Karakorum. Wickedly beautiful

June 2013. 11 mountaineers are killed at Nanga Parbat base camp. Virtually all the groups are returning to Islamabad. Expeditions leaving for Pakistan have started to be canceled. Thus began the story in the media around the world.

I had the tickets and everything was ready. The Karakoram was something that had been pending for a long time, perhaps too long. Being able to photograph one of the most spectacular places on the planet could not wait any longer.

Postponing it was a difficult but logical decision. Pakistan, that much desired destination had to be postponed for obvious security reasons. 4 years later, and seeing that the memory of the tragedy had disappeared, I was encouraged to think again about going to that destination that was left on the road.

At first, I imagined a very dangerous destination, a place where you had to be very, very careful. Not so at all. You just have to be discreet with some photos and clothing. There is great security, almost excessive. Passport must be continuously shown. There are military camps dotted around the different strategic points. There are police agreements with China at every border point.

«Pakistan is a fascinating mess»

It is true that one must act in a discreet way. Women are not allowed to be photographed (be careful with this). Special care in military, police and border areas although, as always happens, they raise their hands if your attitude is friendly. There is nothing that a smile cannot achieve.

At first, I imagined a very dangerous destination, a place where you had to be very, very careful. Not so at all. You just have to be discreet with some photos and clothing. There is great security, almost excessive. Passport must be continuously shown. There are military camps dotted around the different strategic points. There are police agreements with China at every border point.

«I can think of few places in the world more generous than the Karakorum mountain range in view of a photographer»

These mountains are rough and hard, austere, disturbing, shocking … I would dare to say that even uncomfortable and even unsympathetic, they are like a necessary and perverse but beautiful evil. Unlike Nepal, for example, there are no monasteries, no villages with women and children, there is no «life», there is no tenderness. Throughout the vast valleys and small camps only men are seen. The women are left doing the work in the fields in the villages, with the children, with the elderly. In the mountains of the Karakorum … there are only men there.

In other places it seems that the mountains call you, invite you, wish you a sweet welcome. In the Karakorum they warn you and advise you to leave, that it is dangerous, that this is not a place for human beings. It is exciting and terrible at the same time.

It is of an overwhelming beauty and that is what I have tried to reflect in my photographs, the wildest and most natural part of this region.

You enter the glaciers, immense, and you realize how insignificant you are. You feel as if at that moment, if the mountains wanted to, they would make you disappear in a second.

It’s no wonder Balties are so strong, used to living in one of the most inhospitable places on earth.

The Balti are an ethnic group of people of Tibetan descent whose population of 300,000 is found in Pakistan-controlled Baltistan, a former district of Ladakh, and in the Kargil and Leh districts of Ladakh, a region in Jammu and Kashmir controlled by the India.

The different disputes over the territory for years that Pakistan, India and China have maintained make the character of these inhabitants strong and fighting but also cheerful. Perhaps those difficulties they endure is the reason why they try to take life in peace, with the feeling that they have nothing to lose.

Another characteristic of this place, as it happens in places like Iceland or Patagonia, is that the climate changes rapidly and that, which can sometimes ruin a photograph, can also be a kind of events that lead to a truly spectacular panorama.

«This is Pakistan»

«This is Pakistan» and anything can happen. A delay, a rockfall on a highway, a river overflowing … there time stands still. There is a watch for them and another for the rest. In Pakistan 15 minutes can be 2 hours, so be patient.

At the hotel I met Sebastián Álvaro, Iñurrategui, Zabalza and Vallejo. Sebas told me «You have to flow with the rhythm of the country, if not, you despair, you have to let yourself go, without haste. This is Pakistan man, it’s Pakistan.»