The idea behind an eco-philosophic ‘anti-expedition’ to Tseringma came up in the spring of 1969, when professor of philosophy Arne Naess and his assistant Sigmund Setreng camped at Nagarkot, not far from Kathmandu. They were relaxing after a car drive from Oslo, Norway, to Varanasi, India, to attend a conference on Gandhian non-violence.
From the vantage point of the former hill station, the Himalayan giants from Annapurna to Chomo Langma—also known in the Western hemisphere as Mont Everest—appear as a breathtaking panorama. Equipped with his experience in high altitude mountaineering since leading the Norwegian expedition to Tirich Mir in 1950, Arne’s attention was soon drawn towards the grand Gauri Shankar. This impressive mountain was once recognized as the highest mountain in the world, probably because it dominates the view from the vicinity of the capital. Although it has lost this status, it holds a prominent position in Hindu as well as Buddhist culture as the abode of worshiped deities.
To the Sherpas, who live in small villages at the foot of the snow-covered holy mountains of Himalaya, Gauri Shankar is the most sacred mountain. In their language it is known as Tseringma. While studying the Tibetan Buddhist philosophy behind the Sherpa’s admirable way of life, Arne and Sigmund had become acquainted with the renowned friendliness the Sherpas had towards fellow humans and Wild Nature.1 Before leaving Nagarkot, they concluded without hesitation that they had to return to Nepal as soon as possible to get in touch with the remarkable Sherpas and enjoy the marvellous rock and ice on a mountain of such symbolic importance, as well as study a culture unparalleled in its relationship with Wild Nature.2
Sigmund and I were college mates with a mutual fancy for jazz and mountaineering. Thus he turned up to enthusiastically share experiences from his Asian odyssey soon after returning home. It was music to my ears when he expressed his desire to revisit the Sherpas and the sacred summits of Tseringma. Since I had left my position as a research officer in biochemistry and microbiology in 1967 and become a full time professional in mountaineering, I was ready to leave at short notice! But severe threats towards our beloved mountain landscape at home urged Sigmund and me to give priority to a campaign to defend Mardoela, the fourth highest free falling waterfall in the world. Meanwhile, having said goodbye to his position as a philosophy professor at the University of Oslo, Arne followed an invitation to work and lecture at the University of Berkeley. Read on...