Murder in the High Himalaya: Loyalty, Tragedy and Escape from Tibet Murder in the High Himalaya discussion


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Tshering Tashi Murder in the High Himalaya by Jonathan Green

In 2006, a group of Tibetans flee their homeland via Nepal to India. Their gateway to freedom is a secret glacial pass called Nangpa La ("The Insider's Pass" at 5806m feet). Saddled on the Cho Oyu Mountain (8201m), it sits on the border between Tibet and Nepal and for most of the year is covered in snow and patrolled by Chinese border guards. For Western climbers, this mountain is a warm up for Mount Everest.

In MURDER IN THE HIGH HIMALAYA, award-winning American author and journalist, MURDER IN THE HIGH HIMALAYA, tells the story of a group of mountaineers and a group of Tibetans who are both heading towards the mountain. The groups have entirely different intentions, objectives, motivations and climb under different conditions.

The first consists of wealthy, healthy western mountaineers who climb the mountains freely, on their own terms, some are seeking glory, others thrills. The second is a mixed group of Tibetans, including children, compelled to traverse the pass in search of freedom. They rely on each other for survival, traveling mostly at night. They are team players: the old look after the young while the strong care for the weak. Discretion is essential. Both groups put their lives at stake and subject themselves to the elements. The Western mountaineers can expect to reach their goal; the Tibetans' track record is more mixed.

On 30 September, the two groups come close to each other at the Advance Base Camp of the Cho Oyu Mountain. From the ridge, dozens of mountaineers and about 100 others watch in disbelief as Chinese border guards fire upon the Tibetans; they watch helplessly as the 17-year-old nun Kelsang Namtsho, after having who trekked more than 12 days to reach the spot, is shot and killed.

The Romanian cameraman Sergiu Matei films the incident for two minutes; 10 seconds of the clip later finds its way onto YouTube, stirring human rights activists and agitating champions of the Free Tibet cause.

The book, which recounts this story, may sound sensational; however it is anything but. The author stays focused while providing the reader with considerable wealth of observed detail. One small example: "Nyima struggled to lift the cumbersome wooden bar across the heavy, warped door. As the door slides open, a blast of minus-thirty degree air roared into the room." As a resident of the Himalayas, and a practicing Buddhist myself, I was impressed with the author's understanding of the complex culture and the subtleties of people living in the Himalayan region. Again, as example: "... he withdrew an ornate wooden box. From it he took two bright-red silk protection cords that were knotted in the middle."

I would however take exception to the statement that "out in the high passes of the Himalaya, there is no law or morality", a statement which is inaccurate if applied to the long-time local residents. In Bhutan, for example, mountains are considered sacred and are the objects of pilgrimage. The mountain people -- the yak herders and hermits -- are known for their compassion. A second quibble is that Mount Kailash is not the only mountain in the Himalayas where climbing is strictly forbidden. Those of us who live in Bhutan know that in 1988 Bhutan imposed a total ban on mountaineering and, today, Mount Gangkhar Puensum (7570m) is the world's highest unclimbed mountain

While the book is political and whether one agrees with the author's views and interpretations of the events, it nevertheless accurately describes the ability and willingness of the people of Himalayas to endure whatever fate has in store for them.

Lynn Good review.

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