as the Abode of the Gods. This basic factor comes through very clearly when one reads his collection of articles which have been published under the title Mountain Delight.

Starting with the Ganga and its source at Gaumukh/Gangotri, the articles have been arranged to take the reader eastwards through the rest of Garhwal and then onto the Kumaon hills and along the way one gets a delightful picture of the beauty of the surroundings, the historical and mythological background of the area and the culture of the people whose home it is. It covers the pleasures of mountaineering and trekking — and also the difficulties. At times Aitken dwells on the philosophy of why one tends to take the trials and even physical torture of difficult climbs and the treats and mental rewards which follow.

Throughout the book there is an undertone of the pain felt by Bill Aitken due to the deforestation and the pollution of the area he fell in love with in 1960 and which he decided to make his home. Politics has gradually ruined the lifestyle of the locals and the money spent on 'progress' has brought little advantage. However, the description of the places and the flashes of unspoilt beauty and cultural masterpieces inspires the reader to resolve to make a trip to Uttarakhand to see and experience the same. Though the book is not a detailed travelogue, it does at times give hints on where one can get guides, a cup of tea and rotis and also what to expect from the people and the rishis one would come across in one's wanderings.

Articles that need special mention are 'Mountain Delight', 'A Himalayan Wager', 'Garhwal versus Kumaon Himalaya' and 'The Importance of the Yeti'. A little out of place are 'Sir George Everest' and 'Everest at Home in Mussourie' which are about the British Surveyor General after whom the world's highest peak was named. These articles do not blend with the theme of the rest.

A small sketch at the beginning of the book showing the location of the places mentioned in the articles would help in acquainting the reader to the places he's reading about. A short appendix at the end, giving explanations of some of the Indian terms used may help a foreigner unfamiliar with them. Otherwise the book is the kind that would give pleasure even if it is re-read after suitable gaps of time.

The book is a good reminder to those who have visited the area that Uttarakhand is a place which is a 'mix of mental peace and bubbling erotic energy'.

Sheela Jaywant



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THIS GAME OF GHOSTS. By Joe Simpson. Pp. 319, 62 b/w illustrations, (Jonathan Cape, London, £16.99).

This Game of Ghosts is the sequel to Touching the Void, which won both the Boardman Tasker Award and the NCR Award. Perhaps overshadowed by the first masterpiece, This Game of Ghosts is in many ways the author's autobiography, but also seems to be a medium through which he grapples with the concepts fear and death, and with that endless question as to what draws man to climb mountains___

As his father was an army officer, Joe Simpson, the youngest of five siblings, spent his childhood between Malaya, Gibraltar, and Britain. The early part of the book describes the escapades he had as a child, and the fights with siblings, especially with his sister Sarah. Even as a child, he seemed to have an astonishing amount of luck, (or bad luck) judging by the number of times he hurt himself, even though he came through successfully. Joe discovered his love for rock climbing in 1974,when he was fourteen years old. It was around that time too, that he read The White Spider, Heinrich Harrer's account on the history of attempts on the north face of Eiger, which has claimed the lives of so many climbers. The story that affected him the most in the book was that of Toni Kurz, who died only a few meters from salvation.

When I finished reading The White Spider at fourteen I vowed to myself that I Would never be a mountaineer. I would stick to rock climbing. Little did I realise that in a peculiar twist of fate, I would find myself in a similar position to Toni Kurz and remember him as I fell into darkness.

From then on started a passion for the mountains. Though he was studying English literature at university, his first love was still climbing. From climbs in Scotland to Wales, to more difficult ones in the Alps, he wanted to do them all. Often it seems they were far above his capacity at the time and he was lucky to come through them alive in what seemed almost foolhardy attempts at a route. Gradually though, his experience grew. Joe decided, however, that it was time to move on from the Alps.

