Exploration of peripheral ranges and lesser peaks in the Himalaya has, if anything, waned over the last 30 years. Today's generation appears addicted to the standard itineraries offered up by commercial expedition companies. Mera Peak, Island Peak, Ama Dablam, Cho Oyu, Everest ... these few iconic peaks see thousands of visitors every year, while the other 99% of Himalayan and Karakorum mountains remain untravelled. Yet with modem means of travel many fabulous and remote ranges can be penetrated within the time frame of an annual holiday. In this short but engaging book Trevor Braham reminds all those who flock to the honeypots of the Khumbu that there is a world of endless fascination beyond. Braham recounts his post-war journeys in Garhwal, Sikkim, Karakorum and the North-West Frontier, spanning the period 1947 to 1972. None of these trips achieves spectacular results. Indeed Braham's wanderings are notable for their lack of success! And herein lies the charm of the book. The spirit of mountain travel is what really counts to Braham. He grasps every brief period of leave from his job in the sub-Continent to visit new valleys and obscure peaks, sometimes with a team, but often with just a single companion. The accounts convey the flavour of Himalayan travel after partition and independence. The protagonists had to accept lengthy delays in getting permits. A week spent idling at the doors of bureaucracy in Islamabad was not unusual. By contrast, a great deal of privilege and courtesy awaited the traveller once the gates were opened, not just loyal porters but also armed escorts in volatile regions. Many of the places visited in Pakistan, such as Swat valley and Waziristan are now hotbeds of Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism, and have been off-limit to Westerners in the last decade. Braham gives us a glimpse of their culture in a less frenetic and happier time. The narrative switches pleasingly between the human, geographical and cultural themes. There are excellent line maps and original photographs. Braham's style is perhaps a little short of vivid personal anecdote. A retrospect from a vantage of 30 years inevitably loses the sparkle of immediate experience. Nevertheless, those who aspire to a genuine mountain ethos, released from the bondage of commercial pressure and personal ego, will find these recollections highly enjoyable, and will regret only their brevity. MARTIN MORAN A KNOWLEDGEABLE MOUNTAINEER LIVING IN INDIA Trevor Braham was both far-seeing and lucky. He was at school in India and, after World War II, took a job with plentiful leave in his father's firm in Calcutta. The element of luck was that this was the beginning of the Golden Age of Himalayan climbing and that in 1947 a prestigious Swiss expedition to Garhwal, led by the famous Andre Roch, invited a guest member from the Himalayan Club. Braham, who was living in Calcutta and had previous experience of trekking in Sikkim, got the job. He climbed Kedarnath Dome with Roch, Graven and Dittert, and returned on his own over various high passes with two Sherpas. What a wonderful start to a Himalayan career! It established Braham as a knowledgeable mountaineer living in India and so he was invited to join several other expeditions. He was also perfectly placed to organise his own mountain trips, especially when he moved to Pakistan in 1961. The climbs in this book span in time the thirty years he was living in the east and in geographic spread from Sikkim to Waziristan, including the tragic Minapin expedition of 1958. It was of special interest to this reviewer that he visited Spiti in 1955 with Peter Holmes, whose book inspired the reviewer's expedition there in 1958. It is surprising that he has drawn his own map with sausage glaciers, when Holmes' much better map was available in 1958, and my own in 1962. In this book, Braham covers the same expeditions as in his 1974 Himalayan Odyssey, but, as an octogenarian, considers "the maturity of later years has led to a deeper appreciation of the pleasures, heightening the awareness of the good fortune that has enabled me to develop a more profound relationship with mountains." It has certainly led in this short book to a vision of enjoyable climbing on the lesser Himalayan peaks, climbing in a way that has become much more difficult since the mountains became draped in bureaucracy and commercialism, as Doug Scott laments in the foreword. Even if you have read Himalayan Odyssey, this is a book not to miss. Joss Lynam, IRISH MOUNTAIN LOG, No 89, Spring 2009
About the Author
Since his first life-changing Himalayan journey 50 years ago, Trevor Braham has been a prominent figure in the world of Himalayan and Alpine mountaineering. He wrote Himalayan Odyssey and is a former editor of the Himalayan Journal and Chronique Himalayenne. His When The Alps Cast Their Spell won the 2004 Boardman-Tasker award.