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  2  of  7



Nanga Parbat - the killer mountain


  RD-nangaparbat_07_1995_0017.jpg (55353 bytes) RD-nangaparbat_07_1995_0022.jpg (7259 bytes)

  Nanga Parbat
 8,126 meters, 26,660 feet  

Photos Courtesy



Early History 

This much is known now that around 500 BC, there were “rock art” hunters /gatherers in the vicinity of Nanga Parbat, who worshipped the mountains. Their art is still visible in some of the northern areas of Pakistan (Chilas, Skardu). According to a Lok Virsa publication [ see reference below], the western Tibet  population was the result of  the blending of at least three distinct peoples - Central Asian Dards/Shina tribes of Gilgit, and the Mons of Northern India  [ Kashmir]. The third, numerically greater to these two, are the Mongolians who are the Tibetan Nation. Herodotus, the Greek Historian mentions the Dards – so do Ptolemy and Pliny, the Roman historians. Later the Scythians, Parthians [Taxila Buddhist influences– Stupa making, Brahmi & Kharoshti script era] influenced this area. In its heyday, the Roman empire traded vigorously [silk, cotton, muslin, paper making, china, etc] and manufacturing techniques spread to the Middle East & Europe via the many arms of the Silk Route with India and China. The Karakoram arm went via many passes in Kashmir, Ladakh and Baltistan.


The Shina Tribe people have a dying language, Shina. This language is spoken by related tribes living on both sides of the "Line-of-Control" near Chilas, Gilgit and in the Gurez valley along the Kishen Ganga River. Due to use of other [Urdu, Hindi] languages, its use has steadily decreased. The Gurez Valley in Indian Kashmir, being isolated in the mountains, is unique in the sense that it has preserved and protected the culture of the Dard / Shin and their language, "Shina".


Baltis and the Sherpas of Nepal have migrated from various regions in Tibet. The word Sherpa means Easterner in Tibetan. The early settlers of western Tibet were the “Mons”. Baltistan is also known as Tibet-e-Khurd in Persian [Little Tibet].  Baltis are actually part of the western Tibetan people. The people of Baltistan are from mixed races - the majority coming from the Tibetan stock. The other races found are Dardic, Central Asian Turks and Kashmiris. The language spoken is Balti, which is an archaic form of Tibetan similar to Ladakhi spoken in Ladakh nearby on the east.  Ladakh formed part of the old Tibetan kingdom. [See the excellent book “Baltistan & Ladakh”, - A History by A.H.Francke – Lok Virsa, Pakistan edition 1986]. The names of Skardu [originally Skardo] and those such as Biafo, Baltoro, ending in the letter or sound of “O” indicate that these names were originally Tibetan. Balti porters have achieved great climbing feats as described in the section on Karim, the Balti Porter, by Greg Mortensen below.

The people of Hunza, the Hunzakuts, are believed to be the descendants of the five wandering soldiers of Alexander the Great. The people of Hunza speak Brushuski, an aboriginal language. Incidentally, the two Pakistani K2 climbers, Ashraf Aman and Nazir Sabir, are from Hunza. Various dynasties have ruled the areas here. They are Tarkhans of Gilgit;  Maglots of Nagar;   Ayash of Hunza;   Burushai of Punial;   Makpons of Skardu;   Amachas of Shigar;   Yabgus of Khaplu. [AD 600 to AD 1800]. Hunza is also considered to be the “Shangri-La” from James Hilton’s book “Lost Horizons”. The famous Hunza diet of apricots is legendary; so too is the longevity myth of its people as documented by the National Geographic, November 1975 – Hunza. , March 1994 –High Road to Hunza -by Jonathan Blair

The rock carvings and images of Buddha in the region date back to the period of Great Tibetan Empire. When the Buddhist people of Gandhara migrated and passed through the present northern areas of Pakistan, they settled at some places temporarily and carved drawings of stupas, scenes of their experiences and images of Buddha with texts in Kharoshti language. Rock carvings have been discovered along the road between Gol and Khapulu, and Skardu and Satpara Lake. However these rock carvings are probably similar to the ones seen near the Indus river rocks at Chilas and belong to the Shina-Dard people. In Skardu, the only surviving rock with Buddhist carving is located on Sadpara road. In his book “The Gilgit Game”, John Keay [OUP, 1993], writes that somewhere around AD 1400, Baltis started to convert to Islam.


