Latest news are pouring in from the Jhal Magsi Desert Challenge Rally and the host and past winner of the same event, Mir Nadir Khan Magsi has yet again soared to the top winning the “Category A” challenge with his Toyota Land Cruiser. Nadir Magsi has won the Jhal Magsi Desert Challenge several times in the past and is one of the well known motorists in the country.
Final round of the 7th Jhal Magsi Desert Car Rally began on January 13th In Jhal Magsi town of Balochistan where 55 drivers including Lebanese drift champion Abdo Feghali participated in the desert car rally comprising on 220 kilometers distance.
In the qualifying round defending champion Nadir Magsi remained on top, while Asad Khoro and Ronnie Patel finishing at second and third place.
Oraganised in the undulating desert of the Jhal Magsi, Jhal Magsi Desert Challenge is known to be one of the pioneer motorsport events in the country.
Speaking on the occasion, the organizers of the JMDC reiterated their mission to promote motorsport in the country and said,
“Talking about motorsports in Pakistan, we seriously believe that the driving talent in Pakistan is ample. Through Jhal Magsi Desert Challenge Rally, drivers can also stand a chance to participate internationally. “Jhal Magsi Desert Challenge Rally”, since 2005 is striving each year very hard to make this annual event healthier and thrilling. Every year JMDC provides its drivers with a challenging terrain for the test between MEN AND MACHINE”.
The event is held under the auspices of “EMSF” (Emirates Motor Sports Federation) and strictly follows the rules of the FIA (Federation International de Automobile) local ASN Rules and regulations. All safety measures both for the drivers as well as the spectators are followed to ensure good turnout of the local and international tourists from all over the world.
The organizers further added:
“Jhal Magsi Desert Challenge Rally” is also focusing on introducing international drivers to come and participate in the rallies so that they can also enjoy the beautiful off-road terrain and thrilling motorsports in Pakistan. “Jhal Magsi Desert Challenge Rally” is also planning to jointly hold rallies with “EMSF” (Emirates Motor Sports Federation) in Dubai, in doing that it will provide Pakistan’s drivers to expand their horizons from national to international level.
Jhal Magsi Balochistan Pakistan”.
To contact JMDC
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Landing at the bleak and unimpressive Islamabad International and starting off a journey on the dusty Karakorum Highway, crisscrossing the traditional bazaars of Northern Pakistan, it must come as a forewarning of the gigantic surprises which awaits the aspiring mountaineers heading up north.
The journey, which is in total contrast to the bustling mega airports and cities around the world, proves to be a prelude of the monsters that stand tall in the rugged Karakorums, waiting and calling the ambitious climbers from all over the world.
Italian Danielle Nardi, may not have been a stranger to all this as he revisits the country to conquer the mighty Nanga Parbat in the dead of winters, still he is making sure to get a taste of all that rests in the foot of the 8,125 m peak, often considered as one of the deadliest in climbing circle.
Nardi landed at Islamabad International soon after the festivities of Christmas and celebrated his New Year night among the young Islooites in the streets, a little bedazzled but a lot bewildered to find out that the New Year can be a matter of celebration among the young Pakistanis.
Treading the treacherous Karakorum Highway, the team comprising of Fredrico-the cameraman for the climb, Frenchwoman Elisabeth and Nardi along with their logistics guide Ali Muhammad, reached the Base Camp via Chilas.
The team is experiencing extreme cold weather at the deserted Base Camp for the moment and is hoping to engage warmer weather in a few days.
“We are at the base camp and its cold absurd. We arrived yesterday and ran to mount the first tents, the table and the kitchen. This night we slept in our tent with 13 degrees below zero to 20 below zero grazed out and I do not think we are at the peak negative aspect of our research of suffering. In the coming days I hope we will be able to run the "warmer" to raise the temperature a little.” said Nardi.
He further added that the team is only able to get two hours of sunshine when they get a chance to recharge their batteries. For the moment, Nardi and team is settling down for the acclimatisation rigors that they have planned for the days ahead.
