Thursday, April 18, 2013

Helicopter Skiing in Pakistan's Karakoram Mountains

The Karakoram is home to the highest concentration of peaks over 8,000 meters high to be found anywhere on earth, including K2, the second highest peak of the world (8,611 m/28,251 ft). K2 is just 237 m (778 ft) lower than the 8,848 m (29,029 ft) tall Mount Everest. The range is about 500 km (311 mi) in length, and is the most heavily glaciated part of the world outside the polar regions.

Pakistani Mountaineer Samina Baig

While Mount Everest is considered the tallest peak at 8,848 meters (29,029 feet), it is K2, believed to be the second tallest at 8,611 meters (28,251 ft), that is documented as the most dangerous. In fact, there have been rumors circulating in the mountaineering world that new measurements show that K2 is actually taller than Everest. Rumors that it might actually be much, much higher - 12 feet taller than Everest - began in 1987 after a British expedition measured K2 and found it to be 29,041 feet. If confirmed, this new measurement, along with the greater challenge of K2, could hurt significant tourist revenue stream of Nepal and bring it to Pakistan.


Malam Jabba Ski Resort in Swat, Pakistan

In contrast to Mt. Everest summit's total of 3,681 successful climbs, only 280 climbers have reached the K2 summit. "It's enormous, very high, incredibly steep and much further north than Everest which means it attracts notoriously bad weather," says Britain's most celebrated mountaineer Sir Chris Bonnington, who lost his colleague Nick Escourt in an avalanche on K2's western side during an expedition in 1978. In 1986 13 climbers were killed in a week when a vicious storm stranded numerous expeditions. It is often said that if you were to summit K2 with a climbing partner, it is best to say your goodbyes well ahead the descent, because the statistics claim that one of the two will not come back alive. 46% of the attempts end in death, most during descent, according to a K2 climbers website. The fatality rate for those who reach the summit at 27% is about three times higher than that for Mount Everest, according to BBC.

Here's a recent CNN video report on heli skiing in the Karakorams:



Heli-skiing in Karakoram Mountains of Pakistan - CNN from Badar Khushnood on Vimeo.

Here's PTV News video on heli skiing event in Gilgit-Bltistan:


Report on First Ever Heli-Skiing Event in Pakistan from Shabbir Ahmad Wahgra on Vimeo.


Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Climbing K2-The Ultimate Challenge

Life of a Siachen Soldier

Extreme Kayak Adventures in Pakistan

Resilient Pakistan Defies Doomsayers

9 comments:

HopeWins Junior said...

Pakistan Tourism Revenue
1995: 600 Million$
2010: 1,000 Million$
http://alturl.com/rigyn

Inflation calculator....
http://alturl.com/mmqgw
1$ in 1995 = 1.43$ in 2010
Therefore, 600 Million$ in 1995 is EQUAL to 858 Million$ in 2010.

Therefore, REAL progress (excluding inflation) has been a MERE 16% increase over 15 long years.

This is a DISASTER.
---

Meanwhile, India has gone from 2.5 Billion$ in 1995 to 15 Billion$ in 2010. This is a MULTIPLE of SIX!

And this has happened despite widespread open-defecation in the midst of conflict, poverty and disease.

Riaz Haq said...

HWJ: "Therefore, REAL progress (excluding inflation) has been a MERE 16% increase over 15 long years."

Pakistan has a lot to offer in terms of tourism--from adventure (mountain climbing, heli skiing, extreme kayaking) and sports (cricket, golf, polo) to nature (beautiful coast, vast lakes, towering peaks), ancient history (Harappa, Moen Jo Dara, Taxila), Mughal and British colonial era buildings.

Pakistan also has a large diaspora which regularly travels to home bringing in travel and tourism dollars.

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.

http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1700190,00.html

All of it bodes well for the future of tourism in Pakistan after the Taliban insurgency is defeated.

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/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Dawn story on French scholars work in Pakistan:

...Gregoire Metais, a French paleontologist, talked about the investigation into biodiversity in the early Paleocene era. The fact that the Indian continent broke off from Africa and "drifted" in the ocean for eons allowed very specific groups of flora and fauna to develop in isolation – a great opportunity for paleontologists who want to test the “Indus Raft” theory first developed by Krause and Maas in 1990.

