Last of the Annapurnas by M. S. Kohli. New Delhi: Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Govt. of India, 1962. 62 black and white photos, 11 color photos, several maps and sketches. Price $4.00.
This is a very interesting book, for reasons slightly different from the usual ones. Judged by the ordinary standards of major expedition chronicles, this effort must be rated only fair, for the quality of printing, binding and photos is distinctly below the European standards which mountaineering readers have come to expect. The content of the illustrations is good, however, and Kohli’s text is written in very clear, straightforward expeditionary style, not without a certain amount of slightly stilted and flowery turns of phrase so typical of Indian English. The story is that of the first ascent of Annapurna III (24,858 feet), a relatively routine, though difficult major climb, enlivened by constant harassment and actual physical threat from local Bhotia villagers of the town of Manangbhot.
The real interest of the book, at least to this reviewer, lies almost more in the appendices, which present, in good British fashion, complete food and equipment lists, etc. This was one of the first all-Indian expeditions to be successful on a major Himalayan peak, and two things are quite clear from the book: 1) that it is now possible to outfit a Himalayan expedition adequately right to down clothing, boots and ice axes completely in India (all suppliers are listed), and 2) that the development of this equipment (and experience in using it) is about 10 to 15 years behind that in Europe. Indian mountaineering has indeed “come of age”, but still has considerable catching up to do. One notable point is that the Indian preferences in diet impose a rather high weight penalty on such an expedition, the average low-altitude ration amounting to 64 ounces per man-day, about double that which will keep most Western climbers happy.
It is very encouraging to see this evidence of competent development in the part of the world where high climbing is old, but independent local participation is very new. Kohli is further to be commended for having written up his story in a highly presentable way.
John S. Humphreys