Friday, May 13, 2011

East of Kathmandu, by Tom Weir

Tom Weir's East of Kathmandu takes place in the shadow of Everest, both geographically and historically. Weir and three friends comprise the first Scottish climbing party to travel in Nepal, traveling from Kathmandu through the Rolwaling Gorge towards Everest (with a stop for some peak-bagging and exploration) to Kala Pattar and back to Kathmandu through Sherpa country. His expedition travels during the post-monsoon of 1952 while the Swiss make their second attempt to scale Everest. They travel through the southern side of the gorge and visit its surrounding mountains on the recommendation of W. H. Murray, of the 1951 Everest reconnaissance expedition. The reconnaissance had made a brief survey of the mountains to the north of the gorge; Weir and his party, therefore, were traveling in an area unknown to western climbers.

Weir often mentions the climbers who have traveled before him. He is complimentary towards the efforts of Shipton in 1951 and is impressed by the travels of the 1952 British Cho Oyu expedition. Towards the end of the gorge and in Sherpa country, Weir and his companions travel much of the same territory as they did. After scaling Kala Pattar (They do not give its name, but Weir's description fits the ticket.), they head up to the Swiss' Base Camp and Lake Camp, finding them deserted during what should have been the Swiss climbers' final push from the South Col. All hands on deck, I suppose! On their return, the party follows a common variation on the traditional trek between Base Camp and Kathmandu, traveling as far south as Jubing before heading west towards the capitol.

This book is a fun quick read, without too much adventure, but plenty of interesting things going on. The author and another of the party are bird watchers, and he mentions a wealth of birds that they see. They visit a number of villages and monasteries along the way, and he is amazed that while the Rowaling gorge people are both curious and courteous, the Solu-Khumbu crowd has already gotten into the habit of demanding baksheesh and overcharging for goods and services. Also of Everest interest: one of the party's Sherpas, Dawa Tensing, would later make a carry to the South Col for the 1953 ascent of the mountain.

No comments:

Post a Comment