Nanga Parbat, world's highest ninth mountain Nanga Parbat is the Karakoram's most well known peak after K2 and it too has been challenge to climbers. In 1977 the famed Austrian climber Reinhold Messner climbed it solo but lost his brother and part of his foot in the process. Known to locals as Diamir, meaning "king of the mountains" it stands solitary and alone, away from the other great mountains of the Karakoram. Since it is on the southern side of the Indus River while the others are on the north many say it is a Himalayan not a Karakoram peak anyway.
Nanga Parbat Oyu is the world’s 9th highest mountain at 8,463 meters (27,824 feet). Composed primarily of an igneous rock called gneiss, it is completely surrounded by massive glaciers and arguably the most massive large mountain in the world. On the southern side of the mountain is a sheer 4,500 meter (15,000) foot wall. The northern side rises 7010 meters (23,000 feet) above the Indus River, making it the highest mountain in the world in terms of relief. Everest for example rises only 5,200 meters (17,000 feet) above the Tibetan plateau. On an absolute scale Nanga Parbat is the 10th highest mountain in the world with an elevation of 8,126 meters (26,660 feet). It is said to still be growing.
According to NASA’s Earth Observatory: Nanga Parbat is one of the most alluring mountains for both mountain climbers and scientists. The westernmost of the eight-thousanders, it is geographically close to the Karakoram range but actually represents the westernmost part of the Himalayan range. Meaning “naked mountain” in Urdu, Nanga Parbat is a reference to the generally snow-free south face. Known as the Rupal face, this is the world’s largest rock wall, rising some 4,700 meters (15,000 feet) from its base to the summit. The other faces—the Rakhiot face and the western Diamir—are also extreme. Rakhiot face is in the north, the Diamer face is to the east, and the Rupal face is to the south. [Source: earthobservatory.nasa.gov ]
Mark Jenkins wrote in National Geographic: Separated from the rest of the Karakoram by the Indus River, Nanga Parbat is a lone pyramid at the western end of the Himalaya. It was the first 8,000-meter peak ever attempted, in 1895 by Englishman A. F. Mummery, and, as if to warn the world, the mountain summarily killed Mummery and his two high-altitude porters. Twenty-eight more people would die on four inglorious expeditions before Austrian Hermann Buhl reached the summit in 1953. [Source: Mark Jenkins, National Geographic, January 2008]
Nanga Parbat Himalaya (35°14 14"N 74°35 21"E) was first climbed: 1953. The mountain can be seen from the Karakorum Highway and the most popular place to view it is Fairytale Meadow in Khaghan Valley. Just as notable as Nanga Parbat’s climbing history is its geologic history. “There is no other mountain in the world that is rising as fast as Nanga Parbat,” explained Mike Searle, a University of Oxford geologist.
Climbing Nanga Parbat
Nanga Parbat was first climbed in 1953. It was the third 8000 meter peak to be climbed, after Annapurna in June 1950 and Mt. Everest in May 1953. Its relative accessibility made it one of the first great Himalayan peaks to be attempted by mountaineers. The first try in 1895 ended with death of three climbers. A second attempt, which was not made until 37 years later, also ended in failure. Expeditions in 1934, 1937 and 1950 all ended with the dead climbers and it wasn't until 1953 that Buhl finally reached the summit. His final one-day, 1,700 meter charge to the summit is regarded as one of mountaineering’s greatest feats. The world's longest wall climb is the 14,704-foot Rupal-Flank of Nanga Parbat from 11,680 feet base camp to 26,545 South Point. It was first scaled in 1970 by a German, Austrian and Italian team.
According to NASA’s Earth Observatory: In the first-ever attempt to climb an eight-thousander, British mountaineer Albert Mummery ascended Nanga Parbat in 1895. Of the south face, he wrote: “The astounding difficulties of the southern face may be realized by the fact that the gigantic rock-ridges, the dangers of the hanging glacier and the steep ice of the north-west face—one of the most terrifying faces of a mountain I have ever seen—are preferable to the south face.” Mummery opted for the Diamir face instead, but disappeared, presumably killed by an avalanche. Subsequent expeditions fared no better, with an avalanche killing 16 men in a German team in the early 1900s and a storm killing another nine in 1934. Austrian Hermann Buhl was the first to make it to the summit, climbing solo and without oxygen in 1953. He followed a ridge on the Rakhiot face in what has gone down in mountaineering lore as one of the most remarkable climbs of all time. As of March 2012, there had been a total of 335 successful ascents of Nanga Parbat. Sixty-eight had died trying—a fatality rate of about 20 percent, making it the third most dangerous eight-thousander. [Source: earthobservatory.nasa.gov ]
As of 2020, more than 100 climbers and porters have died on Nanga Parbat, earning it the title “Killer Mountain,” a name which has been promoted to attract adventurers and thrill-seekers. Nanga Parbat lies on the edge of the monsoon belt and receives the last wave of monsson storms. These storms, plus avalanches, and the collapse of ice shelves are among the things that makes it so dangerous.