“The emotions that are difficult to describe, again here in front of this majestic mountains, watch continuously to browse for something familiar, retrace projects designed, comparing them with those who are our capabilities here to see if they are really applicable or only theory . Two carriers have left this morning to the town of Chilas below. He added.
Nardi also spoke of the good times he have had with the locals.
“Here are the mountains I want to climb and people are so personable, friendly and work together in these strange Western lead up to their peaks. I wonder if one day they realize truly the wealth of history that we are leaving to climb. Sooner or later they too will be ready to make the history of, for now it's our turn to win the useless. Inshallah”.
Once known as the fastest Alpinist in the world, the 62-year-old Krzysztof Wielicki has climbed all the 14 eight thousanders for no fewer than 15 times in his stellar career. He has two winter peaks, The Everest 1980 which was a jaw-dropping epoch in the history of mountaineering for being the first 8000er ever climbed in winters.
He later summited the 8,516m Lhotse in 1988 to become the only alpinist in the world to have two winter summits on his belt. He was later superseded by Italian Simone Moro in 2011.
The Polish ace climber now returns to summit the difficult Broad Peak in the Karakorum-a mountain range which offers some of the greatest challenges in the world of mountaineering.
Polish Alpine Club has already picked a five to six-member team for this year’s Winter Broad Peak Expedition 2012/2013. The team is likely to reach Islamabad soon to address a press conference before leaving for Skardu.
Arrangements are already underway where the Base Camp is currently being set on the Godwin Austin Glacier near the West Wall of the 8,051m Broad Peak at an approximate height of 4700m above Sea Level.
The race to bag the remaining three 8000ers for the first winter ascent is already in full throttle as the Poles and Italians are vying to scale these summits. Wielicki probably knows the mountain better than anyone else for having summited the peak for the first ever record breaking attempt of any 8000er in one day.
The 62-year-old Wielicki recalls the moments of his thrilling success with a big grin.
“In the summer of 1984, Wojtek Kurtyka put me on. Together with Jurek Kukuczka, we were together on an expedition to Broad Peak (8047 m). We were climbing in order to adjust and Wojtek noticed that I'm walking very fast. I was always there 2-3 hours before the others. He said, since I'm moving so fast, maybe I could reach the summit in one day. So I gave it a try, at first in secret, at night. I reached 7200 m. It was foggy. I didn't see where I was, I got scared. You walk alone, without a rope, without fixed ropes marking the route, around a mountain crack. I withdrew. After a week I did it again. I headed off to the north. I managed to reach the summit in 16.5 hours and to walk back in less than 6 hours, so I made it in a day. This has been mentioned in the world press as a record”.
An Electric Engineer by profession, Wielicki has proved to be one of the amazing survivors of the risks thrown his way in the sport of Mountaineering. He acknowledges that he has been far more fortunate to have survived those moments where many of his friends and fellow climbers perished in a blink of an eye.
Broad Peak, one of the 12th highest mountain in the world, has a total height of 8,051m ASL. The mountain was first summited by an Austrian team in June 1957.
Broad Peak is known to be one of the comparatively easier 8000ers in the world for it is overshadowed by the gigantic K-2 in the neighbourhood, partially protecting it from direct impact of wind at high altitude.
It has never been climbed in winter.
Winter mountaineering is back in the limelight, all set to carve an altogether new episode of human endurance in the world of mountaineering. Pakistan, with her five mighty 8000ers in the rugged Karakorum and Himalayas, is again leading the table with the lowest royalty fee on these snow caps, attracting hordes of ambitious climbers.
Bracing the bloody War on Terror for more than a whole decade, the Tourism Ministry which comes along with her own lacunae, has tried yet again to lure in the mighty climbers to the three horrendous challenges, the K-2, Broad Peak and the Nanga Parbat, the only three 8000ers in the world which have not been climbed in the winters.
