Time has a tendency to slip by in a way that is so elusive, particularly, when one is trying to tie up all the events that have happened in the world of the mountains since the last issue. Was the disaster that hit Uttaranchal covered already? Did we talk about the passing of Nawang Topgay Sherpa in the last issue? Or was it covered in the E letter and not in the HJ? – scouring notes, dates, past volumes, scribbling in notebooks when ideas occur – all is a maze when one sits down to round it all up in the first ever editorial that one has been forced to pen!
The only way to do it I realise is to do it. So here goes.
Our sincere apologies again, for this late late issue. The Himalayan Journal that links Himalayan Club to the climbing world is faltering. Changing times, increasing pressures and reducing hands-on-deck volunteers, have all contributed to this situation despite good intentions. We are in the process of a serious rethink, with an SOP being put in place to help us adhere to all timelines and promises. Bear with us, please. I must mention that the old war horse, the solid Harish Kapadia, now Editor Emeritus, The Himalayan Journal was roped in again this year to help put together bits and pieces of this volume. Rajesh Gadgil, of course worked tirelessly on most of HJ 69 but then he is a mountaineer and needed to go climb.
The one aspect that all of us can continue to take pride in is the quality and content. This issue covers a range of interesting writings ranging from a study of HJ covers over the ages to a roundup of mountain festivals of the world to the description of a condition called glacial lassitude. Explorations by Himalayan Club members like that of the Jadh Ganga valley; the trail to the historic Chaukan pass leading to Burma; the first crossing of the Chaukhamba col make wonderful reading as do the significant climbs such as the first ascent of Plateau Peak by Pradeep Sahoo’s HC team, the amazing feats in Kishtwar by Mick Fowler and the continuing story of exploratory climbs in the East Karakoram by Divyesh Muni.
Talking about expeditions, one more is significant enough to mention here. On the night of 15 – 16 June 2013, a cloud burst in the Kedarnath area brought down huge avalanches that crashed into the Chorabari lake. The banks of this lake burst and huge cascades came crashing towards the Kedarnath temple, sweeping away everything in its wake – the devastation was massive, even lower down – villages, pilgrims, properties, fields, roads vanished. That the disaster was manmade is an academic and valid argument but at the time of crisis it was rescue and rehabilitation that was the need of the hour. An Indian army expedition led by HC President Brig. Ashok Abbey, fresh after a successful ascent of Trisul west ridge, had just returned to Joshimath. As most of the team members were former instructors and students of the High Altitude Warfare School, they immediately joined the rescue operations, as a result of which hundreds of stranded civilians were rescued.
In May 2014, Sherpa Tenzing Norgay would have been a 100 years old. In an ironic twist, this year, his beloved Everest threw up the worst accident ever on a single day, when 16 route opening Sherpas were killed in an avalanche on 18 April, 2014. All climbing activity on the mountain ceased as debate on compensation, safety, ethics etc have been raging all over the climbing world yet again. The ongoing oral history project on the ‘Climbing Sherpas of Darjeeling’ somehow seems more significant as its effort is to give a human face to these brave carriers of yore by telling their stories.
Aspi Moddie was one of the Himalayan Club’s oldest members (since 1949); he was its first real Indian President, a man who loved and nurtured the Club; a man with a vision that has held it together in its current form. In the words of Meher Mehta – ‘...at the time of his death at the age of 92, he was the eldest, or near to that, the longest and most respected serving member of the Club, covering a period of 65 years.’ In his passing the Club has truly lost its friend, philosopher and guide. Sadly, other friends have passed on too – Richard Martin Scott, Ian McNaught-Davis and ‘Guruji’ Nawang Topgay Sherpa.
Since the time of Volume 68, the Himalayan Club achieved yet another milestone – it concluded its first Strategic Review and has begun implementation of short, medium and long term reforms.
And so I sit here, continuing to check and recheck notes, thinking how I will be able to fit into the shoes of our predecessors and do justice to the great institution of The Himalayan Journal.