I wanted to get away from the hustle and bustle of the Alps where helicopters buzzed and climbers queued and jostled their way up classic routes. Coming down from the summit of Mt. Blanc, following a knee deep trench punctuated with vomit and faeces and rubbish, made me yearn for something more remote, a place that was higher and more challenging___Simon and I decided that the Peruvian Andes would be our best bet.

It was there in Peru that on Siula Grande that Joe had fallen and fractured his bad knee. His partner, Simon had lowered him thousands of feet down the mountain until he had been forced to cut the rope that joined them to prevent himself from being pulled to death from his collapsing snow seat. Joe had fallen one hundred feet into a crevasse at the foot of an overhanging cliff. Though he miraculously survived the experience, it had changed his life. His outlook on climbing changed drastically, no longer having the desire to climb, not to mention his knee, which doctors told him, would never bend again. He also wrote about the account in which ironically Simon had saved both their lives by cutting the rope that joined them. The book, Touching the Void was a great success and made Simpson a celebrity.

As time passed, his confidence returned and his knee got dramatically better. He resumed climbing and even went to the Himalaya. Later, he became a Greenpeace activist, making his first ascents of towers, monuments and bridges to hang banners and posters from them! However, disaster struck (again!) when he returned to the Himalaya to attempt the east face of Pachermo. Falling five hundred feet off the face of the mountain, he landed, severely injured, but still alive, where he was rescued by his partner Mai Duff.

Perhaps it was these miraculous escapes which not only make him question the point of climbing, but also ask why him? Why did he survive when so many of his friends did not? Why did he survive so many falls, an avalanche, rock fall, a death bivouac___ when others were struck by a single piece of ice, or by lightning, and died? This book is not just about his life and climbing, but is a very candid account of the confusion, turmoil and fear inside him.

Though painfully slow to start with, the book does become more enjoyable as it progresses and also puts forth interesting ideas and emotions. Its not just about climbing, but about a tumultuous life and also has some incredible photographs which substantiate the narrative beautifully.

Ramana Nanda



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SPIRITS OF THE AIR. By Kurt Diemberger. Pp. 304, 7 colour and 52 b/w illustrations, 10 sketches and 8 maps, 1991. (Hodder & Stoughton, London, £17.99).

Sometimes I find myself remembering an hour on the crest of a peak in the Shaksgam Dolomites, high above the glacier world. A butterfly dances around me in the warm light of the sun.

What does it hope to find up here? Perhaps it is wondering the same about me_
'I want to know ___' it seems to say.
What brings me here?

Because I want to know something, too. And I am not alone. We have met one another.

Diemberger ends this second biography with the above quote.

This is the story of his life, flying like a butterfly over different mountain ranges and events.

He starts with the Karakoram, but immediately takes us through a plane crash in the Alps. Then event after event unfolds, till we reach the Hindu Kush where in 1967, Diemberger climbed several peaks and explored the area of Noshaq.

There is an interesting chapter of a meeting with Reinhold Messner in Hotel Narayani in Kathmandu. We are introduced to the world of mountaineers in the bar. The story continues to Greenland, Makalu and finally to the Shaksgam valley.

Diemberger's first biography Summits and Secrets was a landmark. But it is always to difficult to live up to such expectations. In a way comparisons are not fair, for the life of same person does take different paths. Moreover the most important event in the author's life during this period, K2, is covered in an another book, by him, The Endless Knot.

Relax and enjoy these flights of the Spirits of the Air (as per an Eskimo proverb quoted in the book). These events give you a glimpse of a mountaineer's life. And this butterfly is still going to fly more.

Harish Kapadia



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HIMALAYAN BUDDHIST VILLAGES. Edited by J.H. Crook and H.A. Osmaston. Pp. 866, 113 b/w illustrations, 1994. (Asian edition: Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, Rs. 800, Western Edition: University of Bristol, Bristol, £25).