The German expedition in the 1930s produced 17 dead climbers, killed when an ice wall collapsed. Messner said, "When my brother and I climbed Nanga Parbat in 1970, our first 8,000-meter peak, he died in an avalanche and I went without food for a week, as I had to go down a different side of the mountain to reach a small town in the Himalayas. I was more dead than alive; my feet were so frostbitten that when they got warm they swelled to look like the feet of an elephant. I lost seven of toes, but I ultimately decided to return to climbing knowing that surviving wasn't an art; it was a matter of instinct." With the loss of his toes Messner was not able to climb so well on rock after that and switched his focus to higher ice-covered mountains.
Reinhold Messner and Nanga Parbat
Reinhold Messner, a northern Italian mountaineer, explorer, and author, is regarded by some of the greatest high altitude climber of all time. He made the first solo ascent of Mount Everest, was the first summit Everest without supplemental oxygen and was the first climber to ascend all fourteen peaks over 8,000 meters (26,000 feet) above sea level. He was also the first to cross Antarctica and Greenland without snowmobiles or dog sleds.
Messner first made a name of himself on Nanga Parbat. He took part in five expeditions on Nanga Parbat. In 1970 and 1978 he reached the summit. In 1978 he did it solo. In 1971, 1973 and 1977, he did not make. The main of the 1971 expedition was to locate his brother's remains. [Source: Wikipedia]
In May and June 1970, Messner was a member of the Nanga Parbat South Face expedition led by Karl Herrligkoffer, whose goal was to climb the as yet unclimbed Rupal Face, the highest rock and ice face in the world. Messner's brother, Günther, also participated in the climb. On the morning of June 27, Messner set off alone for the summit from the last high-altitude camp as he believed the weather was going to go bad soon and his window of opportunity was shrinking. Unbeknownst to him, his brother had climbed after him and caught up to him before the summit. The two reached the summit together in late afternoon. Because it was so late the set up an emergency bivouac without tent, sleeping bags and stoves.
What happened next is still unclear to this day and has been the subject of legal actions and disputes between former expedition members. What is agreed upon is that Reinhold and Günther Messner descended the Diamir Face, and thus were the first to cross Nanga Parbat and second to cross of an eight-thousander after Mount Everest (in 1963). Reinhold made if off the mountain six days later with severe frostbite, but survived. Günther died on the Diamir Face. Reinhold said as they descended they became further and further separated from each other Gunther was killed by an avalanche. But that has never been firmly verified.
Most of the disputes and lawsuits were between Messner and Herrligkoffer, the expedition leader. In October 2001, after decades of silence on the issue, Messner accused other team members of failing to come to their aid. At the crux of the dispute is Messner assertion that he and his brother spontaneously decided to descend the Diamir Face together for reasons of safety. The rest of the team has consistently maintained that Messner had told them of his plan was to cross the mountain from the start. In June 2005, after an unusual heat wave on the mountain, Gunthur’s body was recovered on the Diamir Face, supporting Messner's account events. The film Nanga Parbat (2010) by Joseph Vilsmaier, based on Messner’s account, has labeled one sided.
