The first quarter of 2020—Enter the novel coronavirus; the COVID-19 pandemic.
The world from March to now has changed rapidly; the mountains are resting, the earth is rejuvenating…the future as we know it, is quite uncertain. It has been a hard but rewarding process to make adjustments, to understand what is important and to realise that the difference between wants and needs is so subjective. It has also been a time to introspect about our relationship with the mountains; whether a change in a mountaineer’s approach to peak bagging is possible, whether the post war industrial era hangover approach to mountaineering is gradually moving towards its natural demise.
But these thoughts are for the privileged.
For in our pursuit of leisure, we have created a chain across the world that we need to think about; a chain of thousands of mountain communities. These communities support our hobby, our passion, our need to be out there. Suddenly the rug has rudely been pulled from under their feet as their livelihoods are snatched away. This year and the next and probably the next, will be very hard while we tourists, climbers and hikers ponder existential questions. The Himalayan Club and indeed other organizations have been thinking about it, offering immediate help and relief as well as alternate employment ideas. But as always, more needs to be done.
It is on this sombre thought that I put forth the landmark 75th Volume. It is also with another thought. As we stand on a threshold of a changing world, it is necessary to take stock and to look for stories of connection, rather than narratives of division. These are more important today than ever before.
So here are some stories—of legendary mountaineers Gurdial Singh, Joe Brown and the Duke of Abruzzi, of dream journeys and best expedition reminiscences; of historical climbs and of course, of young wildlifers, natural historians, conservationists and safety specialists.
In the expeditions and explorations section we have stories of landmark climbs like the first ascent of Link Sar, a fantastic line on Kyo Zom, an attempt on Chombu in remote Sikkim and the last minute climb on Menthosa. We also have maiden explorations in the Satti valley, Pakshi Chu gorge in Spiti and Tanmu Col—the separator between Spiti and Lahaul.
We have tributes to legends such as Trevor Braham, Nalni Jayal and Meher Mehta, pillars of THC who departed during the year, having led meaningful and robust lives.
I am indeed grateful to John Cleare, Harish Kapadia, Diane Roberts, Chris Harle and The Alpine Club for the astounding photos they so readily shared with me.
Finally, I hope we can keep the print edition of the THJ alive as long as we have the likes of Mrs Heath alive amongst us.
While dedicating this Volume to support staff, porters, cooks, guides, HAPs, transporters, muleteers, those who run wayside restaurants, camps, homestays and hotels, my request is—let’s do what we can to pull them through this crisis.