I read Peter Matthiessen’s The Snow Leopard in Ohio anticipating a trip to Kathmandu, via Abu Dhabi, where I arrived one bright day at the end of October. In the book, Matthiessen descends to grey Kathmandu after two months climbing the pristine crags of the Himalayas. In the city, the planar snows can appear only as an afterimage, a ghostly trick of the eyes. Matthiessen has not seen the elusive snow leopard he hoped to find, which represented Zen transcendence. He wanted to reach that state, but discovers that, being human, he can only approximate it. That, he decides, is enough. Returned to his worldly self, nature has explained itself and him. Where the snow lives, the Sanskrit himalaya, is eternal. He, by comparison, is nothing.