Sunday, June 21, 2009

Extreme Kayak Adventures in Pakistan


The high Karakorum mountains in Pakistan offer great adventures in mountain climbing and kayaking for those looking for high danger and extreme thrills at fairly low cost. Hunza valley with its steep and dramatic river falls on the Indus, in particular, offers some of the most challenging white water adventures in the world. While K2 mountain climbing expeditions are not uncommon, extreme kayaking in the area around K2 appears to be a fairly well-kept secret.

Writing for Jackson Kayak website recently, Kayaker Darin McQuoid said as follows: "In my short career of paddling, Pakistan wins the prize for the lowest cost of living once in country. Being a notoriously cheap kayaker, this motel on our fifteenth night was right up my alley at thirty cents per person. We never spent a night in a heated building while in Pakistan, so as an added bonus, it was nice and one warm."

Another extreme kayaker Ben Stookesberry, who is one of about half a dozen professional kayakers who tackle waterfalls above 100 feet, was reported by Wall Street Journal as saying he "views the fast-charging Lower Mesa Falls (in US) as preparation for even more ambitious drops on kayaking expeditions down uncharted rivers in Brazil, Chile and Pakistan.

On a recent expedition on the Indus in Pakistan, when Kayaker Bernhard Mauracher saw the massive wall of water in front of him it was already too late. He had planned to slip through a small gate in the huge rapids but underestimated the power of the roaring currents of the Indus river. A brief moment later he found himself captured in a swirl of foam and glacier water. The lion river showed its claws and wouldn't let Bernhard go. Like in a washing-machine paddler and kayaker were tumbled through masses of water. Bernhard decided to leave his kayak...a deadly risk in the floods of the Indus. Immediately, Bernhard was drawn downwards and everything turned dark. After a very long time, in a breathless silence, he made out a shimmer of light. The surface, the sunlight, life...

First descent in a kayak in the land of the highest mountains on earth around Karakorum. On 3 May,2007, the AKC expedition "Taming the lion II" came back from Pakistan, from the roof of the world to Germany. During the first two weeks of April, the whitewater kayak team led by Olaf Obsommer and Bernhard Mauracher mastered 30 km of first descents in one of the last unchallenged big canyons of the Himalaya - the Rondu Canyon of the Indus river. 30 km more remain untouched due to extremely fast rising water levels.

An expedition to the world's second highest peak, K2 in Pakistan, runs around $50,000 per climber. A trip to Everest has the steepest price at $65,000. Excluding gear and clothing, the cost estimates for K2 climb range from $15000 to $30,000. Individual climbers can easily spend $5,000 on equipment. The total Mt. Everest annual revenue runs into tens of millions of dollars and provides employment to several thousand people. 3,681 people have made the summit so far, but thousands more have tried. About 170 climbers have died in their attempts to reach the summit.

Kayakers in Pakistan can enjoy extreme kayaking at a tiny fraction of the cost of climbing Mount Everest or K2.

There have been many inspiring stories of great adventure, success and survival of climbers after storms and avalanches on K2, the story of Greg Mortenson stands out. In 1993, Mortenson, an American from the state of Montana, went to climb K2 in northern Pakistan. After more than 70 days on the mountain, Mortenson and three other climbers completed a life-saving rescue of a fifth climber that took more than 75 hours. After the rescue, he began his descent of the mountain and became weak and exhausted. Two local Balti porters took Mortenson to the nearest city, but he took a wrong turn along the way and ended up in Korphe, a small village, where the villagers took care of him and he recovered.

To pay the remote community back for their compassion, Mortenson said he would build a school for the village. After a frustrating time trying to raise money, Mortenson convinced Jean Hoerni, a Silicon Valley pioneer, to found the Central Asia Institute. A non-profit organization, CAI's mission is to promote education and literacy, especially for girls, in remote mountain regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Hoerni named Mortenson as CAI's first Executive Director. Reviewing Greg Mortenson's book "Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time", New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff argues "a lone Montanan (Mortenson) staying at the cheapest guest houses has done more to advance U.S. interests in the region than the entire military and foreign policy apparatus of the Bush administration". Kristoff quotes Greg Mortenson, an Army veteran, as saying “Schools are a much more effective bang for the buck than missiles or chasing some Taliban around the country".