The Gilgit-Baltistan Council, which is now managing the tourism in the province on its own, has announced zero percent Royalty fee in winters on all 6500m peaks in the region, many of which are still virgin and unnamed.
Apart from that, the Council has upheld the reduced Royalty fee on all five 8000ers, which is significantly lower than what is being offered in Nepal and China for that matter.
K-2 is now available for Summer Expeditions of a full seven-member team for 7200 US$ while those who dare to attempt this deadly peak in winters, will only have to pay five percent of the Royalty fee given that the expedition is undertaken strictly following the rules of Winter Mountaineering from December-February.
Remaining four 8000ers are available for just 5400US$ in summers and for five percent Royalty fee of the same in winters.
The new breakdown has gathered interest of the mountaineers from all over the world as the fee being offered is significantly lower than what is offered by Nepal, for instance, a whooping 16000US$ for Everest and around 14500US$ for the rest of the 8000ers.
The reduced royalty fee for the five 8000ers have been effective since 2001 when the government decided to improve the inflow of mountaineering in the region which has been defamed by the International media but has proven to be relatively safe and benign in the following years.
Several high-profile winter expeditions have already arrived in Islamabad and are proceeding to Skardu to undertake the unthinkable.
Nanga Parbat, the 8,125m peak in the western off-shoot of Himalayas, has attracted the most number of expeditions and will take the center stage in the coming months.
Winter Mountaineering has now entered in an altogether different mode as the toughened Winter Mountaineers are hoping to grab the last three 8000ers in the world, never been climbed before in winters.
Polish and Italian climbers are currently leading the dangerous world of Winter Mountaineering and both camps are eager to grab the remaining 8000ers in the cold Karakorum in the coming season.
After Italian Simone Moro’s first winter ascent of the Gasherbrum-2 in 2010, Polish veteran Artur Hajzer and his team bagged the first winter ascent of the Gasherbrum-1, giving a new impetus to the decades old rivalry between the Poles and the rest of the Mountaineering world.
Moro is still leading the pack from the front for having three virgin winter ascents for which he is rightfully called as the “Mr. Winter”. But this year around, he will not be the only Italian hoping to bag yet another 8000er.
The 36-year-old Daniele Nardi will be yet another aspirant to bag the notorious Nanga Parbat in the cold Western Himalayas in Pakistan along with no fewer than half-a-dozen different expeditions from all over the world.
Nardi comes with an impressive resume for having successfully summitted four 8000ers in his career and has always hoped to climb one of the deadliest and most difficult mountains in the world. His dream of climbing the second highest mountain in the world came in the year 2007 when he summitted the 8,611m high K-2 in the rugged Karakorum Mountain range in Pakistan.
Nardi has fond memories of the ascent but also regrets the loss of his friend during the expedition.
“I started to go to the mountains as a child”, said Nardi. “My family would take us every summer to spend holidays in the Alps Then one day, at age 13 in Courmayeur we saw a documentary on a mountaineering expedition. Was to Achille Compagnoni and Lino Lacedelli in 1954 climbed “the most difficult mountain in the world, "K2”.
“I decided I also wanted to climb that mountain. At age 18 I went alone direct the Alps, the next day I climbed the Grand Jorasses. The years that followed were years totally devoted to the mountains and to the inner search that generates mountaineering”. He added.
“In 2007 crown my dream, call K2, the mountain teaches me his law, I must learn to accept the loss of a friend on those slopes of ice.”
Nardi along with his team of International climbers is likely to take the Kinshofer route and will switch over to the Diamir face on the North side of the mountain.
He will be negotiating his path on what is often referred to the world’s tallest wall of over 4000metres. He will be bracing strong winds surging to a gruesome 150km/h with temperatures as low as -40 Degree Celsius.
Apart from the sturdy Italians who will be eager to tame the treacherous Nanga Parbat in the dead of winters this year, another ambitious Gridlock of Americans and Hungarians will be attempting the unthinkable.
