The world awaits and watch anxiously as the top climbers in the world gear up to confront the savage giant K-2 with its fury increased many folds in the rugged Karakorum winters-of what can easily be regarded as the deadliest climbing expedition imaginable. Kazak Denis Urubko, Spaniard Alex Txikon and Pole Adam Bielecki are all set to kick off with their latest expedition the first winter ascent of K-2, the deadlier and still one of the two impregnable mountains in winters.
With a blistering record as their armor, the troika remains one of the potent threats to the mighty K-2 which has denied a winter ascent to ambitious climbers for the last several years. The current expedition is the latest after the tragic end of the Russian Winter Expedition to K-2 back in 2012-2013 where they lost one of their ace climbers Vitaly Gorelik who died of extreme exhaustion and pneumonia at the Base Camp. Gorelik had returned after successfully shifting gear to Camp-3 at 7600m near the Death Valley.
Given the credentials of the then Russian expedition, many still hold the view that if the Russian Giants could not tame the mighty k-2 no one on earth can.
41-year-old Urubko, often considered as a Russian Climber actually hails from Kazakhstan and is already weighing his options to move to Poland on permanent basis. A proud summiteer of all the 14 Eight Thousanders in alpine style, Urubko comes with a plethora of accolades which he has acquired during the course of his climbing career.
In the year 1999, Urubko achieved international recognition as a world class alpinist during the Snow Leopard Project with his remarkable ascents of the five 7000m peaks in 42 days. Being father of this idea, and a veteran of the 2002-2003 Russian Winter Expedition to K-2, Urubko will be leading the expedition.
“It was my desire and my idea for K-2 in winter”, Urubko said while talking to the press. “I shared that with Alex and Adam, they felt the vibe and put the same energy as I did…. Now, this is a big duty for each of us. I am the leader of the expedition indeed”.
The team has chosen the Chinese side of the K-2, otherwise considered as one of the most difficult routes to the top of the 8611 m Granite structure but the team insists that the “normal” route to the top gets extremely difficult in winters.
Some 600lbs of gear is currently being transported to the K-2 Base Camp on the Chinese Side ahead of the expedition which will kick off in the mid of December.
Three day long Broghil Festival in the remote Broghil Valley of Chitral has come to an end with revved up hullabaloo from travelers and tourists from all over the country and beyond.
The festival has seen an increased participation from the tourists especially after the completion of the 45km jeep track to the valley built by the Chitral Scouts and the Pakistan Army. The festival was organized under the auspices of Chitral Scouts who are also the guardians of the difficult terrain in the heart of Hindukush.
Like always, the centre of attraction of the festival remained the knee-crushing Yak Polo, which stands as the Hallmark of the Broghil Valley. This Polo Match eventually leads to successful bidding of the strongest yaks which have stood out in the competition. The Broghil Polo team won the match by one goal defeating their rivals the Gilgit Baltistan team.
Other attractions included Horse Polo, buzz kashi, donkey polo, horse race, yak race, horse and cattle show etc. For those less interested in sports, gathered at the various stalls selling traditional Wakhi handicrafts, clothing, gear and other local items. The festival also offered delicious Wakhi cuisine including bar-b-cue, Hareesa, lamb rosh and other local dishes.
The Broghil Festival as is known today got its name only recently, a direct result of the influx of the tourists and travelers but the festival finds its roots in the ancient times and has been the meeting place for the nomads travelling along the legendary Wakhan Corridor into Tajikistan, Kirghizstan and beyond. The exchange of pleasantries between various groups of nomadic traders and herders has been the focal point in the culture and traditions of the Wakhi People of the region.
The closing ceremony was presided over by General Officer Commanding, Swat Division, Maj-Gen Javed Mehmud Bukhari who announced that the festival will be held every year, bringing more tourists to the valley, thereby elevating the essentials to radically improve the economic conditions of the otherwise remote region in the northern areas of Pakistan. The General later also inaugurated a micro Hydropower station built by utilizing local resources and manpower. He also distributed gifts among the winners and other participants.
