Monday, 25 June 2007

Mountain Expedition: Phase II - "KKH: Chilas/Nanga Parbat - Karimabad/Hunza Valley - Pasu"

Nanga Parbat (8.125m)

Hello friendz of the mountains!

Phase II: Successfully done! (Except of Khunjerab Pass due to landslides closed)
Expedition crew: 2 Austrians, 1 Pakistanian

Last weekend we finally got to see one of the biggest mountain ranges in the world!

We started last Thursday from Islamabad to the Northern Areas. Our first target was Chilas, one village in that province. On the way up we experienced the real Karakorum Highway.
Up and down all the time. Going along roads, (which were treated in the past by heavy landslides), always following the Indus river up to its root. At some passages the Indus river has depths of 10 meters and more! Although the road were in a pretty good condition it took us 13 hours to our goal. Due to our fault we had a stop for over half an hour at the police checkpost of the province border. When you are travelling up to the Northern Areas you have to register yourself before entering this region. Of course we were not thinking of taking our passports with us. So, we had to convince those officers that our driving licenses were also enough for going on.
Sooner or later we finally could travel on and arrived at our first destination, (Hotel Panorama), in the "oven" Chilas. It had about 35 degrees in the night! Next day we woke up at 04:30am and started later on to Raikot Bridge where we rent a jeep and went up to Tato, a village below our next target, the "Killer Mountain - Nanga Parbat".
The way up with the jeep was the most frightening moment i had since i am in Pakistan. 15 kilometers of one way off-roads, next to you slopes going straight down about 500 to 1000 meters. In the middle of the track we had to stop because another jeep stopped in front of us. The local guy was killing some poisonous snakes living there under the stones. Great! Not even walking up was safety! After some time and two killed snakes we could drive on to the village of Tato, (2.700m). There we rent horses because we were too lazy to walk still another three hours up to "Fairy Meadows" our final destination. But! After ten minutes of riding we decided to choose our own legs to carry us up because those poor horses were definitely not prepared to carry us heavy tourists up the mountain. So we walked about 2 1/2 hours to reach one of the most imperssive place i ever saw in my life. "Fairy Meadows", a big meadow surrounded by forest on 3.300 meters sealevel and in front of you a wall of snow rising up another nearly 4.700 meters. "Nanga Parbat", with its 8.125m one of the highest mountains in the world! And it is also the biggest mountain of the world, regarding its volume. And it is also one of the most dangerous mountains of the world. From 186 expeditions 61 failed deadly! I do not find any words for this appearance, just it is HUGE!!!!!

Well, on the way back it took us just one hour of running down back to Tato because we were suprised by a thunderstorm and i tell you such a storm above such mountains is sounding very powerful! When we got back to our jeep, fully wet, we quickly jumped into the car and drove down to the valley. After this adventure we had to hurry up because next destination was Karimabad in Hunza Valley. After another four hours of driving and passing a sandstorm we landed in Hunza Baltit Inn, a very nice hotel with an exclusive view on the "Baltit Fort" with a 7.388m high "Ultar Peak" behind. Karimabad is on 2.500m and has an extraordinary view over Hunza Valley with a direct view on "Rakaposhi", 7.788m. We enjoyed that evening sitting outside on the veranda with a cool wind brise and about 20 degrees plus. The third day we moved on to Pasu, the northest village on our route, since the Kunjerab Pass was closed due to landslides.
The mountains around Pasu are looking same extreme and beautiful like any other mountain range in that area but please convince yourself in watching the latest photos. After that we went back to Chilas to stay one more night in the "oven" of the Northern Area before going to Islamabad. On this journey I even experienced driving a car in Pakistan and i can tell you it is something completely different and not to compare with Europe!
Resumee: If you have once the possibility to come to Pakistan, the "Northern Area" is simply a MUST! And i think i liked most this area, at least people immediately know about Austria, country of mountaineers! ;-)

So since our expedition "Phase II" also ended successfully we are facing our last 1 1/2 weeks of Pakistan before flying back to Austria. And for that reason we are planning our last expedition phase for next weekend, the "Khyber Pass - Afghan Border". The mountains are not that high but the region probably one of the most dangerous and wildest in the whole world!

Hopefully seeing everybody back in Europe soon, in Shallah!

Link to the photo gallery...Click.

Khuda Hafiz,

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Mountain Expedition: Phase I - "Balakot/Thandiani"

Kashmir View
Asalam Aleykum!

In the last weeks of my stay in Pakistan I will try to explore finally the mountain area, so called "Northern Areas".
The plan:
+ Phase I: "Balakot/Khagan Valley - Hillstations:Thandiani/Nathiagali/Murree"
+ Phase II: "KKH: Chilas/Nanga Parbat - Karimabad/Hunza Valley - Khunjerab Pass/Chinese Border"
+ Phase III: "Peshawar - Khyber Pass - Afghan Border"

Phase I: Successfully done! (Except of Lake Saiful Maluk)
Expedition crew: 2 Austrians, 1 German, 1 Swedish, 4 Pakistanians

The first phase was a journey which could be described best like a "roller coaster".
Our primary target was Khagan Valley. It is about 4 hours drive from Islamabad and is situated at the border to Kashmir. It is famous for its fascinating landscape and also known because of the 2005´s earthquake in this region. Balakot is or better was the city were the epicenter was located. It was completely devastated and about 84.000 people died just in that region!
So with this knowledge in the mind and heavy rainfall starting we tried to fight with our 2WD vehicles to pass the extreme slidy roads. After it got worse and worse we decided to cancel that route and drove another 3 hours to Thandiani. It is the highest hillstation scratching 3.000 meters what all of us experienced in a very dizzy way, (Mountain Sickness). So we settled down and organized asap an accommodation for the night. It was a great evening and we were supported with spicy but delicious Pakistanian food. Having a nice view to Mansehra and Abbottabad it got darker and darker and the weather changed from blue sky to big fat clouds which were bringing heavy rain for the night.
Next day i stood up at 05:00am to get some nice shots of sunrising and the mountain chains around. You could even see
slightly the Nanga Parbat (8.125m), which will be a POI on Phase II.
So after everybody woke up we had breakfast and then quickly went on to Murree reaching there around lunch time. On the way to Murree we drove through big valleys going up and down all the time. We also passed through Nathiagali were you can find lots of monkeys hanging around and begging for food. Finally we reached Murree where we could once more relax before going back to Islamabad.
Resuming: It was an exciting weekend with breathless views over the mountain area of Pakistan. We enjoyed and are motivated to start into Phase II by Thursday.

All the best,


Time to say Goodbye...

Hello everybody,

The last two weeks we tried to slow down a little bit since Katja and Ameli were going to leave finally this extraordinary country. Although at the beginning Katja was quite sceptic coming at all to the ISLAMIC Republic of Pakistan i think finally they two liked a lot here!

What happened since last update?
Well, we were celebrating the birthday of Rimsha. She is one of the two daughters of Sikander and Aisha, checked? ;-) To explain you, this is the family who is taking care of our guest house in Islamabad. K&A used the last days to go for shopping...i think i will need a second suitcase going back home!
And the "Grand Final"...visiting the biggest covered mosque of the world...the "Faisal Mosque".
Up to 80.000 prayers can fit inside, the minarets are 90 meters high!
Interesting architecture, for my taste a little bit too modern nevertheless very impressive...but create your own opinion and check the photo gallery -> Photos.