The Swat Project is heading towards its end. This project is being carried out with the help of the International Association for Mediterranean and Oriental Studies (ISMEO), the Italian Academic Alpine Club (CAAI), as well as the Mountain Partnership (the UN voluntary alliance of partners dedicated to mountain peoples and environments). Scarpa is providing hiking and climbing gear.
The Swat region was the cradle of Buddhism between the first and sixth centuries of the vernacular era and later became a Muslim principality. Here you can find valleys, passes, peaks and glaciers, breathtaking landscapes marked by 5000ers and 6000ers and dense coniferous forests, lakes, crystal-clear streams, as well as high-altitude pastures inhabited by small groups of nomadic shepherds. Unfortunately, Swat is starting to become a destination for a particularly disrespectful and disorderly tourism.
Why a park?
Mountain Wilderness believes that the only way to preserve the area lies in the development of a viable alternative, based on respect as well as strict rules and regulations, and geared towards the establishment of a National Park. This aims at educating tourists to environmental conservation and raising awareness among tourists and local people. Environmental protection will have an impact on the livelihoods of mountain people. It is a virtuous circle, and an ambitious project.
Why a guidebook?
A crucial step will be the publication of a hiking and mountaineering guidebook of the high valleys and mountains of Swat, based on the reports compiled by the hikers and mountaineers who explored and mapped the area in previous years and with a strong focus on environmental protection. This guidebook is meant to spur the Pakistani government to initiate the creation of the National Park.
What still needs to be done
Explorations done so far are simply not enough. Volunteers are needed to carry out further exploration and mapping, as well as taking pictures of unexplored areas. In addition to hikers, parties of mountaineers are needed to identify access routes to the main peaks and to describe the ascent routes. Mountain Wilderness thinks that publishing a guidebook can be an important step in convincing Pakistani authorities of the importance of designating a national park.
If you are a hiking and mountaineering enthusiast, you can join us in exploring Swat’s last, still partly unknown hiking and mountaineering routes. Some of the routes may require the crossing of glaciers and snow passes, implying the use of crampons, ice axe and rope.
Hiking the trails will take seven to eight consecutive days. You may also have an extra day to visit the ruins of the ancient Buddhist monuments in the southern hills of Swat. Departure date has not been decided so far, but will be between August 20 and 30. Overall, the trip will last a couple of weeks.
To find out more details on the Swat Project, check out our website for information in English or the website of Mountain Wilderness Italy and of the Italian Academic Alpine Club for information in Italian. You can also click on the PDF at the end of this article (English).
If you are interested, please contact Carlo Alberto Pinelli, firstname.lastname@example.org
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