The sickening work schedules and grueling corporate culture delivers a devastating blow to the mind and spirits of those who find their solace outdoors. Like the hibernating amphibians, these shackled wanderers wait patiently for that time of the year when they can stretch themselves and travel the uncharted territories.
With the end of March, It’s the wonderful time of the year again when the spring with all its glory and color revitalizes the minds and souls of the nature lovers. In the scenic Hunza and Gilgit, Cherry and Apricot Blossom is all set to cover the valleys with their eye-catching fiery colors and fragrance. Northern Areas of Pakistan are already receiving heavy tourist influx for the last few years with their numbers rising progressively. Still, there are places which have eluded the eyes of the rugged travelers who can go to any extent to explore breathtaking places.
Following is The Bucket List 2018 of Top Ten least explored and heavenly places in Pakistan
10. Taobut, Kel, Arang Kel
The farthest point on the Neelum Valley road, Taobut is recklessly omitted by travelers visiting this breathtaking valley. With its unusual architecture where houses are mostly built out of straw wood and dried grass, Taobut, Kel and Arang Kel valleys in Neelum Azad Kashmir welcome tourists for a unique experience. Bordering with the arch rival India, Neelum valley attracts thousands of tourists in the region. Majority of these tourists make a final stopover in Sharda and miss out the opportunity to visit the valleys ahead including Kel and Arang Kel.
From Sharda onwards, the road is pliable for only 4x4 vehicles and it is important to gather firsthand information about road conditions before proceeding. Arang Kel is on the other side of the river and takes a spectacular 1.5hr hike to get to it. Decent accommodation including hotels and guest houses are also available. There is also a chairlift which takes tourists and locals from Kel to Arang Kel for a meager amount of money.
Taobut is the official end of the Neelum Valley road while those who have the contacts with the military arrangments in the area can trek further crossing over to Minimarg through three main passes including Chich, Shontar and Kamri. Chich Pass is dangerously close to LOC and permission to crossover through it is likely to be turned down. It is better to avoid crossing these passes during Monsoon. Beautiful valleys include Taobut, Halmat, Janawai and sardari. Lack of facilities for being at the border area and often suffering LOC ceasefire violations, these valleys have stayed in their pristine and unspoiled state offering tourists a treat for the senses.
09. Kumrat Valley Upper Dir
The spectacular and serene Kumrat Valley in upper Dir is one of the must-see destinations for explorers and enthusiasts. The valley has remained off-limits for a few years as the region embroiled in terrorism and counter-insurgency operations but it has attracted attention for the last few years with the hostility subsiding gradually.
People are friendly and one of the most hospitable in entire country. Some of the famous and breathtaking places include Jahaz Banda Lake, Katora Lake, Do Kala Chasma, and Pajgora river. Region is rich in flora and fauna including Markhors, Snow Leopards, Chakor, Deer, brown beer etc. Jahaz Banda and Katora Lakes also offer serene Camping sites and delicious Trout for Anglers.
08. Supat and Palas valleys Kohistan
West of the Kaghan road and southeast to the Karakorum Highway lies the serene and least explored Supat and Palas valleys of the Kohistan district of Khyber Pakhtunkhaw. Kohistan is inhabited by people of some of the remote cultures of Pakistan. Bound by lush green Deodar forests, Nullahs and fresh water streams, Supat and Palas valleys offer rich grazing grounds for the cattle herders.
These valleys are rich in wildlife primarily because of lesser human interference. Ibex, Markhor, Snow leopards, deer, Marmots, and a wide variety of birds can be easily spotted while trekking in these valleys. Travelers interested to explore these valleys are advised to inform the local Police Station prior to leaving for the trek. It is also better to avoid carrying heavy cash, jewelry or expensive equipment etc. information for the route/guides and porters etc can be gathered from Damdama Village a few kilometers beyond Naran.
07. Dodipitsar/ Saral Lake Kaghan Valley
Located in the famous Lulusar-Dodipitsar National Park, these two lakes are some of the most sought after, yet difficult to reach lakes in Kaghan Valley. The trek leaves from Beosal on the right side of the road, crossing over the Kunhar River through wench pulleys. This is at least two days round trip if the explorers intend to witness the glory of both Dodipitsar and Saral Lakes.
Best time to barge on this trek is from mid-July to mid-September. These vast valleys are also rich in wildlife and mostly dwelled by seasonal cattle herders. Ideal for Angling as Dodipitsar is famous for the rare and delicious Golden Trout. These valleys are relatively safe then Kohistan region but traveling light is recommended.
The road to the ancient Silk Route, Ghizer is the western most district of Gilgit Baltistant. With its capital as Gahkuch. These areas are some of the scenic destinations on the Gilgit-Chitral road leading all the way into Shandor valley of Chitral. Safe for all travelers and easily accessible by road, Ghizer is relatively less traveled by mainstream tourists although it has a bounty of breathtaking sights and places.