The 28-year-old American Ian Overton, an accomplished Climbing Medic will be teaming up with Hungarians Dávid Klein and Zoltan Acs to summit the 8,125m Nanga for the first winter ascent.
Of the three 8000ers K-2, Nanga Parbat and Broad Peak which have not been summited in winters, Nanga Parbat offers a gruesome challenge and has overpowered several winter attempts in recent years. This time around the mountain will be facing at least three renowned climbing teams from all over the world, all hoping to bag the virgin ascent of one of the most notorious mountain on earth.
The team will be arriving in Islamabad somewhere in the closing weeks of December and will be shuttled to the Nanga Base Camp on the Raikot Face. Following in the footsteps of “Mr. Winter”, Italian Simone Moro, the team wants to keep the strength to the minimum and will be treading the same route followed by Simone and Denis Urubko last year.
“Last winter Simone Moro and Denis Urubko scouted an excellent line slanting to climber’s left of the traditional Kinshofer Route (and then later gaining it) on the Diamir Face.” says David.
“It looks relatively safe and avoids the steeper, rocky sections at lower altitudes. It’s important, because this way we can limit – or maybe avoid – fixing ropes. Since these steep, rocky sections are at a lower altitude of the Kinshofer, we would have to fix them, so that we could ascend and descend these sections during acclimatization. We are a small team, relaying on no high altitude porters or bottled oxygen, so I was very happy to see this creative solution of the Italians.” He added.
Overton, may not have experienced the ascent of an 8000er before in his life, but comes with considerable experience of climbing and skiing in the winters. Being a Medic in the expedition, Overton’s duties may be limited to the safety of the Base Camp but he does not want to stay put.
“As the team medic, I intend to be on the mountain with David and Zoltan”. He said. “I won't be of much use at base camp playing with a suture kit and taking my own blood pressure. As for my personal climbing career, I won't shy away from saying I've never reached beyond what you can find here in the Continental US. Point me at a 14000 in winter and I'll make a run at it”.
As for David and Zoltan, both have no fewer than five 8000ers between them, all in Alpine Style and without the use of supplementary Oxygen.
“Zoltan and I have climbed together – since 1998 – on six different expeditions (four of those in the greater Himalayas) and we know how the other functions during an expedition”. said David.
The team is likely to be accompanied by a Romanian Expedition in the Base Camp also following the Kinshofer-Diamir line chartered out by Simone.
Tharparker District in Sindh is not just the only fertile desert in the world but is also home of some of the rare migratory birds in the country. Most of these birds which visit the area to avoid the harsh winters of their home countries mostly use the land for nesting purposes and for the propagation of their hatchlings in comparatively suitable atmosphere.
Recently the Wildlife monitoring agencies came across new nesting sites of the endangered White-back and Long-billed Vultures, specie which has experienced fast decline in their population in the region. Emboldened by the new development, the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) has established a sanctuary for the specie in the Nagarparker Town.
“Nagarparkar remains the last stronghold of the two critically endangered vulture species in the country — the long-billed vulture and the white-backed vulture. The long-billed vulture has always restricted to Nagarparkar, particularly Karoonjhar Hills, whereas the white-backed vulture is found in Punjab as well, its active nests are only found in Sindh,” said Uzma Khan, director of biodiversity looking after the vulture conservation project of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).
Vultures play an important role in the ecosystem of any region, working as the natural recycling units which devour and consume the flesh of the dead and decaying animals. They not only control the spread of deadly disease like Anthrax, Tuberculosis and Foot-and-Mouth diseases, but also add to the beauty and the diversity of the region.
Long-Billed and White-Backed Vultures have experienced sharp decline in the population predominantly owing to the widespread use of Diclofenac — a cheap widely available non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug commonly used in livestock in the Indian subcontinent for treatment of inflammation, pain, etc.
Omair Shahid, who has been working with the WWF and has been to the project site many times, said that: “Vultures are poisoned by Diclofenac which causes immediate death when they eat carcasses of livestock that have been administered veterinary Diclofenac”.
