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Of Mountains, Men, Media and Mediocrity

Rupak Bhattacharya | Jun 2 , 2018

As the monsoon clouds roll in from the south, off the Bay of Bengal, news rolls in from the north, off the Himalayan snows, about successful, failed and dubious ascents.

Like most "good" years, Everest hosted dozens of summitters both from the south and the north, following the traditional guided routes. But other than sheer numbers, nothing worthwhile happened on Everest.

Dhaulagiri had a different story to tell, one with a twist in the tail, or shall we say tale. From all "posted" reports no one made it to the top this season.

Dhaulagiri remains unclimbed this spring

But belying all disappointments three vernacular newspapers from West Bengal, India, broke the story that there has been a "summit" and that too by a local climber.



The larger of the three reports even had a summit photograph of the climber, and all three quote the climbers wife as the unimpeachable source of authentication.

The other two, virtual copy - paste of each other, go a huge step further. They have in one stroke of the pen, or a click of the keyboard, altered the whole topography of the Himalayas. The world knew, till they went to press, that there were fourteen peaks above eight thousand meters. Both have now magically brought it down to a more climbable nine. An award from The Royal Geographic Society, or at least an honourable mention, is eagerly awaited.

All three strangely, or may be not so strangely, use the vernacular term for conquer when they refer to the summit. A term, which any self-respecting mountaineer would hate to be associated with has been obsolete since the death of colonialism.

Now that the serious matter has been dealt with, lets talk about some funny stuff.

Mingma, the Sherpa with this summitter in question or is it the questionable summitter, having initially reportedly said "no summit" has now gone incommunicado.

Dept. of Tourism, Govt. of Nepal, regulator, oversee-er, authenticator, certifier and the mandated authority on all things climbing in Nepal, not including monkeys and social climbers, has over the past few years earned a reputation which is not flattering.

Their credibility has been buried under a veritable rock - fall of fabricated reports, altered reports, unauthenticated certification, unqualified sherpa guides, unanswered questions even from a neighbouring country and all the back room deals that go with such affairs.

So now the world eagerly awaits news from Kathmandu, because the present generation of climbers have to "summit" at the offices of DOT to have really summitted at all. Such is, also sadly, the credibility of climbers today.

Jokes aside, now for some serious news which warms my tired heart.

The Alpine Journal and the Alpinist are presently the most prestigious mountaineering journals. Having an article published therein is a matter of honour, privilege and pleasure, because it means that your work has been judged by your peers and/or your betters, and they have found it at par with international standards of excellance.

It just so happens that another mountaineer from West Bengal, is in the news. Alpinist issue 62, published this month, carries a major cover article from him detailing his internationally acclaimed exploratory work around Kanchenjungha, including the first documented ascent of Zemu Gap from the South and his forcing a route through Tilman's "trackless vale of tears".

The e-link will be available very soon.

Its such a relief that original, credible, documented explorations and ascents still have primacy over silly summit-certificate-seeking guided climbs.



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