/ NEW ARTICLE: Pakistan Travel and the Nanga Parbat Attack

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UKC Articles - on 19 Jul 2013
Districts in Gilgit Baltistan - The Diamir District is the peach colored area on the bottom, 3 kbIn this article, Piolet d'Or winning climber and experienced writer Steve Swenson explores the background and the politics behind the unrest in Pakistan that led to the murder of ten climbers at the Nanga Parbat basecamp last month.

ice.solo - on 19 Jul 2013
In reply to UKC Articles:

Quite a good article, but only half the story.
After 13 years climbing and working in the region id say theres a lot that the climbing scene isnt exposed to. Other sectors are aware of the incident and give a bit more dimension on it.

I respect swensons views hugely. But this goes far far beyond being an attack on climbers.

I think too theres more to how climbers can deal with this which is not mentioned.
pneame on 19 Jul 2013
In reply to ice.solo:
It's a tragic situation - on the one hand if tourists stay away, the locals, who will become even more desperately poor are easily recruited to organizations that can at least supply them with meagre resources (primarily food, but also the opportunity to not be killed). On the other hand, if tourists don't stay away, the number of terrorist incidents are highly likely to rise.

There are some good comments to Steve's blog - well worth reading.

So, what are your thoughts about how climbers can deal with this? It's an uncharacteristically brief comment from you!
ice.solo - on 20 Jul 2013
In reply to pneame:

aha, you got me on my phone!

but really, im keeping most of my thoughts out of the public arena on this right now. the shock is still being felt too deeply to disrupt things further. plus its been interesting to compare the attention given to this compared to the push-n-shove on everest. not saying theres much relation, but as an industry parrallel.

to deal with this needs a reassessment of the pakistan climbing industry. part of the issue is the 'big game safari climbing' factor that sees such focus on the 8000m area. part of it is also about blinkeredness by climbers - many of these peaks have chinese sides that are ignored by both climbers and companies alike. yes, china has its issues, but none surmountable. ive sat in the office of the CMA in urumqi half a dozen times and tried to address the problems. its uninformed to say the problem is entirely with the chinese authorities. the problem is with climbers perspectives.

i look too at the way the foreign agent companies address the risks, and have also been part of attempts to resolve them - but the word doesnt get across. the pakistan groups that do the ground logistics, plus the authorities have made serious attempts to deal with the security issues, but theres been no serious efforts i can see from the general foreign interfaces who would have to change their way of running thngs.
im not saying this event was predictable, but its been on the table of possibility for a long time. ive personally been part of attempts to put safer alternatives on the table but its just not picked up on, even tho the risks from things like tribal militants has risen.
sadly, ali hussein, the one pakistani killed, had been part of the resolution process. but thats another story.

to my mind, people thinking of pakistan as 'nepal with edge' is where it all goes off track. to continue climbing in pakistan needs a big rethink. the alternative system is there - ive been thru it myself - but it needs shifts in the industry that safari-climbing has become, shifts that extend to what goes on in nepal.

for the record, swenson is admirable as a climber, much more informed than most id say - but assessing this issue goes waaaay beyond the scope of expedition climbers. his article i thought is informed and gracious, but to view this thru the lens of recreational climbing and the recreational industry is like asking the passengers about aircraft safety and security.
dont get me wrong, i think swenson and a few others are ideal spokespeople for the foreign climbing fraternity (id actually vote fabrizio zangrelli as another, possibly better qualified) but theres plenty of pakistani climbers and logistics operators who should be being heard.
agolay - on 20 Jul 2013
As a layman who knows little about international mountaneering i found it an interesting read, like all subjects you can always have more infomation but i think Steve's done a good job there - its not often we get an article like that on the front page of ukc, a nice change from **"new hard line from super climber"**
thanks steve
pneame on 20 Jul 2013
In reply to ice.solo:
Thanks - from an uninformed perspective, I too am a bit surprised that China isn't used more as a jumping off point. Although the China/Tibet issue seems to bother a lot of westerners. My view of the latter issue tends to be a bit coloured by Arnold Henry Savage Landor's 1897 explorations! I should probably not be so much of an armchair tourist....
ice.solo - on 21 Jul 2013
In reply to pneame:

personally, i think the 'karakorum issue' (which involves several factors) needs readdressing in the light of the stuff youre reading.

its funny how access from china, and all that it entails, is seen as too difficult. a) its not, at least on the scale of things, and b) we are not talking about ten pin bowling here.

