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Lions Roar : March 2007
SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2007 93 THERE IS A PARADOX in the Himalayan world, where Vajrayana Buddhism took deep root many centuries ago and created a unique civilization. In this dramatic environment, replete with spirits and breathtaking natural wonders, live some of the world’s most heavily burdened and materially disadvantaged peo- ple, struggling on the edge of survival without schools for their children or basic medical care when they fall ill. A kind of earthy existential Buddhism, sometimes happily mixed with local superstition, sustains them, infuses them with compassion and endurance, and gives them the hope and courage to go on. This was the rugged, glorious world that the first foreign mountain climbers encountered when they arrived to take on the earth’s tall- est peaks—long before the sacred mountains became adventure tourism destinations where visitors littered the virgin slopes with trash. The early mountaineers from the West were not, for the most part, spiritual seekers. But the powerful aura of the mountains and the strengths of Hima- layan life drew them in—to homes, to hamlets, to monasteries—and transformed them. “People—mostly nonclimbers—talk about ‘conquering’ mountains,” writes Jim Whittaker, the first American to climb Mount Everest, in 1963, and one of several dozen contributors to this unusual book. “Nothing could be further from the truth. We do not conquer mountains, but rather we conquer ourselves.” Early mountaineers, including Sir Edmund Hillary, committed themselves to “giving some- The Other Side of the Postcards HIMALAYA Personal Stories of Grandeur, Challenge, and Hope Edited by Richard C. Blum, Erica Stone, and Broughton Coburn National Geographic, 2006; 256 pp.; $35 (cloth) REVIEWED BY BARBARA CROSSETTE Top, right: Mountain climber Conrad Anker traverses a ridge during an outing with Sherpas from the Khambu Climb- ing School. Right: Security forces in Kathmandu face down demonstrators protesting the autocratic rule of Nepal’s King Gyanendra in 2004. PHOTOBYNICHOLASDAWSONPHOTOBYJIMMYCHIN