“Khumbu: Gateway to Mount Everest” by Peter Lawrenson, published by Bateman Books, Price $69.99
Reviewed by Tony Orman
Ever since Edmund Hillary’s historic ascent of Mt Everest and his subsequent humanitarian work in the Himalayan foothills, New Zealanders have had an enduring empathy and affinity with Nepal.
Khumbu is the Nepalese region that is the gateway to Mt Everest. Over a period of thirty years or so New Zealand photographer Peter Laurenson has regularly visited Khumbu and quickly became enchanted by the region. His book is the narrative of his visits and he tells of his climbs and hikes with skill. He vividly and sensitively conveys a subtle deep attachment to the region, people and astonishing mountain scenery. But as excellent as his writing is, the photographs in the book, very liberal in number, of the Sherpa people and mountains are absolutely riveting and stunning.
Frequent double page spread photos really enhance the images. In a few words, the combination of the authors’ skills both as a wordsmith and photographer make for “one heck of a magnificent book”.
And frequently forgotten in book reviews are publishers for Bateman Books have done a superb job too.
Peter Laurenson does have concerns about the impact of tourism and mountaineers queuing up to conquer Mt Everest. He advocates visitors showing “awareness and respect” both to the environment and the Sherpa culture. “As tourists we can be part of the problem or part of the solution. Every one of us (visiting Khumbu) holds this responsibility.”
He sadly refers to “high-tech gadgetry” which suggests that “money can conquer all”, in this case Mt Everest.
“No need to earn your mountaineering stripes over the years spent climbing smaller peaks (as Ed Hillary did)- just bring on the Sherpas, ladders, fixed ropes, high-altitude mountain guides, ‘state of the art’ weather forecast, satellite phones and lap tops, then climb that mountain.”
“Getting to the top of Everest was once seen as humankind’s last great challenge on earth.”
Now 10,000 have climbed Mt Everest.
In the early 1900s Ed Hillary publicly expressed concern about the degree of commercialism being exhibited on Mt Everest. The 2019 season broke records with about 900 ascents.
“The end result of commercial guiding on Everest has become the worst of both worlds,” writes Peter Laurenson.
Father and Sons
But there is much joy in the book particularly when author makes three individual Khumbu treks with each of his three sons. “As a father Khumbu allowed me to build relationships with each of my sons that feels to me as uniquely wonderful as Khumbu itself does.”
I’ll never visit Khumbu but this book is the next best thing. Anyone with an affinity to the outdoors and in particular mountains should find the book fascinating and absorbing while the numerous photos are often riveting. It’s so easy for the reader to understand the author’s deep attachment to a unique region and its unique people – a credit to Peter Laurenson as both author/photographer and Bateman Books.
At the price too, the 219 page “Khumbu” subtitled “Gateway to Everest” and “Pathways to Kinship” is a “must” read.