The French palaeontologists are studying those same flora and fauna that Henry Thomas Blanford, a 19th century British geologist, explored around Ranikot in the Kirthar Range of southern Sindh. Metais, who is also a part of the Jean-Loup Welcomme group that discovered the bones of the Baluchitherium in Dera Bugti, described the beauty of the Khadro Shale, dark grey and green in colour, with gypsum thinly intercalated between it, and Bara Sandstone, inlaid with clay and kaolinite and white sand. He shared the discovery of seven-meter long snakes, crocodile, fish, and snake vertebrae, and a huge turtle shell 63 million years old: all hard science that looked like art and sounded like poetry.

A paper by the eminent archeologist Jean-Francois Jarringe described the amazing civilisation of Mehrgarh in Balochistan from 8000 to 500 BCE and described 35 years of excavations conducted there and in Pirak. Mehrgarh was part of the Neolithic era when people lived in mud-brick houses, surrounded by pine, juniper, poplar, elm, oak, cereals, graminaceous, reeds and moss growing around them in a humid, dense forest. Skeletons lay in graves, legs flexed and frames oriented east to west, surrounded by pendants and jewellery made of lapis lazuli and turquoise, the skeletons of goats and sheep, as well as tools and pottery. Jarringe and his team also discovered traces of cotton and copper, the earliest use of both in the entire Indian subcontinent.

The later period of Mehgarh, saw the emergence of painted pottery, clay-fired and glazed, gold beads, lost-wax copper objects, and terracotta artifacts. Dr. Jarringe found links between Mehrgarh and the Indus Civilization based on their water installations for sanitation and drainage. But it was at Pirak that the agricultural revolution of the world's first irrigated agriculture system, as well as the first crops of rice and jhovar, were discovered, and figurines depicting camels, horses and horse riders.

Dr. Aurore Didier and Dr. Roland Besenal told us about 20 years of archeological work in Makran, on the Baloch coast, also called Gedrosia by the armies of Alexander the Great who crossed there on their way back to Greece after their defeat in India. In the excavations in Shahi Tump, archeologists discovered circular hut basements and quadrangular buildings, and decorated pottery that has also been found in south eastern Iran. Most fascinating was the emergence of a “cemetery culture” where bodies were coated in red ochre and wrapped in reed mats for burial.

The work of the French Archeological Mission in Sindh, led by Dr. Monique Kevran for 25 years, began in the Persian Gulf, where Dr. Kevran found ceramics from Sindh in Oman. She came to Sindh to investigate and has stayed here ever since, working in Bhanbore. Her team, co-lead by Dr. Paul Wormser, discovered six different ports in the sea, which were outer harbours to protect and tax boats as they came to trade in the Indus Delta. The main port at Bhanbore is better preserved and considered to be an exceptional site from which to study the Indian Ocean trade, which runs from China to India to Yemen to the Persian Gulf, Iran, and all points west.....


http://www.dawn.com/news/1085305/science-in-pakistan-the-french-connection

Riaz Haq said...

No longer big news here. Just, "oh ... that again." I'm taking a few days off, and I'm already scoping out the best woods to find some trails to ski on.

Pakistan has some of the most famous mountains in the world - the Himalayas, the Hindu Kush, Karakorum. They are mostly untapped for skiing. Few in Pakistan have ever heard of the sport. And even if there was interest, there's very little infrastructure - to get people to, or up, the mountains.

A few years ago, our BBC colleague Rebecca Kesby reported on a man in Pakistan's Swat Valley named Matee Ullah Khan.

He was trying on his own to jump-start skiing as a way to capitalize on the stunning winter scenery, at a place that is Pakistan's premier resort in the summer.

Khan learned to ski as part of his survival training for the Pakistani Air Force. He loved it.

"It keeps you alive, especially the spring skiing. The ice crystal is on the upper portion of the snow. And when you are breaking that crystal, that ice, it produces a very good sound and you feel it down your skis. It's very good. We say that having one run on this spring skiing, it make you younger for one year," Khan said.

And it is a great sound, isn't it?

Khan wanted to impart his excitement for the sport to the next generation. And for a while the skiing in Swat was okay.

But then in 2007 the Taliban swooped in and destroyed what little Khan had put together — the grooming equipment, the donated chair lift, the small lodge.

"For me, it was very shocking," Khan said. "I was personally very upset because skiing, I love it. We love our area, but at that time it was not possible to live peacefully and do our activities."

The downhilling stopped. But after the fighting died down, Khan tried to start things up again ... with just 15 pairs of skis and a few pairs of poles at his ski school.

Some kids just strapped on narrow planks with boots nailed to them.

