the-south-asian.com January 2004
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Farewell to Mountains & Men?
Jubilee - 50 years of Climbing – Everest, K2, & Nanga Parbat
by Salman S. Minhas: Information Engineers, Lahore, Pakistan
"If the world's leaders could spend a few days climbing a mountain together, then things would go better.” -Reinhold Messner – Interview Ed Douglas, Sunday March 30, 2003 the Observer
Sacred Mountains & God’s Thrones
Olympus [ 2917 meters ] in north Greece was considered by Greek mythology as
the house of the Greek Gods [ Zeus- ruler of all gods, his wife Hera ,
Apollo, Athena, Aphrodite, Hermes, Artemis, etc ]. Since 2000 B.C.
Mt.Kailash [22K feet] located in Tibet, has been considered by Hindus,
Buddhists and Jains to be the home of Shiva.
About 1000 pilgrims each year go there on foot from India. It is
considered a sort of a cosmological center / energy field.
Not far from Mt. Kailash are two pristine turquoise blue lakes. One
is called Mansarovar [ meaning “perpetually invincible” and
the soul of Brahma] and the second is called Rakhshas[ Ghost Lake] .
The area within the nearby 100 kilometers is the origin / source of 4 rivers
including the Indus, Sutlej, Brahmaputra, & Karnili / Ganges. [The four
sources, each in the shape of a horse, lion, elephant and peacock, have
given names to the four famous rivers in the Ngari area].
in the Himalayas are also named after religious icons – for Tibetans the
Everest is “ Chomolungma “ or Mother Goddess of the Universe & for
the Nepalese Buddhists, Everest is “ SagarMatha“ or Mother of the Ocean
(perhaps a reference to the origin of the Himalayan range from the Tethys
Sea). Similarly the others Himalayan 800+ peaks have names related to
Goddesses. Annapurna means the
Goddess of Harvest and Bounty. The name Nanda Devi means “Blessed Goddess.”
At 25,645 feet the monastery of Tengboche near the first Base camp of
Mt.Everest is known for bestowing blessings to all Everest climbers. The
word Karakoram means black rock; in Turkish, Karakoram means “crumbling
rock” or scree. Himalayas in
Sanskrit means the abode of snow.
Norgay, the son of first Everester Sherpa Tenzing Norgay (Tenzing and Hillary
were the first to scale the Everest in May, 1953), once said in an interview:
know…we look on the mountains as sacred, and to this day some of the
Himalayas remain off limits to us. They are such holy mountains that to
climb them would be wrong……………for many of us - especially on
Everest - mountain-climbing has become our livelihood. But we go to the
mountain with respect. We know that Chomolungma lives there, and so prayer
and ceremony must precede any attempt to climb the mountain…We place
prayer flags wherever we go (on these treks). Chomolungma, the maiden of the
wind and mother goddess of the world, lives on Everest, and our prayers are
to her by the wind horse. The flags blowing in the wind are the sound of our
prayers, our communication with the goddess. In prayer, we learn the respect
with which we must approach the mountain. The deities can be defiled by
people who abuse the mountain, who pollute it with garbage or try to climb
it without showing proper respect. Ignorant people sometimes climb
mountains; they climb only as an expression of ego. It is very important
that climbers respect the mountain and the people who live there."
1986, the American Climber Galen Rowell [ he and his wife died in a plane
crash in USA in 2002] referred
to the area at Concordia in the Karakorams as “ The Throne Room of the
Mountain Gods” and wrote a fine book with the same title .
Men & Mountains – Explorers, Surveyors & Early History [500 BC –
was the name given by a British colonel T.G. Montgomery in 1856, who was
carrying out a trignometric survey of the area. He named the peaks in the
order he saw them, K1, K2, K3, etc. The K stands for Karakoram.
Only K2 retains its name. The rest are called by their local names.
K2 [8,611 meters] was climbed by the Italians Lino Lavedelli [aged
29] and Achille Compagnoni [aged 39] on July 31, 1954 after a century of
word “discovery” is now a fuzzy word at best, after it has been
confirmed that the Vikings and the Indians crossed the North Atlantic and
Bering Straits. The Arabs and the Chinese traded with India using sea routes
to Cochin exploiting nature’s trade winds as far back as the year AD1000 -
AD1500. Central Asia was famous for its “Silk Route”. The areas around
the Karakorams have plenty of evidence that the current Karakoram Highway
uses pretty much the same route as one of the many arms of the Great “Silk
In any case in 1856, British surveyor Captain T.G. Montgomery of the Great Trignometric Survey of India sighted the cluster of peaks from about 100 + miles away and entered them as K1, K2, K3, K4, the K standing for the Karakoram Range. The modern day documentation and map making had begun. This was a requirement of the
which is a camping spot en route to Concordia was used by Balti herdsmen who
must have been the first to spot K2, according to Galen Rowell, the American
climber [ G.Rowell –“In the Throne Room of the Mountain God’s” ]. Rowell
believed that Mustagh La [Pass] was in use as he mentions evidence of a Polo
Ground [160 feet by 800feet] at the village of Sharagan near the Mustagh
Sir Francis Younghusband, a noted soldier and adventure traveler, also in 1887, crossed the Gobi desert from Peking and entered India by crossing Mustagh La Pass [Mustagh means ice-tower in Balti]. It was during this journey that he saw K2.
in 1909, the Italians came to the Karakorams in the form of a great
expedition with almost 250 porters. The Duke of Abruzzi arrived along with
the famous photographer Vittorio Sella. Sella’s
travels took him on expeditions to the Caucasus starting in 1889 to
Alaska -1897, to Sikkim & Nepal -1899, to the Ruwenzori in Africa-1906,
and to the Karakorams and Western Himalayas-1909.
seminal book on the Karakorams was called:
: Vittorio Sella : Mountaineer and Photographer : The Years 1879-1909
Holyoke College Art Museum, Gallery
of the New York School of Interior Design, Whyte
Museum of the Canadian Rockies, New
York School of Interior design , Ansel
E. Adams : publisher - Aperture.
was prefaced by Ansel Adams, who considered him the greatest mountain
photographer. In 1946,
Ansel Adams wrote in the Sierra Club Bulletin:
"The memory of Vittorio Sella is closely embraced by the moods of the
world's great mountains, many of which are known to us chiefly through the
beautiful imagery of his lens. Mighty K2, shrouded in gray plumes of the
Monsoon, these are revealed in all their sheer majesty in Sella's masterful
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