Climbing Nanga Parbat in the Winter
Describing one of the first winter ascents of Nanga Parbat, Mark Jenkins wrote in National Geographic: “The Poles are attempting the 1976 Schell Route up the left flank of the Rupal Face, which ascends a jagged ridge with fierce gendarmes separated by steep sections of ice. Their plan calls for four camps, perhaps a summit-push bivouac, and almost two miles of fixed rope. But after only five days on the mountain, there are already problems. A foot of snow fell the day they arrived, and they have been dodging avalanches ever since."Winter is usually safe time to climb,"” says expedition leader Krzysztof Wielicki, “wiping his sharp, red nose with the sleeve of his parka. "But Karakoram is different than Himalaya. Colder, windier, wetter than I expected." [Source: Mark Jenkins, National Geographic, January 2008]
“They have also learned that their Base Camp, at the foot of the immense Rupal Face, is too low — at a mere 11,598 feet (3,535 meters) — which means the team is facing about 15,000 feet (4,600 meters) of climbing to reach the summit, an almost impossible distance in summer, let alone winter. Despite these difficulties, the expedition moves swiftly during the first ten days. Sidestepping avalanches, they put in Advanced Base Camp at 14,829 feet (4,520 meters) on December 11, tucked safely under a rock overhang. Camp 1 is dug in on the ridge at 16,634 (5,070 meters) on December 12. The weather is nippy, minus 25°C (-13°F) at night, "but for Poles," as Jawień says, "this is quite manageable."
“December 18, 2006. The higher the team moves on the mountain, the more dangerous it becomes.” Darek Załuski, Jacek Jawień and Artur Hajzer “spend three days fighting wind and cold to fix lines up a steep, long stretch of ice above Camp 1. They eventually put up more than 6,000 feet (1,800 meters) of rope, from 16,700 to 19,000 feet (5,100 to 5,800 meters). It is a heroic push, and they return to Base Camp exhausted.
“Wielicki and Robert Szymczak, the team doctor, are up next. Their mission: Extend the lines another thousand feet and put in Camp 2 at approximately 20,000 feet (6,000 meters). On the 19th, above the fixed lines, they encounter a tower of rock on the snowy ridge, but instead of taking the time to look for an easier way around it, Wielicki boldly leads a line straight up the middle. This is classic Wielicki: choosing the hard way. It is sketchy climbing on bad rock. He hammers in pitons occasionally, but mostly just solos up and up. The rock is so rotten Szymczak must hide behind outcrops to keep from being killed by stones tumbling in Wielicki's wake. Dusk forces Wielicki and Szymczak to bivouac near the top of the tower at only 19,500 feet (5,900 meters). It's 30°C (-22°F) below. They scrape out a shelf in the angled snow, survive a miserable night, and descend the next day badly fatigued.
Choosing a New Route to Summit Nanga Parbat in the Winter
Mark Jenkins wrote in National Geographic: ““The rest of the team is bewildered by Wielicki's choice of route. Although Camp 2 is eventually placed at 20,013 feet (6,099 meters) in a perilous crevasse directly above the "Wielicki spur," the spur is too technical and too steep for the porters. They drop their loads at its base and scuttle back down the mountain. Wielicki, thinking like the elite climber he'd been during the '80s, not like the team leader he is now, has led his expedition into a vertical cul-de-sac. ("For me, it was like a test," Wielicki will later say. "A challenge. A problem to overcome. It was necessary for me, for myself, not for the expedition.") Humping tents, bags, rope, food, and fuel up the short Wielicki spur grinds the team down. Krzysztof Tarasewicz is hit by a falling stone that mangles a finger. Almost two weeks are wasted battling up and down this small stone tower. [Source: Mark Jenkins, National Geographic, January 2008]
“Finally, on January 1, Hajzer, Jawień, and Załuski discover a simple detour around the Wielicki spur. But precious, irretrievable time, energy, and enthusiasm have been lost. Wielicki himself said that the team needed to summit before the middle of January — when winter winds become so ferocious it's impossible to continue. His dark prediction begins to play out. Putting in Camp 3 becomes an epic struggle against the air raid of wind. Climbers are almost blown off the ridge. It takes another week and three attempts before the team finally establishes Camp 3 at 22,146 feet (6,750 meters), chopping a small trench for a single tent in snow as hard as concrete.
“Back at Base Camp there is a constant drone in the air: the deep-throated howl of the wind tearing at the summit. A sense of foreboding has descended on the team. The slow progress, crippling cold, and stress have begun unraveling the indispensable braided rope of teamwork. Climbers have taken sides against one another; there's finger-pointing and murmuring.”