The reviewer has yet to come across so massive a tome on the environment, resources, society, and religious life of any region of the Himalaya. Not many mountaineers and trekkers are likely to be found with this volume of 866 pages, plus 80 pages of plates in their rucksacks. This is a holistic study, if the cliche can be excused, meant for scholars, and scholastic institutions on the Ladakh region of the Himalaya; in particular the Zanskar area. It covers almost every aspect under that sun; environment, resources, planning; demography, work and health, history and social life, monastic life and values, tradition and change. Perhaps the only aspect omitted is Ladakhi art and architecture, not an insignificant one, considering Ladakh's treasures. What is significant about such a study is that it has come as a 'last chance', at the end of almost total self-sufficiency of the valley. The outside world was pushing into an earlier self-sufficient one in body and soul.

This is too encyclopaedic a work (with 20 contributions) to comment on in any detail. Suffice it to say it is very informative and readable, and there are many fascinating insights into the minds and ways of a charming people, one of the nicest in the world. As this is a review for the Himalayan Journal, I should add that for climbers and trekkers a selective reading of chapters on the geology and morphology (unique in the Himalaya), of human adaptation to environment in Zanskar, and of Zanskari attitudes are primarily recommended. Other chapters will depend on special interests. The photographic reproductions could have been better, to match the quality of the written material. And the binding could have been stronger to hold together over 900 pages and over 1.5 kg in weight! Not to speak of the digestion of this anthropological banquet.

A. D. Moddie



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EVEREST CANADA. The Climb for Hope. By Peter Austen. Pp. 135, 27 b/w illustrations, 2 maps, 1992. (The Caitlin Press, Prince George, British Columbia, Canada, nps).

Like all accounts of the trials and tribulations of planning and executing an attempt on any major peak in the world, Peter Austen's Everest Canada is an account of the difficulties faced in getting permission from the Chinese, going on to describe the next obstacle of finding a sponsor, then revealing the bureaucratic maze encountered in search of a permit, getting the equipment through the customs__ and finally an account of the physical and psychological pressures that the team suffers during and after the attempt of a peak whether the attempt has been successful or not.

What sets this attempt on Everest apart from most others is that though it started off with just a desire of a mountaineering enthusiast to climb the highest peak in the world, along the way it became a source of spreading awareness of the Rett Syndrome which is a neurological disorder which occurs in girls between the age of nine to eighteen months. The team managed to raise about £1000,000 which is funding the search for a cure for the condition. It also spread awareness about this little known disorder. The possible recovery of Mallory's camera in an attempt to prove that he in 1924, and not Sir Edmund Hillary, was the first man on the peak is another aspect of the attempt, though a distraction. Notwithstanding the noble cause, the book does not hide the fact that the funding for the expedition must have been lavish.

As he himself says in the introduction, Peter Austen has covered the details of the preparations which according to him were 'daunting, complicated and unreal'. However he has not done justice as he has condensed all this and the climb in to a mere 135 pages and a few more details of the preparations that went into his sponsored charitable climb would have been of interest. Another aspect that could have been amplified is the kind of mental pressures the members of the team went through; their reactions as individuals and their contributions as a team.

An attempt has been made to write the book in an easy and entertaining style, but it does seem a little forced. It is, however, well written considering the fact that the writer is a climbing enthusiast who runs management seminars. Though not a collector's item, the book does make good reading. Austen would have done well to either restrict himself to the climb or given a more detailed account of the preparations, Incidently, for each book sold, one dollar goes to research into the causes of Rett Syndrome.

Sheela Jayawant



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CLIMBING MOUNT EVEREST. The Bibliography. Compiled by Audrey Salkeld and John Boyle. Pp. 120, 1993. (Sixways Publishing, Avon, nps).

Ever since its discovery as the highest mountain in the world, Everest has had more than its share of attempts from various routes, there have been epic ascents, tragedies and failures. All of these expeditions have translated into numerous books on the climbs, history etc. Audrey Salkeld and John Boyle have put together a list of all these books about Everest in what is surely the most exhaustive bibliography of books on climbing Everest. They have comprehensively classified these books alphabetically authorwise which makes reference very easy. A brief summary at the end of each listing tells you exactly what each book is about. It has 3 main sections, one the list of Everest books, second its climbing history and third a list of select Everest articles from journals and magazines. This book is certainly one of the best reference materials for any Everest book collector and a must for every mountaineer's library.

