Sheds a new and important light on the mountainand its people
If there is one mountain that is known across the whole world, it must be the highest - Everest. To the people who live at its feet she is Chomolungma, Goddess Mother of the World. The disappearance of George Mallory and Andrew Irvine close to the summit in 1924 lent the mountain a tragic romanticism, of young men risking everything for a dream. When Norgay Tenzing and Ed Hillary became the first men to stand on the summit in 1953, it was the crowning glory for the coronation of Elizabeth II.
But nearly fifty years on, there are scores of ascents nearly every season. There are stories of bodies and heaps of garbage abandoned on the slopes, of the loss of cultural identity among the Sherpas and Tibetans who live at the foot of Everest. Ed Douglas spent parts of 1995 and 1996 travelling in Nepal and Tibet, talking to politicians and environmentalists, to mountaineers and local people. He found a poor region struggling to develop, and encountering environmental problems far greater than rubbish left by climbers. Local people are resourceful and cultured, reliant on the work the mountaineers and the mountain provide, but striving to find a balance between the new and the old.
Ed Douglas has written a book, not so much about the mountain the Chomolungma of the title but about the whole are of the surrounding territory as it is nowadays: overrun, garbage-ridden, packaged, spoiled , but still dangerous, still throat-catchingly beautiful. Douglas is a sparkling writer, with a great turn of phrase.
I had no prior interest in Everest or mountaineering, until I read Ed Douglas Chomonlungma Sings the Blues. Well written, it is particularly insightful on the damaging effects of adventure tourism.
A wise and useful book, which has been asking to written ever since Hunt s successful expedition in 1953. Douglas is a first-class journalist, whose interest in the Himalaya and its people enables him to get in close.
A very accomplished climber and noted commentator on climbing-related subjects, Douglas is here more interested in the resonance that Everest has both for the local peoples and the visitors to Nepal and Tibet. He writes elegantly and perceptively with a light and informed touch.
Instead of gazing up at the mountain, Douglas does something which hardly anyone else bothers to do: he looks down, at the people and the life around it.
The authority and balanced judgements of this book will make it essential reading for those contemplating a trek to Tibet and Nepal.
What makes this book most readable is its humorous eye for detail, whether it is the outrageous decor of the Chinese hotel or the bridge near Namche Bazar, which he describes as a slender suspension of wire, wood and disbelief.
Douglas book is refreshing and honest. An excellent geo-political travelogue that takes the reader under the surface of the happy smiling trekking holiday image of the Himalayas.