Thursday, June 10, 2010

Welcome to Pakistan

"Every man's life lies within the present; for the past is spent and done with, and the future is uncertain".
Marcus Aurelius

Sometimes you just have to go somewhere to see a place and experience it for yourself. Believing everything you see in the media or heeding government warnings about instability in certain countries only distorts the reality and creates the wrong perceptions. Sure, there are places in every country that are dangerous and volatile, but these places exist in every country.... LA, New york, London, Sydney. I guess Pakistan is like that too, but I had to see for myself. Trouble wont find you if you don't seek it out.

I guess my lifestyle of working and going on intermittent climbing expeditions leaves people wondering when they'll see me next or what adventure I'm embarking on next. The most common reaction when I mentioned I was going to Pakistan was usually disbelief and I get bombarded with an array of questions.

Is it safe?
Why are you going there.?
and the usual question.. When are you climbing Everest? (I don't bother answering this question because its stupid )

After arriving at 2am, a few day ago, I've been settling in to the new pace of expedition life. Seeing and experiencing a new country and culture with the anticipation of heading to the mountains again is amazing.  I arrived ont he same flight as one of my team mates Brian and we've been cruising around and checking Islamabad out.

First impressions are of an ordered moderate country with incredibly friendly people who try to be helpful despite the language difficulties. The roads are a bit chaotic and probably the most dangerous part of this trip. We have already been in a low speed collision in a car with no seatbelts with a car that had no tail lights. No damage to vehicle or persons. It was actually pretty funny.

I  had sent a barrel of gear over as unaccompanied baggage so Brian and I spent half a day in customs trying to retrieve it. It became rather comical and if Brian hadnt been told that he couldnt use his video camera, we would have had it on film. Its incredible how many people are required to do one job. Everyone was very helpful though.

Now we are just waiting in Islamabad waiting for a flight to Skardu and the mountains. Today the flights have been commandeered by the army and the president so we went dvd shopping.

There arent many tourists here this year. only 25 expeditions have been issued this year and the locals have been suffering the decline in business. Compared to over 80 expeditions last year and over 6000 permits issued in 1997.

stay tuned

Sunday, June 6, 2010

A new adventure in the Karakorum - Broad Peak 8047m

Its been a good year so far and the new adventure is only a few days away as I'm writing this post. 

Sometimes when life seems more hectic than it should, we have 2 choices. Back off and relax or embrace the lifestyle. This year has been more fast paced than most but I've been enjoying it. Maybe it's the adrenaline or the coffee thats keeping me going. Either way, as soon as one challenge or task finishes another seems to take its place. My workmates, friends and family must witness the blur with some disbelief. Combining work, training and a new relationship presents its own unique challenges, but its surprising what one can fit in when you reduce the amount of sleep you really need, add some caffeine and just get on with it. As long as you are enjoying it, keep going.

The Karakorum mountain range in northern Pakistan contains some of the most awe inspiring mountains on earth. I've stared at photos and read books and magazines about mountains and adventures in this almost mystical place, promising myself that I would make it there one day. 

After returning from a successful expedition to Cho Oyu (8200m) in Tibet in 2008, I had planned to try another 8000er and combined with a trip to a new and fascinating country and mountain range, Broad Peak (8047m)  fitted the bill. More technical and steeper than Cho Oyu with a lot fewer people than Everest. With my usual climbing partners unavailable, I'll be climbing with Chris Symiec and Ben Kane. Two great guys who I've met on previous trips. 

The excitement is building as I am finishing the last stages of packing and making sure I have everything.