L to R Asif Bhatti (Leader), Saad Mohammed, Aheed and Tehseen.

After putting up a “good example for the world to follow” against COVID19 as said by UN General Assembly President-elect Volkan Bozkir, Pakistan’s climbing season is also awakening from its deep slumber.

A German Team led by Felix Berg and three others bagged the first ascent of a 5,770m PakPeak in Shimshal on 20 Aug. A Czech Team of three is already on its way to PakPeak Muchu Chhis (7,453m) in Batura Muztagh considered as highest unclimbed PakPeak. Meanwhile when foreign climbers are slowly pouring in, domestic climbers are also warming up. A team from Lahore successful made ascent of PakPeak Falak Sar (5,918m) in Swat, home town of Malala Yousaf Zai, the Nobel Laureate.

Photo By : Asif Bhatti

Another daring effort was put on by a team of four, under the shadow of fearsome Nanga Parbat Massif. PakPeak Rakhiot (7,070m) is a daunting climb towards the Rupal Face of Nanga Parbat which had been rarely attempted. Team included Asif Bhatti as the expedition leader , Saad Mohammed with two Everest attempts under his belt, Tasfeen Javad , a promising climber and comparatively a new comer Aheed Naveed. All the climbing was done by members themselves however team included two cooks both named Rauf (hence Rauf-I and Rauf -II) whereas Jamshaid and Qayum as supporting staff members.

According to Asif , PakPeak Nanga Parbat (8,125m) had always fascinated him since his first visit in 2008.(It could be a case of love at first sight.) Since then he have been visiting this beautiful mountain more or less every year. When he started climbing it appeared to be a distant dream to reach the shoulders of fearsome Nanga thus he made a long term plan. In 2017 , he executed an all around Nanga Parbat trek to see all Base camps in one go. Then in 2018 he climbed PakPeak Spantik (7,027m) to test limits above 7000 m. Later plan was set up to climb PakPeak Chongra , yet another shoulder of Nanga Parbat Massif. Finally in 2020 his team settled on PakPeak Rakhikot (7,070m) that would gave them all a more closer look to Nanga itself.

Climbing history of PakPeak Rakhiot (7,070m), overshadowed by its parent Nanga Parbat is not very long. In 1988, it was attempted by a Japanese Expedition. They started from the famous Herligoffer Base Camp on Rupal side of Nanga Parbat. It took them two months to reach around Camp III . In the attempt a climber broke his leg while another perished to death. Asif Bhatti told that their team opted to start from all together a new route (aptly named by him as Rupal Village Route). It took them just fifteen days to reach almost same altitude as was gained in two months by the Japanese three decades earlier. More interestingly the team also found some remains of Japanese expedition. Tehseen Javad successfully reached upto 5730m while the remaining reached over 5700m once the problems started.

According to Asif, main issue was the late season. Due to Covid-19 and some other reasons team could not leave Islamabad earlier. In his reckoning the monsoon had a lot of bad impact on expedition. Snow was found melting at alarming speed at higher camps and beyond 5730 m it became difficult to climb. Crevices were found wide open , hanging cornices were ready to fall and soft snow beneath was not reliable enough to step upon.After deliberation Asif and his team made the sensible decision of not putting lives at risk and descended.

On descent , according to Asif , there was a strange development. “When we were descending, one of our porter (Mr Jamshaid ) was left at Camp II .On his decent he decided to stay alone at Camp 1 for a night and bring the luggage down next morning. As he settled in the Camp I , he heard some voices of little kids. Later on it was identified as the voice of a song.  Jamshed got frightened (rightly so) and descended down quickly.  The voices kept on following him for a long time. ” The incident is some what similar to as narrated by American Climber Thor Kaiser who was on PakPeak K2 in 1992. He listened on his radio set a British female voice calling ” Camp IV To Base Camp”. Six years earlier in Dark Summer of 1986 , Julie Tullis, first British women to reach on K2 had died at Camp IV.

This expedition of Rakhiot2020 have definitely put PakPeak Rakhiot (7,070m) on the radar of climbers both domestic and foreigners. Credit for this goes to Asif Bhatti and his team including Saad Mohammed, Tasfeen Javad and Aheed as well as Rauf-I , Rauf -II , Jamshed and Qayum. They deserve applause for making a daring effort, in testing times under the shadow of a fearsome mountain.

By the way who was better cook, Rauf I or Rauf -II?

Interested in climbing near Nanga Parbat? Can choose from these three PakPeaks.

Photo Courtesy : Asif Bhatti