Ghizer has five sub-divisions including Phander, Punial, Gupis, Ishkoman and Yasin, all of which have beautiful places to visit. Ghizer offers several beautiful Camping and fishing spots on the famous lakes including Handarap Lake, Phander Lake and Khalti Lake. Ghizer is also the gateway to the legendary Broghil through the Wakhan Corridor enroute to Afghanistan and Tajikistan.
05. Haramosh and Kutwal Lake
The exquisitely breathtaking and sparsely explored the beautiful Haramosh Valley and Kutwal Lake presents one of the top ranked destinations on this year’s Bucket List. The jeep track starts 53kms from Gilgit on Gilgit-Skardu road right from the shoulders of the raging Indus. Two day trek will lead us over tough hikes alongside gushing streams and dense coniferous forest crossing Mani glacier into the Kutwal Village.
Kutwal Lake campsite offers beautiful sites of Kutwal Lake, one of the high altitude lakes of the world at 3260m ASL, Haramosh Peak 7409m ASL, the legendary Laila Peak (south side) 6096m ASL and Haramosh pass 4800m ASL. Strictly a Camping trek, explorers are advised to carry warm clothing and all the necessary paraphernalia of camping and grocery items. People of the valley are friendly and always ready to help for a small amount of cash.
04. Diamir Base Camp Nanga Parbat
Diamir Base Camp is particularly notable for its rich history of climbing expeditions spanning for more than 100 years. From the early days of imperial expeditions to the mainstream explorers, all the way to the renegade Hippy climbing bums, Daimir Face has been the center of attraction thereby boasting of a unique climbing history unlike any other face of the mountain.
This trek, however, is not a weekend-trekker’s ball game. Contrary to the much hyped Fairy Meadows and Raikot face of Nanga Parbat, Diamir aka Diamoro (in local dialect) is much rugged, long and a raw trek. It takes a painstaking three days of a continuous trek to reach the south-western face of the mountain from where one can directly see the main summit standing at an altitude of 8,125m.
Strictly a camping affair, the altitude gain can be roughly broken down to 1000 vertical meters each day. Base Camp altitude is 4800m ASL. Explorers engaging this trek must be physically strong and experienced trekkers. The initial Jeep track leads from Gunar Das on KKH and takes to Jail- the last jeep able stop. From there onward, it takes three days to reach the Base Camp on foot. Region is safe and tourist friendly. Porters can be hired from Jail village.
Far from the madding crowd, Minimarg and Domel are normally out-of-bound for the usual tourist squad primarily for being at the border with India. For those who have the necessary will can always get a pass to trudge along these breathtaking valleys.
This difficulty in access has kept these places pristine and heavenly and away from the littering crowds who throng the neighboring Deosai with no regards to the environment. The only road access to Minimarg is via 4000 meters high Burzil Pass. This area remains disconnected from rest of the world for 7-8 months because of the snowfall.
This is also the road to the infamous Kargil region which was the flashpoint of 1999 war between Pakistan and India. Reaching upto 3500m ASL, the undulating slopes of Minimarg and Domel are lined up with never-ending Birch and Deodar tress adding to their immense beauty. Rainbow Lake is one of the must-visit places in Minimarg. This lake is known to change color throughout the day giving a mesmerizing look whenever a photograph is taken. Right connections in the Pakistan Military can ease out the travel red-tapes, opening up clean and nice places to spend the night and quality food along the lake side restaurants.
One of the trekkers dream destination is the remote Shimshal Valley and pass in the eastward of Passu on Karakorum Highway stretching all the way to the Chinese border. This is a two-day trek from Passu Upper Hunza and takes the trekkers northward of the Karakorums, presenting jaw-dropping sites of the mountain range. Difficult to access and one of the remote regions, Shimshal is a world which shoots right out of antiquity.
Remoteness of the region has helped Shimshali’s retain their thousands of years old traditions and culture. The road to Shimshal is perilous and presents a feat of workmanship. Most of the trek is handmade, piling stones and carving debris and rock. Home of some of the legendary mountaineers of Pakistan, Shimshal offers interesting climbing milestones for both amatuers as well as professionals. Destaghil Sar, Shimshal white horn, Minglik Sar are some of the widely known while there are yet others which have never been climbed or even named. Shimshal is truly a heaven for the explorers and adventurers.
01. Wakhan Corridor Lower Pamirs
Finally the Lion’s share as the most spectacular and least explored destinations goes to the legendary Wakhan Corridor in Lower Pamirs. One of the oldest routes on the Silk Road, Wakhan used to be the gateway to many ancient Caravans crossing over to the Central Asian states.
