When Taliban gunmen mowed down a group of foreign climbers last month, Romanian mountaineer Zsolt Torok was perched on an icy flank of Pakistan’s second-highest peak oblivious to the mayhem unfolding thousands of metres below.
“I called my wife (on a satellite phone) and she said the Taliban came and killed everyone in the base camp,” he said. “I was shocked. We survived only because we’d chosen a different route.” Undaunted, Torok and four other Romanian climbers carried on with their ascent, becoming the first expedition to scale Nanga Parbat last week since the bloodiest attack on foreigners in Pakistan in a decade.
The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for the pre-dawn massacre on June 22 when gunmen dressed as policemen stormed the 4,200-metre-high base camp, killing at least 10 foreign climbers and a Pakistani guide. Victims included mountaineers from China, Lithuania, Nepal, Slovakia, Ukraine and one person with joint US-Chinese citizenship. One Chinese climber escaped.
Several expeditions to Nanga Parbat – at 8,126 metres, the world’s ninth highest peak and known among climbers as the Killer Mountain – have since been cancelled, dealing a blow to Pakistan’s once thriving mountaineering sector at the height of the trekking season.
Torok, 40, and his team, passing through Islamabad on their way home after bagging the mountain on July 19, said they were unnerved by the attack but felt safe in the company of 10 armed Pakistani guards protecting their camp.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 26th, 2013.
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