Nanga Parbat Geology Map.jpg (68441 bytes)
Nanga Parbat - Location & Geology


“Before starting back down to the drowsy world of Gilgit, there is more to be seen ……………………. Turn back from the peaks of the Karakorams, and face due south. Here lies the true horror of the Himalayas. This time there is no deep and distant perspective; the horizontal is unrepresented. You are staring at a wall; it rears from the abyss at your feet to a height for which the neck must crane back. Such is Nanga Parbat,”the Naked Mountain”; its navel now confronts you. More a many peaked massif than a single mountain, Nanga Parbat marks the western extremity of the Great Himalaya; it is a buttress worthy of its role……………………… Beautiful is not an appropriate adjective. It is too formless; there is no slender fang like that of Rakaposhi or the Matterhorn and none of the grandiose harmony of Kanchenjunga or Mount Fuji. An uncut stone, it impresses by reason of its dimensions, not its shape………………

[“The Gilgit Game”: The Explorers of the Western Himalayas 1865-95, Oxford University Press 1979]. John Keay]  

  Nanga Parbat in Raikhot Glacier+F.Meadows-permit -CEP.jpg (12778 bytes)

Nanga Parvata or Parbat [meaning Naked Mountain] is also known as Diamir [King of Mountains]. It faces the Nanga Parbat Lake as shown here in front of Fairy Meadows which gets its name from the local folk who consider Mountains to be the abode of fairies. The first ascent on Nanga Parbat was a miraculous solo ascent without oxygen in 1953 by the German Herman Buhl. Its south Rupal face climbs over 5000 m from the valley base to the summit, offering trekkers orgasmic views.  The north or Raikot face dives over 7000 m from the summit to the Indus River, forming one of world’s deepest and finest gorges. Its sides are too steep to allow snow to cover them.


The Karakoram and the Himalaya, the newest mountain ranges in the world, began to form some 5 million years ago when the Indian sub-continent drifted northwards and rammed into the Asian landmass. By this time the dinosaurs were already extinct. India is still racing north at the geologically supersonic rate of five centimeters (two inches) a year and the mountains are still growing by about seven millimeters (1/4 of an inch), annually.   

Nanga-Parbat - Rupal Face - from Fairy Meadows.jpg (8534 bytes) Nanga-Parbat-Raikot Glacier.jpg (60107 bytes)
L-R: Rupal face of Nanga Parbat; icefalls and glaciers feeding the Rajkot glacier



The Rupal Valley, on the south side of Nanga Parbat, is accessed via the Astor Valley, which is off the Karakoram Highway (KKH).  KKH is 1,260 kilometers (900 miles) long –from Kashgar in China to Mansera in Pakistan] and is overshadowed by towering, barren mountains, a high altitude desert enjoying less than 100 millimeters (four inches) of rain a year. In many of the gorges, through which it passes, the KKH rides a shelf cut into a sheer cliff face as high as 500 meters (1,600 feet) above the river. The highway is an incredible feat of engineering and an enduring monument to the 810 Pakistanis and 82 Chinese who died forcing it through what is probably the world's most difficult and unstable terrain.  The road to Nanga Parbat lies between Jaglot and Chilas. There is a bridge near Chilas where the sign to Fairy Meadows is posted; as you approach the mountain, a sign on the KKH advises you to look toward the peak of the ‘Killer Mountain’. The trek to Fairy Meadow takes about 2 days and provides spectacular views for photography, especially with a good camera, facing the Nanga Parbat north side. 

KKH runs through the middle of this collision belt. At Tatta Pani , after Chilas, you can see the sulphur springs along the KKH and this is considered by geologists to be the fault line. This is also where there is an earth tremor, on average, every three minutes. Hence the avalanches on these mountains, leading to climbing difficulties.

[See pictures at the link: ]. Local people will ask you to travel fast on this section of the KKH due to land slides occurring frequently. Also the jeep road to Fairy Meadows was apparently closed after the recent earthquakes in 2002, so do check with the locals on this point in case you are traveling to Fairy Meadows.  

 “Crumbling rock” is an apt description for the giant, gray, snow-capped slag heaps that tower above the gorges cut between them.  Perhaps even more remarkable is that at Nanga Parbat there is virtually no evidence of early Himalayan metamorphism. While these rocks were clearly involved in a major collision event, recent processes have completely obliterated any igneous or metamorphic signature of the original collision. Some 30 years ago, a Pakistani geologist, Qasim Jan, working with an international team on the history of Nanga Parbat, eventually led to discoveries that have changed geological theory forever. Nanga Parbat was revealed to be extraordinarily young, or only 1-2 million years old. It is eroding at a spectacular rate due to glaciers, the Indus River, and immense precipitation, yet at the same time it is growing faster than any other mountain on Earth. More importantly, its high growth rate is directly due to the erosion it endures. A video on this is available for interested readers.  [Nanga Parbat: Naked Mountain: Pakistan’s fast-growing mountain, Nanga Parbat, challenges geological Theory. 57 minutes, Color ,Grade Level: 7-12, College, Adult , US Release Date: 2002, Copyright Date: 2001 ;  ISBN: 1-56029-954-7.  Directed by Doug Prose & Diane LaMacchia, Produced by Earth Images Foundation, Sponsored by the National Science Foundation. ]


 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.