Nanda Devi: The Goddess of beauty and wrath and the Himalayan peak that rises high above the sacred Indian area known as The Sanctuary. Like her namesake’s goddess, the mountain is fickle mistress. She has stolen the lives of men and women and claimed pieces of many more.
An American and an Indian climber, Robert Schaller and Captain M.S Kohli, are two such men whose destinies are now forever linked with the revered and perilous Indian mountain.
An esteemed Harvard Medical School grad who could run a mile in under four minutes, Schaller was a self-confessed mountain climbing addict. Plucky, handsome and charismatic, Schaller had recently moved to Seattle with his wife and two young children to start a medical residency when the CIA came calling.
Captain M.S Kohli was a man who valued honor and integrity above most things. A devoted husband and a patriot, his mountain climbing skills were renowned. Fresh off a particularly demanding climb having conquered Everest for his country, Captain Kohli was exhausted and in desperate need of rest and recuperation when he was urgently called to service.
The two men’s lives were thrust together in 1965 when the U.S Defense Department mounted a top-secret joint American-Indian effort to monitor China’s secret atomic launches. For this mission, cloaks and daggers were replaced with crampons and ice axes as plans mounted to send a nuclear-powered sensing device to 25,546 feet altitude; to the peak of Nanda Devi. As the mission took shape, the most unique, highly dangerous and exacting CIA operation of the 20th century was born.
That mission was a spectacular failure. The device and its nuclear core vanished along with any news about it, or so the CIA hoped…
As Captain Kohli was left with the task of explaining his actions, Schaller’s participation in the covert expedition propelled him on a new but equally remote quest. Asked by his government to retrieve the device against incredible odds, he secretly wanted to reclaim something else he lost on Nanda Devi; something in a place even less accessible than the ice vault of the mountain.
For Schaller, there is no room for regret. For Kohli, dignity must be regained at any cost.