Nepal Himalaya by H.W. Tilman

Nepal Himalaya by H.W. Tilman

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Cambridge : At the University Press, 1952. Hardcover. 271 pages ; photographic illustrations ; 22 cm. In original dust jacket with firm binding and unmarked pages.


Permission to travel in Nepal is hard to get. Reasons are demanded, and Tilman, whose views about scientists are no secret, was compelled to take botanist, naturalist, surgeon-geologist (and he himself even became an indiscriminate capturer of beetles) to justify the wanderings of which this book is the narration. In many of Tilman's purple passages the whole party seems to be adrift in wet forests, lost in mist or drenched in rain, always toiling up unwilfully, or down unwillingly, through slime, nettles, bears, horseflies, leeches, sodden firewood, fern-festooned trees and dripping bamboos, sleeping wet, and living pardy off the land. The land is Nepal; 'the largest inhabited country still unexplored by Europeans', Tilman calls it. In Nepal there are, of course, mountains about, and after an intolerable but very readable amount of wet weather and invisibility, laborious and hair-raising attempts are made to climb mountains, but without much success (as might be expected). At times it is the harshest of country, at other times (a few thousand feet lower) the lushest of country, and readers may well be glad that Tilman had a botanist with him, for it is clear that his presence opened the author's eyes too to a flower population rich and incredibly lovely. The religions of this country are Hinduism and Buddhism. The villages, at least in the grudging hills, are built, as in Tibet, on craggy ground, so as to leave what little tillable land there is for the crops.

In fact three journeys are described, the first in 1949 to the Langtang Himal; the second in 1950, to the Annapurna Himal, the third (a bit of luck) with Houston (once of the Nanda Devi party) to the Nepal side of Everest. Tucked into this wet and dry book of travel and climb is the veteran author-traveler-climber, the lover of men and solitudes of all sorts, Tilman with his wit and his allusions, and his crying down of physical feats. And as if to certify credibility there are some sixty photographs of his own, taken on these very journeys, and six maps of a territory only sketchily mapped at all.

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