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The Big Open: On Foot Across Tibet's Chang Tangby Rick Ridgeway
Synopses & Reviews
In June 2000, Rick Ridgeway, Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin, and the late renowned wilderness photographer Galen Rowell set out to discover the migration route of the chiru (the tibetan antelope). A feat twice attempted by eminent wildlife biologist George Schaller — first in four-wheel-drive vehicles and later by camel caravan — Ridgeway's team resolved to use their outdoor skills, aluminum rickshaws, and their own two feet to solve this wildlife riddle.
Following the chiru entails a dangerous journey across Tibet's Chang Tang, widely considered the world's most inhospitable environment. Each year the herd travels across this high-altitude rangeland to its breeding ground. After traversing endless miles of remote plain, a treacherous canyon, an arid desert, and a 17,000-foot ascent to a plateau, the four men are rewarded for their efforts — they become the first explorers to witness the chiru giving birth.
Ridgeway's expedition is both unprecedented and urgent. The discovery of these birthing grounds provides the information needed to convince the Chinese to safeguard the chiru's habitat within a nature reserve. Already vulnerable to predators, the chiru's most formidable threat is human vanity — they are hunted for their fur, which is woven into the world's finest and most expensive wool, shatoosh. A fascinating journey culminating with an inspiring environmental victory, The Big Open recounts a unique and rewarding adventure.
"Adventure writer Ridgeway (The Shadow of Kilimanjaro) crafts an urgent, poetic narrative as he guides readers across Tibet's barren and treacherous northern plateau in search of the calving grounds of the chiru, an endangered antelope. Along with his three companions — late nature photographer Galen Rowell, Conrad Anker, who wrote the foreword, and Jimmy Chin — the seasoned mountaineer traces the female chiru's 200-mile migration route. The bulk of the story focuses on the Chang Tang's natural splendor and the adverse conditions the group faced while lugging 200 pounds of food, water and photographic equipment on aluminum rickshaws at soaring altitudes. 'To conserve batteries,' Ridgeway writes, 'everyone but Conrad turns off their headlamps. In the east a fingernail of moon glows through a reef of clouds. We are traveling at a compass bearing of 30 degrees, and I assume that Conrad, like me, is using the stars in the sky to maintain our course.' But Ridgeway also offers a thoughtful regional history and an affecting description of the complex human struggle surrounding the rampant poaching of chiru and the illegal trade in their pelts (their fur is woven into shahtoosh, an ultrafine and precious wool). The group's mission is ultimately successful: the Chinese government plans to create a national preserve based on their discovery. The international effort to save the Tibetan antelope and the 'big open' steppe it inhabits elevates the narrative beyond the usual extreme travel tour to an enthralling and hopeful height. Color photo insert not seen by PW." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Braving the challenges of nature in order to save a piece of it, four mountaineers embark upon a 275-mile quest through Tibet's most remote region to follow the mysterious migration of the endangered chiru.
On foot and on their own, four adventurers brave the challenges of nature on a 275-mile trek through one of the most beautiful—and most remote—regions of the world.
On foot across Tibet's Chang Tang.
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