xinjiang has its issues, but they dont even rate compared to those of pakistans, not in a long shot. sure it may take a day or two longer to access from xinjiang, but those are extra days in greater safety and comfort than coming from islamabad will ever be.
indeed that is a point of contention i have with the blog reply on swensons post; the way access from china (a small part of the matter admittedly) is semi-dismissed. thats just lack of information. to have expense as the root? the math doesnt look that way, but i suppose it depends what price convenience is to someone.
this equation is made sillier considering pakistans peak fees - that there are dozens of big peaks that can be climbed with zero or negligible fees
if people look beyond the big game peaks.

of course it will be a bigger deal with different costing - theres no tourist highway to K2 on the chinese side. trips to karakorum northsides run on an 'as needed' basis, not filling prebooked slots.
indeed many trips are even run thru kyrgyzstan because organizers are afraid to deal with the chinese, even tho that really pushes prices up.
china/tibet/xinjiang freaks out many climbers because they dont understand how it works - they only view it spoon fed thru the reverse-binoculars of the companies.
its worth noting that independant polish, russian, japanese etc teams have little issue getting to these places.

access thru xinjiang isnt hard (kashgar can be flown into from east coast china, and flights to bishkek are being planned, urumqi can be connected to from lots of hubs including istanbul, astana and moscow).
from the chinese side, with appropriate negotiation, 8000m peaks can be attempted with costs comparable to pakistan, even cheaper considering the difference in logistics. i know because ive been there and tried. it just takes a process of developing the system, something it seems the big operators dont want to do. ive personally accessed pakistan from china to go into the karakorum and hindukush half a dozen times.
most times after trips were done i was sitting in kashgar with a martini looking at girls in short skirts whilst the others were still trying to get out of skardu.

the contaigen of safari climbing, whilst having its place, has calcified the way karakorum takes place, to the point where the security risks of pakistan are accepted but alternatives barely are.

a good dose of what montgomery and shipton had (and i dont mean syphillis and skullduggery) wouldnt go astray in rebooting the spirit of karakorum climbing.
Damo on 21 Jul 2013
In reply to ice.solo:

While I wouldn't disagree with any of the above, I would note:

- while coming in over the Khunjerab is fine, until very recently teams going for Pakistan peaks over 6500m still had to go to Islamabad for the Ministry briefing and to get the LO. This negated the China approach for most. Under 6500 is a different story.

- I can get from Sydney to Gilgit, via BKK and ISB in around 48hrs for $1600. Going via China, Urumqi, Kashgar, Tashk, Sost, Gilgit realistically takes four days and not less than $2000. This may or may not matter, but they're not equal.

- Tibet? Since 2008 getting to non-standard peaks (i.e.. not Everest, Shisha, ChoOyu) is virtually impossible, even for the Japanese. It's been a few years since they poked into the Kangri Garpo and now that has shut off, and there have been no expeditions at all to the bigger peaks on the Tibet side of the main range. Permits have been refused for Karjiang, Damyon, Lapche Kang and others, just off the top of my head.
ice.solo - on 21 Jul 2013
In reply to Damo:

LOs/briefings have been available in gilgit or skardu since 2010 in general, and 09 with prior arrangement apparently. the annex F at immigration has also been relaxed to near negligibble.

sydney - shanghai - kashgar - gilgit would be hard in 48hrs but definitely doable, tho 36 would be nicer (14 to kashgar, a full day then to gilgit). i costs it at about $1500. depends what the leg to shanghai costs, but from there its about $700 to gilgit.
landslides can block it for a day but flights dont get held down for a week or more like they regularly do to skardu and gilgit.
its not about the better or cheaper route (irrelevant for a 6 week trip that already costs +$15,000), its about showing an alternative when the effort has been made to create one.

main-vein xizang province, totally agree. but other tibetan areas are more accessible than theyve ever been, albeit with permits now in some places. but as the point was, beyond the big names is a blind spot many dont see past - in many cases that blind spot is the entire country beyond the central himalaya. if china ever seriously opens as a climbing destination it would be nice to not see the bottle necking as tight as it has been in some other places.

Big Lee - on 24 Jul 2013
In reply to UKC Articles:

Yes, if I go to Pakistan next year then I'm seriously considering the China approach. It would take longer but maybe more more reliable given that the Gilgit/Skardu flights problem is avoided. I flew Guangzhou-Urumqi years ago then took a train to Kashgar. If there are flights to Kashgar direct now-a-days then this sounds quite attractive. Particularly for Hunza. I've seen more rockfall block the roads South of Gilgit than North of Sost so maybe also better reliability there? In my mind the Shia hearthearts of North are generally going to be safer than Nanga Parbat, etc. Gilgit concerns me as maybe the sectarian split would make it easier for the Talaban to stage an attack there. Currently I'm thinking if I did go to Pakistan next year then I would stick to peaks below 6500m just so I can stay in Hunza and avoid the red tape formalities in Gilgit.
ice.solo - on 09 Aug 2013

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