Pakistan; The hub of Alpine Tourism14 August 2022
By Fasih Ullah Khan :
As home to five of the world's fourteen highest mountain peaks, rising above the height of 8,000 meters, Pakistan has much to offer to mountaineering, trekking, skiing and other adventure activities. Every year, mountaineers from across the globe travel to Pakistan to conquer the steep climbs of K2, Nanga Parbat and many more glorious and sky touching peaks and snow-covered mountains of the Karakoram and Himalayan ranges spanning the northern belt.
Pakistan is enjoying a bumper climbing season with around 1,400 foreign mountaineers bidding to scale its lofty peaks including hundreds on the 8,611-metre (28,251-feet) K2, the world's second highest. Pakistan is home to five of the world's 14 mountains higher than 8,000 meters, and climbing them all is considered the ultimate achievement of any mountaineer. Pakistan is home to 108 peaks above 7,000 meters and 4555 peaks above 6,000 meters.
The K2 is such a breathtakingly beautiful mountain that the world's greatest mountain climber of all time, Reinhold Messner called K2 "The Mountain of Mountains". The local name of the K2 is Chogori, which in Balti language means the king of mountains. The name of K2 was given by a British Colonol T.G Montgomery in 1856.
57 expeditions are planned for 23 peaks this season with 370 climbers having a crack at K2, known as "the savage mountain". Besides being far more technically difficult to climb than Everest, weather conditions are notoriously fickle on K2, which has only been scaled by 425 people including 20 women since it was first topped out in 1954 while Everest has been summitted by over 6000 mountaineers since 1953.
With some of the world's highest peaks off-limits or difficult to access due to Covid-related border closures, many climbers have spent the past two years saving money and prepping for a return to the mountains. While K2 is more physically difficult to ascend, it is significantly cheaper than Everest. A K2 climbing permit which often covers the other four "eight thousander" peaks nearby can be had for $7,200 for a group of seven people.
The number of permits wasn't the only record set this year. Climbers this year include 90 women and a record 20 women have summited K2 so far this summer. Among that group are Samina Baig, the first Pakistani woman to make it to the top, and Jenn Drummond, the American on a quest to become the first woman to climb all of the seven second summits," the second-highest mountains on every continent. The women group of climbers also included Wasfia Nazreen of Bangladesh who became the first person from Bangladesh to scale Pakistan's K2, the world's second highest mountain.
Pakistan's has produced great mountaineers like Muhammad Ali Sadpara, Nazir Sabir, Ashraf Aman, Shehroze Kashif, Sirbaz Khan, Sajid Sadpara, Samina Khyal Baig and Naila Kiani who earned name for the country in mountaineering.
Pakistan has welcomed the record number of climbers this season and has taken various steps to promote mountain tourism and making Pakistan the best destination for mountaineers.
(The writer is a Chevening Scholar and Press Counsellor at Pakistan High Commission, Dhaka.)