The book is appropriately dedicated to Jill Neate, who started it all with her bibliography, Mountaineering Literature. The authors are aware of the expanding nature of their work and invite readers to contribute, to what they call, the quest for 'Everestiana'. They will be kept busy as long as people climb Everest and write about it.

Harish Kapadia



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IN SEARCH OF LIMITS. Climbing the Alpine 4000 Metre Peaks. By Mark Bles. Pp. 272, 17 colour illustrations, 1994. (Hodder & Stoughton, London, £17.99).

In Search of Limits is about climbing the 4000 m peaks of the Alps. The book revolves around a plan to climb all the 4000 m peaks in the Alps in one summer. Bles led a team of Scots Guards through the expedition making a number of exciting ascents. Not just reaching the summit but the experience of being in the mountains making crucial decisions on which survival depended, judging conditions, essentially learning about the mountains was also important to Bles which is a very refreshing attitude from the trend prevailing nowadays. The team visited the Bernese Oberland, the Matterhorn, the Grandes Jorasses etc. and achieved remarkable results by climbing 48 peaks in a short span of time, before bad weather aborted further climbs. Bles has described his experiences in a lucid, humorous style at the same time offering advice for novice climbers and information to the experienced mountaineer. It is a good book, with exciting accounts, interesting photographs and which makes excellent reading.

Monesh Devjani



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ON TOP OF THE WORLD. By Rebecca Stephens. Pp. 196, 37 colour illustrations, 2 maps, 1994. (Macmillan, London, £14.95).

This is the story of a little woman on a big mountain, and what put her there.

'Nothing is changed or improved by climbing Everest', she muses at the start. We smile indulgently at her innocence in thinking of the distance between BC and ABC as being three times round the athletic track, discounting the fact that it is 4000 vertical feet! From curious wonderings about what drives 'seemingly sane men' to climb, the book traces her increasing intoxication with the mountains. We know she has come a long way when she says on encountering yet another obstacle — 'I wanted so badly to climb. My gut ached with frustration and bitter, bitter disappointment'.

In her chatty, readable style (with the occasional overdose of expletives) she recounts the inception of, and the training and fund raising for, the Everest 1993 trip. Then she deftly tells the story of the expedition, recalling the numerous trips up and down from BC, the sometimes tempestuous, sometimes supportive relationships between team members and the setbacks they faced. What endears her to us the most is her compassionate portrayal of the Sherpas who accompanied her up to the summit.

Their Everest adventure takes a more serious turn when one of the team's most experienced climbers suffers from snow blindness on his descent from the summit and, coming within inches of death, emerges unscathed, with a little help from his friends. Rebecca too, despite the minor and major hurdles that litter her path, persists, and makes it to the top of the world. The first British woman to set foot there.

We obviously haven't heard the last of this determined young woman. Her parting shot is 'Everest had been my first mountain and surely not my last'.

Interesting reading. Whether or not you are one of the hordes queuing up to climb the big E.

Rashmi Palkhivala



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RAFTING DOWN THE MYSTIC BRAHMAPUTRA. By S. P. Chamoli. Pp. 228, 23 colour and 24 b/w illustrations, 5 maps, 1993. (Vikas Publishing House, New Delhi, Rs. 350).

THE GREAT HIMALAYAN TRAVERSE. Kanchendzonga to Karakoram. By S. P. Chamoli. Pp. 287, 48 colour and 2 b/w illustrations, 12 maps, 1994. (Vikas Publishing House, New Delhi, Rs. 395).

