There tend to be few things gentle or subtle in India; the people, colors, noises, mountains and weather are all in your face, all the time. The mysterious mountain that loomed in the distance during an expedition to the Punjab Himalayas in northern India was no different, enticing yet intimidating. With only a single photograph and a vague name as guides, a team of adventurers returned to conquer the behemoth—and found that in India, sometimes the good comes with a dose of evil.
Flying over the same towering mountains of the Punjab Himalaya, deep in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, I had visited nearly a decade before, one in particular held my attention: a huge, mysterious monolith, gutted by an impressive couloir spilling directly from the summit. During that earlier trip, a friend had identified the mountain as White Sail, an unskied—and enticing—behemoth. When, in 2012, I starting planning a return trip in earnest, I learned the 21,186-foot White Sail was locally known as Dharamsura, or “The Peak of Good.”
But Dharamsura, I also found out, had a taller, more insidious twin—the 21,252-foot Papsura, or “Peak of Evil”—and when I compared my single photograph to the images on Google Earth I realized what I thought was White Sail was in fact Papsura. The two are said to vary in height according to how good and evil prevails in the world. Evil, I found, has apparently been doing well—Papsura is nearly 70 feet taller than its neighbor…