When someone is so naive as to ask me why I keep going to Nepal, I always respond (paraphrasing Willie Sutton) "Cos that's where the mountains are." But that's not where all the mountains are: of the fourteen peaks over 8000m, only eight are in Nepal and one more is visible from Nepal; the remainder, K2, Broad Peak, Gasherbrum I, Gasherbrum II, and Nanga Parbat are in Pakistan. Thus, it was time for me to head to the Karakorams to seek my first view of these peaks. The best trek for this goes from the town of Skardu up the Baltoro glacier and then over the wonderful Gondogoro La [Pass]. Pakistani regulations require that you hire a guide and hence a cook etc., and there are no villages or even tea houses on the way, and so this would not be a lightweight trek.
On June 7, my guide Sarwar and I flew from Islamabad to Skardu in a Boeing 737. For a short time during the flight I was able view the mountains, including Nanga Parbat, from the cockpit. The next day, while Sarwar hired the porters and arranged the food and equipment, I went for a walk and saw this massive rock carving illustrating that the valley had not always been Muslim.
Houses at Askole
Children at AskoleThe British mountaineer Doug Scott arranged for Askole to have clean water, provided by a pipe from a clean stream above the village. Sarwar saw a woman nevertheless getting drinking water from the stream (sewer) flowing through the village. "Why?" he asked. "Because it tastes better" she said.
A fragile looking bridge
Sarwar crossing the Dumordo river