Sangma Francis and Lisk Feng
Flying Eye Books
The closest I’ve ever come to the world’s most famous mountain, Everest, is a couple of visits to Dharamshala and McLeod Ganj and environs, in the Himalayan foothills. It was truly memorable to walk in the forest areas and see some of the incredible wildlife – langurs and other monkeys, rhododendrons growing wild, beautiful birds, many of which are illustrated in two of the early spreads of this superb book –
and which I learn herein are sadly now in danger on account of deforestation.
Yes, many climbers are drawn to climb Everest each year, aiming for its summit, as they follow in the footsteps of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. That in itself is amazing but there is much more in the way of the mountain’s associated history, mythology, wildlife, religion and culture to find out about as Sangam Francis and Lisk Feng tell and show readers of this beautifully presented book.
We’re taken right back to the formation of the Himalayan range out of which, in Tibet and Nepal, Everest rises. Each of these countries has a name for the mountain: for Tibetans it’s Chomolunga or ‘Mother Goddess of the World’; in Nepal, she’s Saramatha ‘goddess of the Sky’.
For many cultures Mount Everest is a sacred place: in the valleys and passes leading to its peak are places of worship and prayer for both Hindus and Buddhists
and travellers will often see strings of prayer flags hanging from chortens such as this one –
Unsurprisingly there are a great many legends associated with the mountain, an especially famous one being that of the hidden kingdom of Shambhala, a place only the pure of heart can enter. The entire legend is outlined in the book.
Higher up the mountain, the landscape changes; the flora and fauna have adapted to survive the extreme cold and wind. Unfortunately though, climate change is affecting crucial habitats so that small, cold-loving creatures such as the furry-footed pika
will be forced to move and perhaps be unable to find the vital food they need for survival.
Everest is the home of five goddesses each of whom rides a different animal and wears a dazzlingly coloured robe. More about them is included on ‘The Five Sisters of Long Life’ spread.
Thereafter comes information about the sometimes perilous, climatic conditions; facts about those who have attempted to reach Everest’s summit including their equipment and climbing garb; the problems of waste is mentioned
and the legendary Yeti also makes an appearance.
Here is the Sanskrit word for Himalaya हिमालय, which translates as ‘the home of snow’: Everest is surely that and thanks to the creators of this cracking book, readers will likely be sucked into its multitude of wonders. Who knows, some may even be inspired to pay it a visit.