After Kesby's story aired, the BBC was inundated with calls from all over the world from people wanting to donate equipment. Kesby said there was one guy from Switzerland, Marc Freudweiler, who was the rainmaker — or snowmaker as it were.

"His wife is Pakistani and he wouldn't give up, he was totally intrepid about it. And he's managed now to send more than a ton of equipment — it arrived about a week ago — and the kids are now able to ski properly on proper equipment," Kesby said. "They still need a ski lift and some more snow preparation equipment. Ironically, it is called 'the Switzerland of Pakistan' so it's quite apt that it's Swiss people who are trying to help along with other people."

"But of course it's still a very difficult situation security-wise," Kesby continued. "There was just an attack in Peshawar, just a few hours ago, so that's obviously at the time of everyone's mind.

So — still a little dicey, but some day maybe I'll take a few runs in the Switzerland of Pakistan.

http://www.pri.org/stories/2015-02-13/pakistans-only-ski-school-back-business-switzerland-pakistan

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan: An incredible journey to the #glaciers of the #Karakoram | via @Telegraph http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/asia/pakistan/11991679/Pakistan-An-incredible-journey-to-the-glaciers-of-the-Karakoram.html …
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The (British) group admitted that they had had pre-conceptions about Pakistan, but received "nothing but overwhelming hospitality" throughout their trip. They stressed the importance of seeking out a knowledgeable local guide - "Ali Saltoro of Alpine Adventure Guides was incredible". They added: "The people we met all wanted more visitors to come and see their beautiful country."
They said that the Yushkin Glacier itself was one of the most beautiful places visited: "House-sized blocks of ice, carved into endlessly beautiful shapes and forms by the torrents of crystal clear water, that would suddenly dive into the glacier and disappear, roaring down into its depths."

------

Terrifying roads and inhospitable weather greeted a recent expedition to the mountains of northern Pakistan - but at least the views were spectacular

the (British) team, backed by the Royal Geographical Society, had good reason to be where they were. Home for two months for the group of scientists, geographers and photographer Tim Taylor was base camp on the Yukshin Glacier, below Yukshin Gardan Sar (7,530 m), in the Hispar Muztagh mountains, a sub-range of the mighty Karakorams in the remotest part of the ethereal Hunza Valley in north-eastern Pakistan.

These superlative landscapes were briefly deemed off-limits to British travellers, after a mountaineering group was attacked and 11 killed at the basecamp of Nanga Parbat peak in the same Gilgit-Baltistan region. However, the Foreign Office relaxed its travel advice for the area earlier this year. The terrific geography of the place makes travel difficult all the same. Bad weather meant the group's flight from Islamabad further north was cancelled, forcing them into a 24-hour journey on some of pretty hair-raising roads (see below). The group described the route as "a car width's track cut into the rock hundreds of feet above a roaring torrent of water."


Another obstacle was Attabad Lake - formed when a colossal landslide submerged a village. The only way to get vehicles across it is the work of simple genius: 4x4s are strapped onto wooden planks laid across the back of a tiny boat.

In September, those parts of the Karakoram Highway - the world's highest paved road - destroyed by the Attabad landslide, were reopened, meaning that more conventional forms of transport are making their way back into the region.
The group set out to monitor the deadly phenomenon of glacial lake outburst floods, or "inland tsunamis", caused by the breaching of ice dams that allows water to surge downstream. According to the Karakoram Anomaly Project, the effects of this phenomenon pose a threat to around 80,000 people in the region.

The team collected data that would allow them to predict the risk of a glacial lake outburst flood in the Shimshal Valley. The road to this small village was only finished in 2003, having taken almost 20 years to construct. There are no roads beyond this, meaning that explorations in and around the glaciers were completed on foot.
The work also involved "repeat" photography: recreating images from the Royal Geographical Society dating back to 1887, taken by the pioneering explorers of the late 19th and early 20th century. The aim of this was to compare how the glaciers have changed over the past 100 years.
In addition to scientific research, the team documented the trip and will release a documentary in 2016.

Riaz Haq said...

Paraglider Soars To Record Heights Above #Pakistan mountain peaks. #K2 via @seeker

http://www.seeker.com/paraglider-soars-to-record-heights-above-pakistan-1960152816.html

From his vantage point in the air, Antoine Girard soared nearly level with the summits of Pakistan's jagged snowcapped mountains: K2, Broad Peak, and G4.

