Volume 70 of the Himalayan Journal is yet another landmark volume, for with this edition, this heritage document gracefully ages into the seventies, thus reinforcing its position as the foremost repository of all climbing and exploration in the Himalaya.
The year 2014, was another eventful year for the Himalayan climber. While, a number of new mountains from hitherto unclimbed ridges and new routes were attempted, a few first ascents too were recorded. It was heartening to see that though Garhwal and Kumaon Himalaya, along with Himachal Pradesh remained popular for climbing, in a significant development the focus of many foreign expeditions shifted to the Kashmir Himalaya. Notably, 2014 also saw a substantial increase in the number of foreign expeditions in the Indian Himalaya vis a vis 2013.
As was in the preceding year, 2014 also witnessed a surge in the number of expeditions to the popular eight thousanders. Everest reigned supreme, with many expeditions queuing up to climb the mountain from its traditional route. While climbing with commercially ‘guided’ expeditions remained the norm for the majority, very few teams attempted variations or attempted to climb in self-supporting styles, which to my mind is quintessential for the technical and intrinsic growth of climbers. The unfortunate tragedy on Everest in which 16 intrepid Sherpas, who are the life line of the mountain, lost their lives in the Khumbu icefall, was a stark reminder of what can happen on a crowded Everest. Despite this tragic setback, the hardy Sherpas remain ever steadfast in their commitment to serve their clients, aspiring to climb the highest mountain of the world!
The Himalayan Club, while acknowledging and applauding the achievement of mountaineers climbing across the altitude spectrum, has continued to promote the founding objectives of the club by encouraging exploration and climbing in small teams. The Rassa glacier expedition sponsored by the Club in 2014, was a testimony to the purist’s call to climbing and exploring in small teams. The 2015 Himalayan Club Annual Seminar theme - Everest? Perspectives and Philosophies in Mountaineering - was also focussed at generating awareness amongst the younger generation and bring to fore, the different climbing styles being followed in the world of mountaineering today.
The state of the fragile Himalayan environment continues to be an issue of deep concern for the Himalayan Club. The Everest tragedy, followed by a series of avalanches which hit the Annapurna Himal region, in Central Nepal in mid-October 2014 resulting in the loss of life of many trekkers and climbers, was nothing but a direct fallout of rising ambient temperatures and Global warming. Unprecedented, late winter snowfall in the Kashmir valley and the recent loss of precious lives caused by a series of avalanches in the Panjshir valley of Afghanistan, both in 2015 are ominous signs of the changing, erratic environment. The Himalayan Club is fully committed to the cause of generating environmental awareness and raise consciousness, amongst all those who frequent these landforms of delight.
Volume 70 is indeed special, as this is the first volume wholly edited by Nandini Purandare. Rajesh Gadgil has supported her through the year but professional preoccupations have forced him to step down although he will continue to play advisor and friend to the Journal. Harish Kapadia too is a pillar of strength for the Himalayan Journal. Thus the Journal continues its steady journey into the timeless future, unravelling for posterity the many dimensions of Climbing and Beyond.
For those stepping out to climb in the Himalayan arena, I wish you happy and safe climbing.
I am sanguine that you will enjoy reading this volume!
BRIGADIER ASHOK ABBEY
President, HC (2010-2015)