The necropsy of dead vultures showed that 80pc of adults, 63pc of sub-adults, 19pc of juveniles and 13pc of nestlings had visceral gout (a disease of birds in which kidney failure causes a build-up or urates in the internal organs) and this finding was consistent with the earlier reports from India.
The drug was banned by the Government in the year 2008 but its use has not been successfully checked over the span of time.
There are other species of the birds dwelling the area but their population is stable for the moment.
Among them, four of the Gyps vulture species are only found in Asia. These are oriental white-backed vulture (Gyps benegalensis), long-billed vulture (Gyps indicus), slender-billed vulture (Gyps tenuirostris) and Himalayan griffon vulture (Gyps himalayensis) and Eurasian Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus) that breed in Eurasia but migrate to Africa and South Asia. The geographic range of these vultures overlaps.
In a recent survey conducted throughout Pakistan in the vulture breeding season from November 2010 to April 2011, a total of 457 Egyptian vultures, 167 Eurasian Griffon, 43 white-backed vultures, three king/black vultures, seven cinereous vultures, 55 long-billed vultures and 89 Himalayan griffon were seen across 77 sites in Pakistan.
The inefficiency and apathy of the Islamabad Zoo administration is on yet another rampage as the staff deputed is on the verge of losing the only Elephant left in the enclosure.
Pakistan Explorer took the lead last year to bring the agonizing condition of the female elephant Saheli and was able to rattle the power echelons in the Zoo administration, pushing them to take some immediate steps to save the elephant. The efforts turned out to be too little and too late as the city lost its old companion Saheli, losing her battle against the lingering Gangrene on her left hind leg.
The only male elephant left in the zoo “Kaavan”, also an Asian breed, has now been in “solitary confinement” for the last five months. The poor animal has not been unchained resulting in deep gashes around his ankles, which are likely to develop Gangrene.
The staff present at the enclosure promptly provided the excuse that the elephant is too dangerous to be unchained, conveniently avoiding the fact that none of the caretakers deputed have the capability or the experience to handle the elephant.
An official at the zoo, requesting not to be quoted, said that because of the alleged negligence of the zoo management, problems have been increasing continuously.The official warned that after the death of the female elephant, the male elephant might suffer the same fate.
“The male elephant had been chained for five months, due to which his legs are wounded. The elephant is worth Rs20 million. It should be unchained, otherwise he could also die just like the female elephant but the management is not ready to listen,” he added.
One of the professional Mahawat (caretaker) of the animal was removed about a year ago and was replaced by one of the sweepers who is absolutely unaware of handling and feeding of the animal. The replacement is attributed to the hefty amount Mahawats collect from the visitors at the elephant enclosure and one of the directors of the zoo was reportedly said to be particularly interested in the amount collected every month.
Not just the elephant, several other animals kept in the zoo have been subjected to severe negligence, where many have lost their lives and quite a few have been stolen. No enquiry or case was ever registered against the stolen animals.
Another official requesting anonymity said there was politics – internal management rifts – going on in the zoo, due to which animals have been suffering.
“Extension work is going on in the zoo and every director wants to give the contract to his favourite contractor. Also animals and medicines are being stolen,” he claimed.
The zoo lost its most revered possession, the African male Lion in 2008, followed by the loss of Saheli last year. The zoo officials have now reported the loss of a Neelgai, and almost half a dozen animals have acquired severe injuries for reasons still not known.
Concordia Rescue Team training course concluded on Thursday, October the 18th, where a dozen mountaineers, High Altitude Porters and Rescue personals were imparted training in altitude rescue in Skardu.
The venture was initiated by the joint collaboration of EvK2Cnr and the Karakorum International University and was held from October the 8th to 18th. The course was designed by the Alpine Club of Pakistan ACP and was funded and executed under the auspices of SEED (Social, Economic and Environmental Development Program) by the Italian Government.
