Category Archives: Frank Smythe

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)