Last Gasp Effort to Summit Nanga Parbat in the Winter
Mark Jenkins wrote in National Geographic: “In an attempt to salvage the expedition, Wielicki makes a last-ditch plan to reach the summit — even though Camp 4, the high camp, has not been established and a summit bivouac is certain death. Załuski and Jawień will push up to Camp 3; he and Hajzer will go to Camp 2, then follow. Szymczak and Łoziński will stand by at Base Camp. Maybe, somehow, Załuski and Jawień can still put in Camp 4. Maybe someone will somehow struggle to the top. [Source: Mark Jenkins, National Geographic, January 2008]
“It is the 12th of January, 2007, the dead of winter,” Załuski and Jawień “are pinned down inside their tent at 22,146 feet (6,750 meters) on the southwest ridge of Nanga Parbat, Earth's ninth highest mountain. Everything is frozen solid — boots, socks, sunscreen, water bottles — as if left over from some ghastly ice age. They remove batteries from inside their underwear, fumble them into the radio, and call Base Camp. The wind is shrieking, snow strafing their nylon tent. Only a few desperate words can be made out. "Wiatr...wiatr!" The wind, the wind. Spoken like dying words. But Załuski and Jawień are not dying. Unbelievably, they are trying to decide whether to go up, or go down.
“They have not slept for two days. They reached Camp 3 on the ridge the day before and spent the night huddled inside their tent, clinging to the poles to keep them from snapping in the wind. The temperature is minus 40°C (4°F), the wind gusting at 60 miles (100 kilometers) an hour. They are wearing everything they have — layers of fleece, thick down suits, gloves inside mittens, hoods, and masklike balaclavas. Exposed skin quickly suffers frostbite. They have cocooned themselves in their foot-deep sleeping bags, but still they are shivering uncontrollably, their speech slurred, body movements jerky. Even in this fugue of misery, they understand and accept the situation. They are Polish, after all, and this is a peculiarly Polish pursuit: high-altitude winter mountaineering.
“They have been on the mountain for 35 days. Big sponsors have paid big money to see them succeed. But going up is impossible. Going up is a death sentence, a march through bludgeoning snow straight into oblivion. Even going down they might not survive. They reach a decision. In bright red astronaut suits, they crawl out of the flapping tent into the maelstrom. Blinded by snow bulleting their goggles, knocked to their knees by the wind, they reach for a rope whipping in space, and begin to descend.” This is Załuski “fifth trip up the mountain. He and Jawień are already spent, skeletons of the men they were a month ago....On January 14, the fifth Polish winter expedition to Nanga Parbat is over.”
Gunmen Kill Nine Foreigners at Nanga Parbat
In June 2013, Gunmen stormed a mountaineering base camp at night at Nanga Parbat and shot dead nine foreign climbers and trekkers — five Ukrainians, three Chinese and a Russian, one of whom was a a U.S. citizen, — and a Pakistani cook and a Nepalese porter. It was one of the worst attacks on foreigners in Pakistan in a decade and demonstrated the growing reach and audacity of militants in a part of Pakistan that before the incident was considered secure. It was also one of the worst acts of violence to hit the international climbing community. [Source: Jibran Ahmed, Reuters, June 23, 2013]
Jibran Ahmed of Reuters wrote: “ Police said a 15-strong gang of attackers wearing uniforms used by a local paramilitary force arrived at about 1 a.m. at a group of tents and ramshackle huts used by hikers scaling the flanks of the snow-covered 8,125-meter Nanga Parbat peak. The assailants shot dead a Pakistani guard and held other workers at gunpoint, a senior official from the northern Gilgit-Baltistan province said. A Chinese climber managed to escape. “The gunmen held the staff hostage and then started killing foreign tourists and made their escape,” the official said.
“It was the first time foreign tourists had been attacked in the province of Gilgit-Baltistan, where the convergence of the Hindu Kush, Karakoram and Himalayan ranges creates a stunning landscape explored by only a trickle of the most intrepid mountaineers. Pakistan’s Taliban movement and a smaller militant group both claimed responsibility.” The shootings followed several deadly bombings in different parts of Pakistan in the previous week. The deaths of the Chinese are a particular blow for Pakistan, which “ trying to boost trade ties with the Asian giant via their shared border in Gilgit-Baltistan. The move did little to silence critics who asked how gunmen could have slipped past security forces at check points meant to scrutinise visitors to the sensitive mountain region bordering the disputed territory of Kashmir.