Read more: http://www.pakistan-explorer.com/articles/the-afghan-kyrgyz-nomads-of-the-wakhan-corridor-retracing-the-legendary-silk-route-of-modern-day-pakistan
Simone Moro finally unveiled his winter ascent of the Killer Mountain Nanga Parbat in a mega press conference at Monaco of Bavaria, Italy. Pitching for his second attempt of the 8,126m in winters, Moro also revealed his team of three climbers German David Gottler and his country mate Emilios Previtali, both of whom were a matter of surprise for the media men as Denis Urubko, Moro’s all weather compatriot in winter ascents was missing.
As if this was not enough, Moro took the crowd by storm when he declared his route to the top-the deadly Schell route on Rupal Face, known as the 10th highest elevation gains on earth in shortest distance. More than 4600m of steep and unforgiving granite structure challenges the mountaineers every year and many lose their lives in hopes of summiting the peak, let alone doing it in shearing winter winds and bone freezing temperatures.
Referring to his selection of route, Moro said:
“The Diamir until two months ago was closed, due to the terrorist attack, so I decided to change the slope although there had already built a bivouac (now used by shepherds) and a hospital. But these things do not give any guarantee of safety. Sometimes they can give rather annoying. So we're going from Rupal, there is the way in preventive Schell. It's tough. It’s the most logical, the least dangerous, is monstrously long because the base camp is only 3500 meters, is the highest wall in the world. From Diamir we left at least 4,000 meters. But do not deny that I want to assess the situation on the spot, if the way it was in dangerous conditions I would think of other solutions uphill”.
The absence of the valiant Urubko resonated the conference room. To a question regarding Urubko’s absence Moro replied,
“He is afraid of possible terrorist attacks, after what happened this summer at the base camp of the Diamir, which killed 11 mountaineers. I tried to convince him, because we were staying at Nanga together two years ago, and the way he liked it. But he preferred to avoid, just as a matter of risk. I'm really sorry for Denis.”
Moro admitted that due to the unpredictable security situation in the region, He will be escorted by an armed guard for the first time in his career. A proud conqueror of three 8000er’s in hardcore winters. Moro will be attempting the Killer Mountain for the second time. Rupal Face poses a unique challenge to the mountaineers worldwide and climbing this route in winters will test the mettle of the 46-year-old Italian ace.
Beast of the East vs. The Ice Warrior: Italian ace Simone Moro returns to conquer Nanga Parbat for the first Winter AssentRead Now
It was about the same time two years ago when Simone Moro and Denis Urubko were camped in the frigid Western Himalayas at the Base Camp of Nanga Parbat in hopes to conquer the Killer Mountain for the first time in winters.
Following his own doctrine for winter Himalanism, Moro waited patiently in his warm and embracing Base Camp, erected from stones and straw rooftop and kept a close watch for the right weather conditions to make their charge.
Jotting down data on his portable, solar-chargeable laptop, coordinating with the weather wizard Karl Gable in Switzerland, cross checking his route to the peak of the 8,125m Nanga Parbat, Moro’s wait never came to an end. The team of two left the Base Camp in February 2011 failing to conquer the mighty beast.
“Preparation, self-training, logistics and technology are vital supports for alpine projects like this one on Nanga Parbat. They make all the difference, as seen last year on the successful Gasherbrum II expedition. However, in the end, the relationship is between man and mountain; if nature doesn't’t offer the perfect conditions to reach the objective, this doesn't have to be considered as a failure, but as an experience for future projects,” reflected Simone Moro.
Moro has now been reported to be returning to make yet another attempt to bag the mighty peak for the first winter assent. Nanga Parbat and K-2 are the only two 8000ers in the world which have not been climbed in winters. Despite several attempts by renowned mountaineers, Nanga Parbat has time and again refused climbers a free pass to the top.
Never climbed in winters, Nanga Parbat poses potential threat to climbers above 6500 meters. The wind speed at such high altitude at Nanga Parbat soars to a blistering 160k/h and temperatures drop down to -40 Celsius exposing climbers to instant frostbite. here to edit.
Moro is scheduled to announce his plan on November 28th in a press conference where he will also reveal the route to the peak and possibly his compatriots who will be accompanying him on the dangerous expedition. Urubko, who has been Moro’s partner in the successful 2009 Makalu Winter Expedition and again in 2011 in Gasherbrum-1 first winter accent, is likely to team up with Moro to tame the Killer Mountain.
