Extreme Kayaking and Climbing on Karakoram

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


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."


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 report about a new tourism portal for Pakistan:

Pakistan-explorer.com: A ray of hope in the clogged-up tourism culture in the country

Launched with a distinct vision of promoting the tourism culture in the country, www.pakistan-explorer.com is no less than a breath of fresh air, striving to do justice with the huge bounty of natural wonders and resources the country possess.

Tourism in Pakistan with all its natural wonders and all the grand peaks that the country holds in her lap, is still grossly underrated and unexplored even by the local masses within the country let alone the foreign community.

www.pakistan-explorer.com was launched in the beginning of the current year, by a team of young entrepreneurs who are struggling to bring these breathtaking sights and sounds to the limelight in order to draw awareness towards the huge treasure trove of
natural beauty the country has been sitting over in all this time.

www.pakistan-explorer.com is determined to help the third generation of Pakistan to break through this blinding oblivion which has kept them from exploring their own neighbourhood since long.

What has been one of the interesting aspects of the portal is the vision and the mission statement of the team. They not only defy the nationalistic approach towards the natural assets but consider them as the common property of all humans regardless of
their nationalities and access to the same.

The team insists that the portal is one of its kinds and while they are hoping to revive the dilapidated tourism industry in the country, they will continue their attempts to bridge gaps between the neighbours in the volatile region.

The country is known to be the home of 40 out of the 50 tallest peaks in the world. It is the home of the longest glaciers on earth after the polar cap. The legendary Karakorum Range is notoriously famous for the dreaded peaks which are considered one of
the most difficult and deadliest to climb on.

Five of the 14 eight thousand meter high peaks, better known as the eight thousanders, are in Pakistan, including Nanga Parbat and K-2, both having the highest causality rates in climbing circles. The duo is often termed as the “Killer Mountains”. Skardu,
capital of Gilgit-Baltistan, is another serene place in the country and is apparently more of a valley between these giant mountains.

www.pakistan-explorer.com brings latest updates on the expeditions underway in the deadly Karakorum and the Himalayas. The website also provides excellent features on the success and attempts of teams and their past record in sport of High Altitude Mountaineering.
The portal covers the scenic and archeological assets of the country, giving valuable insights about their present condition and past history.


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.....

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....

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.....

Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan identified as top travel destination


The British Backpacker Society has identified Pakistan as it’s top travel desitination due to it being “one of the friendliest countries on earth, with mountain scenery that is beyond anyone’s wildest imagination”.

“Pakistan is the clear winner of the British Backpacker Society’s top 20 adventure travel destinations 2018 and we encourage keen travellers to book a trip now” the backpackers, who have explored over 101 countries, shared on social media. Other top destinations included Russia, India, Turkey, Kyrgyzstan and China.

Gulf News has carried the comments of two members of the BBS on Pakistan. Samuel Joynson and Adam Sloper said that Pakistan had a lot to offer travellers.

“Pakistan is one of the friendliest countries on earth. So, prepare to be invited into people’s homes, take more selfies than you can count, and have every preconception that you ever held about this area of the world changed forever,” Samuel said.

The pair visited Pakistan in 2016, and traveled from Lahore to Gilgit-Baltistan via the Kaghan valley. They ended their trip in the Hunza Valley and climbed the Hon Pass near Karimabad.

“We chose to climb the Hon Pass as Eric Shipton, one of Britain’s most famous mountaineers, described the view from the pass as ‘the ultimate manifestation of mountain grandeur’, and we wanted to follow in his footsteps and experience this spectacle,” Samuel recalled. “The view from the Hon Pass was indeed the greatest natural sight that either of us has ever seen, and we would recommend it to anyone with a keen interest in mountaineering.”

Samuel also shared a travel tip: “Head north to the astonishing peaks of the Karakoram along the unforgettable Karakoram Highway. It is beautiful, exciting and culturally interesting, and travellers are rewarded at the journey’s end-point with perhaps the most beautiful natural sight on earth, the Hunza Valley.”

