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

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Page  6  of  7


Pakistan's Hunza & Balti Climbers

Pakistani summiteer Nazir Sabir comes from Raminji village in the remotest Chapurson Valley of Gojal, Northern Hunza. Up to the 1970s, there was not even a primary school.  Nazir started off his climbing career with a Japanese expedition to the 7284 meter high Passu peak in Hunza in 1974. In 1975 he attempted Nanga Parbat (8125 m) with a German Expedition. In 1976 July 17 he along with Lt.Col. Manzoor Hussain climbed with the first Alpine Club Expedition to 6600 meter high, Mt. Paiyu.

In 1977 Nazir Sabir and another climber from Hunza, Ashraf Aman teamed up for the first Pakistan - Japanese expedition to K-2, attempting the traditional South East Abruzzi ridge. However Nazir Sabir’s first assault team had to turn back due to bad weather. Ashraf Aman as part of the No.3 summit assault team became the first Pakistani to summit K-2 and along with Ichiro Yoshizawa became the 9th K2- climbers. Till then only two mountaineers of the 1954 successful Italian expedition had stepped on the K-2 Summit. It was a huge expedition, using bottled oxygen; this team had an army of 1500 porters and 52 members. In 1980, Nazir Sabir lost his elder brother, who was buried under an ice avalanche while attempting Diran peak with an Army expedition.

Nazir Sabir got the chance to climb K2 in 1981 by accompanying a Japanese Waseda University Expedition to K-2 attempting the West and South West ridge rather than the usual Abruzzi ridge. The Duke of Abruzzi had in 1909, surveyed K-2 from all its sides. He felt that K-2 could only be assailed from the South West ridge, which was to be named Abruzzi ridge. The route to the West and North West ridges of K-2 is via Savoia glacier. This is north of Godwin Austen glacier and the traditional K-2 Base Camp. It involves difficult grade, ice and rock climb at higher elevations with winds at 100+ kms. In 1978 famous British climber Chris Bonington made his first attempt on this route. Nick Estcourt, part of this team, was swept by a slab avalanche above their Camp I.

Nazir followed by Eiho Otani reached the K-2 summit on 7 August 1981. Nazir created history by successfully climbing K-2's South West ridge for the first time. He was the second Pakistani to stand on K-2 summit and the fourth in the world. A documentary film of the climb, shown all over Japan, made Nazir Sabir a house hold name in Japan. In due course Nazir had also picked up Japanese language and could speak it fluently. Later in 1986 he was to marry a Japanese girl.

Nazir Sabir in 1982, along with Sher Khan joined the famous Italian mountaineer Reinhold Messner in his attempt to scale Broad Peak (8047 m) and Gasherbrum II (8035 m) in one attempt. Both Gasherbrum II and Broad Peak were done in Alpine style in a period of just one week!  For his outstanding achievements, he was honored with President's Medal for Pride of Performance in the sports of Mountaineering in 1982. Campaigning for the Hunza seat in the 1994 elections for the Northern Area Council, for a five year term, he defeated his opponent from the traditional Mir of Hunza family with a wide margin. He was elated as Advisor on Education and Tourism for the Northern Area. He fell about 400 meters while going to Nanga Parbat in 1985 

Nazir Sabir’s attempt on the Everest in 1997 resulted in failure., but on 17 May 2000, climbing in a full moon in the night to avoid high winds he reached Everest  at 0730 hours.

Ashraf Aman comes from Aliabad, in Hunza. He studied at Karachi N.E.D University and graduated with a B.Tech degree in Electrical Engineering. In 1977, he climbed with the Joint Expedition of Pakistan/Japan. In total there were 35 climbers from Japan and five from Pakistan. Three Japanese climbers succeeded in first attempt. The Second attempt with one Pakistani [ Nazir Sabir ] and three Japanese had no success. In the 3rd attempt three Japanese and Ashraf Aman climbed K2 successfully. As a result he was awarded President's Medal, Pride of performance. Of his climb in 1977 he says:

“The days in 1977, we didn't have plastic boots, we had only leather shoes and heavy high altitude cloth, now climbing is very easy due to modern equipment and communication helicopter facilities. I had frost bite. There was no helicopter to rescue. I had to walk  up to Dasso. Every day my doctor had to bandage my toes, I was walking by help of ski poles.”

He worked as Liaison Officer with the first Pakistani K-2 Winter Expedition from December 1987 to March 1988 led by Mr. A. Zawada from Poland .In addition he has been a technical engineer, manager and liaison officer and been on many [ about 20 ] expeditions from  a host of countries .He now runs a professional climbing tour  company called ‘ Adventure Tours Pakistan’ ]

 [see  for a complete list of Ashraf Aman climbing 

Ashraf Aman’s views on the comparison between Balti Porters and Nepalese Sherpas is also presented in the above interview .

