Title: Across Peaks & Passes in Himachal Pradesh | Author: Harish Kapadia
Publisher: Indus Publishing Company| Price: INR 550 | Buy at Flipkart
I have immense respect for Mr. Harish Kapadia and what he has done for the Mountaineering and Trekking fraternity (Himalayan fraternity in short) is laudable. I got acquainted with his works just recently but its better late than never. Its only through his book ‘Peaks and Passes in Himachal Pradesh’ I got to know that there are more than 65 passes in the Himachal Himalayas.
The book starts on a very inspiring note as the author articulates his closeness to the Himalayas.
“If you live within 48 hours’ distance from the Himalayas, as I do, then Himachal Pradesh holds the best attraction. Col. Jimmy Roberts used to finish his Friday evening parade at Dalhousie and reach the foothills of the Dhauladhars by night. I tried my ‘cloth merchant version’ from Bombay.”
He calls 48 hours’ a closeness. And we are talking about good old days when the Indian Railways system was still on the rise. Not that it has reached places now, but still. We are talking about Mumbai – Pathankot – Dharamshala here! And I am not sure if airlines existed back then.
The cloth merchant version of Mr. Kapadia, I must say, has inspired many trekkers across India to do somewhat similar. This is one of those books which you like to finish in one sitting.
The journey starts from the peaks and passes of the Kullu and Lahaul Valley. You get acquainted with names of the valleys and peaks which you might have observed during your journeys to Lahaul and around Rohtang. For instance, the land opposite to Gramphoo divide is known as Kulti Valley, and those plains visible across River Chandra are called ‘Sara Flats’. Lahaul winter life is described in such a vivacious manner that it launches the reader right into the valley.
Sometimes in the Mulkilla ranges and sometimes in the Pattan Valley.
It’s not your conventional guide book that talks about calculated distances, stopovers, trek difficulty and other technicalities involved in a trek. It’s more of a story book that spans over 30 years. Lingti, Kulti, Spiti, Pin or Parbati; name any valley, Kapadia talks in depth about each of them and explains the history of climbing skillfully that you too feel like giving a try to scale these mountains.
The first exploration of the Lingti Valley was successfully accomplished by Kapadia and his team in the year 1983. They penetrated this valley which practically had no history of any visitors. Exploration of the Lingti Valley is one of the many firsts’ that Kapadia and his team consummated during their Himalayan escapades. This book details many firsts’ that strengthened the relationship between Kapadia and higher Himalayas.
Images and maps are skillfully used by the author for the clarity of thought. Black and white images stand out undoubtedly. Kinnaur of late nineties looks breathtakingly beautiful and so does the Chamba region. Maps inserted at appropriate places uphold the curiosity. You actually get to see the valleys and peaks author talks about.
And if I have to pick the most interesting part of this book then it has to be ‘Kinnaur: A Decade of Visits’ indisputably. Back then the Kinnaur region wasn’t a free zone. Permissions, approvals, and ‘sifarish’ was mandatory to step foot in the higher reaches of Kinnaur in late 1980s.
As the author himself stated, “The entire Kinnaur valley, until 1994, was a restricted area and it depended on the babus in Delhi to decide who would enjoy the ‘Sunlit Waters’ and how much. That was my introduction to Kinnaur.”
Once Kapdia tasted the flavor of Kinnaur, he kept coming back, year after year. Their first ascent of Rangrik Rang (6553 meters), exploration of hitherto unknown Sorang Valley, journey across the historical Manirang Pass (5550 meters); year after year his love for Kinnaur turned into an obsession.
Overall, a brilliant read for those who want to learn about the history of climbing in the Himachal Himalayas. And even if you haven’t yet crossed over a mountain pass, read this book and I am sure you wouldn’t be able to stop yourself for long.
“Give me these vigorous little mountain hells than an empty paradise – anyday!” – Harish Kapadia.