British Backpacker Society is known for inspiring thousands of it’s online followers to visit less famous destinations in developing countries. Adam had a word of advice for international travelers concerned about their safety when visiting Pakistan:

“Our advice would be to put preconceptions on the security situation in Pakistan to one side, and conduct some independent research. You should certainly review travel advisories from respective governments, but also speak to local Pakistanis about the situation. We believe that travel is at its best when it changes a visitor’s preconceptions, and few experiences achieve this more than travelling in Pakistan” he implored.

Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan 8,000’ers (Over 8,000-Meter Peaks): K2, Broad Peak, Gasherbrums & Nanga Parbat. After some slow days because of bad weather in the Karakorum and on Nanga Parbat, climbers have begun to head up again. #adventure #tourism #Himalaya #Karakoram https://explorersweb.com/2021/07/06/pakistan-8000ers-on-the-move-at-last/

In the interim, all the teams on 8,000m expeditions have had time to reach K2 Base Camp. This includes an all-Pakistani team from Hushe that includes Mohammad Taqi, Ali Durrani, Muhammad Hassan, Mushtaq Ahmad, and Yousuf Ali.

Nepal’s Pioneer Adventure team, with a strong Sherpa crew and three Ukrainian clients, have arrived as well, after a “boring trek to BC”, according to member Olya Koroleva. A very unusual view of the spectacular hike through the Karakorum.

Meanwhile, Mirza Ali’s Karakorum Expeditions squad battled cold and fresh snow to fix the route to Camp 2. “The team started from C1 at 8 am despite heavy fresh snow and by 4 pm they had fixed rope to Camp 2,” Mirza Ali wrote.”A truly remarkable job.”

Jalal Uddin, Eid Muhammad, Ahmed Baig, and Faryad Karim lead the fixers, supported by Inayat Ali, Ghulam Abbass, Basharat Hussain, and Younis Ali.

Broad Peak
On Broad Peak, Karakorum Expeditions has its own team, which has already set up tents in Camp 2.

Lotta Hintsa reported yesterday that she and Don Bowie were preparing to leave again for Camp 3, despite an avalanche that swept that area recently.

Broad Peak has also had its first partial ski descent when Thomas Lone skied down from Camp 1. Lone has joined the Russian Dathzone Freeride team of Vitaly Lazo and Anton Pugovnik. Last year, that duo made an almost complete ski descent from Nanga Parbat. Back then, they teamed up with the late Cala Cimenti.

Nearby, on the Gasherbrums, the Altitude Team climbing GII are back to Camp 1. They report that high-altitude porters have already fixed the Banana Ridge, thus clearing the way to Camp 2. The weather was still iffy when they left yesterday, but the Catalans trusted an improving forecast for tomorrow and Thursday.

Marco Confortola and Mario Vielmo, who had intended to break trail to Camp 2 on Gasherbrum I, had to retreat after a night at 6,000m because of lack of visibility. But the excursion did help their acclimatization.

Nanga Parbat
Further west, on Nanga Parbat, Lolo Gonzalez and Sergio Carrascoso observed avalanches sweeping down the Diamir Face all day yesterday, after nearly a week of non-stop snowfall. Because of the relentless bad weather, they are not yet acclimatized, even after 23 days. At this point, it’s now or never.

“Let’s hope snow conditions improve and the weather stabilizes because we need to stay eight days at altitude,” Gonzalez told his home team. “[We need to be] as high as we can get but in any case, not lower than 6,500m in order to acclimatize.”

