Mountain Wilderness International again present in Pakistan

Islamabad the 25th of September 2012
After many years of absence, Mountain Wilderness International came back to Pakistan to offer once more to their Pakistani friends their technical expertise and their philosophical vision of the relationship between civilized man and the mountains (1).
We were here to take up again a common and shared path based on a positive exchange of ideas and experiences. In truth it is not quite correct to say that we have been absent: Pakistan is the only Asian Nation where a Chapter of Mountain Wilderness has been operating efficiently for years.
Our Association was created and lives to defend the specific characteristics and the cultural and natural heritage of mountains world–wide, and to protect their integrity, safeguarding their biodiversity and ecological balance. The ever–increasing presence of man in the mountains must not degrade their many and vital aspects, but must draw from them a lasting existential enrichment.
For us the protection of mountains does not mean erecting around them an imaginary barbed wire fence, depriving the tourist who comes from afar of the stimulating experience of the highlands, and denying the people settled in the valleys the chance to make a decent living thanks to tourism. To defend mountains means to suggest a balanced and careful use of them.
Today more then ever we need the true voice of the mountain, to find again the spiritual dimension we are loosing, or more simply, to know ourselves better. That voice will be all the more credible and effective, will have the power to conquer our souls and enrich our lives, if it is in radical contrast to the world of the urbanized flatland we come from, and of that world does not return the reflect to us.
Among all the mountain ranges of the Planet, the majestic ranges in Asia – Pamir, Hindu Kush, Karakorum, Himalayas – still preserve to a great extent the characteristics just mentioned, for geographical and historical reasons, and for reason related to the collective imagination. They are considered the true “beyond” by people who love adventure not only as sport, but mainly as an enquiry into themselves. Beyond means the pristine site where you can still experience profoundly the breath of nature, and take due distance from the restrictive, sterilizing and lazy vision we bring with us from our social and cultural origin.
The purpose of our presence in Pakistan today was connected to a specific project.
With the help of the Government of Pakistan, of the Aga Khan Organization, the Alpine Club of Pakistan, the local communities, we are planning to create a permanent environment-friendly mountaineering school in Shimshal or Pasu.
During the first years this school will shape a group of fully reliable mountaineering instructors selected from the already existing mountain guides of the upper Hunza region. In turn they will pass the skills they learn on other young people willing to attain a professional level, or simply interested in learning how to face the challenge of the high mountains with a sound preparation.
Our project has also the ambition to become a bridge connecting these groups of well trained Pakistani instructors to the people living in the Afghan corridor. These Pakistani instructors who speak Wakhi can be sent to Afghanistan by the Aga Khan organizations to help the local youth willing to acquire the basic skills needed to offer their services to foreign visitors as mountain guides, altitude porters and trekking organizes. In fact at present many tourists interested in outdoor activities reach the Wakhan mountains coming directly from Tajikistan. This is the reason why the local communities keep asking Mountain Wilderness to organize again there some specialized training courses. Hunza instructors could be perfect for the job in a sustainable perspective.
To sum up the aim of our present survey was:
a) To verify to what extent the local communities of Shimshal and upper Hunza are interested in the project and in the possibility of establishing there a permanent school of environment–friendly mountaineering.
b) To discuss with the Government of Pakistan, with AKRSP, with the Pakistani Alpine Club, their future involvement in our Shimshal–Wakhan project and, if necessary, adapt and re–shape our proposal on that basis.
c) To consider the feasibility of preparing a guide book of the area for mountaineers and trekkers.
We believe that this last point is particularly important. Some time ago, Mountain Wilderness produced a handbook of the Afghan Hindu Kush mountains for the Aga Khan Foundation, and we verified that thanks to this guide book, several groups of mountaineers resumed climbing in the area, in spite of the present difficulties. Something similar could happen in the ranges of upper Hunza.
We consider the result of our present survey extremely positive. The local communities accepted our proposal with enthousiasm and are ready to cooperate for its accomplishment. The local leaders of the AKRSP ( Aga Khan organization) expressed their appreciation and welcomed the project. Moreover also Mr. Qamar Zaman, Federal Secretary of the Ministry of Education and Training – whom we were honored to meet – granted his full support to the initiative, acknowledging its educational, professional, and sustainable significance. For all these reasons we are sure that we will be able to organize the first Course for mountaineering instructors during the summer of 2013.
Prof. Carlo Alberto Pinelli
Chief of the Asian Desk
Mountain Wilderness organized the first ecological expedition to save the meaning of the great mountains of the Karakorum – Himalaya ranges. In 1990 the “FREE K2” expedition completed the environmental rehabilitation of the second highest peak in the world, freeing the base camp and the mountain’s slopes of tons of garbage and fixed ropes abandoned by previous parties.