Both these books by the same author are about different adventures, both unique in nature. The first one is about a rafting trip down the mighty Brahmaputra by an Indo-Japanese team. The entire stretch of 1300 km was completed in 25 days in 2 rubber rafts in 1990. The book is well written and makes good reading but the photographs could have been better.

In the second book, Chamoli describes his traverse of the Himalaya from Kangchenjunga to the Karakoram pass. An 8-member Indo-New Zealand team traversed 5000 km across the Himalaya in 260 days in 1981. They completed this long and arduous trek in light-weight style. The photographs are much better than the previous book.

This is the Indian version of the Himalayan traverse, the other version is by Peter Hillary's First Across the Roof of the World. (See H.J. Vol. 42, p. 234 for review).

Monesh Devjani



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RAIN IN THE MOUNTAINS. Notes from the Himalayas. By Ruskin Bond. Pp. 251, 1993. (Viking, New Delhi, Rs. 250).

Many times sitting in a tent with rain falling on the outer cover makes for a depressing atmosphere. Not any longer, if you have this lovely book, by one of the India's well known authors with you. This book is semi-autobiographical and written with great charm. The titles of chapters like 'Mountains in my blood', 'Time to close the window* and 'Once upon a time in the mountains' tell the story. There are poems, stories and even a short play written for radio. The author's love for nature is evident and comes out well in the writing. Where else you will find a chapters titled 'Great Trees I have known' or 'Bird song heard in the mountains'.

After reading such a book, one knows what to look for in the mountains, particularly when it rains.

Harish Kapadia



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1000 HIMALAYAN QUIZ. By Bill Aitken. Pp. 97, 1995. Paperback. (Rupa & Co., New Delhi, Rs. 50).

There are always 'questions one wanted to ask' (but, was scared to). Here is a book which would keep someone busy for long time. All the questions are well researched and as the author states, 'a good quiz should stimulate further inquiry'.The questions cover different areas of the Himalaya and cover a wide range of history, geography and all other things related to the Himalaya. One would have to be a real expert on the Indian Himalaya to solve all 1000 questions.

Bill Aitken is a well known author and an expert on the Indian Himalaya. His love for the mountain and mythology is evident from the questions he asks. The book is dedicated very fittingly to Jack Gibson Clover of mountains, teacher of men'), who taught many men about many aspects of the Himalaya.

Harish Kapadia



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KANGCHENJUNGA ASCENT FROM EAST. Indo-Japanese Venture. By Hukam Singh. Pp. 268, 50 colour and 100 b/w illustrations, 3 maps, 1994. (The Offsetters, New Delhi, Rs. 548).

Paul Bauer in the pre-war years attempted Kangchenjunga from its eastern approaches. These earlier attempts were a class in themselves with a small team. His intended route was from the east face to the northeast ridge. Their attempts failed. This route was completed, first in 1977 and since then it has been repeated a few times.

The present book is about an Indo-Japanese expedition to this route. The author Hukam Singh is a serving officer in the Indo-Tibet Border Police and is known for leading several expeditions, particularly jointly with the Japanese, who were also his partners in this venture. The book gives many black and white photographs and a detailed description of the route with details of the members. Thus a complete record of the route and the team is available. Though the photographs could have been better, they are in plenty and give the book a good reference value. Of course, quite a few pictures show flags of sponsors and members with several politicians and have no place in such a book.

Harish Kapadia



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HIMALAYAN ODYSSEY. The Perilous Trek to Western Nepal. By Parker Antin with Phyllis Wachob Weiss. Pp. 291, 22 colour and 45 b/w illustrations, 1 map, 1990. (Donald I.Fine, Inc., New York, $ 21.95)

This is the story of the author's travels through west Nepal. The first part of their trek was from Surkhet to Jumla across the Marbu Lekh. The trail slowly winds its way to Dillikot. This is what author has to say.

The pastoral beauty of Dillikot however like many villages in Nepal, was best appreciated from afar. For upon entering the idyllic vision disintegrated. The village children and adults alike were filthy with soot blackened skins, covered with tattered and unwashed clothes. A thick stench from rotting garbage and human excrement greeted me.

