Saturday, August 13, 2011

Annapurna to Dhaulagiri, by Harka Gurung

Annapurna to Dhaulagiri, by Harka Gurung, records a decade of mountaineering in Nepal, from 1950-1960. The book is a government document released by the Ministry of Information in Kathmandu, and it summarizes the expeditions that had so far climbed in the country and their accomplishments. The title is, of course, a reference to the first and last 8000-meter summits to be climbed in Nepal, and it reinforces (for me) the short time it took to climb all eight summits (and 13 of the 14 total in the Himalaya) for the first time once Annapurna had been ascended. Also of note is the few expeditions that occurred. 1955 had the most climbing expeditions, with fifteen, covering the far west of Nepal to Kanchenjunga, which is less than the number of expeditions to Mount Everest in any given year recently. 1956, in contrast, had only two: to Everest / Lhotse and Manaslu.

This is a bare-bones resource, and as such, is not particularly useful for Mount Everest research. Major expeditions, such as the 1953 Everest ascent get a page. (The 1951 reconnaissance, notably, gets more space.) Small expeditions may get a paragraph, or less. The information is accurate, however, with a few obvious typos. On Everest, Gurung naturally covers the 1950 and 1951 reconnaissances, the 1952 attempts, the 1953 ascent, the 1956 Swiss double ascent, and the Chinese and Indian expeditions of 1960. He sticks to the skeptical western view of the time regarding the Chinese ascent. He is almost less skeptical of the existence of the Yeti, which he discusses in an Appendix as cogent material regarding the expeditions that had come specifically to search for the beast. He also includes a select bibliography and another appendix that lists the peaks over 7000-meters and the year and nationality of their ascents, if there is one. The most interesting feature of this book (I believe) is Gurung's personal photography and drawings of the major Himalayan peaks, with some well-done (traced?) line drawings, and several color photographs.

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