Almost 50 years ago a book dealer known to my father approached him. ‘A Britisher going home for good wants to dispose off most of his climbing books. As your son in interested in mountains you can show him this lot and then we will discuss’. In that lot were books that any mountain lover today would give his right arm to possess. To be frank, I very reluctantly agreed to buy them and they were for Rs 35 for the whole lot! No, I have not forgotten to add few zeros to the sum!
One of the books in the collection was The Scottish Himalayan Expedition (1952) by W. H. Murray. Four Scotsman leisurely trekked in the Garhwal and Kumaun, exploring and climbing several peaks. There was ‘nothing official about it’ and I do not think they had any plans or itinerary made. They just started from the foothills at Ranikhet, as they all did in those days. Lampak group, Bethartoli Himal, Girthi Ganga and many other valleys were visited. These were the days where no return tickets were purchased to put pressure on explorers. This expedition and their ways of trekking and writing about it was something that inspired me then and continued to do so over the past few decades. I have enjoyed trekking and climbing in smaller groups, to unknown valleys and express my experiences as vividly as that great writer Bill Murray did. At least I have tried to do so.
When I visited the UK for the first time I made it a point to meet Murray. His wife and he lived next to a lake in the Scottish Hills. ‘As you pass a road we are on the left and on that lonely road we will put up some huge boxes so that you will not miss it go and past our house’, were the clear instructions as if we were in the Milam valley of Kumaun. That evening I had this book of my life autographed by him.
Later as I was leaving, Murray, like the famed Single Malt Scottish whisky that we shared, presented me the handwritten diary he had kept on that trip, the diary on which the book was based!
(First published in Outlook Traveller)