Thursday, August 1, 2013

Nepal Himalaya, by H. W. Tilman

H. W. Tilman recounts his two early forays into a once forbidden kingdom, including a trek through Solu-Khumbu, in Nepal Himalaya. Though the book is known for his briefest of glimpses of Everest from Kala Pattar, Tilman actually covers a great deal of ground between Mustang and Namche Bazaar on his expeditions. In 1949, he takes an opportunity to travel north of Kathmandu to survey areas in the Langtang Himal, the Ganesh Himal, and the Jugal Himal. He, against his scruples, mixes science with exploration and climbing, partly to fund his adventure, and partly to find traveling companions. Peter Lloyd (in addition to a couple scientists), of the 1938 Everest expedition, comes with him, doubling as an amateur surveyor. Tenzing, of 1953 Everest fame, serves as sirdar for the expedition, and seems to be on Tilman's heels whenever there's climbing to be done. It seems a bit of a frustrating trip, as they spend the monsoon season decrying the weather and not climbing much of anything (though they put a good effort in on one peak). They only catch a glimpse of Shishapangma, and take in Manaslu only over an extended time. Tilman's wit carries the book, as his special brand of humor makes this a travelogue well worth a read.

His 1950 trip, including treks in the Annapurna Himal and through Solu-Khumbu, comprises the second half of the book. His team is more climber-heavy, including Charles Evans of the 1953 Everest expedition, Jimmy Roberts, Emlyn Jones, D. G. Lowndes, and W. P. Packard of New Zealand. Again they arrive just in time for the monsoon, but manage to make a serious attempt on Annapurna IV nonetheless. The Everest trip happens by coincidence, as Tilman is invited by Oscar Houston upon his return to Kathamandu. Tilman and Charles Houston have time for only a brief reconnaissance of Everest, without even time to set foot in the Khumbu Icefall. Prospects look pretty bad, but then again, they don't get much of a look at Everest either, mistaking a buttress on the Southwest Face for the Southeast Ridge. He's intelligent enough to say that he didn't see enough to make a well-informed opinion.

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