The Boroghil region along the Wakhan Corridor is an area yet to be explored. There exist secluded virgin valleys and grazing lands touching Afghanistan and the Central Asian states through this famous strip. While trekking we cross three passes starting with an easy stroll through the valleys and pastures. The scenery is captivating and out of this world.
There are two ways of getting into the Wakhan Corridor. From Chitral further north one can hire a 4x4 all the way upto Lasht. Another four days of trek will lead to the breathtaking Karombar Lake in the heart of Wakhan. To make it more exciting, Chilingi Pass to the Southeast can be taken which will eventually open up in Hunza Valley. Wakhi people are famous for their hospitality which is such that if you pass a village during a trek, you would be stopped and given salted tea, dildongi (flatbread) and dral (sweet dish similar to pancake).
What a view he must be having.
Waiting for his sure death.
Tucked in a snow cave at 7200m-just underneath the summit dome.
He must be smiling up at ‘her’ and looking down at us with a smooth calm and unwavering peace.
He had done miracles for himself before, walking into the Base Camp like a ghost when he had been presumed dead and missing for 21 days.
Carrying bulk loads of deposits all by him. Going back and forth countless times on Nanga.
This time around, however, he can’t walk and can’t even see.
Of whatever little I have known of Tomek Mackiewicz, he must be a happy man lying alone at 7200m waiting for the unavoidable.
This was his seventh consecutive attempt to stand on top of the “Killer” and only the first that he ever made it to 8000m mark. Though there are unconfirmed reports of a summit success on this final attempt but his pilgrimage to Nanga in all these years was far from summits and medals and acclamation.
For Tomek, Nanga was his peace, his freedom, his liberation.
I first met Tomek at Diamir Base Camp on January 2016, when, out of nowhere, he popped into our kitchen tent asking for “garam Chaye” (hot tea). It had hardly been a day when we have established “Pakistan Explorer Reporting Room” right in the middle of four international expeditions at Diamir Base Camp. Initially it was challenging for the team to acclimatize to 4800m in six feet deep snow and temperatures close to -20 Celsius.
We instantly struck a chord with this burly straw-haired fellow presenting a true depiction of climbing bums of the Hippy era, always with a sunny disposition and a warming smile to greet the onlooker. Our kitchen tent was standard tent not made out to withstand the extreme conditions we had subjected it to, but with the kerosene stove always on fire, it was warm and cozy and embracing. We smoked and laughed and had a lot of tea before he left to report the boss and climbing partner Elizabeth Revol (Eli).
Next morning Tomek and Eli left for more deposits on higher camps and Tomek promised to meet us in Islamabad on his way back. I have a vivid memory of a bright full moon night when we were close to village SER on our way back. We turned around hoping to have a glimpse of maybe a headlamp somewhere near the summit, clearly failing to establish the scale of the massive Nanga Parbat.
Tomek and Eli returned to Islamabad after two weeks, when they had outrun their supplies at the Base Camp and they both stayed at our Bed & Breakfast in Islamabad. Eli had a short stay while Tomek stayed for almost a week, including that “dreadfully historic” day when Nanga was captured in winters for the first time in 30 years.
Tomek was shattered and broke.
He was in complete disbelief.
He refuted the claim citing clear deviation of Alex’s tracker which had gone wayward several times around the summit dome.
His tweets and reactionary posts created quite a controversy where he refused to accept it as a summit success and demanded photo and videographic proofs.
He left with a broken heart. An altogether different Tomek.
This year when he decided to return for the seventh attempt, I feared this will end in a disaster.
It was hardly the same Tomek who would walk down from 6000m trapped for days in a snow cave.
He was not the Tomek who would carry 30kgs of rucksacks to high camps all by himself.
He was not the Tomek who had a brilliant funny bone and who was always smoking like a steam engine.
This was a lost Tomek.
A lover without his beloved.
A Poet who has forgotten to write.
A ship without sails.
Since the beginning of his last venture on Nanga I somehow knew that if Tomek came anywhere close to 8000m mark, he would throw-in everything to stand on top risking his life and limb.
They were last spotted at 8000m mark by the Base Camp crew claiming they were moving further up before it went cloudy and they were not visible anymore. They not only reached the base of the summit dome but they have been half way up the trapezoid for the first time in seven years. It was inescapably a defining moment for Tomek to reach out and grab the summit. We still wait for the confirmation from Eli whether the devastated duo made it all the way to the top.
“when everything disappears, the time, death, life, problems……… because when you are very close to the death… you are very close to the end… every problem disappears”- Tomek during an interview to Pakistan Explorer Feb 2016
I got a call yesterday from Sawal Faqeer- a senior guide who has seen countless expeditions on Diamir face and have known dozens of deaths on the Killer Mountain.
He broke down listening to the news.
“Ghani” a good a friend and a porter, must be shattered and broke over the loss.
People of Diamir loved Tomek and Tomek loved them too.
