The renowned mountaineer, Agostino Polanza, who is heading an expedition called K-2 60 Years Later to celebrate the anniversary of its first ascent, has said that he has an inherent love for Pakistan’s highest peak.
“One of my relatives was among the team that conquered the peak for the first time in 1954,” he stated in a press release issued on Sunday.
Polanza conquered the perilous peak in 1983, joining a list of other Italians to achieve this feat. In 1954, Achille Compagnoni and Lino Lacedelli, became the first men ever to reach the mountain’s 28,253 feet (8,612 meter) summit.
On Saturday, six mountaineers from Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) were among a team that scaled K-2 ahead of the 60th anniversary.
While the expedition was making their way to the peak, Agostino and his wife Stephania supervised arrangements for the celebration. They were in Skardu initially, but trekked to the base camp with others. “They are still at the base camp and will welcome the climbers on their descent on Tuesday,” said Arif Hussain, a senior official of the Gilgit office for EV-K2CNR, an autonomous, non-profit association, which promotes scientific and technological research in mountain areas. Agostino and his team will leave the base camp on Wednesday and reach Skardu after a four-day trek, the official told The Express Tribune on Monday.
The 60th anniversary celebrations were seen by many as the first step towards reviving tourism in G-B, where attacks on foreign tourists in 2013 left 10 dead at the Nanga Parbat base camp.
Polanza has, for example, spearheaded an effort to clean up the 69 kilometre-long Boltro glacier given his passion to conserve the environment around the world’s second highest peak.
The government is hopeful that the success of the celebrations will revive tourism in the region as many left G-B off their list of destinations after the attacks last year. In 2013, authorities refused to let climbers attempt the ascent to K2’s peak as they could not go beyond Camp 3 due to the extreme snow.
Far fewer people have conquered K-2 compared to the world’s highest peak Mount Everest. Only 300 people successfully climbed the mountain in Pakistan, while nearly 3,500 climbers had made it to the top of Everest.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 29th, 2014.