Tibet's Secret Mountain: The Triumph of Sepu Kangri

Chris Bonington, Author, Charles Clarke, Joint Author Trafalgar Square Publishing $29.99 (254p) ISBN 978-0-297-81984-4
Devotees of fine travel writing, of Tibet or of mountain climbing will relish this captivating report. Comparable in length to the entire Swiss Alps, Tibet's central mountain range, called Nyenchen Tanglha, is virtually unknown to Western climbers and travelers. At the age of 60, Bonington, preeminent British mountaineer and prolific author, resolved to climb majestic, never-before-scaled, 22,800-foot Sepu Kangri (""White Snow God""). Joining him was Clarke, British physician and veteran Himalayan climber, along with a high-tech team equipped with satellite communication hookup, Web site and film crew for instant transmission of their unfolding adventure. Decked out with breathtaking color photographs and maps, this book covers their 1996 reconnaissance expedition plus two subsequent attempts in 1997 and 1998. Bonington and Clarke informally recreate their odyssey in alternating chapters. Although they narrowly missed reaching the summit, their unpretentious narrative is a triumph of courage, keen observation, interaction with nature and with the Tibetan people, who by this account remain resilient and independent-minded despite political oppression under Chinese occupation. In a serendipitous journey, we join the authors as they watch a ""Devil Dance""--a ritual enactment of good vanquishing evil--performed by frenzied masked dancers; they also participate in the annual hunt for caterpillar fungus, source of a medicinal elixir. Mountaineering emerges here as a delicate balancing act between risk and ecstasy, a test of friendship and self. (Jan.) FYI: A documentary on the expedition is scheduled to air on the Discovery Channel in February.
Reviewed on: 11/29/1999
Release date: 12/01/1999
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