While some international and Pakistani climbers, kayakers and tourists may be dissuaded by the extreme dangers of K2 climbing (or rather descending) or extreme kayaking or the fear of the Taliban, many more would be drawn to it for the very same reason. As the stories of the challenging mountain and white water rapids kayaking reach the worldwide audience, I expect much larger numbers to flock to it for the risks and thrills Pakistan's northern areas offer. With relatively modest investments for average tourists and serious climbers and kayakers facilities such as access roads, hotels, restaurants, guided tours, a climbing history museum, a climbing or kayaking skills school, mountaineering equipment and clothing stores, Pakistan tourism department can develop a strong revenue stream to create jobs, build schools and promote opportunities for the friendly natives in its picturesque northern areas.

Here's an excerpt from a recent Time Magazine article on Pakistan's tourism potential:

The truth is Pakistan could be — should be — an incredible tourist destination. It offers wonderful Mughal ruins, evocative British colonial architecture, world-class hiking and climbing in the Karakoram Mountains, gorgeous rolling green meadows, captivating culture, great food (especially the fruits and kebabs), and some of the best carpet shops in South Asia. Unfortunately, it is also regularly described as the world's most dangerous country — which, while more intriguing than slogans like "Malaysia, Truly Asia" or "I Feel Slovenia," is not exactly an inducement for people to visit.

Related Links:

Pakistan Indus River Kayaking

Kayaking Goes Over the Edge

Climbing K2: The Ultimate Challenge

Three Cups of Tea

Pakistan Tourism

9 comments:

Karachi Hotel Booking said...

Nice article, although Pakistan has one of the famous mountain ranges in the world, yet there is a very less development in the field of mountaineering and related sports.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an assessment of Pakistan's education crisis by Rebecca Winthrop of Brookings Inst:

For the millions of people who read and were inspired by Greg Mortenson’s books, Three Cups of Tea and Stones into Schools, Sunday’s revelations by CBS News’ 60 Minutes that much of his story was at best vastly exaggerated and at worst fabricated, came as deep disappointment. ......

As I travel around Pakistan this week and look at education issues across the country, including in the Federally Administered Northern Areas where Mortenson’s book Three Cups of Tea was set, I am struck by the bitter-sweet effect of these revelations. On the one hand, Mortenson’s book hid one of the country’s biggest educational success stories and promulgated a model of education assistance that has been proven time and again to be ineffective. On the other hand, his story captured the hearts of millions, bringing needed attention to the very real educational needs of Pakistan’s children and articulating the very important role good quality education can play in reducing conflict risk.
-----------
Contrary to the Three Cups of Tea portrayal of Gilgit-Bultistan as a place with little educational opportunity, it is one of the regions in Pakistan that has demonstrated true educational transformation over the last 50 years. In 1946, just prior to partition from India, there were an estimated six primary schools and one middle school for the entire region. Today there are over 1,800 primary, 500 middle, 420 high schools, and almost 40 higher education institutions. Girls are often noted to be outperforming boys and staying in school longer. It is true that community leadership and civil society organizations have played a major role in this transformation; it just was not Mortenson’s Central Asia Institute. When I asked the governor of Gilgit-Bultistan, Pir Syed Karam Ali Shah, how this education transformation came about, he was quick to point to the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), a network of private, international, nondenominational development organizations, an assertion with which other education experts concur. Led by His Highness the Aga Khan, the spiritual leader of the Shia Ismaili Muslims, the concerted focus on improving education, and especially girls’ education, started in 1946 and has continued, led by community members, for decades. Initially starting in the Ismaili communities in Gilgit-Bultistan, the work spread quickly to other non-Ismaili communities in the region, when the clear economic and health benefits of educating girls were seen by neighboring communities. Many civil society organizations, government interventions and public-private partnerships have developed over time, helping to increase levels of human capital and capacity through heavy investment in education, particularly of girls. According to Mehnaz Aziz, member of the national Pakistan Education Task Force, if the rest of Pakistan could only follow in the footsteps of the people of Gilgit-Bultistan, the status of education in Pakistan would be greatly improved.

