January  2004




January 2004 


 Men, Women & Lure
 of Mountains


 Nanga Parbat


 Everest & Sherpas

 Women & mountains

 Hunza and Balti

 Ecology on top

 AIDS - a worldview

 Status in South Asia

 Foreign help to fight
 AIDS in India

Wasim Akram - 
 Sultan of Swing

 Natural Medicine
Ashwagandha - the
 wonder herb 

 Real Issues
Education for all - a 
 myth or reality?


Leila Seth

 Rocky Mohan

 Sunny Jain & Jazz

 Short story
Taya Ji

Between Heaven
  And Hell

 A Brush with Life

 Cutting Edge

 The Horse that Flew

 Punjabi Baroque

 Letter from Pakistan



 the craft shop

 Lehngas - a limited collection

 the print gallery


 Between Heaven and Hell

  Silk Road on Wheels

 The Road to Freedom

Enduring Spirit

 Parsis-Zoroastrians of

The Moonlight Garden

Contemporary Art in

   about us              back-issues           contact us         search             data bank


  craft shop

print gallery

Page  3  of  7


K2 - the Great Mountain

K2--fromConcordia-BK-1.jpg (29314 bytes)
K2 also known as Chogori [Great Mountain / King of the Mountain in Balti] - 
8611 meters [28,250 feet]


Askole Village-Start ofTrek to Concordia-2.jpg (28842 bytes)North of Skardu, a jeep [ 4 wheel drive ] trip takes you to the village of Askole. About 10 years ago, this had to be trekked on foot. Here one takes on porters at the rate of 4 porters per person with each porter carrying about 25 kilograms of supplies, such as whole-wheat flour [ or “atta” as it is called in the local language Urdu] to cook fresh bread. Prices are in the range $ 1000 per person. It is recommended to use Map- Concordia Trek.jpg (35227 bytes) the best names in trekking and climbing such as companies owned by Nazir Sabir and Asraf Aman the K2 climbers. The total number of days will vary from 10 to 14 days. There are plenty of good books to read about this account, such as Lonely Planet or Pakistan Trekking guide [Isobel Shaw]. The trek is up the Baltoro glacier [60 miles long] and most of it is covered with fallen rock and large boulders. This makes the climb interesting to say the least. All along, if the weather is clear you will get views of the great peaks, starting at 6000 meters and going up to 7000 and 8000 meters.  The Uli BH-climber with Uli Biaho behind.jpg (10987 bytes) Biaho Towers, Paiyu peak, the famous Trango Towers between Liligo and Urdukas, the grand Cathedral, Masherbrum and finally the Concordia. Here the glacier becomes clean/free of rocks and is white on the surface. Concordia, this little God’s nest surrounded by the big peaks - Gasherbrum, I, II, III unto G VI, Broad Peak, and of course in the distant due north – K2 – Chogori – the Great Mountain.  They say it is the best show in town – a walk on the wild side in the Karakorams – Concordia. You don’t need any special skills to reach Concordia - just basic fitness and the will to do it.  

Cathedral_Trango-Towers-BK.jpg (43935 bytes) BroadPeak-ConcordiaView-BK-7.jpg (27086 bytes)
Trango Towers and Broad Peak - Photos courtesy Bilal Khan

PIA used to have an “Air Safari” about 10 years ago, which has been discontinued. See an account of this in:

For runners, there used to be a Skardu Marathon that was organized by Sylvain Saudan of Chamonix, France. It follows a route that the jeep track now takes. One goes up the Shigar valley, north to Askole.  

Karakoram Weather – Chamber of Horrors.

The Catch-22 of K2 and Nanga Parbat climbing:  

Up to about 6000 meters K2 is mostly rock. After that it turns into a sea of snow. The Abruzzi ridge has been described by one climber as:
“ The average angle of the Abruzzi route, from its base at the edge of the glacier to the summit, is 45 degrees.  Given a stretch of relatively gentle ground on top of the shoulder, the rest of the time it must be averaging about 50 degrees. That is really pretty steep for several thousands of feet of snow mixed with loose rock at quite high elevation…. Camp 1 at 20,000' was tucked behind a rock pinnacle.  Camp 2 at 22,000' was on a 40-degree slope hidden under a buttress for protection.  Gear accidentally dropped from there did not stop for 4000'.  Just below it is the famous cliff band passage, House's Chimney.  It is incredible that it was climbed in the 1930's.  I recall seeing it rated 5.7 somewhere…”  [Peter Green. Ph.d Chemistry – MIT in ]

This, together with the erratic, rather schizophrenic weather with three major weather systems intersecting/ affecting it [Monsoons, Central Asian and Tibetan anti-cyclones/high pressure, plus the Jet Stream], and the  geological anomalies of  three major earth plates colliding nearby [ see Nanga Parbat Geology above ] has made it the most difficult mountain to climb.