Italy-Pakistan Friendship Expedition 2013: Pakistani climber Shaheen Baig all set to conquer Ama Dablam in NepalRead Now
One of the most underrated and probably one of the finest climbers of the country, Mr. Shaheen Baig is all set to conquer the famous Ama Dablam in Nepal en route to become the first Pakistani to conquer an autumn peak in Nepal. Boasting an already blistering feathery cap of several mighty peaks, Baig is one of the most sought after High Altitude Porter (HAP) in Pakistan and is constantly hired by the tough foreign expeditions aspiring to conquer the difficult 8000ers in Karakorum.
Baig will be part of the Italy-Pakistan Friendship Expedition 2013 and will be joining hands with Elena Simona, one of the veteran Italian female climbers who have made several fruitful stopovers in Pakistan. She visited Pakistan some eleven years ago and returned to conquer Masherbrum last year, also with her accomplice the formidable Baig.
According to the latest news coming in through the satellite phones, the expedition is currently facing severe bad weather as constant snow fall continues to disrupt any movement so far. The team is getting short of the permitted days to execute and complete the expedition before the weather gets unbearable.
Earlier the expedition reached an altitude of 6000m on the 6,856m peak but had to return to base camp in wake of deteriorating weather conditions.
About Shaheen Baig
Baig, like many of his compatriots hailing from the prolific Shimshal Valley, has conquered the K-2 during the Golden Jubilee Celebrations of the first ascent in 2004. He is also the conqueror of the Gasherbrum-2 in the year 2001 and has remained a priceless backup support in the successful Polish Expeditions of G-1 for the first winter ascent 2011/2012 and Broad Peak first winter ascent 2012/2013.
Baig’s career kicked off in the year 1995 when he had a chance to support a foreign expedition as HAP. His phenomenal courage and endurance always helped him get a place in big expeditions since. Ever ready to volunteer for a Search and Rescue Operation (SAR), Baig remains one of the most wanted HAP on the list of all foreign high altitude expeditions visiting Pakistan.
Baig spearheaded the SAR for the retrieval of the body of a Japanese climber on Lady Finger Peak in 1997. He was recalled for another Japanese SAR expedition launched for the retrieval of the body of a missing climber on Passu Peak. He participated in the Magic Line Spanish Expedition on K-2 to bring back the body of a dead climber. Baig also made an attempt to search for the missing Polish climbers Maciej Berbeka and Tomasz Kowalski in last year’s Broad Peak first winter ascent.
About Ama Dablam
Ama Dablam, the 6, 856m peak is the third most popular Himalayan peak in Nepal with respect to the number of expeditions on it each year. The Southwest ridge is the most frequently climbed route towards the peak and climbers establish no fewer than three camps before making the final summit push. Much like K-2, Ama Dablam poses a looming threat near the peak where a huge hanging Serac continues to test the nerves of climbers.
The Serac broke way in 2006 killing around six climbers and wiping out camp-3 and fixed ropes all the way. Ama Dablam was first climbed on 13 March 1961 by Mike Gill (NZ), Barry Bishop (USA), Mike Ward (UK) and Wally Romanes (NZ) via the Southwest Ridge.
Silk Route Festival: Ukrainian ambassador declares Gilgit-Baltistan as a safe destination for touristsRead Now
The Silk Route Festival returned to its full fore on Sunday, 28th October when the Gilgit-Baltistan Governor Pir Karam Ali Shah inaugurated the three-day Festival at the Karakorum International University. The festival is organized after a lapse of 13 long years and is currently being witnessed by a strong contingent of foreign dignitaries as well as domestic tourists.
Gilgit-Baltistan which was promulgated as the fifth province by the Federal Government a few years ago, has since been striving to promote tourism in the region. The Nanga Parbat massacre earlier this year caused a massive down slide in the tourism industry of the province and the statistics of the foreign tourists and visitors tumbled down to the lowest in several years.
“G-B has much to offer to the rest of the world and its potential can be utilised by making investments in the region,” said the governor.
The venue also played host to foreign dignitaries from countries like Ukraine, Korea, and Syria who were driven through the legendary Karakorum Highway to reach the venue. Rightfully named as the Silk Route Festival, the region has been part of the ancient trade route operating for thousands of years between the highlands of China and the plains of modern day Pakistan, Iran and India.
The event was honoured with the presence of the Ukrainian ambassador Volodymyr Lakomov, who visited the region for the second time followed by his emergency visit during the Nanga Parbat incident. The ambassador was greeted by the children and women of the Hunza and Gojal dressed in their traditional attire.
