In spite of deaths by avalanches and mountaineers losing their lives while scaling the treacherous peaks of Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B), the youth of Skardu remain steady in their conviction to mountaineering.
Mountaineering is a common sport in G-B, which houses some of the world’s highest peaks, including Karakoram-2 (K2), the world’s second highest peak. Tourists and climbers from across the globe flock to the region, especially in the summers, attempting to scale the peaks and all the while providing much-needed job opportunities to the hundreds of locals involved in the profession.
“The mountains in G-B are a challenge as well as an opportunity for the youth of the region,” said Sakhi Hassan, a trainer who runs Khurpa Care, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) that provides trainings to local porters and climbers. “If they excel in the sport they can earn fame as well as money, as did many others in Skardu in the past,” said Hassan. Nisar Sadpara and Hassan Sadpara are two fine examples of porters who became internationally acclaimed climbers. He said that aside from the fame, the monetary rewards are also quite fulfilling, adding that a senior porter earns around Rs150,000 in one mountaineering season.
Hassan said that a rock climbing competition recently organised by Khurpa Care in Skardu attracted a staggering number of youth from Balti, who aspire to become climbers and porters. They know that their lives are at risk, but the inspiration from the achievements of local heroes is one strong factor that keeps them motivated, he said.
Recently, a famous high-altitude porter from Skardu, Nisar Sadpara, along with three other climbers went missing while attempting to scale Gasherbrum-I peak in the Karakoram region of the Himalayas. Nisar was Pakistan’s youngest mountaineer to climb K2. Moreover, 138 people including army troops and civilians were buried under a massive avalanche in Giari, Siachen.
“It is refreshing to see that the youth of Skardu are interested in climbing despite the risks involved,” said Hassan.
He said that his NGO has trained over 400 men, including high and low altitude porters in Skardu, enabling them to pursue careers in the filed. The trainings are certified by International Mountain Leadership Institute, a US-based mountaineering school, to maintain the quality and standards of the trainings.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 8th, 2012.