Mountaineer is back from the Eastern Karakoram
Back from perhaps his most important expedition yet, Andy Selters has produced what’s likely to become his most memorable show.
With three Canadians and four Indian-Nepalese climbers, Selters ventured to a restricted and barely-explored area at the northern tip of India, the Eastern Karakoram.
Now he has an impressive multi-media presentation to show for it.
It is called “Mountains of the Blue Sheep,” and it shows at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 12 at the Edison Theatre in Mammoth.
“It first sets the stage of history, showing how the remote area went essentially overnight from an outpost for Silk Road caravans to a battleground and flash point between three nuclear-armed nations,” Selters said.
“To the world at large this region remains almost totally unknown,” he said. “The peaks there soar to 25,000 feet high, and the glaciers run to 50 miles long. Those giant glaciers feed the Shyok and Nubra rivers that run through impressive canyons and broad valleys. Both Buddhist and Muslim habitations have been isolated for ages beyond the Himalaya on one side and the Karakoram and vast deserts on the other.”
India, Selters said, has started allowing visitors into secured areas, but the combination of ultra-remoteness and bizarre politics has kept much of the region off everyone’s radar.
“This is one of the last regions on earth where your imagination can still go to wondering on a large scale,” he said.
Selters said he joined three Canadians and four Indian-Nepalese to be the first team to explore and climb at the southern end of the Karakoram. Regional experts assured them that no one had ever photographed or likely even seen these peaks before, from the ground at least.
Moreover, there was a little hamlet called Rongdo that probably had never hosted a foreign visitor.
Selters, a well-known mountain/wilderness photographer, climber and author of “Ways to the Sky: A Historical Guide to Mountaineering in North America,” brings out the scale and beauty of this landscape, as well as the history and resilience of this half-lost region.
The narrative includes anecdotes from elders who recalled for him the last camel caravans and the first boundary wars. The core of “Blue Sheep” then portrays how the team ventured to the high country beyond Rongdo.
The team pioneered treks to high cols, discovered wildlife and surprising signs of ancient humans, visited an almost unknown hermitage, and climbed—and named—four peaks over 20,000 feet high.
Blue Sheep’s final and most poignant chapter shows how he stayed on in Rongdo village and documented life there. Sharing a common heritage for working hard and enjoying life in mountains, the villagers and he reached out across several levels of civilization to come to know each other as personal friends.
In spite of just basic skills at speaking Ladakhi, Selters said he learned of their roots and their methods; he helped bring in the autumn harvest; and he came back with perspectives on humanity that he said can only come from listening carefully.