Mr. Lakomov was also entertained by traditional dancers who performed to the tunes of the local musical instruments.
“I saw the young and the old dancing to the tunes. It was really an amazing performance. Let me say it’s really good to be here with them,” said the ambassador. “I came here to see for myself, the land, its culture, music and way of living. Now I am convinced it’s a safe and secure place for foreigners.”
Overwhelmed with the hospitality of the G-B people, Mr. Lakomov encouraged the foreign community to visit the region as it is now safe for the tourists and the mountaineering expeditions from world over.
The foreign delegates were later taken to various other historic places on the Karakorum Highway. The delegation also made a stopover at Sikanderabad, a point which marks the exact location of the collision of the Indian and Eurasian Tectonic plates which caused the creation of the Himalayas and Karakorum.
Four fearless Korean women became the proud summiteers of the mighty Trango Tower in the Baltoro Muztagh region of the Karakorum when they laid their feet on top of the 6,286 m high vertical Granite structure on 12th August.
Following the German Route on what is also one of the greatest near vertical drops on the face of the earth, the four women climbed their way up slowly but surely, bracing the raging wind speeds and plummeting temperatures.
The four summiteers included Mi Sun Chae, Mi Sun Han and Jin Ah Lee led by Jum Sook Kim, all accomplished climbers and have the honour of climbing several difficult mountains all over the globe.
Speaking to the reporters Sook Kim said, “We used the German route, the most challenging, to reach the summit”.
The team, accompanied by the Pakistani tour operator and high altitude porters, began their climb in the mid of July but had to stay back in the Base Camp due to inclement weather. They made a few futile attempts to scale the tower but each time they had to return. Early morning on August 12, they made the final and successful summit push and returned to the safety of their high camps later in the day.
Hailing from the Republic of South Korea, all four climbers are close friends each having a climbing experience of a whooping 20 years. Ms Han is a freelancer and a climbing instructor and has climbed challenging rocks all over the world including the famous El-Capitan in Yosemite National Park, Central Peak of the Patagonia and Mont Blanc in the Alps.
38-year-old Ms Lee, the youngest in the expedition, is also a nurse by profession and the expedition also made an extra effort to distribute school books among the local school children and spent a day with the teachers and the staff of the school.
“We are planning to send some clothes, shoes and other relief items to Pakistani poor people once a year. We hope that our project continue for a long time,” Ms Kim said.
The Trango Towers group has seen some of the most difficult and significant climbs ever accomplished, due to the combination of altitude, total height of the routes, and the steepness of the rock. All of the routes are highly technical climbs.
Great Trango was first climbed in 1977 by Galen Rowell, John Roskelley, Kim Schmitz, Jim Morrissey and Dennis Hennek by a route which started from the west side (Trango Glacier).
It’s sadly ironic that Kabal Golf Course is rated more in terms of the security threats golfers have to face from the uncontrolled militants than the undulating fairways or the tough greens of the 18-hole course. Kabul Golf Course in Afghanistan and Kabal Golf Course in the scenic Swat valley of Pakistan not only share similar nomenclature, sadly they share the same catastrophic history for the last more than two decades.
This, however, is about to change as the club officials are bracing themselves for the first Open Tournament in last 21 staggering years, starting next month.
Often referred to as the Switzerland of Asia, Swat Valley is about five hours drive from Capital Islamabad and had remained a popular tourist destination until the beginning of the 90’s. The gradual increase of militancy in the valley, spearheaded by the sermon-loving Maulana Fazululah, swept the valley like wildfire, scaring away the tourists and the government officials. Slowly but surely, the valley turned into an uncharted territory before the Army finally stepped in to straighten things up.
SWAT Pakistan Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip visited Swat Valley 1961 1962.
Kabal Golf Course was built by former governor and son of Wali-i-Swat Mian Gul Aurangzeb in 1964 and was one of the popular golf destinations. Later the course became the battle ground of the Pakistan Army which dug out holes meant not for the golf balls rather to station their battery of six 130 mm guns which have the capability to fire rounds at a distance of 33 kms.
Eventually though Things have taken a turn for the good. The tournament will be attended by 200 golfers including 27 senior players and 54 professional players in all. Swat Deputy Commissioner Imtiaz Hussain while addressing a press conference along with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Golf Association secretary retired Col Shahadat reaffirmed the government’s commitment towards the peace and prosperity of the region.
