The K2 climbing anniversary mission may have made international headlines last week when its team of mountaineers conquered the “killer mountain” but they failed to capture the imagination of the country’s highest officials.
Not a single senior government official from Gilgit-Baltistan is likely to welcome the triumphant mountaineers when they return to Askole on Monday, The Express Tribune has learnt.
Repeated attempts via phone and email have been made by the organisers to the G-B chief minister and chief secretary’s office to invite them to the reception upon the mountaineers’ return. However, they have refused to commit at the moment.
“Even after all these efforts, as a native I feel ashamed that people from other countries come here and invest in us while our own government cannot give them some form of recognition,” said Munir Ahmed, the spokesperson for the Pakistan K2 Expedition project.
Six Pakistani mountaineers and four Italians teamed up for an expedition to challenge history after they made it to the summit at 2:30 pm on Saturday. The Pakistani group consisted of Hassan Jan, Ali Durrani, Rahmatullah Baig, Ghulam Mehdi, Rozi Ali and Muhammad Sadiq. Two Italian mountaineers Michele Cucchi and Simone Origone, and documentary-filmmaker and climber Daniele Nardi were accompanying the climbers.
Data reveals that less than 300 people have ever dared to conquer K2. This year, taking the weather opportunity, the team managed to conquer it magnificently.
Last year, authorities had applied a ban on those attempting to ascent the K2 due to extreme weather conditions. In addition, the attack on foreign tourists at the Nanga Parbat base camp had further shrunk opportunities for enthusiastic mountaineers.
But amid all odds and concerns, this group was successful.
Ali Durrani, 24, was the first one to reach the K2 peak at 2:22 pm on July 26. Without using supplementary oxygen, he was often short of breath. “My excitement kept pushing me forward, exceeding my own expectations as I crossed the bottleneck of K2,” he said. “I could easily see the summit crest. I changed the track and kept briskly crawling on the steep icy slope.”
He recalled, “When on top, I immediately signalled the Camp-IV and Base Camp. The sudden repeated chanting of the word ‘summit’ got louder.”
After their feat, they gained attention and appreciation internationally, but so far, no senior official has extended their wishes to the team. A one-worded ‘congrats’ message was sent by one federal minister when informed about success of the summit.
“They are saddened about such a gesture. However, their morale is still high,” said an organiser.
In a statement, Agostino Da Polenza, the president of Ev-K2-CNR which is the sponsor of the Pakistan K2 Expedition, said he learnt about the enthusiasm of several high-altitude porters last year who aspired to reach the peaks of K2 to mark the 60th anniversary of the mountain’s first ascent on July 31, 1954 by an Italian expedition. “I decided to give them a chance to try their luck. I believe the less privileged take responsibility more seriously and they proved it with their hard work, devotion and struggle,” he said.
More than 40 high-altitude porters appeared for tests and interviews, but only the best eight were selected who were then trained for months. “They did their best. They wrote a historic chapter without any loss of human life,” Da Polenza said.
This is an opportunity for the federal government and the Gilgit-Baltistan administration to concentrate on mountaineering and adventure tourism and scale up the tourism economy for the better livelihood of the locals, he said. “They should promote the Central Karakoram National Park as the best tourist destination in the world.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 3rd, 2014.