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Chomolungma Sings the Blues:
Travels Around Everest

by Ed Douglas

Constable, England. 1997. 256 pages.

“In Chomolungma Sings the Blues, Ed Douglas, editor of Climber, a U.K. magazine, and The (British) Alpine Journal, recounts his experiences and observations on a trek through Nepal in 1995-'96. The main theme of this book (not always easy to decipher) is the degradation of Nepalese culture brought on by Western trekkers and climbers, of whom he does not have many nice things to say. (…)
Douglas believes this "destructiveness" of Western culture is what lies behind pollution and overpopulation in Kathmandu, garbage and deforestation in the Khumbu, and the exploitation of porters generally. This lack of respect for Nepalese culture and the egocentricity and smug patronizing of Westerners is exemplified for Douglas in the gesture of a young British trekker "sleek in his black jacket and sunglasses" who, after a quick perusal and a yawn, tosses a pamphlet on Sherpa culture onto a pile of magazines. This horrifies Douglas, because he wants Nepal to be "a haven in the distant comer of the world where life is simpler, purer, without the constant grind of money or position, where we can be free."
Dave Hale, “American Alpine Journal” 1999, p. 448

“I have only visited Nepal three times, briefly. Now, after reading this book, I have learned much more - not just about Everest's Khumbu region, but also about the Kathmandu valley, starting with Anglo-Nepalese relations in the nineteenth century, when the Maharaja Chandra Shumsher, anxious to maintain the Ghurkas' respect for their foreign military employers, insisted that British access to the kingdom should be limited, because 'All Englishmen cannot be gentlemen'.
Reading Douglas's accounts of recent very ungentle visitors from all over the world, tramping ignorantly through the Khumbu, I couldn't help wishing that Nepal had kept the door closed. But perhaps what was most disquieting was to recognise my own moments of ignorance on past expeditions, blinkered by preconception and hell bent on reaching my mountain.”
Stephen Venables, “Climber” 1998, January, p. 82-83

“In a different twist to the usual "Everest book," Ed Douglas, editor of Britain's Climber magazine, recounts his 1995 trek through Nepal. It is the degradation of Nepalese culture by mountaineers and trekkers that exercises Douglas the most, not the climbing or hiking.
The megalomania of the climbers is matched only by the destructiveness of the culture that they bring with them, namely materialism and over-consumption. It is this Westernizing influence that lies at the root of Nepal's many present-day ills, says Douglas. (…)
I applaud Douglas for shirking the arrogance, materialism, and consumerism of Western culture, but we just can't change cultural norms and values like we change clothes. Such attempts come off like hanging Nepalese prayer flags from your deck. There is plenty unpleasing about Nepalese culture to Westerners when it comes to attitudes towards women and marriage, as Douglas himself alludes to. We must pick and chose among the good and bad in any culture, making individual moral choices. We can't let a "culture" — Nepalese or Western — do the thinking for us.”
Dave Hale, “Climbing” 1999, No. 188, p. 182-183




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