Less of a climber, more of a friend and a genuine human being.
Enjoy the view mate and Rest in Peace!
By: Naveed Abdul Bari
January 29, 2018
The erstwhile state of Bahawalpur is the expanse of plains and desert, bounded by Sutlej, Chenab and Indus rivers towards the north and the west. The territory enclosed the Cholistan desert spread over 27,000 square kilometers.
This state used to be a fertile region nourished by the Hakra river in the antiquity and the civilization of this region has a history dating back to almost 4000 BC.
The region is spotted with remains of three rows of forts. A line began from Phulra and ended in Lera, another line from Rukhanpur to Islamgarh, and the third from Bikaner to Kapoo. Mostly in ruins now, some of them date back to 3000 years and have been destroyed and rebuilt many times.
The region is steeped in ancient history resonating in the folklore, poetry, handicrafts, dances and myths. The built assets include the archeological sites, forts and settlements.
The region has been the cradle of many a glorious empires including the Abbasid State - one of the richest and benign princely states of the subcontinent.
In 14th century, Sultan Ahmad Abbasi son of Abbasid Caliph Muzammil moved from Cairo to Sind via Kech/ Makran. Accompanied by Arab loyalists already settled in Sind, he confronted Raja Rai Dhorang. He wrestled territory from the Raja and established a dominion in Bankar/ Bhangira/ Kot Kanji and Qila Parkar.
Six generations later, a highly competent leader, Channi Khan Abbasi was appointed Panj Hazari by Prince Murad son of Mughal Emperor Akbar. He was given control of territory from Ubaru to Lahri Bandar.
Many generations later, during the years 1723-46, Nawab Sadiq Khan Abbasi I moved to Khanpur, DG Khan and Uch, capturing Qila Dad Machi enroute. In 1727, he laid foundations of the state of Bahawalpur. He also annexed Shehr Farid and wrested Derawar Fort from the ruler of Jaisalmer.
The state evolved and stretched 200 miles including Din Garh, Mauj Garh, Wullar, Hasilpur, Fort Abbas, Lodhran, Mailsi, Multan, Muzaffar Garh, Mubarakpur and Minthar.
From 1746-50, Nawab Bahawal Khan Abbasi I abandoned Shikarpur and totally focused on the state in Bahawalpur region. In 1747, he established Baghdad-ul-Jadid/ Bahawalpur and shifted the state capital.
From 1750-72, Nawab Mubarak Khan Abbasi II, expanded territory to include Derawar, Rahimyar Khan, Khairpur, Marot, Qaimpur, Islam Garh/ Bheem Garh, Kot Sabzal, Mubarakpur, Garhi Shad Khan, Ahmedpur Lamha, Minthar, Mailsi, Lodhran, Muzaffar Garh.
From 1772-1809, Nawab Bahawal Khan Abbasi II annexed Uch and started the mint with approval from Afghan King Mahmud Shah. In 1780, Mughal Emperor Shah Alam-II conferred titles of Rukn-ud-Doula, Nusrat Jung and Hafiz-ul-Mulk to the Nawab Ameer while in 1802, title of Mukhlis-ud-Daula was conferred by the King of Kabul.
From 1809-25, Nawab Sadiq Khan Abbasi II and from 1825-52 Nawab Bahawal Khan Abbasi III faced the challenge of Ranjit Singh from north, however, sustained the state while shaping an alliance with the British. The boundary of Bahawalpur State was defined by Sutlej, Chenab and Sind rivers.
From 1852-53, Nawab Sadiq Khan Abbasi III, from 1853-58, Nawab Fateh Khan Abbasi, from 1858-66, Nawab Bahawal Khan Abbasi IV, from 1866-99, Nawab Sadiq Khan Abbasi IV succeeded the throne. Nawab Sadiq Khan Abbasi IV ordered construction of Noor Mahal. He also inaugurated Bahawal Victoria Hospital and Sadiq Egerton College.
From 1899-1907, Nawab Bahawal Khan Abbasi V ruled the state. In 1902, he founded the orphanage and in 1904, he ordered construction of Darbar Mahal, Farrukh Mahal, Nishat Mahal and Gulzar Mahal.
Bahawalpur State survived the test of times as perilous as the expeditions of Nadir Shah and Ahmad Shah Abdali, disintegration of Mughal Empire, pressure from bordering Sikh state and the British expansion- courtesy to the acumen and statesmanship of nawabs.
By the end of 19th century, Bahawalpur State comprised an area larger than Denmark or Belgium. Its eastern border was 300 miles, the western border was River Indus, the northern border was River Sutlej and its southern border was shared with Sindh. The ruler also enjoyed special protocol conferred by the British since 1866 as he was accorded 17 canons salute and had special access to the Viceroy of British India.