Two Groups Claim Responsibility for the Nanga Parbat Attack
David Roberts wrote in Outside online: “Within days of the massacre, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a Sunni Muslim branch unaffiliated with the Afghan Taliban, claimed responsibility for the deed. A spokesman said that the motive was revenge for the death, by an American drone strike, of the group’s second-in-command, and that the action had been carried out by a splinter faction of the TTP called the Jundul Hafsa. The Pakistani cook was apparently shot because the attackers assumed he was Shia. Sher Kahn believes he survived only because his name sounded to the killers like a Sunni cognomen, even though Khan is actually an Ismaili Shia. [Source: David Roberts, Outside online, July 30, 2013]
After the attack Jibran Ahmed of Reuters wrote: “There were conflicting claims of responsibility for the attack. A Pakistani militant group known as Jundullah, with a track record of attacks in the province, was the first to say it was behind the raid. “These foreigners are our enemies and we proudly claim responsibility for killing them, and will continue such attacks in the future,” Jundullah spokesman Ahmed Marwat told Reuters. The same group has claimed responsibility for a series of attacks in northern Pakistan in recent years, mostly on members of Pakistan’s Shi’ite Muslim minority. [Source: Jibran Ahmed, Reuters, June 23, 2013]
“Pakistan’s Taliban movement, which has its centre of gravity closer to the Afghan border, said it had shot the trekkers in retaliation for a U.S. drone strike in May that killed its second in command, Wali-ur-Rehman. “We wanted to seek revenge for the killing of our leader in the drone attack,” said Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan. “Our attacks on foreigners will continue to protest drone strikes.”
“It was not immediately possible to reconcile the competing claims. Jundullah and the much larger Pakistani Taliban are among loosely aligned militant groups that frequently share personnel, tactics and agendas. Claims for specific incidents are often hard to verify. Recent attacks by Pakistani militant groups have tended to focus on security forces and religious minorities, particularly Shi’ites, but foreigners have also been targets in the past.
In 2002, 11 French engineers and technicians working on the construction of submarines for the Pakistan navy were killed along with three Pakistanis in a suicide bombing outside a hotel in the port city of Karachi. In 2009, gunmen attacked the visiting Sri Lankan cricket team in the eastern city of Lahore.
Details of the Nanga Parbat Attack
Tim Craig wrote in the Washington Post: “According to local officials and residents, the Pakistani Taliban attackers hiked through the wilderness for three days to reach the base camp on the western side of the mountain, known as the Diamir Face, late on June 22, 2013. “Taliban! Al-Qaeda! Surrender!” the militants shouted as they marched into the camp, where the climbers and about three dozen porters slept. [Source: Tim Craig, Washington Post, June 29, 2014]
The assailants went looking for foreigners, slashing more than 40 tents with knives. They yanked people from their tents — one Lithuanian, three Ukrainians, two Slovakians, two Chinese, one American and one Nepali — tied their hands behind their backs and made them kneel in a row in the moonlight. “Then, suddenly, we a heard a shot,” said one 31-year-old Pakistani climber, who was tied up by the militants nearby. He spoke on the condition of anonymity because he continues to fear for his safety.“Then we heard hundreds of ‘brrr, brrr, brrr’ sounds,” like an automatic weapon might make, he said. “Then a leader of the group came and shot all the dead bodies one by one again.”One militant then shouted, “This is the day we take revenge for Osama bin Laden,” the man recounted — an apparent reference to the United States’ killing of the al-Qaeda leader in Pakistan two years earlier. Only one foreign climber — a Chinese man who hid in a steep trench clutching a pickax — survived. The attackers also killed a Pakistani cook, apparently because he was Shiite. Pakistani police later arrested six people who reportedly confessed to the crime.
David Roberts wrote in Outside online: “On the evening of June 22, some 16 to 20 local villagers disguised as Gilgit paramilitary officers hiked into base camp on the Diamir side of” Nanga Parbat, “shouting in English: “Taliban! Al Quaeda! Surrender! Some fifty climbers from many different countries were on the mountain at the time, and more than a dozen were hanging out at base, waiting for better weather and acclimatizing before heading up to higher camps. The intruders roused these mountaineers from their tents, tied them up, and forced them onto their knees at gunpoint. [Source: David Roberts, Outside online, July 30, 2013]
“The attackers first demanded money. Interviewed by Peter Miller for National Geographic, Sehr Khan, a Pakistani climber in camp at the time, recalled one of the men saying, “We know you can speak English. Ask them who has money in their tents.” Khan continued: “Everybody was scared. We all said, ‘Yes, we have money.’ The foreigners said, ‘Yes, we have Euros. Yes, we have dollars.’ And, one by one, they took climbers to their different tents and collected the money.”
