Trek: Different on Ground than Online
These are Northern areas of Pakistan; places Arab geographers had named Bam-i-Dunya — Roof of the World. As graphic in names they are foreboding in majesty, the Himalaya translate as “the abode of the snows”, The Karakoram, the “black gravel mountains”, and the Hindu Kush, “the Paariyaatra Parvat”. Adventurous trekkers from all over the world congregate here to trek for pleasure and to test their personal endurance. First stop to find answers to most queries is, of course, the Internet.
Trekking — miniature expeditions swooping along the trails — is popular among foreigners. Given the interest and demand, trekking training CDs that can be ordered and downloaded for a fee are available on the Internet. Websites offering courses in hill navigation, survival skills and fundamentals of mountain training in different countries have also sprung up. Once upon a time, International Mountain Explorers Connection (IMEC), an acclaimed trekking club, “had an office in Pakistan, but due to the downturn in travellers going to Pakistan this has not been used much by our members so we have since shut the office down,” emailed Ken Stober of IMEC.
Some of the famous treks have been described on the Web by trekking companies and there are many more that do not figure out online. For the purpose of a royalty and specifying mountainous areas as different zones (open, restricted and closed for foreign trekkers), government of Pakistan has defined trekking as “walking below 6000 meters.” But the word trek has a history and different meanings. Walking in jungle or even along the road is also a trekking of its kind. For the purpose of this article, let us assume that trekking means walking up the mountains. Depending on the altitude, treks fall in various categories from easy to hard. Any trekker who knows it dreams to tread on unique mountain mass in Pakistan. In addition, some mountaineers also come here to train and acclimatize for more serious climbs, rock repelling and other forms of mountain exploration. Here is why.
Nowhere in the world is such a great concentration of high mountains, peaks, glaciers, and passes except in Pakistan. Of the 14 over 8,000 meters high peaks on our earth planet, four occupy an amphitheatre at the head of Baltoro Glacier in the Karakoram Range: K-2 (8,611 meters, originally called Chogo-ri which in Balti language means ‘king of the mountains,’ of all the world’s mountains second only to Mount Everest), Gasherbrum-I (8,068 meters), Broad Peak (8,047 meters) and Gasherbrum-II (8,035 meters). There is yet another which is equally great, Nanga Parbat (8,126 meters), located at the western most corner of the Himalayas. In addition to that, there are 68 peaks over 7,000 meters and hundreds others over 6,000 meters. The Northern Pakistan is also home to some of the longest glaciers outside Polar region; Siachen (72 kilometres), Hispar (61 kilometres), Biafo (60 kilometres), Baltoro (60 kilometres) and Batura (64 kilometres). Two more ranges, by unique comparison minor in size, thrust their sinews and limbs into the Pamir Knot: the Pir Panjal with its peaks of just over 20,000 feet, and China’s celestial mountain, the Kun Lun. Where these ranges merge, they form what many regard as the most impressive landscape that sometime recalls Shangri-La. This concentration makes northern Pakistan a trekkers’ paradise.
Mountainous areas are interlaced with paths that are timeless routes, trails between villages or tracks to high grazing pastures; an incredibly beautiful natural world.
When asked a selected segment, through emails and entries at a travel blog and a discussion form of a travel site, to share their experiences and perceptions about trekking in Pakistan, I found that trekkers from all corners of the world are interested to have trekking experience in northern Pakistan. There are some common concerns though: Lack of information on the Web for selecting a trek or trekking agency is the main reason for dissatisfaction. Though there are numerous options, yet choosing an operator in Pakistan through the Internet is easier said than done. Deficient infrastructure and backup logistic support along major routes is another let down for trekkers. Take off from the road heads and trekkers are at their own; only with what they carry along. Unexpected delay in sorting out the preliminaries and unpredictable weather are some more problems.
Trekking is an economic hobbyhorse in the Northern Areas sustaining porters, guides, coordinators and services providers. It is customary for the trekkers to respect the local cultures, to support local businesses and initiatives while in the area and to carry back own rubbish but sometimes they leave their garbage behind.
Trekking is not like a morning walk. However reasonable hill walking looks to a person seated in front of a computer screen, they take on a different hue when the same person is rambling along the trek. It is thrilling but can be daunting sometimes as well. So come prepared. Bring along a strong body and an open mind, be ready to accept with gratitude the diversity, and revere and protect the natural environment which sustains life in mountains.
This year, we are celebrating golden jubilee of the first ascent of the K-2 in 1954 by two Italians. There is going to be lot of activity up in the mountains. You are welcome!
Top Treks in Pakistan