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Must read: Books on mountains

Can’t make it to the mountains? Then let these books whisk you away.

books Updated: Mar 26, 2012 06:02 IST
Pranav Dixit, Hindustan Times

The Ascent of Rum Doodle

by W E Bowman; Vintage Classics; Rs 738

Sneak Peak: A misguided guide, a measurement-obsessed scientist, a kooky linguistic expert, a puffed-up protagonist and an indigenous tribe whose members speak through their stomachs via a series of indecipherable grunts.

This is the motley crew that comes together in this 1956 mountaineering classic, an outrageously funny spoof about the ascent of a bumbling group of British mountaineers on Rum Doodle, a fictitious peak that is supposedly higher than Mount Everest itself. Does for mountaineering what Catch-22 did for the Second World War, according to many notable publications.

Pick-Me-Up: The foreword by author Bill Bryson claiming it is “one of the funniest books” he’s ever read.

The Big Walls: From the North Face of the Eiger to the South Face of Dhaulagiri

by Reinhold Messner; Mountaineer Books; R1,817

Sneak Peak: You can’t talk about mountain books without mentioning Reinhold

Messner, the legendary Italian adventurer renowned for making the first solo ascent of Mount Everest without

supplemental oxygen.

Messner is also the first climber to ascent all 14 ‘eight-thousanders’ (peaks over 8,000 metres above sea level). In this historical account of big wall climbing, Messner begins in 1860, with the Alpine walls and the challenges he faced when conquering some of the steepest summits in the world. Read and be inspired.

Pick-Me-Up: Packed with over 165

powerful colour photos. That and Messner’s name on the cover.

Annapurna: The First 8,000-Metre Peak

by Maurice Herzog; Vintage Classics; R820

Sneak Peak: In 1950, a group of French mountaineers made a dash for the peak of the Annapurna I, an 8,100-metre mountain that ranks among the most forbidding in the Himalayas, not just for its extreme height but also for its long and treacherous approach.

They almost paid for it with their lives. Maurice Herzog tells the gripping tale of this remarkable journey from a hospital bed as he recovers from injuries sustained during this climb in what is one of the most famous mountaineering books of all time.

Pick-Me-Up: We’re suckers for happy


Spies in the Himalayas: Secret Missions and Perilous Climbs

by MS Kohli and Kenneth J Conboy;

Harper Collins; R395

Sneak Peak: After the Chinese detonated their first nuclear test in 1964, both America and India, which had just fought a border war with China, were justifiably concerned. Due to the extreme remoteness of the Chinese testing ground, conventional surveillance in this pre-satellite era was impossible and the CIA was desperate for a peek behind the Bamboo Curtain.

The solution: a joint American-Indian effort to plant a nuclear-powered sensing device on a high Himalayan peak to monitor

Chinese military activity. Based on true events. Chilling.

Pick-Me-Up: True story. Enough said.

The Mandala of Sherlock Holmes: The Adventures of the Great Detective in Tibet

by Jamyang Norbu; Harper Collins; R299

Sneak Peak: Two years after he killed off Sherlock Holmes in The Final Problem, author Arthur Conan Doyle resurrected him on popular demand. On his comeback, Holmes informs a stunned Dr Watson: “I travelled for two years in Tibet, therefore, and amused myself by visiting Lhasa.” Norbu, an avid Doyle reader, investigates Holmes’ stay in Tibet and reveals Holmes in the thick of a nail-biting mystery set in a fascinating landscape that evokes the romance of Kipling’s India. Highly recommended.

Pick-Me-Up: Without a doubt, the best Sherlock Holmes pastiche we’ve ever read.

From HT Brunch, March 25

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First Published: Mar 26, 2012 06:02 IST