Instead of sipping the beauty of the mountains the author prefers to drink chang and rakshi on the trail.

From Jumla, J. B., the author's friend who sprained his ankle on the trail, caught a flight back to Kathmandu, and Antin proceeded onwards with the porters.

The route took them past Gum Gadhi and Tumsa following the spectacular Mugu Karnali gorge on to Dalphu.

From Dalphu they backtracked to Gum Gadhi as they could not find porters to cross the Khapre la.

Crossing the Balangra pass they proceeded at night through the villages of Liku and Tibrikot to Dunai to avoid being caught by the police. The rest of the novel is a story of playing cat and mouse with the Nepalese police as the author was trekking without a valid permit.

After getting lost, having a little misadventure, nearly running out of rations and a narrow miss with death, crossing the Sandak pass they landed in Jomsom and proceeded to Pokhara and on to Kathmandu where the author was reunited with Clara, the convent-educated girl from Darjeeling who comes into the author's thoughts every time he sees the full moon, for it was in the light of the full moon that he had first met her in Kathmandu.

In the last chapters of the book he questions his emotions and motives.

Why had I come to the Himalayas to conquer them? .....Had I been that naive.

Asia. A Kaleidoscope of images flashed through my mind I saw a beggar child in Delhi ..... I smelled the stench of faeces,.....Bloated bellies___Puraba's children caked with dirt, minds dulled, destined for a life of toil in a forgotten canyon of western Nepal. Would they experience any joy in their lives? How long would they live? Would their short lives be filled only with pain despair, affliction?

We wonder at such an outbrust and conclusion after a trip to the Himalaya. The answer is provided in the Epilogue.

All the questions I had pondered on that April day came back as on a page of a long written diary. How could there be so much poverty, disease and ignorance on the same planet with the upper-middle-class postcard towns such as the one in which I grew up. Why had no one — my teachers, my parents told me that other worlds existed beyond New England stone walls and freshly mown grass? Perhaps they had tried but I hadn't been ready to hear it. Not with soccer games to play and proms to attend.

My old values and aspirations lay in latters; new onces had yet to emerge.

The Himalayan mountains and people had done their magic. The experience of the eastern world had raised the questions for the set western values. That is, perhaps, one of the advantages of trekking in the Himalaya for a westener.

Kaivan Mistry



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EVEREST RECONNAISANCE. By Charles Howard-Bury and George Leigh Mallory. Pp. 254, 12 b/w illustrations, 2 maps, 1991. (Hodder and Stoughton, London, £16.95).

Charles Howard-Bury and George Leigh Mallory are two legendary figures associated with Everest. It is the pioneering work of these stalwarts that opened the way for all future Everest expeditions. This book starts with a biography of Howard-Bury. It also has extracts of his unpublished dairy of 1920. In 1920, at the instance of Sir Francis Younghusband, Howard-Bury travelled to Lhasa and met Dr Charles Bell to persuade him to woo the Dalai Lama into granting permission for an expedition to Everest. Ultimately his hard work paid off and permission was granted for an expedition to Everest, fittingly led by Howard-Bury. This team had strong climbers like, Mallory, Bullock and Raeburn. Essentially being a reconnaisance trip they had the task of first finding the route to base camp over unexplored terrain and then up the mountain itself. The team did a grand job exploring and mapping the entire northern approaches to Everest. After various forays into the glaciers around the area they decided to try and get to the Chang la or the North Col as it is commonly known today. The expedition finally after a lot of effort managed to reach the crest of the North col and Mallory obtained a good view of the route up the North Ridge to the summit itself, before they decided to return.