“The intruders next destroyed all the cell phones, satellite phones, and two-way radios they could find. “ [S]uddenly, I heard the sound of shooting,” Kahn recounted. “I looked a little up and what I saw was this poor Ukrainian guy, who had been tied with me, I saw him sitting down. Then after that moment, the shooting started in bursts. Brrrr. Brrrr. Brrrr. Three times like that. Then the leader, this stupid ugly man, said, ‘Now stop firing. Don’t fire anybody.’ Then that son of a bitch came in between the dead bodies and he personally shot them one by one. Dun. Dun. Dun. Afterward we heard slogans, like ‘Allahu Akbar,’ ‘Salam Zindabad,’ ‘Osama bin Laden Zindabad.’”
Several of the climbers pleaded, “I am not American! I am not American!,” to no avail. In the midst of the carnage, one of the few survivors heard an assassin proclaim, “Today, these people are revenge for Osama bin Laden.” Yet only one of the victims was an American citizen, and he was Chinese-born. Two others were Chinese, three were Ukrainians, two Slovaks, one Lithuanian, and one a Sherpa from Nepal. The cook was a Pakistani. In all, 11 people were killed.” [Source: David Roberts, Outside online, July 30, 2013]
“In the aftermath of the massacre, nearly all the climbers on Nanga Parbat were immediately evacuated, leaving only a Romanian team on the opposite Rupal side of the peak — safer ground and harder to get to. Proceeding with their attempt, the Romanians placed four members on the summit on July 19.
Account of Nanga Parbat Massacre
According to Climbing.org: Various accounts of the Nanga Parbat attack emerged. Zhang Jingchuan, the sole surviving climber in base camp that night, returned to China and gave a few details of his experience to Chinese reporters. Steve Swenson, a veteran of 11 climbing expeditions to Pakistan, wrote a historical and political background to the Nanga Parbat killings. An account by Polish Alpine Club member Boguslaw Magrel read: [Source: Climbing.com, June 28, 2013
"We checked in at Diamir Base Camp on June 10. The next day we went up the mountain, where we set up Camp 1 at 4,800m, an intermediate camp at 5,300, then a second camp at 6,000 m. Quite optimistic we looked to the future, because at the bottom of the mountain we met strong teams from Pakistan, Ukraine, an international team comprising climbers from Russia, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Azerbaijan, another team of Ukrainian-Slovak climbers, additionally came Sherpas with clients from China and a climber from Turkey. In total, about 50 climbers.
"Our camp at Nanga Parbat was attacked on the night of June 22/23 by armed men claiming to be Taliban [Ed: Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan]. The camp was surrounded; all climbers were dragged out of their tents, bound, robbed, and then shot. "The Taliban were disappointed that they could not catch the Americans and stated that it is a revenge for the killing of Osama Bin Laden. 'Okoliczolności' executions are familiar to me, but I will not recount them here. In this horrific crime 11 people lost their lives, including many prominent mountaineers.
"The remaining climbers managed to escape death as we were in the higher camps. Speaking also of luck, the Nepalese people returned to the camp at night; they heard gunshots literally 300 meters before they entered BC. The Taliban did not attack the camp workers; most of whom were recruited from this valley. "We have learned about the tragedy from the only climber who managed to escape from the camp. While trying to escape, our Chinese friend was shot in the ear, but by satellite phone he was able to tell his Nepalese agency, which then alerted Nazir Sabir in Pakistan. This famous climber immediately informed the Pakistani Army, which sent helicopters to the Base Camp. Soldiers secured the area and ordered us to immediately return to the base. "By the evening all climbers reached BC, but that night, no one slept. In the morning three helicopters flew in, including an Mi-8, which evacuated us to Gilgit. From there a military Hercules plane took us to Islamabad.
"Our expedition is over. Currently we are trying to get our equipment, which remained at Base Camp, to return to Poland. Unfortunately, it is not easy because of Pakistani support agencies leave much to be desired. Also the support of the government is very weak. Everybody who plans to climb a mountain in Pakistan should rethink their plans, because the Taliban officially informed that tourists will be targeted in further attacks. It should also be noted that it is a complete change in their terrorist activities, because so far no attack was done against foreign tourists. Prosecution of the murderers is very difficult, because the current Pakistani government is sympathetic to the Taliban."
