Title: Treks and Passes of Himachal Himalayas | Author: S.R. Saini
Publishers: Progressive Publishers | Price: INR 300
This book is not just a travel guide but it encapsulates Saini’s thirty years of experience and his love for the Himalayas. Unlike new-age multicolored travel books, this book is more substance and less glitter. Even the cover of the book is unattractive and you might give it a pass at first glance.
However clichéd it may sound, you never judge a book by its cover and that’s why aesthetics of Saini’s book shouldn’t matter. Having spent almost his entire life in the Himalayas, Saini has lived the culture, traditions, and rituals of the Himalayas. His knowledge of Himalayan culture and lifestyle is a major plus for Saini’s book. I haven’t read any other book that details Dhauladhar Himalayas better.
The book is divided into five major sections namely: a)Kangra-Chamba-Pangi b)Kullu-Manali c)Lahoul-Spiti d) Kinnaur-Shimla-Sirmour, and e)Mandi Region. The author has detailed all the major treks of Himachal in subsequent sections but as I have said earlier, his expertise is the Dhauladhar Himalayas, at least this book suggests so.
For instance, the author details many passes of Dhauladhar which are not used anymore these days. Some of them were abandoned long ago even by the shepherds. Bhighasutri Pass, Singhar Pass, and Kundli Pass are some of them, to name a few. However, with the same expertise he has not explained the Kinnaur or Spiti Region. While he just passes by the other mountain ranges, in the Dhauladhars he takes you to the oldest shepherd route and that too with vivid details.
The author intermittently feeds you interesting information like local rituals and customary beliefs of shepherds atop the mountain passes. He also shares his experiences of crossing different passes in between. Let me quote one such instance from the book.
“I was returning from the DaneSar Lake and unfortunately fell down into a 150 feet gorge. My fellow trekkers assumed me to be dead and left because the weather was deteriorating. Death looked certain. I passed the night sitting on the boulder. I somehow survived the night and reached Samalag Village next morning by dragging myself. The villagers considered me low caste and banned my entry into the village. It took me quite some time to convince them. I was asked to perform a ritual and only after I had passed the ritual test, I was allowed inside.”
The book is full of such interesting stories. Flora and fauna of Dhauladhars in particular is explained with great expertise. His experiences ensure that you are not reading the trivial trek route information but actual Himalayan experience of a mountain lover. Photographs are introduced but are not of great quality, a matter of production cost it looks like.
The author could have done a better job with proof-reading but that can be given a pass considering the substance and quality of the content. There are a few maps in this book, and honestly they don’t look that great in comparison to its content. Pictures speak louder than words but in this case these pictures might confuse the reader.
In a nutshell, must read for those who want to trek in the Dhauladhar Himalayas. This book will help you to figure out starting points and stopovers of many mountain passes which you don’t find over the internet. Asking around from shopkeepers and locals is quite an exercise and that can be avoided if you have this book in your armory.
Strictly not for Grammar Nazi’s.
If you want to read please buy this book. If you want pictorial entertainment, try something else.
About the Author: S.R.Saini has served in the Directorate of Mountaineering and Allied Sports Manali for more than 30 years. He has trekked exhaustively in the Himachal Himalayas. Dhauladhar and Pir-Panjal Ranges have remained his favorites and his incessant trekking sojourns in these two mountain ranges have taken shape of another book namely ‘The Treks and Passes of Dhauladhars and Pir Panjal’.
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