Author returns to Himalayan Golden Age
21 Jan 2009
A former Honorary Secretary of the Himalayan Club, Trevor Braham, has published his memoir of mountain exploration from the 1940s to the early 1970s.
In “Himalayan Playground, Adventures on the Roof of the World, 1942-72”, Braham expresses his love of mountains and the challenges they present. In the book, he says these amount to laying bare “personal strengths and weaknesses” and yielding “rewards that are uniquely personal”.
It is a collection of stories of journeys and expeditions beginning in 1947 which reveal as much about the Himalayas as it does about climbing and the people of the region before the onslaught of tourism.
Braham displays a keen memory for encountering traditional people in mountain villages, exploring what were “semi-blank areas on existing maps”, and climbing with eccentric mountaineers including Peter Holmes, the future chairman of Shell, who Braham describes as the “archetype of a young man in a hurry”.
While working in the hot Punjab plains of Pakistan, he seeks out the mountains northeast of the Swat Valley, but because it is in a tribal area, the author must have an armed escort. This episode, in retrospect, is one of the more entertaining in the book. His party includes the armed guard, six porters, two legs of mutton, and two chickens: “My escort, Mohmand Sadiq, a taciturn young man, was very attentive – sometimes embarrassingly so. He never left me or his rifle out of his sight, sleeping with the latter under his body outside my tent door.”
The foreword is written by Doug Scott, who underlines the value of Braham’s memoirs: “...he started his Himalayan climbing before jet travel, at a time when expeditions could take up to half a year, before satellite phones and the possibility of helicopter rescue.”
Braham is also the author of “Himalayan Odyssey” (1974) and “When the Alps cast their spell” (2004). The latter won the Boardman Tasker Prize for mountain literature. His latest book is published by Neil Wilson Publishing