Why Did the Nanga Parbat Attack Occur
David Roberts wrote in Outside online: “Many questions remain unanswered. If the Jundul Hafsa had struck to avenge the killing of Osama Bin Laden and American drone strikes on Sunni targets, why did they so readily kill non-Americans, even Chinese? Some observers speculate that the killers intended to disrupt the political bond between Pakistan and China, jointly planning a major dam project in the Diamir region. And there are strong indications that the Jundul Hafsa (or allied factions of the TTP) were responsible for a pair of attacks on buses in the Gilgit region in 2012, in which a total of almost sixty Shia were systematically identified and executed. [Source: David Roberts, Outside online, July 30, 2013]
“Others speculate that the poorly educated and mostly illiterate villagers who carried out the killings may have viewed all non-Muslims as “Westerners,” making little distinction between a Lithuanian or a Slovak and the Americans who launch drones against Taliban targets. As of July 22, the Pakistan government, under its new prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, appears to be making a concerted effort to round up the murderers. Sixteen have been identified by name, and four arrested.
“Doug Chabot believes that the Nanga Parbat incident has little to do with Sunni-Shia enmity. Both he and Steve Swenson cite the numerous IED and suicide attacks in which innocent Pakistanis — many of them Sunni women and children — are killed along with the targeted victims. Voicing his outrage in an open letter to the the American Alpine Club, Manzoor Hussain, the president of the Alpine Club of Pakistan, wrote, “It appears that the mission of these enemies of humanity is to kill everyone living, including themselves, for reasons beyond our comprehension.”
“Did the climbers at Nanga Parbat base camp just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time? Does the massacre mean that the several dozen expeditions now ensconced on the Baltoro Glacier in quest of the summits of the four other 8,000-meter peaks in Pakistan are equally vulnerable? The Diamir base camp lies at an altitude of 13,000 feet, only a three-day hike up the valley. To reach Concordia on the Baltoro at 15,000 feet, near which climbers establish their base camps, requires a rugged six-day trek through dangerously glaciated terrain. That inaccessibility in and of itself may impose a margin of safety for the climbers on the Baltoro. In addition, as Swenson and Chabot point out, there are very few terrorists in that part of Pakistan, and their arrival there would not go unnoticed by the strong military presence in the region.
“According to Chabot, “The Jundul Hafsa are essentially a gang — like the Bloods and the Crips. There’s no overall leadership of the Taliban, and once the U. S. pulls out of Afghanistan in 2014, all these small gangs will be fighting for power and territory across both countries. It’s going to be a free-for-all. With the Nanga Parbat killings, the Jundul were saying, ‘We own this place.’”
Impact of the Nanga Parbat Attack on Tourism and Climbing
David Roberts wrote in Outside online,“The impact on the Pakistan’ s tourism business, on which thousands of merchants and porters depend for their livelihood, promises to be both profound and long-lasting. “This is a great tragedy for Pakistan,” says Nazir Sabir, one of his country’s leading climbers and the head of Pakistan’s top trekking company. “I have talked to most of the operators,” reports Sabir, three weeks after the massacre. “Ninety percent of their trips are canceled.” For Sabir, it was a personal tragedy as well, for he knew the three Chinese climbers and the Sherpa well. [Source: David Roberts, Outside online, July 30, 2013]
Tim Craig wrote in the Washington Post: “The attack crushed the remnants of Pakistan’s international tourism industry, creating new hardship in a part of the country known for its tolerance and hospitality. Before the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, hundreds of thousands of tourists traveled each year to Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan district, where the Himalayan, Karakoram and Hindu Kush mountain ranges meet. There were 20,000 tourists in northern Pakistan on the day of the attacks on New York and the Pentagon alone, but afterward the country was lucky to attract half that number in an entire year, said Tayyab Nisar Mir, a manager at the Pakistan Tourism Development Corp. [Source: Tim Craig, Washington Post, June 29, 2014]
After the attack, the number of foreign mountain climbers collapsed. “Those who did come were almost exclusively mountain climbers and long-distance backpackers determined to explore some of the world’s most picturesque scenery. Although there were about 150 climbing expeditions a year in the country in the 1980s and 1990s, and about 75 annually after 9/11, only about 30 are likely to occur this year, officials said. And no climbers are expected this summer at Nanga Parbat. (At least two climbers made an unsuccessful attempt this past winter; no one has made it to the peak of Nanga Parbat or K2 in the winter).