Gonzalez says that in his 16 Himalaya expeditions, he has never had to stay so long in a Base Camp with so little altitude gain. At least, their relatively low Base Camp, set up on a grassy alpine meadow, is warm and comfortable.
Riaz Haq said…
Travel & Tourism
Development Index 2021
Rebuilding for a Sustainable
and Resilient Future
MAY 2022


As mentioned, Japan is the top performer in both
the APAC region and globally, with Australia (7th)
and Singapore (9th) ranking in the global top 10.
However, it is lower-middle-income economies such
as Viet Nam (+4.7%, 60th to 52nd), Indonesia
(+3.4%, 44th to 32nd) and Pakistan (+2.9%, 89th
to 83rd) that have improved their TTDI scores the
most since 2019. China, which ranks 12th on the
TTDI, has the region’s largest T&T economy, while
the Philippines, which depended the most on T&T
for its GDP in 2020, ranks 75th. Although Japan
and Singapore lead the ranking in the Eastern APAC
and South-East Asia subregions, respectively, India
(54th) is the top scorer in South Asia.



“Six points increase in the ranking of Pakistan on global travel and tourism index is quite a significant progress and now Pakistan is among the countries in the Asia Pacific Region that have improved its ranking the most since 2019,” PTDC Managing Director Aftabur Rehman Rana said.

He added that during the last two years, the federal and provincial governments had made significant progress in improving the performance of tourism sector in Pakistan by taking various steps to upgrade tourism services infrastructure, business environment, safety and security, health and hygiene, and socio-economic resilience.

“Although we have made good progress, we still need to do a lot more to further enhance the performance of tourism sector in Pakistan in coming years, which has huge potential to play a key role in the overall socio-economic development of Pakistan,” he added.

Overall, Japan has occupied the top spot on the latest edition of the index. Japan is followed by the USA, Spain, France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Singapore and Italy which have been ranked in top 10 on the Travel and Tourism Development index, respectively.
Riaz Haq said…
Pakistani peaks set to attract record number of international climbers


As many as 1,400 mountaineers from around the globe, including the first female Arab climber, are expected to scale some of the world’s highest peaks located in Gilgit-Baltistan this year.

It’s a stark contrast to the previous year, when 550 foreign climbers arri­ved for adventure tourism.

The Gilgit-Baltistan tourism department had already issued 700 permits to international climbers, and as many were expected to be issued this summer, an official told Dawn.

The climbers — coming from Europe, the United States, the United Arab Emirates, China, Russia, Poland, Japan and Norway — are eyeing to summit various peaks, including five eight-thousanders (i.e. mountains towering above 8,000 metres) and 20 seven- and six-thousanders.

Pakistan boasts five of the world’s 14 eight-thousanders, inclu­ding the world’s second-highest peak K2 (8,611 metres), followed by Nanga Parbat (ranked ninth at 8,126 metres), Gasher­brum-I (11th at 8,080 metres), Broad Peak (12th at 8,051 metres), and Gasher­brum-II (13th at 8,035m).

Moreover, 40 Pakistani mountaineers are also in the race, including Sajid Ali Sadpara, Sir­baz Khan, Abdul Joshi, She­roze Kashif, Samina Baig and Naila Kiani.

As many as 3,000 local porters have been hired by several expedition teams to carry the supplies.

Peaceful environment

Alpine Club of Pakistan Secre­tary Karrar Haidri said many international expedition team members from various countries had already arrived in Pakistan. He said this was the highest number of international mountaineers coming to Pakistan since the 9/11 attacks in the United States.

Mr Haidri said a record number of more than 400 climbers would attempt to scale K2, the second-highest — and also the most challenging — peak in the world.

He believed that the prevailing peaceful environment in Pakistan and the introduction of online visas had helped attract such a large number of international tourists this year.

GB Tourism Mini­ster Raja Nasir Ali Khan told Dawn the tourism department was ready to facilitate climbers and cope with emergencies. He said 1,200 international climbers had applied for permits, adding that this year would witness record adventure tourism activity in Pakistan.

Home Secretary Iqbal Hussain Khan told Dawn the GB government and the army had all arrangements in place to rescue climbers in case of emergency.

Adventure Pakistan CEO Muhammad Ali Nagri told Dawn several expeditions had reached base camps while more were on the way.

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