... Increasing access to quality education is likely to reduce Pakistan’s risk of conflict as cross-country estimates show that increasing educational attainment is strongly correlated with conflict risk reduction. Last month, a national campaign – Education Emergency Pakistan 2011 – was launched to spur country-wide dialogue on the need to prioritize educational investment and progress.
-----------
It is unfortunate that the 60 Minutes expose has called into question the accuracy of Greg Mortenson’s books. Without defending Mortenson or whether the facts in his memoirs are accurate, I can say truthfully that there is indeed a very serious education crisis in Pakistan. The international community should not lose sight of this and the real needs of the Pakistani children and youth seeking to improve their lives.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from "Back to Pakistan" by Leslie Noyes Mass talking about the extensive telecom coverage in remote Northern areas of Pakistan:

"The Eagles Nest is aptly named: it perches on top of a ridge amid rocky scree and jagged peaks. Behind us are 24000-feet snowcapped summits, soaring into the sky. Below, the valley where we have spent the past few days is recognizable by its row of cell phone towers and the Hunza River. I have been astonished that, remote as we are in Hunza, first-class cell phone and Internet connections are available 24/7. We are as close to civilization as the briefest click and as far away the loosest stone on that crumbling highway north or south."

http://books.google.com/books?id=_BtWtuLlDXoC&pg=PA44&lpg=PA44&dq=inquiry+based+learning+pakistan&source=bl&ots=6DRcWG5-r7&sig=7_vsfOS2Xet_zFFmqRmduY-hR24&hl=en&sa=X&ei=6rEHT93tEeqFiAKO_aWyCQ&sqi=2&ved=0CFEQ6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=cell%20towers&f=false

The highway Mass is referring to is the world's highest called Karakoram Highway at an altitude of over 15000 feet. It's currently being repaired and expanded with Chinese help. Talking about it, she writes:

"I wonder what a wide, asphalt highway would do to this area--bring more tourists and trade and change forever the lives of the people in the distant villages hidden among the rocks, I imagine."

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a MSNBC story on charges of theft of charity funds against Greg Mortenson:

n a 44-page report, Attorney General Steve Bullock said a yearlong investigation by his office concluded that Mortenson mismanaged his nonprofit, the Bozeman-Mont.-based Central Asia Institute, and personally profited from it.

“Mortenson’s pursuits are noble and his achievements are important. However, serious internal problems in the management of CAI surfaced,” Bullock said in the report.

Mortenson didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment through the Central Asia Institute. Interim director Anne Beyersdorfer told The Associated Press that the author will continue to be a paid employee, promoting CAI and building relationships overseas, but will no longer be on the board of directors.

“While we respectfully disagree with some of the analysis and conclusions in the OAG’s report, we look forward to moving ahead as an even stronger organization, focusing on CAI’s vital mission,” Beyersdorfer said in a separate statement on the CAI website.

“CAI has always been a small group of dynamic, mission-centric individuals doing extraordinary work. Mistakes were made during a rapid period of growth, and we have corrected or are in the process of correcting them.”

Mortenson became a huge name in philanthropy – and quite wealthy – after his 2006 book, “Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace … One School at a Time,” became a No. 1 New York Times bestseller. He followed up with another bestseller, “Stones into Schools,” in 2009.....


http://usnews.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/04/05/11041376-three-cups-of-tea-author-greg-mortenson-must-pay-1-million-to-charity?lite

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from Seattle Post-Intelligencer on mountain peaks in Pakistan:

Experienced climbers say the Karakoram puts the rest of the world's mountain ranges to shame. Neighboring Nepal has Everest, the tallest mountain in the world, but Pakistan has four of the world's 14 peaks that soar to more than 8,000 meters (26,246 feet) above sea level, including the second highest mountain on earth, K-2.

