'Mountain Bound'

If you are itching to read some of the best adventure stories from the Himalayas, this is it. Here you’ll find excerpts from over 40 sources of travel and adventure writing that date back across two centuries. And, if you want a book full of excitement and wisdom, and sometimes of mystery, for a comfortable weekend read or as the one book to take with you on trek, this is it: Mountain Bound―Writings from the Himalayas, edited by Lucia DeVries, a Dutch journalist and longtime resident of Kathmandu.

The book begins with a Foreword and Introduction by the editor, including a discussion of her Methodology. Then she launches into the stories. With each excerpt she tells the reader enough to put it into context. 'Mountain Bound' introduces you to awe-inspiring writers, men and women alike, whose experiences, taken together, reflect the dramatic and sometimes the mundane, divulge personal knowledge and interpretations of sometimes perilous encounters, and reflect the cultures of life on the Roof of the World, and very near it. You’ll find stories of religious experience, dramatic historical events, and some stunning portrayals of the region’s geography and geo-politics, natural environment and research, mountaineering, and more.  The excerpts reveal the gamut of joys and sorrows, pleasures and pains, astute insights and (a few) blundering miscalculations.

You'll read, for example, about ‘The Great Game', that geo-political tussle waged slightly over a century ago between Russia and Britain contesting their influence in the region. As part of that story, you'll meet Sarat Chandra Das one of the Indian pundits spying for the British Raj on “pilgrimage” across Tibet. In another account you’ll follow a missionary wife and mother who lost loved ones along the way but steadfastly continued toward her goal. You’ll follow a mystic disguised as a beggar woman attempting to enter forbidden Lhasa. Some stories take you into the neighboring Karakorams and the Altai mountains. You'll ride with caravans attacked by brigands, and you’ll meet unprepared travelers suffering cold, hunger and great fear.  Some of the people, places, and events you'll read about were amazing then and continue to elicit astonishment today. Some excerpts in the book tell stories in brutally raw prose, while others were written with remarkable compassion as well as with subtle and poetic nuance. In an excerpt from his 1978 book The Snow Leopard, for example, Peter Matthiesen describes one morning after he and his companion, zoologist George Schaller, crossed the Black River on their trek to the Crystal Mountain in Shey, seeing snow leopard prints that appeared “as fresh as petals on the trail...”

Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay are here on Mount Everest, and you'll no doubt wonder (as they did) what was it that compelled George Mallory to come back, and ultimately die there. You'll visit fashionably historic hill stations and dak bungalows. You'll read a snippet of Heinrich Harrer’s classic Seven Years in Tibet, and for a startling contrast, you'll get a glimpse of Kathmandu in its hippie days half a century ago through the eyes and words and ‘trips’ of Michael Hollingshead. You’ll glimpse the subjugation of Sikkim by India, the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, and the remarkable first traverse through the hills on the south side of the Himalayas from Bhutan to Ladakh by two young American trekkers in the 1980s. Parts of their route are included within what is now known as ‘The Great Himalayan Trail.’

These few examples reveal something of the breadth and depth of what you’ll find in deVries’ collection of stories, all carefully selected and nicely presented. These writings cover many points in time, as far back as the first European explorers crossing central Asia.

As the editor of this jam-packed anthology, Lucia deVries tells us early on that during the 19th and 20th centuries the Himalayas were witness to changes of epic proportions. Here’s your chance in one volume to read about equally epic adventures. Mountain Bound is a great achievement.