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Scaling K2, the Ultimate Challenge

Not only is it dangerous, climbing Mount Everest is not cheap, either in terms of lives or dollars. And yet, hundreds are drawn each year to climb it. Commercial expeditions can cost climbers $60,000 to $75,00 each. Nepalese government charges fees ranging from $25000 for one member expedition to $70,000 for seven members. The total cost for climbing is steep, according to CNN. 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. 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.


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.

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.

The latest news of more fatalities seems to confirm K2's status as the most challenging, if not the tallest. At least eleven climbers including three South Koreans, two Nepalis, two Pakistanis, and French, Serbian, Norwegian and Irish climbers had died on the mountain, according to Pakistani authorities. The climbers include Koreans, Pakistanis, Nepalis, a Dutchman and an Italian, reports say, but exact details remain unclear. As about 25 climbers descended from the peak of K2 in the darkness on Friday, an avalanche swept some climbers away and left others stranded. An Italian member of the group has been reached by Pakistani rescuers and taken to an advance base camp on the mountain. The latest reports indicate Pakistani military helicopters have rescued two Dutch climbers stranded on K2. The survivors are being treated for frostbite at Pakistani military hospitals, according to media reports.

While there have been many inspiring stories of 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 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 Sch...", 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 and tourists may be dissuaded by the extreme dangers of K2 climbing (or rather descending) 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 reach the worldwide audience, I expect much larger numbers to flock to it for the risks and thrills it offers. With relatively modest investments for average tourists and serious climbers facilities such as access roads, hotels, restaurants, guided tours, a climbing history museum, a climbing skills school, mountaineering equipment and clothing stores, Pakistan 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.

Here's a video clip of a K2 Canadian Expedition in 2006:

Views: 285

Comment by Riaz Haq on January 26, 2012 at 6:06pm

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=P...

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."

Comment by Riaz Haq on April 21, 2012 at 7:14pm

Here's an Economic Timesstory on mountain climbing adventures in Pakistan:

Treacherous glaciers, vertical rock faces, steep ice walls and the sheer thrill of climbing...think mountain adventure and you think India? Unfortunately not. In fact, though India has the longest stretch of the Himalayas, we have lost out to neighbours Nepal, Pakistan and China when it comes to the eight-thousanders (8,000-ers) - or the world's 14 tallest independent mountains.

Only Kangchenjunga (8,586 m) is located in India. But that too cannot be climbed from here because it has been declared a sacred peak by the Sikkim government. But it's not only the absence of the star 8,000-ers that is keeping the serious mountaineers and adventure tourists away from India.

There are bureaucratic issues such as permits and the special X visas which are required for mountaineering expeditions to peaks which are not classified as open. In fact, excessive red tape is often a far bigger reason for keeping the global mountaineering community away from India rather than the absence of the challenging terrain.

http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/news-by-industry/services/...

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 22, 2012 at 7:51am

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-sce...

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 29, 2012 at 9:48am

Here's a Nation report on Karakoram Highway progress:

HUNZA - Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf on Friday launched two landmark multi-million dollar strategic projects at the Karakorum Highway (KKH), aimed at restoring the historic road linkage with China that was severed due to the artificial Attabad Lake created as a result of landslides.The Prime Minister performed the ground-breaking of realignment of a 17-km long section of the Karakoram Highway (KKH). He also inaugurated the 510.42 million dollars upgradation of a 335 km long section of the road from Raikot to Khunjerab that has now been widened and meets international standards of construction.Prime Minister, who earlier had an aerial view of the Attabad lake, the upgraded road and the proposed road alignment site, said that the new roads were part of an effort of the government to provide the people of remote areas a fast and easy linkage with the rest of the country. He said that the road would not only ease travel, but also help provide all facilities of life. He said it would further deepen the strong ties between Pakistan and China. Raja said that road links were known to bring progress and prosperity to the areas they touch and hoped that a new era of development would usher in.He said that road links were a priority of the government and recalled his meeting with Chinese leaders during his recent visit to China where the KKH's upgradation and re-alignment were discussed. He appreciated and thanked the Chinese government for keeping its promise of despatching the required heavy machinery for completion of the project....

http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-onli...

Comment by Riaz Haq on May 20, 2013 at 8:47am

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-mak...

Comment by Riaz Haq on July 16, 2013 at 10:14am

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-...

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