The first part by Howard-Bury, a lively account of the expedition, apart from the exploration, covers details of the Tibetan way of life, the monks and the monasteries, which give a valuable insight into life before the Chinese occupation. The second part is an account of the reconnaisance of the actual climbing routes on Everest is by Mallory, undoubtedly one of the finest climbers of his days, makes interesting reading. It has some good photographs too. This is an excellent book for all mountaineers particularly those interested in Everest, and the exploration of its northern approaches, and the route up the North Col to the summit; which is now the standard route of ascent from the north. The reconnaissance narrative ends fittingly.

Let us probe the silent places, let us seek what luck betide us,

Let us journey to a lonely land I know; There's a whisper in the night wind, There's a star, a gleam to guide us,

And the wind is calling, calling, let us go.

Monesh Devjani



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NOLS WILDERNESS MOUNTAINEERING. By Phil Powers. Pp. 241, over 50 drawings and sketches, 1993. (Stackpole Books, £12.95).

The National Outdoor Leadership School's (NOLS) founder Paul Petzoldt used the term 'Must know' to describe any information or knowledge fundamental to an activity. This book is a collection of 'must knows' for anyone visiting the mountains.

Alan Blackshaw's book Mountaineering was and still is the bible to all mountaineers but now we have another handy reference book, written in a simple easy flowing style covering a vast number of topics from mountain hazards, to suggestions for rock, snow glacier and ice climbing, tips on climbing skill, equipment and safety practices, lessons on rope handling, ice axe use, ascent and descent methods, knots, cords, anchors and safety systems.

The book is well illustrated with over 50 drawings and sketches and makes a good learning tool.

Kaivan Mistry



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ALTITUDE ILLNESS. Prevention & Treatment. By Stephen Bezruchka, M.D., Pp. 93, 1994. (Cordee, Leicester, nps).

A small booklet, which can be a life saver some day. Very methodically this book explains illness at altitudes, its prevention, is diagnosis and treatment. This book is written by an expert on high altitude medicine should prove most useful.

Harish Kapadia



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OVER THE HIMALAYA. By Koichiro Ohmori. Pp. 108, 46 colour illustrations, 1 map, 1994. [Bookwise (India) Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi, nps.).

Many pictorial books on the Himalaya have been published but this one is different. The photos of the mountains have been shot from the air. It contains 45 very impressive shots covering the ranges from Kangchenjunga in the east, to Dhaulagiri Himal in the west. These photographs appear in double-page spreads which make them more impressive and put the whole mountain into perspective. Ohmori has taken great pains with the photographs printed in the book, to produce some of the best mountain shots.

Monesh Devjani



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100 WALKS IN THE FRENCH ALPS. By Terry Marsh. Pp. 221, 51 b/w photos, 5 maps, 1994. (Hodder & Stoughton, London, £15.99).

As the title suggests this is a book about 100 walks in the French Alps. Marsh has divided the walks in 4 geographical areas namely Chablais, Faucigny-Haut Griffe, Chamonix and Aravis-Bornes. Covering a vast area Marsh has suggested walks from easy to arduous, and also the heights and approximate time of ascent and descent. The book has some good photographs of these areas.

Monesh Devjani



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NILKANTHA EXP. 1993. Pp. 226, many colour and b/w illustrations, maps, 1993.

An account of a Japanese expedition to the difficult peak Nilkantha in the Garwhal Himalaya. 6 Japanese climbers lost their lives in an avalanche on the northeast ridge. This book is written in Japanese but has good colour photographs of the mountain which would prove a most useful reference for this high, well-known and controversial mountain, and also for this part of Garhwal.

Monesh Devjani



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THE HIMALAYAS. By Shankar Barua. Pp. 96, 1993. (Luster Press, New Delhi, Rs. 350).

Every seasoned lover of the Himalaya experiences the pangs of diminishing energy that restrict one's prayer to be able to cover the whole range before it is too late. The despair of slowing muscles, however, is mitigated by the bounce of youthful intoxication with the range and I read Shankar Barua's twin essays on the mountain chain and its religious inhabitants with relief and pleasure. Relief because he has described parts I have not been able to visit and pleasure because his perspective is that of a North-Easterner hailing from Shillong. He sketches in Buddhist details that tend not to feature in the descriptions of Indian or foreign writers. Also I was intrigued to see a photograph of the head-hunting trophies of Ukhrul, probably India's least known hill station or certainly the one that gets into the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Purists may argue that the Himalaya cannot be stretched to accommodate these distant ranges but countourwise topographical logic can be expanded to include such far-flung cousins.

