Skardu. Frankly, the trip up the Baltoro has been described to death so
instead, I'll post some impressions of our trip until something really
first time in nearly a week the air is cool, at least in the morning. Four
days in the 45 degree (115 degrees F) heat in Pindi kept us either poolside or
in the borrowed luxury of the Pearl Continental Hotel. The theme continued
with the two-day bus journey to Skardu in an occasionally air-conditioned bus.
cooled the bus by opening the windows; unfortunately the air temperature was
35 C (95 F). You can duplicate this by turning your hair dryer on 'low' and
pointing it at your face for an hour or so. Don was soaking up the sun, but
I'm not fond of hot weather.
The trip so
far has reinforced several fundamental themes of travel in Pakistan. These can
be generalized to other Asian countries (and maybe to other developing
regions, such as, say, Kentucky or Alaska). First, Inshallah ('if God
wills it') is not a spiritual law but a physical one. So many things that
determine your destiny are out of your control; it's healthier just to sit
back and let things happen. Second, a miss is as good as a mile is
another fundamental law of physics. Pakistani drivers perform amazing feats of
applied multivariable calculus every few seconds, determining the trajectories
of multiple incoming vehicles and pedestrians so as to allow them to miss each
other by a hand's breadth. I've twice felt the brush of a car mirror as I
walked along the road. Third, even the smallest decision requires a committee
meeting that would make any bureaucrat proud, though there's a lot more
shouting than normal. Finally, the people are far more friendly that I'd see
in a similar situation in the USA (although our liason officer found Americans
very friendly and open).
the climb? We are on a permit with climbers from Italy, the Czech Republic,
and maybe later some Poles and other Americans. There's lots of snow in the
mountains, lots of sun melting it, lots of water trying to wash out the road
to Askole, and not enough porters. Apparently, increasing education has made
the life of a porter less appealing, ergo there are fewer men willing to carry
loads. Imagine that! In a few years, helicopters will likely replace humans as
load carriers and an old tradition will be lost.
pack loads, finish shopping, and relax (I hope) before the 4 AM departure for
Askole. Several kidney-pounding hours on the jeep will finally, Inshallah,
get us to the start of the trek.
June 26. The jeep ride from Skardu to Askole was relatively easy. The road
only had one bad spot and dry conditions meant a relatively safe journey.
We're sorting loads, relaxing, and rejoicing in the fact that we don't have to
ride a plane, bus, taxi, or jeep for the next five weeks. Aside from some
minor stomach problems for Don, we're in good health, we're at the trailhead,
and our liason officer seems to be a good guy. Mike
Mike Farris has been climbing
rock and ice since 1975 and has climbed in Alaska, Canada, Argentina, Nepal,
as well as all across the USA. He reached 8000m on the North Face of
Kangchenjunga in 2002 and 7900m on Broad Peak in 2004. He is the author of
Rock Climbing: Minnesota and Wisconsin and is Associate Professor of
Biology at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota.
has climbed big wall routes on Baffin Island, alpine ice routes in the Rockies
and Sierras, and alpine rock routes in many places around the world--many of
them solo. Don lives in Bishop, California and is part of the Inyo County
Search and Rescue team.
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