Lama and Ortner said climbing the legendary Pakistan mountains was an amazing experience.

"Here there are so many mountains, and so many difficult mountains, and mountains that haven't been climbed," said Lama. "That's probably why the Karakoram is known as paradise for us."

This year has been particularly successful for Pakistan's climbing industry, which plummeted in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks in the U.S.

In addition to hosting the renowned Lama for the first time, Nazir Sabir, Pakistan's elder statesman of climbing who was the country's first person to scale Everest, said 30 climbers summited K-2 in 2012, the first summits from the Pakistani side of the mountain since 11 people died trying in 2008.

And the drone footage obtained during Lama and Ortner's climb will expose even more viewers to the legendary Karakoram mountain range.

Drones also increasingly are being used in other adventure sports to push conventional photography boundaries. Cameras on drones have been used to capture video of surfers on Hawaii's North Shore and to chase mountain bikers speeding down mountain trails.


http://www.seattlepi.com/sports/article/Drones-capture-mountain-scenery-in-Pakistan-3885296.php

Riaz Haq said...

A million foreign tourists in Pakistan this year, reports Business Recorder:

Managing Director Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) Mir Shahjahan Khetran on Friday said that one million foreigner tourists visited Pakistan in current year. He said that law and order situation in Pakistan is much better which is attracting international tourists.

He stated this while addressing the Tourism Walk participants at Margalla Trail-5. PTDC organised the walk to create awareness among youth about importance of natural environment and tourism. Shahjahan Khetran said that PTDC is going to construct more trails in capital in co-operation with Capital Development Authority (CDA).

He said PTDC in collaboration with non governmental organisations initiated a number of tourism projects in different areas including Khunjerab, Chitral, Chouperson Valley, Dir Kohistan, Hussaini, Gilgit and Shimshal Valley. He said that PTDC in collaboration with Alpine Club, Adventure Foundation and Sustainable Tourism Foundation organises different programmes for students in Kashmir, Kaghan Valley and Gilgit Balitistan to create awareness about preservation of environment. Students are trained about cleaning of mountain, safety of flora and fauna in these areas, he said.

He appealed the Prime Minister to retain PTDC under federation in order to develop and promote tourism in the country and abroad. Around 150 students from various schools, colleges and families from twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi participated in the event. Certificates and shields were also distributed among participants of walk.


http://www.brecorder.com/business-a-economy/189/1249552/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an ET report on Pakistani youngsters winning a ski competition in Korea:

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani skiers clinched two top positions at a skiing competition called Dream Programme – 2013 held in Gangwon Province, the Republic of Korea, said a press release on Monday.

President Ski Federation of Pakistan (SFP) Air Marshal Farhat Hussain Khan congratulated Noor Muhammad and Shah Hussain of Naltar Ski School who won the gold and silver medals respectively at the event. He hoped that the success would significantly boost the SFP’s ventures in national and international ski events.

The winning skiers also met with the Korean Ambassador to Pakistan Choong-joo Choi who appreciated the performances of the budding players.

The Dream Programme was initiated by Gangwon Province in 2004 to promote winter sports in countries where winter sports facilities were not fully developed. Pakistan joined the programme in 2011.

This year, around 150 participants from 40 countries took part in the training after which athletes were divided into groups and competitions were held among them.


http://tribune.com.pk/story/496979/pakistan-sweep-skiing-competition-

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Express Tribune story of first Pak woman on Everest:

ISLAMABAD / GILGIT-BALTISTAN: Two young siblings achieved rare mountaineering glory for themselves on Saturday by becoming the first Pakistani woman and only the third Pakistani man to set foot on the summit of Mount Everest in Nepal.
Through their feats, 21-year-old Samina Baig and her 29-year-old brother Mirza Ali ensured that their country’s flag fluttered on the world’s highest summit.
An ecstatic Samina informed her family about her successful ascent via satellite phone.

