National Geographic : 1961 Jan
Nepal's Mountain Ramparts Crown the World's Roof Mr. Hammarskjild flew north from Cal cutta to Katmandu, then east to Everest, and finally west past Annapurna and oth er giants of the Hi malayas on the way to Delhi. them to that summit we saw in front of us. There, expressing an attitude I have often met in the fraternity to which they belong, they displayed the flags not only of their coun tries but also of the United Nations.* However, while thinking of those who had succeeded, I could not forget those who had failed. They have been many, and their glory, written into the history of the mountain, is that they went to the limits of the humanly possible and were defeated only by circum stances beyond human mastery. The first hour had flown away. It was nec essary to return if we were to be back in time, and if we wished to avoid the assembling clouds. We came back to Gauri Sankar, and I decided to try to get a full picture of the south wall. On my first attempt, I felt that I did not succeed, and, forgetting the situation, I asked the pilot to make a second round under the mountain. This time I succeeded and got the pictures on pages 90-91. Meanwhile, however, we had lost altitude, and I could not help smiling-perhaps a little apprehensively when I saw the pilot looking down through a side window to judge if he would get safely over the range we had to pass. The experiences of this first contact with the Himalayas from the air were such that I asked the authorities if, on our flight to Delhi somewhat later, we could follow the high mountains west of Katmandu for a distance, in order to cover at least Annapurna. In their generous hospitality, they at once agreed. During short visits to a country for pro fessional purposes, there is little time for sight seeing. Before we left Katmandu, however, I had another experience that, in its way, tied together the first visit to the Himalayas and what we were to see the next time. Linking the two flights, it also created a bridge to the night at Swayambhunath. Again, it was a vis it made with friends, and on a moonlit night. Just outside the city lies a meadow sur- rounded by high trees but with a view across the valley to Swayambhunath. It is called the Twenty-two Fountains, for just where a steep hillside breaks the plain, there is a long stone ramp through which the cold waters of a mountain stream burst forth in many openings. It is a place steeped in the atmos phere of the mountains and yet stamped with the mark of ancient, high civilization, as sure in its artistic sense as in its sense of how to create a harmonious interplay between the work of men and the surrounding landscape. At the side of the ramp lies a small square pond built of stone, eroded by water and frost. Down into it lead worn steps. Resting in the pond lies a statue of the sleeping Vishnu, sunk so deep in the water that only the upper parts of the body break the surface. The moonlight played on the wet figure, contrasting with the red glow from fires burning a short distance from where we stood. The silence was of the kind that is to be found only in the mountains, a silence that is audible. Pilgrims Cook Over Charcoal The charcoal fires were burning at a rest site on one of the roads from the north. Round them were grouped pilgrims on their way to Swayambhunath, preparing their evening food without a word and without a glance at the strangers who passed. The sleeping Hindu god and the silent Buddhist monks crystallized two of the great spiritual currents that have grown out of the meeting between man and the mountains. They were of the mountains and of one spirit with the mountains. But they fused into the scenery the soul and the human perspective without which our feeling for nature is sterile and empty aestheticism. The morning of our flight to Delhi was perfect. The route took us first straight *Sir John Hunt, the expedition leader, and Sir Edmund Hillary told the story of the famous climb in "Triumph on Everest," NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, July, 1954.