“…Pakistani high porters are also allowed to climb the K-2. But as compared to Sherpas, Pakistani high porters are not skilled enough. They are not trained properly.  As we compare K-2 with Everest we hardly have 5 to 8 expeditions every year and few of them take high altitude porters with them. This is also a reason of being a small number of local K-2 climbers. While on the other eight thousand peaks in Pakistan there are many good climbers who are ready to climb. So far there has not been a Pakistani expedition organized to K-2.

On the subject of present day climbing of K2 , Ashraf Aman feels that K-2 is now very easy [ relative to how good the climber is ] . All one needs is modern equipment, good weather and experience, plus professional guidance.


Karim - Balti Snow Leopard [Nameless Towers & Climbers]

What follows below is a brief version of Greg Mortenson’s story [for exact story see the above link], as part of the dispatches he has sent to over the last so many years. He has started to live for about 6 months in the Karakorams, helping the Balti people with their health and educational concerns via his Central Asian Institute in Skardu. Both Sherpas and Baltis have acclimatized perhaps genetically to high altitudes. Their red blood corpuscles apparently hold more oxygen content than their fellow human beings on the plains. Somewhat like the difference between Mountain sheep and their weak bleating cousins on the plains who eat virtually anything vegetarian. Karim is the story of one such high altitude Porters [HAPs] - as the American writer Galen Rowell termed them in his book “In the Throne Room of the Mountain Gods “.

In 1960, Karim made a friend in the American climber Dick Emerson, who climbed Masherbrum [7,821 meters]. Emerson returned 3 times to the Karakorams and lived in Karim’s house in the village of Hushe.

When Emerson needed a climbing partner, Karim [5 ft. 2 inches tall, 110 pounds] at the age of 16 jumped, picked him on his shoulders and walked around the village.

In 1976, a Swiss expedition came to climb Yaholla Peak [7000+meters, an Urdukas tower]. A female Swiss climber slipped into the Chapko Canyon. It was here that Karim was to exhibit his legendary prowess as a human being and a climber. As Mortensen wrote in his dispatches, “With one “Bismillah” [in the name of Allah], he jumped in and saved her “. The Swiss then had Karim carry no loads, doubled his pay. Karim basically only had to jump into rivers, and carry the rope to lead the Swiss.

In 1978, Karim competed with 1800 porters for a job on the Chris Bonnington and Doug Scott’s K2 West Ridge expedition. Bonington apparently laughed at Karim, at which point Karim carried Bonington by the thighs and carried him in front of the cheering porters. In the same year Karim went on the American West Ridge K2 climb using Bonington’s and Emerson’s credentials. Then came 1979 and the French used Karim to carry loads to their high camps including 30 kgs to 8200 meters. In 1981 Karim carried gas, food, oxygen to the Japanese and Nazir Sabir [Pakistani climber] to 8100 meters in 6 hours.   

 “Little Karim”- King of the Karakoram” [see dispatches by Greg Mortensen,  ]

“In 1982, Karim contributed significantly to Reinhold Messner, Sher Khan, and Nazir Sabir's successful climbs of Broad Peak (8,047 meters) and Gasherbrum II (8,035 meters), by hauling several huge loads to the lower camp.

Karim joined a Spanish K2 West Ridge expedition in 1983. He carried loads to Camp IV at 7,600 meters. Two weeks of bad weather made most of the team decide to leave K2. The leader, Antonio Trabado, was without a partner and asked Karim for help, "You go to summit with me, no problem. We go alpine style."

At 8,350 meters on their summit bid, Trabado became psychotic. Karim recalls the day, "He make crazy, he talk everything, and his eyes look like yak. I carry him to Base Camp and he no die."

The next year, in 1984, Karim helped Messner and Klinehander successfully complete their five day alpine-style traverse of Gasherbrum I (8,068 meters) and Gasherbrum II (8,035 meters). …”

…The stories go on, but it seems that a point can be made here. In a humble way, this small man from a tiny village has touched the lives and hearts of thousands of climbers and trekkers worldwide. Although he has been above 8,000 meters perhaps more than 20 times in his own backyard, his favorite moments are not summit days. What he

enjoys and gives him the greatest joy are the smiles and happy faces of satisfied "clients."

Ironically, Karim has little to show for his career in the mountains. Often, he says he is not paid or underpaid by his clients or travel agencies. Indeed, $8 to $10 per day seems absurd for a chance to walk or climb with this King of the Karakoram.

In the winter, his children sometimes go hungry, for lack of rupees and food. He sells off precious land every year to pay for his subsistence lifestyle. His youngest daughter, Zakhiria, is three years old. She is paralyzed in the right arm and never received treatment or therapy for lack of funds. Yet, Zakhira does not seem to mind and her huge smile echoes the spirit of famed father.

No climber in the world deserves more respect than Little Karim. He brings the highest ethics and honor to the sport called mountaineering. But my heart is pained to see what he has received in return for his efforts. Certainly, when Little Karim's time comes, his Allah Almighty will reward him a throne more worthy and a summit higher than any mountain he has climbed.

