The Comforts Of ‘Abide With Me’

Legend has it that Mohandas Gandhi adored Abide With Me, “a Christian hymn by Scottish Anglican Henry Francis Lyte most often sung to English composer William Henry Monk‘s…’Eventide‘.” I learned of this particular proclivity of the Mahatma long after I had first heard the hymn’s notes as a child attending or watching the Beating RetreatContinue reading “The Comforts Of ‘Abide With Me’”

Gerard Manley Hopkins’ Mountains Of The Mind

A few years ago, while visiting my brother in India, I browsed through his collection of mountaineering books (some of them purchased by me in the US and sent over to him.) In Robert MacFarlane‘s Mountains of the Mind: Adventures in Reaching the Summit, I found the following epigraph: O the mind, mind has mountains  –Continue reading “Gerard Manley Hopkins’ Mountains Of The Mind”

No One ‘Conquers’ An Eight-Thousander

Despite the dozens, if not hundreds, of mountaineering tales that talk about the ‘conquest’ of mountains, especially the fourteen eight-thousanders that are the world’s tallest mountains, no one ‘conquers’ them. Not the mountaineers who climbed them first, who ‘deflowered’ their ‘virginity,’; not the ones who climb them by new routes, each selected to be harderContinue reading “No One ‘Conquers’ An Eight-Thousander”

Melting Glaciers And The End Of Civilization

These are the days of grim warnings about climate change, about an overheated, crowded, polluted planet, slowly cooking in a noxious stew of greenhouse gases, its rivers and oceans clogged with plastic and crude oil, its animals dying, its cities drowning, as floods and famine and hurricane and arctic freezes deliver blow after blow toContinue reading “Melting Glaciers And The End Of Civilization”

Of Annapurnas and Men: Maurice Herzog’s Epic Lives On

Just over sixty-four years ago, on June 3rd 1950, a pair of French mountaineers, Maurice Herzog and Louis Lachenal, stood on the summit of Annapurna, the world’s tenth highest peak. It was the first time mountaineers had succeeded in climbing a peak above eight thousand meters altitude. The French pair’s trials and travails were notContinue reading “Of Annapurnas and Men: Maurice Herzog’s Epic Lives On”

Yosemite and Sequoia: Visiting John Muir’s Playgrounds

Last week, my family and I traveled to California; more precisely, to Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon National Parks. (We visited family in Los Angeles as well.) Superlatives for national parks are a dime-a-dozen, so most writing on them is doomed to cliche. But let me press on regardless. The landscapes of these parks, likeContinue reading “Yosemite and Sequoia: Visiting John Muir’s Playgrounds”

The Visible but Ignored Life Around Us

Yesterday’s post was about death, and how it surrounds us, while being invisible. Today’s is about how life surrounds us too, all the while visible, and yet, somehow, for all that, all too easily ignored. Once, on a hike in the Indian Garhwal with my brother, I headed back downhill to our camp after badContinue reading “The Visible but Ignored Life Around Us”

Deadly Success: ‘The Summit’ On the 2008 K2 Disaster

Anatomies of disasters always provoke the most detailed of analyses for understandable reasons: as the hoary proverb has it, success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan. Disclaimers of paternity are thus to be expected when ugly offspring makes their appearance. In Nick Ryan‘s The Summit, the story of the deadliest day–1 August 2008–onContinue reading “Deadly Success: ‘The Summit’ On the 2008 K2 Disaster”

From a Safe Distance: Reading about Mountaineering

Reading books about mountaineering–written by mountaineers–reminds me of reading books about physics written by physicists. In both cases, I’ve flirted–ever so lightly–with the subject matter: in the case of physics, I’ve done high-school physics, taken a graduate level class in mathematical methods for physicists, taught myself the basic mathematical foundations of quantum mechanics, read philosophyContinue reading “From a Safe Distance: Reading about Mountaineering”

Brawling at Twenty Thousand Feet: The Everest Punchup

The high-altitude slopes of the world’s highest mountain–Mt. Everest–might seem like a strange place to indulge in fisticuffs but that’s precisely what happened on April 27: It takes a lot to rattle Swiss climber Ueli Steck….on April 27, while attempting to climb Mount Everest, it wasn’t the mountain that nearly killed him but a mob ofContinue reading “Brawling at Twenty Thousand Feet: The Everest Punchup”