For some Tomek Mackiewicz is living in a complete state of denial. Yet for many others, he is perseverance personified. This Polish Diesel Engine has fought no fewer than six bone-chilling winters with the Killer and still refuses to give up.
Tomek Mackiewicz has a history of climbing Nanga Parbat with jaw-dropping low budgets reviving the vintage style climb and is the only man in history who will be attempting a winter climb on the same 8000er for the seventh time. He is all set to return to Pakistan with his long standing partner Elizabeth Revol to complete the Messner 2000 route this winter.
Sharing his upcoming plans with Pakistan Explorer, Tomek reiterated his long standing goal of completing what he started seven years ago.
“Plan is simple. We want to finish this route. And i want to connect Messner 2000 with Herman Buhl”. He said, “Alpine style, low budget, just two of us”.
Tomek and Eli left Diamir Base Camp last winter after their final summit push came to a sad end as they were refused a weather window despite staying on a high camp for a few days. Later on 26th February, Simone Moro, Ali Sadpara and Alex Txikon successfully summited the Killer for the first winter ascent thereby winding up a 30-year long battle for the first successful summit of Nanga Parbat. Tomek insists that he is not part of any race rather this is more of a personnel matter for him.
More celebrated climbers including Simone have often criticized Tomek for his reckless attitude, inexperience with high Alpine peaks and climbing with dangerously low budgets. But all this has seldom kept Tomek from attempting what may be suicidal for many. He survived all alone in a bivouac for more than a week on Nanga at more than 6000m bracing bad weather and climbed down later to startle rescuers who had already given up on him.
Eli, on the other hand, will also be coming back for her fifth attempt on the Killer. Earlier, she partnered with Daniele Nardi for the Mummery route and has made two attempts on Nanga with Tomek on the Messner 2000. Tomek insists that Messner 2000 is the only route which can be attempted in Alpine style on Nanga in winters.
Buhl was the first man to reach the Nanga summit in 1953 via the Raikot Face. Before Buhl’s successful ascent, 33 people have lost their lives trying to climb Nanga Parbat, rightfully earning her the pseudo “The Killer”.
How to be an Ambassador: German Ambassador Martin Kobler takes diplomacy down to the basics
It has been hardly three months since Ambassador Martin Kobler took charge of his duties in Islamabad, the agile diplomat has barged on a roller coaster ride to all over the country forging ties and making new friends.
Much like his predecessor Ms. Inna Lepel, Ambassador Kobler is keener in following the basics of diplomacy with people to people interaction rather than sitting on his desk and engaging with the economic gurus of the business world.
A career diplomat for more than three decades, ambassador Kobler has led various diplomatic missions for United Nations including Libya, Congo, Iraq, Afghanistan and many other countries. His tenures particularly in the Muslim world have helped him understand the cultural and social norms and the sensitivities involved.
Since presenting his credentials to President Mamnoon Hussain on August 10, ambassador Kobler has already visited Karachi, Nowsehra, Rawalpindi, Nathiagali, Gujranwala by train, Lahore, Peshawar, Chitral, Takh-i-bahi.
A haircut from a local barber to the delicious Peshawari barbecue, celebrating Diwali with the Hindu community in Rawalpindi and travelling by train to Gujranwala are a few things unheard of being done by any ambassador.
Ambassador Kobler is setting new standards of mass engagement not a very commonly followed norm in the diplomatic enclave. This also comes in the face of already sensitive security situation particularly in places where ambassador Kobler has already been so far.
Pakistan has a strong presence of German Non-Govermental Organizations working for the welfare of the people directly funded by the German people.
With the given precarious security situation, Ambassador Kobler’s efforts to establish softer image of Germany especially in the remote regions of Pakistan will indirectly help the NGO’s in their operations in particular and their acceptance among the masses in particular.
Ambassador Kobler is among the very few diplomats from the Enclave who have set their foot out to explore and enjoy the community and the breathtaking places Pakistan has to offer.
Ambassador Kobler is demonstrating the classical version of how to be an ambassador- a version far more effective than what is generally followed in present times.
Like the rest of the four seasons, winter rains in Pakistan have moved a little further on the calendar and the usual intermittent spells of December have now moved into mid and late January, drenching the south with rains and scattering bulk loads of white misery in the north.
This also kicks off the winter tourist outpour that throngs the more easily accessible Galiyaat regions of Murree while the more ambitious and resourceful head straight to far north.
The mystical and spellbinding beauty of the snow-covered winter forests of the north leave little choice but to visit these hill stations. Driving in winters and on icy roads in particular, often lands these wanderers in trouble for they have little or no knowledge of driving in winters. Simply having a good SUV or a 4x4 cannot ensure your control on the vehicle if you are new to these driving conditions.
Here are a few tips we think can help you get a better control of your vehicle.
