19th century explorers make their way to Neptune Mountaineering tonight

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In the 1880s, English explorers Teresa and St. George Littledale -- with their fox terrier, Tanny, in tow -- mounted expeditions in the Rocky Mountains and across North America. And then they headed even further afield, to the Caucasus, the Pamirs, Russian Central Asia, Mongolia and eventually Tibet, in an attempt to reach the Forbidden City of Lhasa. And while they never published a full account of their adventures, they kept extensive diaries.

Betsy and Nick Clinch have been using those diaries -- and a treasure trove of the Littledales' recently discovered letters -- to retrace some of their steps in Central Asia, and they'll be at Neptune Mountaineering at 7:30 p.m. tonight to share some of what they learned while researching their book, Through a Land of Extremes: The Littledales of Central Asia.

Nick Clinch is best known for his first ascents on Gasherbrum I (26,470') and Masherbrum (25,660') in the Himalayas, as well as his stints as executive director of the Sierra Club Foundation and president of the American Alpine Club; Betsy is a former National Geographic editorial researcher whose travels to Central Asia date back to the 1970s. They first learned of the Littledales while Nick was planning a trip of his own to remote Ulugh Muztagh, and Betsy discovered that the pioneering British couple had beaten him to the area by nearly a century.

Through a Land of Extremes is part of the Legends and Lore series from The Mountaineers Books. Its first chapter opens with an overview of the historical context surrounding the Littledales' visit to the Hindu Kush, in 1890, and poses a fascinating question:

The Great Game, or "Tournament of Shadows as the Russians called their rivalry with Britain, was approaching its climax when into this remote land of extremes came an innocuous-looking English couple, Teresa and St. George Littledale. What were they doing there?

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