Renowned Italian Alpine guides were flown in to impart training to some of the better known trainers and teachers in the local mountaineering schools in Pakistan. Michele Cucchi and Maurizio Gallo conducted the course, inculcating the modern techniques of Crevasse Rescue, Uphill, Downhill, Mountaineering skills, and other safety procedure.
Rescue, evaluation and communication of emergency were also essential parts of the training program.
The closing ceremony was presided by the Minister of Development of the region of Gilgit-Baltistan Raja Azam Khan, Akbar Tawan, head of the Pakistan Muslim League, alpinist and Amjad Ali Hassan Sadpara , representing the Karakorum International University. The guests lauded the contribution EvK2Cnr has made to the local community, empowering the people and uplifting the living standards in the region for over a span of 20 years.
The 11 mountaineers and High Altitude Rescue personals who attended the training includedRozi Ali, Ghulam Nabi, Hassan Ali Rustam and Mahamad for EvK2Cnr, Aziz Khan Khan Shambi for Samshal Mountain Guides, Shaber Ghulam Raza Bagrote, student of the FAC, Muhammad Ahmed Khan for Balti yul mountain school. Then again Muhammad Iqbal, Muhammad Hussain, Ghulam Abbas Mohmmad for Emergency Rescue Service (1122) to Skardu, Ibrahim Khalil Ahmed for KCP, Kazim Ali Shar Sadpara for the ACP and Muhammad Shafi, Muhammad Shafa for Sumayar.
When a 14-year-old girl was shot in the head for claiming her birth right of acquiring education and standing against oppression, the gory incident was surely to hit Greg Mortenson like a Sky bolt who has now spent a good two decades of his life educating the young girls of the Central Asia.
Malala Yousafzai, a school girl from the restive Swat region, made the headlines some two years ago for having the courage to go to school in the midst of all the bombing and bloodshed in her otherwise picturesque town. She challenged the militants and the religious fanatics and shrugged off all threats to continue her education thereby inviting the wrath of the outlaw fanatics.
On October 9th, 2012, while on her way back from school, the school van was stopped by a handful of militants and they called out her name to shoot the poor girl in the head and injuring several others. Malala was severally wounded and is still fighting her battle for life.
“Our prayers are with Malala and her family,” Central Asia Institute co-founder Greg Mortenson said Sunday in a phone interview from Tajikistan. “Her story is heartbreaking. But it’s important to remember that Malala is just one of many. Scores of students and teachers risk their lives every day in support of girls’ education in Pakistan and Afghanistan.”
Now being an active social reformer in the region, Mortenson knows the intricacies of the region, the cultural bindings and the religious complications all of which blend in to form a difficult social setup to penetrate within.
He is probably the most informed reformer who has managed to construct hundreds of schools and imparting education to thousands of girls and boys stretching from Badakhshan in Afghanistan to Turkmenistan and Baltistan in Pakistan.
“There are so many stories,” Mortenson said. “Girls attending classes are gassed and poisoned. Girls are attacked on their way to and from school. In Pakistan, militants destroyed 440 schools, including 130 all-girls’ schools, last year. In Afghanistan, several dozen teachers have been murdered for teaching at girls’ schools, including a teacher at the CAI school in Saw, in Kunar Province (Afghanistan), this past summer.”
Greg Mortenson and CAI have worked with communities in the mountainous, remote, and often war-wracked areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan since 1996 to establish over 300 educational and community support initiatives, including literacy centers, school buildings, vocational centers, scholarship programs, and public health (potable water, midwifery, and disaster-relief) initiatives.
Being the Co-Founder and caretaker of the CAI, Mortenson carries out whirlwind tours around the world and in the US to collect funds for his organization, giving out lectures narrating his own story.
CAI and Mortenson were recently acquitted in a lawsuit which claimed that Mortenson has usurped the donations amounting to millions of dollars. The court rejected the accusations and relieved the CAI from an 18-month-long gruesome battle of integrity.