Throughout the ongoing pandemic we have continually speculated about when regular mountaineering expeditions would resume this year. In the spring, we saw Everest and the other big Himalayan Peaks closed due to the coronavirus, but for a time we thought that surely the summer Karakoram season in Pakistan would happen. As the world continued to struggle with COVID-19 however, it became abundantly clear that any expeditions to those mountains were likely to be cancelled too. But as it turns out, there is one climbing team that is attempting a major peak this summer, perhaps setting the stage for others to soon follow.
Yesterday, ExWeb posted news of a team consisting entirely of Pakistani climbers that is headed to the 7070-meter (23,195 ft) Rakhiot Peak. Located on the Nanga Parbat massif, on the edge of the Karakoram Range, the mountain is a formidable challenge. This is due in large part because it is seldom climbed, making its route a bit lesser known. Most teams that take on Nanga Parbat focus on the main summit itself, which rises 8126 meters (26,660 ft) in height. As a result, its numerous sub-peaks aren’t as well explored.
The Pakistani team headed to Rakhiot consists of Sa’ad Mohamed, Aheed Naveed, Asif Bhatti, Tashfeen and two high altitude porters. The make-up of the squad shows a growing trend in Pakistan of homegrown climbers who have the skill and experience to climb these major mountains on their own. This growing group of Pakistani alpinists serve as some of the top guides on K2, Broad Peak, and Nanga Parbat, although this year there isn’t anyone for them to lead up those mountains. Instead, this group decided to organize a team of their own, pushing to achieve goals that they’ve set for themselves without having to keep watch over western clients.
As ExWeb points out, this is the only known expedition in the region this year. That should make for an incredibly quiet Base Camp, as there aren’t even any trekkers wandering the trails this summer. That has been incredibly bad for the tourism economy in Pakistan and has left guides, porters, and support staff out of work. Considering Pakistan continues to struggle to get the virus under control however, it may be for the best that they are staying at home.
With the end of the summer climbing season already appearing on the horizon, the next litmus test for mountaineers will come in the Himalaya in the fall. It seems unlikely that China will open its borders to foreign visitors, closing off all efforts on Tibet’s big mountains. But Nepal seems eager to get back to business, although whether or not anyone will actually shows up remains to be seen.
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