Map Woes Part 2

(…continued from Map Woes Part 1)
So I looked for other maps. Some of these I found in books, and the information I tried to locate with the help of GE as well as Wikimapia (which is better marked but not always trustworthy). It’s a painstakingly slow process, but at least I was making progress.

The Eric Shipton Anthology possessed his superlative book Nanda Devi, which had a reasonably good map (which was great to get my bearings) of the Nanda Devi-Bhyundar- Joshimath-Badrinath-Madhmaheshwar area; basically central Garhwal.

Pic: Central Garhwal Himalaya from Shipton’s Nanda Devi (Bibek Bhattacharya)

An infinitely better plotted set of maps soon emerged out of mountaineer and photographer Kekoo Naoroji’s book of photo essays Himalayan Vignettes. It also had a very good set of maps of Western Sikkim, the area around Kanchenjungha and Nepal Gap glacier. What’s more, the book also included sizable chunks of lower Garhwal.

Pic: A plate from Kekoo Naoroji’s Himalayan Vignettes (Bibek Bhattacharya)
A third resource was Frank Smythe’s book Valley of Flowers. That book has some nice trail maps, especially of the classic Garhwal “approach trek” from Gwaldam to Joshimath via Kuari Pass and of his explorations around the Bhyundar Valley.

Pic: Map of the Bhyunder-Kamet region in Central Garhwal from Smythe’s Valley of Flowers (Bibek Bhattacharya)

The problem with this was age. It was written in 1938- he made the journey in 1937- and that area was only in the process of being properly surveyed, so names of lesser peaks, glaciers and villages wasn’t exactly fixed. But it felt great to compare maps and accounts of these early writers- for a profoundly Indian point of view of the Uttarakhand Himalaya in that era, see Umaprasad Mukherjee’s travelogues.

Pic: Map of the Gangotri Glacier region from Umaprasad Mukherjee’s travelogue (Bibek Bhattacharya)
Needless to say, I was devouring all this.

But I longed to get my hands on some serious maps of the Western Himalaya. Being quite hidebound as well as anal in my pursuits, I especially looked out for maps of Uttarakhand, as this was the region I wanted to explore first.

(to be continued)

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6 thoughts on “Map Woes Part 2”

  1. Bibek,
    As a map nutter, it is disappointing to find how only very basic maps of the Indian Himalaya are available today. I say today, because the old Survey of India maps, some 1″, others only 1/2″ still look pretty good today, despite being surveyed in 1927-30. I get these in the Royal Geographic Society library in London – but there must be sources in India. The SoI HQ used to be in Kolkata.
    Love your blogs. We were in the Daula Dhar last year, trekked over the Kuari pass round Nanda Devi twice, and are off to Binsar early next year, after a voyage up the Ganges from Farakka to Patna.
    Kind regards,
    James Arnold-Baker

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    1. Hi James,
      Thanks for your comments. Yes their sources are in India, and apparently you can buy the relevant maps at the Survey of India store in New Delhi. But that’s only on paper. In reality it’s bloody hard. So I suggest a combination of the Leomann Maps and the US Army topographical maps pf India. I’m glad to know you’ve been travelling a fair bit. I went to Nanda Devi myself last month. Will be writing about it soon.

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  2. hidebound AND anal.i really like the self-reflexive tone of this post:))just kidding. thanks for all this info in one place. and thanks for becoming an encyclopedia on the subject, makes my travelling SO much easier…

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  3. This is like reading The Two Towers… what happens next? Does our hero win through? Does he find the magic map of his dreams? What of the love interest? Does the dragon turn out to be a blind old bat who becomes Faithful Fido?

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