Mirza Ali and Samina can count themselves lucky as they will be remembered as the only Pakistanis to scale Everest on the 60th anniversary of the first conquest by Edmund Hillary on May 19, 1953.
Only two other Pakistani mountaineers, Nazir Sabir and Hassan Sadpara, have ever climbed the highest peak.
“According to initial reports, the two mountaineers and 29 other foreigners reached the summit at 7.30am (local time),” said Pervaizuddin, a resident of Shimshal Valley.
Two twin sisters from India, Tashi and Nugshi, also accompanied Samina and Mirza.
Together, the siblings placed the flags of India and Pakistan side by side on the highest peak on earth – making a statement of peace.
But Samina and Mirza’s effort stood out because the two siblings managed to scale the peak on the 48th day of their expedition, without the use of supplementary oxygen.
Mirza, who has been regularly updating about their expedition on his blog mirzaadventure.blogspot.com, wrote: “We request all our readers and visitors [to] please pray that Samina becomes the first Pakistani woman to reach the summit of Everest. And I hope to be the first young Pakistani without bottled oxygen to unfurl Pakistan’s flag on top of the world together with our Indian friends! Wish us luck! Thank you for sharing and for your support!”
Hailing from Shimshal village in Gojal tehsil of Hunza-Nagar district, Samina has come a long way.
“She is proof that the country has the talent and motivation; unfortunately there is no government support for mountain climbers,” said Colonel Sher Khan, one of the country’s leading mountaineers. “It is a sport without spectators.” Khan counts the people of Shimshal as among the world’s the best climbers.
Samina’s expedition began on April 1. She and her team ascended the mountain via the south face from the Nepalese side.
Mirza and Samina have been mountaineering for leisure for the last 10 years. They have served as mountain guides and expedition leaders for peaks in the Karakoram, the Himalayas and the Hindukush. But Samina has started climbing professionally for the past four years.


http://tribune.com.pk/story/551757/for-the-record-woman-climber-makes-pakistan-proud/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Fox New report on booming tourism in Azad Kashmir:

Success stories can be rare in Pakistan, but business is booming in one Kashmir tourist spot as the region rebuilds after a devastating earthquake and shrugs off associations with violence.
Hundreds of thousands of Pakistani tourists drawn to the lakes and glaciers of the Neelum valley are injecting desperately needed money into one of the poorest parts of the country.
Westerners stopped coming to the Himalayas of Pakistani-Kashmir years ago, put off by its reputation as a training ground for Islamist militant groups and the risk of sporadic conflict with India.
But with a new road built by the Chinese after the 2005 earthquake killed 73,000 people and a ceasefire holding with India, Pakistanis are discovering the snow-capped peaks, glaciers, lakes and lush-green meadows of the Neelum valley.
Known locally as "Paradise on Earth," the valley is 114 kilometres (70 miles) east of the base camp where gunmen shot dead American, Chinese, Lithuanian, Slovakian and Ukranian climbers in June.
It was the worst attack on foreigners in Pakistan for a decade, but in neighbouring Kashmir, few Pakistanis are worried.
"There is a bit of fear there, but overall we are enjoying ourselves and we will stay according to our plan," said Mohammad Amir, a lawyer on holiday with his family from southern Punjab.
Munazza Tariq, a university student from Karachi, agrees.
"This was carried out by enemies of Pakistan. After it happened, we received a lot of calls from our relatives from Karachi, but we are safe and enjoying ourselves," said Munazza.
Local tourism ministry official Shehla Waqar says 600,000 people visited Neelum last year compared to 130,000 in 2010, before the Chinese built a road linking the area to Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani-administered Kashmir.
"There is an influx of tourists in the area because we have a very beautiful road from Muzaffarabad to the Neelum Valley," she said
The nearby Line of Control slices apart the Indian and Pakistani-held zones of the Himalayan region where a ceasefire has held since November 2003.
"This area is very peaceful and there is no fear of terrorism," said Waqar.
India and Pakistan have fought two wars over Kashmir, a Muslim-majority region claimed in full by both sides....



http://www.foxnews.com/world/2013/07/16/tourists-flock-to-pakistan-kashmir-valley-in-rare-boom/