It was interesting looking back on our trip to Pakistan in 1993 and though successful it was a close run thing. We learned so much, I had been to Nepal in 1990 on a small expedition of 6 pals on a very difficult peak but this was very different.
We had a big group of 30 as it was the 50 th Anniversary of the RAF Mountain Rescue Service. We planned to give as many as possible a taste of the Himalayas and took many novices mostly on the Trekking party 15 went on that, led by Danny Daniels one of the troops.
They had no porters and had a wild 3 weeks in remote mountain country. The rest of us were on 2 routes on Diran just under 24000 feet a big mountain in wild area of Pakistan. We had no porters after Base Camp just our Sirdar Jabed and a cook assistant.
Pakistan is a different place nowadays with the rise of terrorism and the huge changes going on in the World. The travel and arrival in and through Pakistan was a tale on its own but it all went smoothly Jabed our Sirdar ensured it all went as well as it could. We went and bought local food for the trip in the markets and myself and Jabed built a friendship and trust that was to last the whole 5 weeks of our trip. He was a devout Muslim and prayed regularly and as I had worked in the Gulf in the early 70’s he was surprised I had learnt a bit about his religion, he was a incredible man.
The journey along the Karakorum Highway was mind blowing and at times we thought we would never make it to the mountains. We had to have a liaison Officer who was okay but not in any way comparison with Jabed who loved the Scottish after working with Sandy Allen a well-known Scottish Guide on many occasions in Pakistan. We had hit it off immediately and that friendship helped so much during our trip.
It was important to have on such a big trip a bit of organisation and this Bill Batson who lead it was great at and a few of us helped.. We had a lot to do before we reached the mountains and these were interesting times for all. When we arrived at the mountains after a terrifying at times journey along the Karakoram Highway, rock fall and closed roads and huge drops in a bus that drove through the night by two drivers on hash ! It was a culture shock to some of the troops!
We even had an earthquake and a bit of a scary time at the road head, Gilgit there was a festival on and everyone had guns and a place to keep your head down and leave as quick as possible.
As always you respect the locals and they will respect you and all the time Jabed was watching and taking care of us.
Once we arrived we hired the porters and mules for the 3 day trek into Diran Base our trekking party headed of with huge bags for a 3 week adventure – self-sufficient with tents and food and no Guides or Porters, led by Danny. They had an incredible trip a massive learning for all there are no tea shops where they were going and they hit some weather and some heavy snow, it became a survival trip at times and again is a tale on its own. Looking back Danny was an incredible man veteran of so many expeditions and what a responsibility he had with no guides or porters. This was a huge undertaking on its own and one I only realise that all those years later.
This area is renowned for possible Porter problems and the walk to the mountain is over some hard ground including a glacier. Hamish McInnes had warned me he had been here before on the nearby Rakaposhi and we were well briefed. We had a problem in bad weather and had an extra overnight stop but the porters they were so badly dressed it was a worrying time as it snowed. Jabed was great and proved his worth sorting out the trouble and helping everyone and we were soon on our way again. This is the way it is and was a culture shock to a few of the younger troops. It was good to learn off Jabed and soon I was becoming the man to talk to Bill was busy getting his head round the hill and the logistics of this huge mountain and its neighbours, that seemed to shed avalanches all day.
On arriving at the Base camp it is protected by a Glacier and we were lucky to have good weather as we crossed it. The porters never cease to amaze me with many wearing basic shoes and carrying big loads on the glacier. The huge mountains towered above us the impressive Rakaposhi a mountain with big Scottish connections and its huge ridge that seemed endless . Then our mountain Diran with the huge North Face and ridges what a place to be. The Base camp was a lovely place with grass and water and also some cows grazing, how they had crossed the glacier I will never know but we had arrived and the mountain awaited. The Porters could not leave quick enough they had enough and got paid and left, we were on our own and set up Base for the next 3 weeks. It had taken over a week to get here but the experience was just beginning . I was used to small trips and this was a huge expedition, my other trip was an Alpine attempt in the Himalayas in 1990 just a few pals and was so different. Yet how selfish was this as we had a lot of troops out to give them the experience of the Himalayas and the trekkers would soon be gone and we would be alone on our massive mountain.
At last we had arrived and the mountain awaited there was much to do but at least we had no donkeys braying all night they had left with the Porters and surprisingly only the cows wanting to eat anything lying about. It was an amazing place an oasis of green grass right in the mountains, safe with water running nearby.
We were ready to go and the mountain awaited.
” Treat and respect people as you would treat others”