“Due to militancy and other problems in the area during recent years, no tournament of national level has been held here for the last 21 years,” he said. “But now, the golf club and all of its holes have been restored with the help of army.”
He further added, “We want to give a message to the people that Swat is peaceful now and they can come here without any fear”.
Golf is known for its overwhelming attraction for the tourists all over the world and the local administration is hoping to utilize the sport as an effective tool to turn around the tourism statistics in the region.
Despite the gruesome and dastardly act of mass killings at the Base Camp of Nanga Parbat, the climbing community in general seems to have brushed aside all the threats and have already reached the Base Camps of the peaks they have been planning to climb for almost a year.
The deteriorated security situation has severely affected the climbing season in Pakistan where the climbing season kicks off at the start of June and ends by August. The brutal killing incident which took place at the Diamir side of Nanga Parbat, forced Pakistan Government to take serious actions in order to improve the security conditions at these beautiful peaks which attract thousands of climbers from all over the world.
Some 40 Mountaineering expeditions were scheduled to visit Pakistan this year consisting of Ukrainian, Russian, French, Spanish, English, American, Polish, Japanese, Iranian and climbers of other nationalities, many of whom aspired to climb the five eight-thousanders in the country. There have been other expeditions which intended to climb the smaller and virgin peaks in the rugged Karakorums.
Climbing season in the Karakorums and Western Himalayas of Pakistan starts at the beginning of June, when the climbing spree at the Everest and adjoining peaks have ended in wake of the impending monsoon. The season in Pakistan, considered as more challenging and difficult, lasts till the start of August when the Monsoon starts lashing Pakistan.
The killing incident is the first of its kind in Pakistan where the tourists have been targeted in particular. Nanga Parbat neighbours the hostile territories of the Chilas and Kohistan whereas rest of the eight-thousanders are located in the Northern most corner of the country, known to be safe for tourists and trekkers.
Krzysztof Wielicki sheds light on what happened to the fateful Polish climbers who lost their lives during the summit attemptRead Now
It was the winter of 1988 when Maciej Berbeka decided to scale the Broad Peak for the first winter summit. Young and agile, brimming with confidence, he was able to reach 8,000 m on the jagged granite structure but had to retreat due to impending weather conditions.
That eventful day was March 6th, 1988.
25 years later, he overpowered his nemesis and successfully reached the top of the mountain in the late hours of March 6th, 2013. Although this time around, Berbeka never made it back to the base camp.
Wielicki addressing the press conference
The accomplished mountaineer lost his way during the descent. Tired and exhausted, he probably gave into hallucinations following the silhouette of Tomasz Kowalski as per the sketch drawn by Krzysztof Wielicki who remained in contact with him on the radio.
The Polish Mountaineering team held a press conference explaining and investigating the unfortunate circumstances where the two Polish climbers lost their lives after a successful first winter summit of the Broad Peak.
“Maciej and Tomasz climbed together.” said Wielicki addressing the press conference. “It is not clear if even for a moment, they descended side by side. Maciej went down in front, and Tomasz had seen him a few times (according to what he said to Wielicki, but he was in very bad shape then, so we cannot say for sure that he have seen was Berbeka or it was just his imagination as it happens in these circumstances).”
The team further explained the circumstances of why the helicopter was not utilised for the Search and Rescue Operation as the weather conditions and the probable site of the disappearance both were out of reach for a helicopter rescue. Wielicki also elaborated the other rescue attempts which were conducted by the Pakistani High Altitude Porters (HAPs) who were part of the expedition. Karim and Shaheen reached the height of 7,700m but were not able to detect any signs of the lost climbers.
Polish Winter Expedition for the Broad Peak reached the top of the mountain after a gruesome summit assault which lasted for 12 hours. The team of four climbers started their attack at 5 O’clock in the morning of March 6th and finally made it to the top at 6 O’clock in the evening. This was their second attempt of the peak during this expedition.
The Gilkey Memorial
Kowalski was unmarried and had no family while Berbeka is survived by 14 years old Jasiek and 23 years old Franek and their mother.The Jerzy Kukuczka Polish Mountaineering Support Foundation has started to raise funds for Maciej Berbeka’s family. Those who are willing to contribute can donate through
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