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.
Pakistan Indus River Kayaking
Kayaking Goes Over the Edge
Climbing K2: The Ultimate Challenge
Three Cups of Tea