Pakistan offers some of the best trekking in the world. The Karakoram, Himalaya and Hindu Kush ranges which dominate northern Pakistan are truly spectacular. They encompass soaring mountains of rock, ice and snow, huge sweeping glaciers, plateaux and high pastures carpeted with grass and flowers in summer, valleys of contrasting bare rock and fertile irrigated settlements, and rich pine forests lower down.
Yet the potential of this region remains for the most part undiscovered. With the exception of one or two areas ( the trek to the base camp of K2 in particular), trekking in Pakistan is completely free of crowds and pollution. The days when European explorers set out to fill on the “blanks on the map” may be past, but this region remains one of the least comprehensively mapped in the world and is still full of adventure and excitement.
Aside from the natural beauty of the mountains and the peaceful, unspoilt solitude they offer, perhaps the most rewarding aspect of trekking in Pakistan is the contact it brings with the people who inhabit this beautiful and yet harsh environment. With one or two notable exceptions, the people of northern Pakistan are friendly, hospitable and open in a way which seems to be characteristic of mountain people throughout the world. In Pakistan, this is complemented by a fascinating variety of cultures; moving from one valley to the next it is often possible to witness a complete change in the traditions, lifestyle, language and ethnic origins of the people.
Trekking in Pakistan is more demanding than in countries such as Nepal and even India, where facilities are much more developed. Any trek involves having all the supplies and equipment, as well as the physical stamina, to be completely self-sufficient if need be. On many treks it is perfectly possible to go for several days at a time without encounering any permanent settlements, and even in areas that are settled, agriculture at subsistance level, making it impossible ( and unfair) to rely on them for food.
The mountains of northern Pakistan represent an extremely fragile environment. Mountaineering and trekking pose serious threat to the ecology of the region. For many, part of the romance of trekking is associated with “wilderness” images of sitting around campfires under a starlit sky. While appealing, the cutting and burning of firewood is perhaps the most immediate and dramatic cause of environmental degradation. Forests are all too scarce in most of northern Pakistan and are under serious threat. There is no justification for visitors to light fires; they have ( or should have) their own stoves and fuel. The same for the porters…