1- Choosing 4x4 SUV over a sedan or any other 2-wheel drive can be a life-saver. This also doesn’t go without saying that the driver must be well acquainted with the differential locking and four wheel engagement and disengagement at the right time and place. If you are new to winter driving, DO NOT DRIVE YOURSELF.
2- Weather updates and latest reports should be inevitably on the checklist before leaving. It is better to get latest on the road conditions, type of snow that has fallen and accident ratio if available.
3- It is a good idea to pack a bag of supplies to keep in the car when the snow starts to fall. These should include food and water, warm clothing or a blanket, a torch, a first aid kit, a fully charged mobile phone, jump leads, a shovel, an ice scraper or deicing fluid, and some grit or sand.
4- Usually a thin, transparent layer of ice covers the road in wet conditions, something we at Pakistan Explorer refer to as a “GLASS TRAIL” making it difficult to detect it with naked eyes. Constantly apply gentle brakes to check if there is ice underneath. If the car skids, Beware! You have a Glass Trail underneath.
5- In case you find yourself right on top of a Glass Trail, immediately slow down the car using only the gears. DO NOT APPLY BRAKES ON A GLASS TRAIL.
6- Accelerate and decelerate very slowly.
7- If your car starts skidding on a Glass Trail, do not apply brakes, instead turn the wheel in the direction of the sliding rear of your car. This will straighten up the car allowing better control.
8- The safest way to tread on a Glass Trail is using traction devices like Snow Chains or Wheel Studs etc. However, it is also very important to practice mounting and dismounting of these devices as per the instructions from the manufacturer before trying it in the field.
9- Do not forget to empty your radiator when you have reached your destination. A frozen, clogged-up radiator can be a real hassle next morning.
10- Never Forget to wear your seat belts at all times with kids always tucked up at the rear. If you are a novice to winter driving, it’s safer to hire professional help or stay at home.
Stay Safe Pakistan! :)
Pakistan’s whipped up war hysteria ensuing the deadly pre-dawn ambush of the Indian Brigade Headquarters in Uri, has done little to deliver a fitting reply to India’s Baluchistan stance which has long become a bleeding wound in Pakistan’s porous Foreign policy.
Successive Pakistani governments despite realizing the interminable deprivation of the Baloch people, have failed to come up with a political solution to this issue. This prevalent vacuum of political insight has provided reasonable ground to the military establishment to intervene and restore the writ of the government with an iron hand, symbolically, doing exactly what India is doing in Kashmir.
Using coercive tactics on its own people and forcing the “unjust” and “corrupt” writ on them only leads to more problems and the eventual outcome is a model somewhat similar to present day Kashmir.
The resentment among the Baloch youth is trending at an all-time high and the Pakistani flag is now confined to the roof tops of Government buildings even on the Independence Day.
The political leadership, however, continues to conveniently turn a blind eye to such harsh realities.
The idea of a Summer Capital was first introduced by the Mongol warlord Kublai Khan who ruled the vast stretches of the 13th Century China.
The Yuan Dynasty established by Kublai Khan overlooked the undulating grass lands of the Steppes on the west all the way to the cold and breezy Korean prefecture, controlled from the capital set in modern day Beijing.
In the summers however, Beijing turned into an incinerator of a different kind, forcing the cold-loving mighty Mongol retreat to his “Summer Capital” in farther north called “Shangdu” or present day Dolon Nor.
Lords of the British Raj escaped the scorching summers of the Indian plains effectively utilizing the subtropical highlands like Shimla, Srinagar, Nainital and Murree. The ruling elites, Al-Saud family of Saudi Arabia, regularly move to Taif to escape the scorching summers although the Kingdom continues to be operated from Riyadh.
Apart from all the bad history that it carries, and being associated to all the tyrants and imperialists, the idea of “Summer Capital” still holds a unique significance, presenting an out-of-the-box solution to Pakistan’s seeping Baluchistan quagmire.
A serious consideration of this idea will first require the reinvention of the model of a summer capital in its entirety.
Perhaps an improvised version, in coherence with the modern political and democratic norms and one which is also feasible, will surely raise the spirits of the Baluchi people if not address their deprivation.
As the Maxim goes, “Pakistan starts 12 kilometers from Islamabad”, it remains a widely understood fact that the government writ starts wearing out as you move away from the center. Relocating the major government machinery like the Prime Ministers Secretariat, Prime Minister House, or even the more laid off Presidency, will gradually wipe out the feeling of detachment among the people of Baluchistan.
The cost of this relocation is certainly not more than the cost born by the government agencies, the military and whatever little political efforts being made to address the concerns of the Baluchis.
Contrary to the much visited Fairy Meadows and Raikot face of Nanga Parbat, Diamir aka Diamoro (in local dialect) is much rugged, long and a raw trek. It takes a painstaking three days of a continuous trek to reach the south-western face of the mountain from where one can directly see the main summit standing at an altitude of 8,125m.