The French athlete wasn't flying in a commercial aircraft, though. He was bundled up like a mountaineer in a snowstorm, breathing oxygen from a tank, and cruising along in his paraglider, reports Planetmountain.com.

This was no mere jaunt. Girard's surreal flight in Pakistan lasted for seven hours. He started over the long Baltoro Glacier, then headed over the famous rocky Trango Tower to the Concordia confluence before he caught the right thermals to fly over Broad Peak on July 23, Planetmountain.com reported. Reaching a height of 26,761 feet, Girard made history by becoming the first person to surpass the 8,000-meter (26,246.72 feet) mark for high-altitude cross-country paragliding.

The Adidas-sponsored paraglider, who is also an experienced mountain climber, spent weeks in Pakistan preparing. "This is the flight of the century," American adventure pilot Brad Sander, who assisted Girard in Pakistan, told Cross Country magazine. "It's beyond anything anyone has done so far."

Girard manages makes the feat look downright relaxing, but paragliding comes with crazy risks. Earlier this week, paraglider Damien LeRoy's engine stalled right before a turn in Florida, prompting him to bail 150 feet above the ground to avoid crashing. The fall broke his back, femur, pelvis, three ribs, and punctured his lung, ABC News reported. Fortunately, he survived to tell the tale.


Just watching paragliders from the ground here in Colorado, I get nervous that a sudden gust of wind would send them careering into the mountainside. Girard's footage, on the other hand, is far more relaxing to view -- as long as you don't think about how cold his fingers must have gotten.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan has more #glaciers than almost anywhere on Earth. But they are at risk. #K2 #Himalaya #water http://wpo.st/sver1

With 7,253 known glaciers, including 543 in the Chitral Valley, there is more glacial ice in Pakistan than anywhere on Earth outside the polar regions, according to various studies. Those glaciers feed rivers that account for about 75 percent of the stored-water supply in the country of at least 180 million.

But as in many other parts of the world, researchers say, Pakistan’s glaciers are receding, especially those at lower elevations, including here in the Hindu Kush mountain range in northern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Among the causes cited by scientists: diminished snowfall, warmer temperatures, heavier summer rainstorms and rampant deforestation.

To many, the 1,000-square-mile Chitral Valley has become a case study of what could await the rest of the world if climate change accelerates, turning life-supporting mountains into new markers of human misery.

“It’s already happening here, and my thinking is, in the coming years it will just go from bad to worse,” said Bashir Ahmed Wani, a Pakistani forestry specialist with the Asian Development Bank.

Over the past six years, the Chitral Valley has also experienced three major floods that many Pakistani scientists attribute to climate change. The floodwaters killed more than 50 people and stranded hundreds of thousands while undercutting a once-vibrant tourist industry still struggling to rebound after Sept. 11, 2001.

Despite such calamities, the valley has come to symbolize the way a poorly educated populace can compound the effects of climate change, creating a cycle of hardship that is difficult to break as the needs of humans compete with the needs of nature. Its glaciers offer a stark example.

As the valley’s population has soared — from 106,000 in 1950 to 600,000 today — most residents get just two to four hours of electricity a day, they say. Without reliable refrigeration, they turn to vendors hawking chunks of the valley’s shrinking snowpack.

Every day, residents say, scores of these entrepreneurs drive five to seven hours to the mountain peaks, where they hack into the glaciers — or scoop up the pre-glacial snow — and load the haul into their jeeps and trucks. Back in the valley, they shovel the snow and ice into shopping bags and sell it for 50 cents a bag.

“There are no fans, no refrigerators working, so I will store this for cooler water and then use it for drinking,” said Ubaid Ureh, 46, as he held two dripping bags. “The doctors say we shouldn’t drink it, but we have no choice.”


Hameed Ahmed Mir, a local biodiversity expert who has worked for the United Nations, said the harvesting of the Chitral Valley’s glaciers saps in one day what otherwise could be several months’ worth of stable water supply.

One cubic yard of ice weighs about a ton — enough to supply four to seven families with drinking water for several days — and one vehicle can carry three to four tons of snow or ice, he said: “Then multiply that by 200 vehicles per day.”

Khalil Ahmed, a former project manager for the U.N.-supported Glacial Lake Outburst Floods Project, said Pakistani law does not make it clear whether the government or the public owns the country’s vast glacial reservoirs.

“We are trying to initiate a dialogue with the local people, but these are poor people,” he said, noting that glaciers in the neighboring territory of Gilgit-Baltistan are also being sold off.