Until 1934 the Nanda Devi Sanctuary had never been penetrated by human beings. Surrounded by 20,000 foot peaks which effectively seal off the mountain at their centre it is virtually impenetrable. But in 1934 Eric Shipton and Bill Tilman solved the problem in the first of their great Himalayan expeditions by forcing a way up the river gorge. The onset of war meant that the Sanctuary remained un-visited for many years and it was then closed to travellers for political reasons. After a brief period in the seventies when it was opened for expeditions the Indian Government again closed the Sanctuary.
In 2000 the Sanctuary was entered for one single visit. Hugh Thomson was offered a place on this unique expedition led by Eric Shipton's son, John Shipton and the great Indian mountaineer, Colonel Kumar. This journey - a moment when it opens up to a few visitors before it is closed again to the world - forms the basis of the book. Woven through it are all the amazing stories that surround the mountain - a powerful blend of myths and politics: the explorer Willi Unsoeld - so fascinated by the mountain he named his daughter 'Nanda Devi' and took her on an expedition with him. Twenty-two years old, 'blonde and beautiful', she died just below the summit and an iron plaque commemorates her in the meadows of the south Sanctuary.
This first Anglo-Indian team brings an impressive amount of history to the book. John Shipton, paying tribute to his father; Colonel Kumar, who led a celebrated team up the mountains in the 1970s; and George Brand, one of the original members of the 1953 Everest expedition who says he wants to see the Sanctuary before he dies.