The trek shoots up from the local village of Guner Das some 15 kilometers beyond Chilas and the jeep trek takes about 2 hours to reach the Jeep stop which is also the Diamoro Village in the middle of the North-western flank of Himalayas. The jeep trek is less scary and steep as compared to the one that leads to the Fairy meadows but is a longer one and pliable by jeeps and locally operating station wagons alike.
The Diamir trek takes one from 1200m ASL from Chilas to 4800m ASL in a matter of three days breaking it to a roughly 1 km altitude gain every day. A few similarities this trek shares with Raikot trek is the ruggedness at the beginning and thick deciduous and coniferous forest at the end. The Base Camp itself is quite green in the summers and offers nutrition-rich grazing grounds for the local herdsmen.
Diamir Base Camp is particularly notable for its rich history of climbing expeditions spanning for more than 100 years. From the early days of imperial expeditions to the mainstream explorers, all the way to the renegade Hippy climbing bums, Daimir Face has been the center of attraction thereby boasting of a unique climbing history unlike any other face of the mountain.
The very first expedition to the mountain also chose the Diamir side in 1895 when Albert F. Mummery attempted the famous Mummery Rib reaching an altitude of 6100m and lost his life during the attempt. Nanga remained focus of the German expeditions in the early years of 1900s since Everest was under British control and most of today’s northern Pakistan was distributed into Princely states thus giving access to the Nazi Germany.
No fewer than 33 climbers lost their lives before the first successful assent from the Raikot side by Austrian Herman Buhl.
Diamir face is also the sight where the famous Reinhold Messner and his brother Gunther Messner decided to traverse Nanga for the first time in 1970 and Gunther lost his life while descending form the Diamir side. His body was later recovered from the glacier in proceeding years.
The most attempted routes from the Diamir side include the “Messner Route” aka “Messner Solo 1978” which constitutes to a relatively longer route to the summit starting from the base of the Diamir glacier and making a longer loop on the southern side. This route bypasses the hanging seracs at 6200m and crosses the Merkl Notch before reaching the top.
Most attempted route by far to this date, is the famous Kinshofer Route, first attempted by Toni Kinshofer, Anderl Mannhardt, Rudl Marek, Michl Anderl, Hubert Schmidtbauer, Manfred Sturm and Sigi Low. The team successfully overcame the demanding Kinshofer wall with a climbing difficulty of 5.7.
On June 21, 1962, Low, Kinshofer, Mannhardt, Sturm and Anderl reached Camp 4 at 7150m just around the Bazhin Basin and pushed for the summit the very next morning at 1 a.m.
Strum and Anderl turned back while Low, Kinshofer and Mannhardt pressed on to reach the summit after a gruesome 15 hours climb draining out all sense and energy. Particularly exhausted, Low slipped on a cornice and suffered a serious fall. Kinshofer decided to stay with Low while Mannhardt descended for help. Low later died and Kinshofer and Manhardt were rescued by a climbing team. Severely frost-bitten, Kinshofer and Mannhardt lost all their toes and other limbs and barely survived the ordeal. Mannhardt, in an interview later admitted that the summit success was grossly overshadowed by their struggle to survive. "At the time there was lots of talking about 'victory' over the mountain. … We felt the least victorious. We felt rather beaten. We felt we had failed."
Alex Txikon, Simone Moro and Ali Sadpara also chose the Kinshofer Route for the first successful winter ascent on Feb 26, 2016.
Mummery Rib is also one of the center attractions for climbers since the route has never been completed to the top. Italian Daniele Nardi successfully covered the Mummery Rib 6450m in 2013 but had to descend later because of climbing difficulties.
Mummery Route is one of the most direct routes to the top thereby also poses considerable difficulty with steep rocky ribs and little help for an easy climb. Mummery, 1895, wanted to reach the summit via this route climbing light with few provisions and some firewood which was found by an expedition 44 years later.
One of the recent routes include the Messner 2000 which starts from the northern edge of the Diamir Face and takes a long straight and gradually ascending route to the Northern Summit before joining the Kinshofer Route before the Bazhin Basin. This route was used by several winter Alpine expeditions.
Diamir Face continues to be the pinnacle of human endurance with an ostentatious climbing history spanning more than 100 years. Lack of visitors to this difficult trek has kept it in serene and unspoiled condition, offering breathtaking sites and places.
The race to one of the esteemed mountaineering pinnacles yet to be achieved is back in the heat again as some of the most high profile winter climbers are gearing up to climb one of the only two 8000ers, K2 and Nanga Parbat yet to be climbed in winters. Given the notoriety and extreme difficulty in climbing these two giants in winters, the coming three-month-rally will test the nerves and fitness of the ambitious expeditions set to conquer Nanga Parbat between 25th December to 1st March- the official time frame for a successful winter ascent.
