This book about trekking and climbing in Nepal is a fun, non-technical read, and you can almost hear the relaxed voice of the author, Mark Horrell, as he recounts his adventures climbing Mera Peak.
Apparently Mr. Horrell writes a diary every evening during his trekking and climbing trips, which accounts for the chatty tone of this book.
His daily memories have been recorded – the good, bad and indifferent – and it all makes for a freshness of tone and voice.
A lot of the little things get forgotten by the end of an adventurous trip, along with your thoughts during the first few days. By the end of a climb, you are a different person, and the fears, doubts, and misgivings of the beginning can be forgotten in the glow of accomplishment.
This is what makes this book such fun.
(It also made me regret my own laziness. I always start my own climbing trips with a diary, but it tends to peter out after a few days).
Mr. Horrell is delightfully unpretentious, happily poking fun at himself and his occasional mishap. He clearly doesn’t take himself or his achievements too seriously, and is adamant that he is trekking and climbing to enjoy himself, not just notch up “summits”.
He strikes me as a fun companion.
Adding to the enjoyment of “Islands in the Snow” is the fact that I climbed Mera Peak in late 2019, my last adventure before Coronavirus locked us all down.
So it was super exciting to relive my own trip – though we didn’t summit, due to the mother of all storms in high camp, that sent tents flying and forced all climbers from several expeditions to descend.
There were moments when I said out loud “Yes! That’s where we had lunch, too” or “Yes, yes, it was JUST like that!”
I warmed instantly to Mr. Horrell when he “defends” the way in which he travels, with a team of porters – as do I, by the way:
“I’d certainly pay for the luxury of a tent and the opportunity for someone else to carry the load off my back if I can afford it. I am here on holiday, and want to enjoy the moment, not just look back on it with fond memories.
Many people see shoestring independent travel as a purer form of adventure. Although I can understand this point of view, it’s not the only valid one. It may be just the thing when you’re hard up, but there are other benefits to our way of doing things. Seeing the way our porters – who are all friends from the same village – seem to be enjoying themselves, I’m sure they’re glad of the employment, and the chance to take pleasure in the camaraderie of being out on trek as part of a team.”
It’s not only the camaraderie. There’s the economic impact on a poor part of the world. Wages and tips count for poor villagers. There is no way of sugar-coating that basic fact.
A happy read.
For those of you who love trekking, this book is definitely for you.