... fascinating ... The sections covering mountaineering history are particularly strong. This is to be welcomed, because there was a period when British mountaineers took almost too pragmatic an approach to the Himalaya. They were regarded as lumps of rock to be conquered and any spiritual values were considered a distraction ... Douglas weaves a far richer tapestry, showing how this is a sacred landscape influenced by very worldly concerns ... In telling his story, Douglas certainly puts down a lot of fixed ropes to make the ascent. Some readers may find the accretion of detail overwhelming — too many footnotes make it into the text — and wish for a bit more free climbing. But it is still impressive. This is a magisterial account of the complex human history of the greatest mountains on Earth.
Douglas’s quixotic and densely packed history of Himalayan peoples is not the book to read if you are looking for an easy contemporary analysis of the China-India confrontation on the roof of the world or the ecological catastrophe in the mountains that give birth to Asia’s great rivers ... Douglas has achieved something more valuable than describe current events: he has examined the ancient origins of those events with a scholarly yet entertaining synthesis of hundreds of years of history ... You can detect a slight bias in the weight of his coverage towards the art of mountaineering and also towards the complex history of Nepal — there must be more detail on political intrigues in Kathmandu and Gorkha than even the most dedicated Nepalese coup-plotter would want to know — but Douglas’s enthusiasm for diversions is infectious rather than obstructive.
... the fruit of an enormous amount of research that focuses on the conquest of the mountains and the interconnected kingdoms and states that vied for control. [Douglas's] observations are sharp, and in many passages, his writing glows ... Douglas clearly has an affection for this part of the world. But this book in itself is a bit of a mountain to climb, nearly 600 densely packed pages — its own Everest. At times, the story disappears, like a road tapering off, into a jungle of facts. Douglas is a madman for facts. You want to know the name of the most famous person born in the same town as the Italian scholar Giuseppe Tucci? Or how snowfall on the Tibetan plateau affects Canadian winters? Or which part of yak fur is best for making tent ropes? Have no fear. Douglas has got it ... The narrative is most exciting when it’s focused on mountain climbers.