High Himalaya: Unknown Valleys. Harish Kapadia. Indus Publishing Co., New Delhi, 1993. 335 pages, 17 pen-and-ink drawings, 24 maps. $30.
The mail has just arrived. Harish Kapadia has graciously sent me a copy of his new book. I am swamped with work, trying to get this Journal to the printers. I haven’t a moment, but I must show respect for my fellow editor, the Editor of the Himalayan Journal, by at least leafing through some pages. Now it is some hours later and I have been unable to put it down. Not only is Harish a most competent mountain chronicler, he is also a distinguished mountaineer and, what is rarer in this day and age, a noted explorer of the less known mountain ranges of the Himalaya, in particular in India. In the past 30 years, he has climbed and trekked in some of the most remote valleys of Sikkim, Kumaon, Garhwal, Kinnaur, Spiti, Lahul, Zanskar, Ladakh and the East Karakoram. He has arranged his experiences and adventures by region, rather than chronologically, which will make it easier for one not familiar with each region to follow the theme. It was a great pleasure to read his vivid descriptions of places which I had personally visited. The many maps are of the greatest value, not only to the casual reader, but also to the climber intent on following his footsteps into fascinating, remote regions.
Harish writes with such skill that he holds your attention throughout. Not only is valuable mountaineering history recorded here; he relates accidents, deaths, personal injury and agony, along with the joys and triumphs that his life dedicated to the mountains have brought to him. He recounts the history of remote valleys, their legends, culture. For me, I am particularly interested in his explanation of the names of many of the mountains, for mountain names always reveal so much about beliefs and culture of mountain people. For him, mountaineering is a way of life, always done in “good style.” Those who have climbed with him have included many of the best Indian mountaineers as well as renowned foreigners. They have found him a delight, whose sharp, yet gentle, sense of humor shines through in the pages of this book.
This a book for both the active climber and the armchair mountaineer.
H. Adams Carter