Until next time, this is Greg Mortenson signing off from Little Karim's kitchen, where paiyu cha (Balti salt tea) is now being served. “

      Greg Mortenson, Correspondent – Greg went to climb K2 in 1993 and has stayed back ever since, establishing about 80 projects setting up schools, hospitals, in the Karakoram area, with his base camp office “Central Asia Institute in Skardu. He has overcome the skepticism of the ISI, the local mullahs and has along with Geoff Tabin, MD [ Dr. Tabin is an University of Vermont opthamalogist ] helped in the local eye care programs,  tree planting ecology , setting up porter latrines/ porter hygiene education training  for the Baltoro Glacier,  two  women’s vocational training / school centers, men’s training centers ,etc ] . Greg also feels that in comparison with the Nepal and   India’s Himalayan Mountain areas, the Karakorams is a much neglected area for humanitarian aid projects.

       [See also  for some excellent accounts of climbing eastern Karakorams Rock Towers – in the Kondus valley, and Nangmah valleys, namely the Amin Brakk Tower and the Satulpa Spire & Tahir Tower.

       Check the link : and in it - for many interesting /amusing dispatches and accounts of the rock-climbing there as well as their interactions with the local flora /fauna and species of the Team - Brady Robinson, Steph Davis, Jimmy Chin, Dave Anderson ].

      Climbing the Fathi Peak, which Chin did after consulting with Galen Rowell in 199, this is what Chin had to say about the Fathi Peak: “The first sight of Fathi Peak's ominous north wall overwhelmed them. "It blew me away. El Capitan [Yosemite, Cal, USA] seemed like a boulder in comparison," said Chen.  


The New Wave or Extreme Adventure – the Purist / Alpinist Climbers

In an effort to pit human endurance against more strenuous targets, the so-called “edge of the envelope”, climbers have begun to break new ground and find more dangerous/difficult routes to the highest peaks. Starting in the 1970s, among the mountain climbers, increasing emphasis was placed on climbing these peaks in more daring ways. The Alpinist or purist climbing is characterized with no oxygen, with minimal equipment, with no satellite phones, climbing solo without porters, finding the most difficult of routes to these peaks, and also climbing in winter.

Of these new wave climbers who follow this purist /alpinist approach of climbing without oxygen, solo and using the unclimbed formerly considered dangerous approaches, the list is also growing. The outstanding names are Reinhold Messner [Italian born in Brixen, South Tyrol, Italy, on 17th September 1944. He grew up in the Villnöss Valley in the Dolomites and later studied at the University of Padua. Messner has crossed the Arctic and the Antarctica Poles solo and is currently a member of the Greens Political party in Germany], Peter Habeler [Reinhold’s climbing companion] , Gunther Messner [ who died climbing Nanga Parbat with Reinhold’s brother ], Jerry Kukutza from Poland . Other names that have erupted in the last two years include those of Simone Moro, Tomas Hummer,

Messner who pioneered the solo, oxygen-less climbs, has put his point of view very well in a recent classic interview in the newspaper Guardian that carried a series of interviews celebrating the Everest ascents of 1953. A few of his words speak for themselves. Messner climbed Nanga Parbat solo using the Diamir face [north]. As he was coming down, an earthquake triggered an avalanche, which blocked his route down the same route. He descended using another route. Messner’s climbing achievements are probably unmatchable and legendary.  He has gone on to cross the North and South Pole solo. Nevertheless he speaks of Shackleton’s failures as more important than successes. Messner’s climb/traverse of Gasherbrum [Hidden Peak] I and II with Hans Kammerlander is probably the most dangerous climb he rates. He fell into space and then turned in midair to manage to land on steep rocks.

“…When you're high on a mountain you cannot be anything but what you are. …Mallory said he climbed Everest because it was there. I think we go up so we can come back down again. … We are not made for it, this loneliness and cold. When you come back you feel reborn, you have a new chance. The experience is so strong you want to have it again and again, but you have to suffer for it. It's addictive. …  This is what I had got as a child, without even thinking: I could find a good route, understand the weather quickly, know that this rock is good, if this gully will go to the left. I had learnt the structure of the mountain. …On Nanga Parbat I understood the reality of my own death. I had not eaten or drunk anything for days, I was hallucinating, my toes were black from frostbite and my brother was lost in the avalanche. …When I lost seven of my toes on Nanga Parbat and small parts of my fingertips I knew I'd never be a great rock climber. So I specialized in high-altitude climbing. It's a totally different game… High-altitude climbing is about suffering, it's about being afraid. I don't believe anyone who says there's a lot of pleasure in climbing the biggest peaks. It's dangerous, especially if there are no Sherpas or fixed ropes and camps. If you make one mistake, you die. … I was elected an MEP for the Green Party. Politics and climbing are exact opposites. But they're both games. If the world's leaders could spend a few days climbing a mountain together, then things would go better.”      

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 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




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