by Kraig Becker
Last week the international mountaineering community was shocked and saddened by the news of armed gunmen storming Base Camp on Nanga Parbat, killing 11 people including ten foreign climbers. In the wake of that horrible incident the Pakistani government and military took steps to provide security across the region while instituting travel restrictions that prevented some climbers from beginning their journeys to their various Base Camps in the Himalaya and Karakoram. Those restrictions have been lifted now and the teams are on the move, although not unsurprisingly Nanga Parbat has all but been deserted.
When word of the attack reached Pakistani officials last Sunday they immediately dispatched military personnel to Base Camp on Nanga Parbat’s Diamir Face. Those soldiers secured the area and helped evacuate climbers from the mountain. Most of the teams were thankfully in Camp 1 and 2 when the attack occurred or there may have been far more causalities. Considering the tragic events that had occurred, the decision was made to close BC, which was fine for most of the climbers who had no interest in remaining there after their friends and teammates were killed. The mountain hasn’t been completely abandoned however as a single team from Romania remains on the Rupal Face, which is located far from where the attack took place. That team has every intention of continuing their expedition and hopefully reaching the summit in a few weeks time.
Meanwhile, numerous teams had just arrived in country when the massacre took place and found themselves stranded in Islamabad when the travel restrictions went into effect. Climbers heading to Broad Peak and K2 in particular were left wondering when they’d be allowed to drive or fly to Skardu, the town that gives access to those mountains and numerous others. By the end of the week they had their answer however as the restrictions were lifted on Thursday and most of them were on the move once again shortly there after.
Amongst those who are now en route to their intended mountains is Wenger athlete Mike Horn who – along with his teammates Fred Roux and Köbi Reichen – has set his sights on K2 this summer. The three climbers arrived in Skardu on Friday where they would then travel be 4×4 vehicle to the village of Askole, which is where the week-long trek to BC begins. Mike, Fred and Köbi should now be a few days into that hike and with any luck will arrive on K2 later this week.
While it was a difficult and uncertain week for foreign climbers in Pakistan, things are starting to return to normal. Most are now ready to get down to the work at hand while the Pakistani government maintains security and pursues those responsible for the murders. The men who committed those crimes have been identified but still remain at large at this time. Officials hope to capture them soon however and in the process send a message to other militants that these kinds of attacks will not be tolerated.
Lets hope that happens and the message is heard.
[Photo Credit: Abdul Rafey Khan]