Simone Moro & Tamara Lunger Expedition
Italian ace Simone Moro will be returning to make his third attempt of the peak possibly along with his Manaslu-2015 partner Tamara Lunger. The duo has remained tight-lipped about the revelation of their plans and the final announcement of their itinerary is still waited anxiously by mountaineering enthusiasts all over the world.
“In about a month and a half, we're leaving for another winter experience in Pakistan. There will be time to talk about the where, how and on what mountains we go”. Said Simone on his Facebook page.
Simone’s last attempt of Nanga Parbat was back in 2013-14 when he teamed up with photographer David Göttler and Italian climber Emilio Previtali. The team patiently waited for more than two months in the Base Camp, aiming for the summit through the The Rupal Face of Nanga Parbat, with the Schell Route. Backed up with the last minute accurate predictions from the weather wizard Karl Gable, Simone is undoubtedly the most sound and experienced winter climbers to pitch for another attempt of the Killer Mountain.
Alex Txikon, Daniele Nardi, Ferran Latorre and Janusz Golab Expedition
Another winter-weathered expedition comprising of Spaniard Alex Txikon, Italian Daniele Nardi and Ferran Latorre and Pole Janusz Golab will be making an attempt for the peak with Pakistani high altitude mountaineer Ali Sadpara. The team has already announced their plans of taking the Kinshofer Route from the Diamir side.
“Just want to confirm we'll go for Nanga Parbat (8.126m) in late December. The team this time: Ferran Latorre, Daniele Nardi, Ali 'Sadpara', Janusz Golab and me. Will again face the challenge following the Kinshofer Route in the Diamir Side. Thank you!” Alex mentioned on his Facebook page.
Tomek Mackiewicz and Elizabeth Revol Expedition
Tomek will be bustling with Nanga experience as he plans to make his sixth attempt of the ninth highest mountain along with compatriot Elizabeth who is also one of the most experienced female winter mountaineers in the world. This will Elizabeth’s third attempt for the peak on the Killer Mountain.
While Tomek, on the other hand, is the only human to have crossed/reached the 7000 meter threshold on Nanga in winters three consecutive times. His perseverance on Nanga parbat knows no bounds.
"I am most effective climbing on my own, taking my own route and going at my own rhythm in small team alpine style. My attention isn't distracted, I'm focused on specific actions and following my plan. I don't think that this is selfishness, but something that allows a deeper responsibility and belief that controlling my own mind and intuition, undistracted by other human energy, and charged by nature and from the rock itself, I can be closer to reaching my goal. I also know myself well enough to know that I am most effective acting autonomously. This is how I am. I know what my motivation and own way is. I believe that the summit of Nanga can be reached in winter." Said Tomek in an interview over his ambitious plan for Nanga 2015-16.
Northern areas of Pakistan were recently hit by a devastating 8.1 earthquake triggering widespread destruction in the country. The quake was preceded by heavy rain and snowfall in the northern regions increasing the possibility of harsh winters ahead.
Time is ripe for the greatest mountaineering event of contemporary times as the sturdy international team crouches to make the final leap to the top of K-2 which has remained un-climbed in winters.
Many rightfully consider it as the last greatest feat to be achieved in the record books of mountaineering.
Being the fourth winter expedition to the Savage Mountain, credentials of the team members are unflinching and hold impeccable respect, but do they have the right attitude for the giant feat they are about to undertake?
The question holds credibility after the reckless comments made by none other than the team leader Denis Urubko who has gone over the extent of calling this “Just another climb”.
Of all the good tidings mountaineering brings along with it, humility remains the most cherished treasure of all.
From the early climbers of the 18th century to the modern day Ice Warriors like Simone Moro, none has underestimated their enemy regardless of how big or small it might have been.
For the likes of Irishman Rory McElroy, who took golf by storm in his teens, pompous and reckless underestimation can hardly be life threatening. Golfers may have the luxury of making mistakes and learning from them.
For mountaineers-there is no room for mistakes.
The 41-year-old Urubko hails from Russia and was also part of the 2003 Winter Expedition to K-2 led by Andrzej Zawada. While establishing camps at the North Ridge on the Chinese side, Urubko climbed upto 7600 m but the team later decided to call off the expedition as one of the team member suffered from cerebral edema.
On a question regarding his personal capabilities, Urubko said, “Do you mean my personal ability? I think that I am able to reach 9,500 meters without oxygen… but on the easy (classic) route. The crisis limit when I was younger was above 8,600m; now it is higher, I suppose. This is due to my experience.”
He further added, “Each time I look at my ascents as being “normal”… during the climb. But after each expedition, looking back at what I had lived, I feel the fear. I feel amazed, too. I am wondering how I had survived.”
The team has decided to open up new route, the unexplored North East Ridge which meets up the old route above 7500m.