Flipping through my passport, one might imagine that I've been to Pakistan enough times to warrant my own dossier at the CIA. Three big visa stickers grace the back pages of my passport, issued by the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, dated 2012, 2013, and 2015. Look closer, though, and one would fail to find any entry stamps. Despite years of attempts, I've never actually made it there!
Climbing in the Karakorum has long been a dream of mine. Ever since reading seeing photos of Todd Skinner styling the Trango Towers, or videos of Jonny Copp and Mike Pennings laughing their way up the Cats Ear Spire, Pakistan seemed to be the wild frontier of rock climbing. A foreign land of deserts, valleys, glaciers and rugged granite spires, this represented for me the ultimate summer road trip.
This youthful enthusiasm and naivety led to our first attempt in 2012. With Blake Herrington and Graham Zimmerman, we applied for grants, visas, and permits. With stoke astronomically high, we gathered at Blake's house in Washington for May and June to train. Besides climbing in the gorgeous Cascades, we called the Paki consulate every day, waiting in vain for all the necessary clearances and paperwork. Our optimism had come crashing into South Asian bureaucratic inertia. We bailed on the eve of our planned departure, still lacking the necessary climbing permit.
The next year, 2013, Graham and I re-stoked on the Karakorum and again filed all of our applications. Again, however, permits failed to arrive. Then in late June news broke of the horrific shootings at Nanga Parbat basecamp, where 11 climbers and guides were murdered by the Taliban. This dampened our enthusiasm, and also brought the permitting process to a halt for the season.
So last fall, when Graham and I again started scheming a big trip, one would understand why Pakistan wasn't at the top of our list. India? Kyrgyzstan? Maybe Nepal? Clearly the big mountains of Asia still held our imaginations, but we couldn't fathom butting heads again with Pakistani officialdom.
But here we are, for a third summer, with hopes and dreams of the high Karakorum! What changed our course? An unlikely climbing partner, old enough to be our father; stolen maps and photos from Poland; and a patient battle of wills with the Pakistani intelligence service... all this and more in the next installment![vimeo