The number of backpackers has declined even more dramatically, Mir said. Nanga Parbat was the last nail in the coffin of tourism in Pakistan,” he said, adding that the loss of tourism is costing the country US$100 million annually. Officials in Gilgit-Baltistan stress that the massacre was an isolated tragedy. They have been going to great lengths to reassure visitors that the region is safe.
“There has also been a steep decline in the tourism business in the Hunza Valley, an oasis of cherry and apricot trees wedged between imposing snow-covered mountains. The area is one of several Himalayan― locations that have been mentioned as the possible inspiration for the mythical Shangri-La in James Hilton’s 1933 novel, “Lost Horizon.” “Here, we have nice weather, nice mountains, nice people, but tourists are not coming, ” said Mohammad Karim, 34, a guide who also runs a camping store in Karimabad, a town in the valley.
“It may take years and years before they will consider going back to a place like Pakistan,” said Steve Swenson, past president of the American Alpine Club, who has been on 11 climbing expeditions in Pakistan over the past three decades. “I talked to a lot of people, even fairly knowledgeable people, about going there again, and their immediate response is: Is it safe? And then a not-unusual response is: Are you crazy?”
Impact the Nanga Parbat Attack on Locals
Tim Craig wrote in the Washington Post: “On a pull-off spot overlooking Nanga Parbat on the Karakoram Highway, a sign once read, “Look to your Left: Killer Mountain...For more than five decades, locals have called it “Killer Mountain,” a reminder of the risks of trying to scale beautiful, snow-topped Nanga Parbat... But Qaria Amin, 33, who operates a gem store at the spot, said that a month after the massacre, a police officer made him paint over the word “killer.” The sign now reads, “Look to your Left: Mountain.” Amin says he is lucky if he makes a US$100 a week now, compared with the US$100 a day he used to bring in selling rubies, topazes and emeralds collected from the nearby hills. At Fairy Meadows, a village that overlooks the northwest face of Nanga Parbat and the Raikot glacier, the tourism industry has “collapsed, causing hopelessness,” said Raji Rehmal, a resident. [Source: Tim Craig, Washington Post, June 29, 2014]
“The village of about 50 extended families is so remote that there are few other economic opportunities. To get there, visitors travel an hour by jeep up what locals call “the world’s most dangerous road,” a lane so narrow that vehicles’ tires are inches from the ledge. The road ends at an elevation of about 8,200 feet, and visitors then must hike to the village, elevation 11,154 feet.
Rehmal, who estimates that he is 50 years old, says he has walked at least 13,000 miles working as a guide or porter for foreigners. His work helped pay for the construction of a school for the village. A foreign climber came up with the name Fairy Meadows in the 1950s because the grassy plateau reminded him of a fairy tale, according to tour operators. “In the good days, there were doctors who used to bring medicine, and Westerners who used to linger longer just to teach the local kids,” Rehmal said. “We would never, ever think of harming any tourist, any foreigner.”
“Pakistani hikers in the area also said they miss the foreign visitors. “We have so little to be proud of, so if there is something as impressive as this, and foreigners come praise it, it’s a psychological lift,” said Nashreem Ghori, a 41-year-old Karachi native who was hiking near Fairy Meadows. ‘Sooner or later, the people will come back’
“Ghulam Nabi, owner of a campground at Fairy Meadows, said he fears that residents may resort to mining or logging to try to earn a living if the tourists stay away. “The people of Gilgit-Baltistan have learned a lot from Western people,” Nabi said. “We were taught how to protect the environment, and how to balance tourism and nature.”
“Authorities now assign an armed police officer to any foreigner who wants to go hiking near Nanga Parbat. Pakistanis are hopeful that such measures, and the stunning scenery, will eventually draw back tourists. “Those mountains are not going anywhere,” said Iqbal Walji, a Pakistani tour operator. “Sooner or later the people will come back, because it’s one of the most beautiful places on earth.”
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons
Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (tourism.gov.pk), Official Gateway to the Government of Pakistan (pakistan.gov.pk), The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Wikipedia and various books, websites and other publications.
Last updated February 2022