Basically in the winter and spring, the Karakoram area is affected by large-scale weather systems. These originate from the Mediterranean or from the area of the Caspian Sea-Central Asia.  Storms occur in the pre-monsoon season and then again from monsoon systems during the summer. Even in the summer, some of the higher-level snow/rain originates from westerly systems. In winter, the Tibetan plateau, at an altitude of 15,000 feet, induces anticyclone/high pressure flows that move out from Tibet towards western Pacific, Indochina Peninsula, Australia, and southeastern Africa. In summer the reverse happens. Cyclonic flows/low pressure converges to the Tibet region along the reversed paths. In addition weather in the mountains is also influenced by elevation, valley orientation, aspect plus slope, and the height and number of upwind barriers to the airflow.  The resulting impact of these Karakoram weather systems on climbing is summed up in a simple single concept – what is called the Chamber of Horrors.

Both Nanga Parbat and K2 are considered more difficult to climb with their combination of weird weather and difficult climbing approaches. Climbers are offered a catch -22 situation -- Death by getting blown off the mountain [as did Alison Hargreaves – the Scottish woman climber]  -  @ 140 + mph, or death by getting buried in an avalanche. There are few places where both wind speeds and humidity are low, and more importantly, there is really no previous history/pattern present. These brief, low/low situations occur early in the summer season, in the middle, and later on as well. On Everest, there are small pockets of good weather in end-May for the spring expeditions and in early-October for the fall expeditions - the monsoonal transition, when it happens, creates a weather window. It is a fact that most K2 climbers get killed descending the mountain. To understand the winter Karakoram weather read June 2002 for a full account of Zawada’s abortive K2 winter ascent when their expedition was snowed in for full two weeks.

“The frosty winds blowing from Concordia in the south caused many a problem for us in the Base Camp. Meanwhile on the top of K2, winds were blowing from the West and the North West. We started towards the Abruzzi Ridge on December 27 ...  Our progress was interrupted by persistent spells of appalling weather. Hurricanes were accompanied by thick clouds and heavy snow. During our winter climb of Everest, the winds had been blowing constantly but at least there had been a blue sky above and this made a tremendous difference to us." -  [Pakistan- 50 Years – A winter expedition to K2- by A.Zawada , Belgravia communications, U.K.]


K2 in Winter - Mountain Madness  

BH-basecamp-Karakoram.jpg (8356 bytes) BH-moonrise Masherbrum.jpg (7527 bytes) BH-sunset in the karakorum.jpg (8285 bytes)
The colours of mountains - K2 Base Camp; moonrise over Masherbrum; sunset over Karakorams  Photos courtesy


Zawada became the pioneer of Everest in winter -1987-88. Read the article in: by Andrzej Zawada – “A Winter expedition to K2” – 1997-98].  Although Zawada was unsuccessful in 1997-98 winter K2 expedition, his account in this article is instructive:

“The pressure of desperate situations and dangerous conditions reveal a person’s real character. The weak blame others …failure is very bitter but it makes you reflect more on the situation than the euphoric state of victory …it is good that the mountains still teach humility to human beings particularly in this day and age when people think that we can conquer nature completely. K2 in winter still remains a challenge.”

Krzystof Wielicki has carried on the work of winter expeditions with another winter expedition in 2003. Zawada is no longer there; he passed away a few years ago. Wielcki set a new winter altitude record -7630 meters. In 1987 under Zawada they reached 7100 meters.

Krzysztof Wielicki [born on January 5, 1950] in Szklarka Przygodzicka (Wielkopolska) to a teacher’s family is quite a character. Learning independence as a Boy Scout, he went on to study electronic engineering at the Wroclaw School of Engineering. He has completed 8000-meter summits 15 times. He climbed Nanga Parbat solo. During his first climb he fractured 3 lumbar vertebrae. Soon after this, to attend his brother’s marriage, he escaped from the hospital and cut his plaster corset with the help of some friends, just so that his mother would not stop his climbing. Later he got his certificate of climbing without the authorities knowing about his accident. He climbed the Tatras, The Hindukush, the Pamirs, the Alps, the Cuacasus, and fell again, getting his head stitched in the process. A member of the “Solidarity “movement, he went to Alaska working on gutting fish, where he made about $1500 - enough for him to build a small house. As a real working class hero, he worked as a painter, then in a Fiat car assembly plant. He has a son and two daughters. His story is a fascinating account of guts and glory and “those who dare win” type commando thriller. A rock avalanche shortened his spine in the Garwhal Mountains, India. Here is a Weilicki  view:

“Do you have to justify for having a passion? You can change your hobbies, not your passion. With time, it fills all spheres of your life.”

His comments on Wanda Rutkiewicz: “…. She was a wonderful woman. Her tragedy was the loneliness experienced by big stars. Everybody recognized her when she was walking down the street in Warsaw. But there was nobody there waiting for her at home. She was too strong a personality to have a life partner. She left her profession, rejected maternity, lost her family. There was only one way left for her. There is no better psychotherapy than many fields of activity….”

For further reading, an account of Weilicki’s life and his praise of Wanda Rutkiewicz is given in: 


 Mountains and Men - Introduction & Early Surveyors

Nanga Parbat - the Killer Mountain

K2 - the most difficult mountain to climb

Mt. Everest & the Sherpas

Women on Nanga Parbat, K2, and Mt.Everest

Pakistan's Hunza and Balti climbers

Ecological Nightmare on Big Tops & Conclusion






Copyright © 2000 - 2004 []. Intellectual Property. All rights reserved.