Beyond the High Himalayas, by William O. Douglas. 352 pages, with 16 Kodachromes and 26 black and white photographs by the author. Garden City, N. Y.: Doubleday & Company, 1952. Price, $5.00.
Justice Douglas is outstandingly a good traveller and a pleasant raconteur. His book shows those of us who have gone through Himalayan regions with our thoughts fixed only on climbing, how many very interesting things we have missed along the way. For the Justice, talking freely, in easy friendly fashion, with everybody he met—humble hillmen, rich eastern rulers, powerful lamas—picked up a most varied and attractive collection of information, from old folksongs and folkways of the Hills to new lights on the economic and political set-up of Central Asia.
The general scene of his wanderings was along the northwest borders of India, a region familiar to members of Nanga Parbat and K2 expeditions. His principal journey was to Leh in Little Tibet— not over the Zoji La, but by a little-less-known route north from the Punjab. On this trip he met the typical hazards of Himalayan travel—temperamental riding mules, high passes, blizzards, and rancid buttered tea—and took them all happily in his stride. But even the Justice’s unusual geniality and tact were not sufficient to avoid that almost routine Himalayan experience, a transport strike.
In Ladakh he visited the eleven-year-old Incarnate Lama of Hemis; and other journeys took him by plane past Nanga Parbat and up to Gilgit, where he visited with the Mir of Hunza; and by car from Peshawar, to dine with the Wali of Swat.
In spite of the Justice’s well-known mountaineering interests, the mountains appear in this book only more or less incidentally, as background for its action—the focus is elsewhere. Justice Douglas bring us a series of colorful and amusing stories of strange places, and many thoughtful and worthwhile theories and considerable speculation about our general relations with Asiatic peoples and the political potentialities of the regions along the Indian-Soviet frontier.