The author makes a confident swing across the spectrum of cultural provinces that reminds one of Madanjeet Singh's UNESCO classic now in great demand that the Buddhist border areas are beginning to shed their inner line restrictions. The book avoids the heavy tread of mountaineering boots that brashly ignore the cultural beauties along the way to base. Pilgrim concerns have been attended to and the devotional atmosphere so special to Dev Bhumi has been portrayed with feeling. When we learn that the author has dedicated his book to a son called 'Bacchus' we immediately realise that his understanding of how Highlanders celebrate their festivals is more familiarly realistic than long-faced orthodox plains' accounts would have us believe.

For anyone to take on the role of mountain guide for the entire spread of the great range certainly suggests intoxication of a far-gone order. Japanese and American ustads have printed their photographic homage while Indian visitors to the snows also compete for honours in bringing the shocking loveliness of these aloof peaks a little nearer. Barua, however, is responsible only for the text and the book gathers together a selection of well-known names to illustrate the author's travels. In spite of the seemingly saturated market for books on the Himalaya this volume's new perspective proves just how inexhaustible the subject is for creative talent.

Bill Aitken

Baruntse North (7014m)

Illustrated Note 1
Baruntse North (7014m)
A team from Czech Republic climbed the north peak via the west face in alpine style. Summit was reached on 6 May 1994 by Martin Otta (leader), Tomas Pekarek and Valdamir Leitermann. 1: Humni la, 2: Baruntse Main (7129m) (behind), 3: Baruntse Nup (6811m).

Baruntse (7129m)

Illustrated Note 2 (M. Baladi)
Baruntse (7129m)
A French expedition led by Yves Detry climbed Baruntse on 25 and 26 October 1994. 8 persons reached the summit via the west col and the southeast ridge.

Kangtega (6779m)

Illustrated Note 3 (D.Flsuer)
Kangtega (6779m)
A German team lead by Dieter Flsuer climbed Kangtega (6779m) on 1 october 1993. They climbed from Kangtega glacier and south ridge.

CHO OYU (8201m)

Illustrated Note 4 (T. Nagao)
CHO OYU (8201m)
A 3-member Japanese team climbed Cho Oyu on 25 September 1994 by two different routes on the southwest face. The team consisted of Ms Taeko Nagao (leader), Ms Yuka Endo (the pair climbed the 1990 Swiss-Poland route. No. 1 above) and Yasushi Yamanoi, climbed a new route solo, (route No. 2).



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NO VI DIOSES EN LA CIMA DEL EVEREST, (in Spanish). By J. A. Piyante Conesa, Pp. 356, 27 colour and 16 b/w illustrations, 2 maps, 1994. (Editorial Juventud, Barcelona, nps).

This book, written in Spanish, is about a successful Spanish expedition to Everest. Apart from climbing, one of the main aims of the expedition was also to clean up the mountain of the enormous rubbish left by earlier expeditions. The book contains some good colour and b/w photographs.

Monesh Devjani



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LAHOUL. The Mystery Land In The Himalayas. By Ram Nath Sahni. Pp. 304, 30 b/w illustrations, 1 map, 1994. (Indus Publishing Company, New Delhi, Rs. 395).

This book is an in depth study of the Lahoul area. Sahni has described Lahoul valley in totality, writing about the mountains, history, religion, people and their customs. Though the photographs could have been better, overall this book is well written and makes good and informative reading about the Lahoul valley. The knowledge about the people, folklore, religion etc. would probably help any visitor to Lahoul to enjoy it more.

Monesh Devjani


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