Tuesday, May 24, 2022
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Reading The High Sierras

A deeply felt, personal story of travelling on many levels

Reading The High Sierras

From the moment I opened it, this book was the start of a journey that would take me outside myself, as my two treks to the Pindari Glacier has proved, as only the mountains can do. It’s a deeply felt, personal story of travelling on many levels and Alter weaves the threads of the spirtual, physical and emotional into a cohesive narrative whole. For one, the book is an account of his personal triumph against emotional and physical trauma, caused when still unidentified assailants forced themselves into his house in Mussoorie early one morning in August 2008, and left his wife and him knifed and seriously wounded.

Seeking to get his equilibrium back, in October 2009, Alter undertakes a series of journeys into his beloved Himalayas, starting with a three-kilometre walk up Flag Hill, which has been his favourite retreat since his school days. When he reaches the top and sees Bandarpunch and, further away, the partially hidden peaks of Nanda Devi, he understands that this is the path he must take to complete his healing. Divided into three main journeys, Nanda Devi, Kailash Mansarovar and Bandarpunch, Alter punctuates the story of each journey with twists and turns that bring in the mythology of the region, his observations on the environment, and his comments on the man-­nature relationship. And it is in describing these encounters with the mountain’s spirit that Alter finds true eloquence. A case in point is his first ‘darshan’ of Nanda Devi’s peak “emerging from the ring of peaks that guard her sanctuary” and which, viewed from Chitrakanta, he describes in these words: “The steepled summit is like a vast cathedral that has taken millions of years to carve, buttressed by eroded ridges and corniced with ice”.

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