The Valley of Flowers: An Adventure in the Upper Himalaya
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In 1931, a party of British mountaineers?including Frank S. Smythe?on their way back from a successful ascent of Mount Kamet, were looking for shelter from inclement weather in the wilderness above Joshimath in present-day Uttarakhand when they came upon the lush and colourful Bhyundar Valley, the Valley of Flowers. In the monsoon of 1937, Smythe returned to the Valley with four Tibetans from Darjeeling?his climbing partners and factotums?provisions, and six weeks of leisure.
On this adventure, Smythe extensively explored the Valley, identifying and collecting flowers and seeds from among the wealth of plant life. He and his friends also scaled the Nilgiri Parbat and the Mana Peak and were defeated by Mount Rataban. Beset by the rains, the party was nearly always soggy and, once, an Abominable Snowman gave them
the fright of their lives. Yet, these were but minor prices to pay for the privilege of witnessing the Himalaya in its infinite variety and for a great deal of time usefully spent ruminating on the joys of idleness.
The very best kind of nature and adventure writing, which
vividly captures the exuberance of wide open vistas as well as the opportunities for solitude and introspection they provide, The Valley of Flowers is a book to read, and to keep dipping into.
Frank Sydney Smythe was a British mountaineer, botanist and adventurer. Smythe, who began his mountaineering career in the Alps, joined the international Kangchenjunga expedition of 1930 which ended in failure. In 1936, he led the expedition which successfully ascended Mount Kamet, then the highest peak ever to have been climbed. Subsequently, in the 1930s, Smythe was thrice part of teams which attempted to climb Mount Everest. An accomplished photographer and a prolific writer, Smythe wrote twenty-seven books in all, the best known among which are The Kangchenjunga Adventure, Kamet Conquered and Adventures of a Mountaineer.Smythe died in 1949.