Pakistan, a destination not as “fierce” as it is painted
June 2013. 11 climbers are killed in the base camp of Nanga Parbat. Practically all the expeditions are returning towards Islamabad. Expeditions leaving for Pakistan have begun to be canceled. Thus began the story in the media around the world.
Panorama from Paiyu camp
I had the plane tickets and all the equipment prepared. I was about to do the Baltoro trek, one of the most beautiful in the world. I also wanted to do some ascension that we found along the way.
It was a difficult but logical decision at the same time. Pakistan, that much desired destiny had to be postponed for obvious reasons of security. In the following years it was not possible. Well, really if he could, in fact, he was gone, but caution caused many agencies and mountaineers to discard it.
The sharp mountains of Karakoram range in Pakistan make you shake. Baltie people lives in a harsh environment and a changing climate.
Bakhordas peak, the gateway to baltoro glacier.
4 years later, and seeing that the memory of the tragedy had disappeared, I encouraged myself to think again about going to that distant and dangerous destination that was on the way.
My doubts arose when I saw the difficulty to obtain the visa, I have never seen an embassy where it is so difficult and it takes so long to obtain the visa; This bothered me a little, it scared me. The first thing I thought was that “the Taliban were more present than ever”. Later I discovered that this difficulty was due precisely to the security that exists. Once there, the fear that someone can take, disappears immediately.
Porter and mules carrying supplies on the Baltoro Glacier to the Urdukas camp. I work hard and many times in solitude in a challenging and hostile place
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 pictures and clothes. There is a great security, almost excessive. The passport must be shown continuously. There are military camps scattered around the different strategic points. there are police agreements with China at each border point, in fact, China is collaborating with Pakistan to implement fiber optics.
Last military Camp on Baltoro Glacier way to Concordia.
“The Grandfather”. The oldest Balti Porter on Baltoro Glacier. It is hard to determine their age, their gaunt and proud looks tell about a tough existence carrying any kind of load up and down across the Baltoro glacier to the K2 base camp in the most uncomfortable.
“Pakistan is a fascinating country chaos. Spectacular scene. The people are lovely in general”
Nightfall in Urdukas
It is true, that one must act discreetly. It is not allowed to photograph women (be very careful with this). Special care in military, police and border areas although, as always happens, raise your hand if your attitude is friendly. There is nothing a smile can not do.
Unlike other parts of the Himalayas, Pakistan is rough and harsh, austere, disturbing, shocking … I would dare to say that it is uncomfortable and even unfriendly, it is like a necessary but evil evil. Unlike Nepal, for example, in this part of the Himalaya more entered the Karakorum, there are no monasteries, no villages with women and children, no “life”, no tenderness. In other places it seems that the mountains call you, invite you, I wish you a sweet welcome. In Pakistan they warn you and advise you to leave, which is dangerous, that is not a place for human beings. It is exciting and terrible at the same time.
Baltoro Glacier detail.
Cooking bread at Paiyu camp.
Only men can be seen along the immense valleys and small camps. Women continue to do field work in the villages, with the children, with the elderly. In the Karakorum mountains … there are only men there.
I remember one night chatting with a chef in Concordia. A kind guy, with a broad smile and a face marked by the hard life he has. I told him, people do not come, he’s afraid of the Taliban. He let out a big laugh while smoking a cigarette without a filter. “No, no, there are no Taliban here.” That reassured me.
Returning to Khuburse through the Baltoro glacier on a scorching day.
Porter resting at Urdukas camping site.
“This is Pakistan”
From here, I encourage all those who want to visit Pakistan not to doubt it, do not be afraid. That is, as they say there, “This is Pakistan” and anything can happen. A delay, a stone falling on a road … time stops. There is a clock for them and another for the rest.
In Pakistan, 15 minutes can be 2 hours, so be patient. As Islamabad Sebastián Álvaro, creator of Al Filo de lo imposible, told me in Islamabad: “You have to flow with the rhythm of the country, if not, you get desperate, you have to let go, without haste”.
Porters towards Khoburse during Baltoro Glacier traverse