ISLAMABAD, June 25: Foreign and local mountaineers and adventure tourists mourned here Tuesday the 10 climbers terrorists murdered over the weekend. But they stood true to their defiant spirit.
“We have lost friends to mountains, but there are no words to explain how we feel losing friends like we did on Saturday,” Polish climber Aleksandra Dzik told the memorial meeting arranged by the Alpine Club of Pakistan (ACP).
She felt disappointed leaving Pakistan without conquering Nanga Parbat. But she was determined to return next year for her third attempt at the killer mountain.
“We mountaineers are used to facing challenges,” reminded a grim but resolute Aleksandra.In fact, a separate four-member Polish expedition left for Nanga Parbat on Monday, although Pakistani authorities had evacuated the four foreign expeditions already camping at the mountain, according to ACP secretary Abu Zafar.
And a Romanian team has continued its climb on the peak from the Rupal Face.
ACP President Colonel Manzoor Hussain began the sombre proceedings with apologies.
“We apologise to you that our government failed to protect the lives of your team members,” he said.
Col Hussain announced that some 40 members of the Bikers and Hikers Group have rejected ACP’s advice to postpone their two-week journey to the Fairy Meadows, the base camp of Nanga Parbat.
Indeed the black-shirted bikers and hikers, hailing from Multan, Lahore, Gujranwala and other cities, now are intent upon going to the base camp of Rakaposhi and beyond to Khunjerab Pass also before turning back to Islamabad.
Shaken and traumatised Russian, Ukranian, Serbian, Polish and local mountaineers stood by a wall erected at the meeting site with images of the climbers killed by insane militants over the weekend in the backdrop of Nanga Parbat, sharing their memories.
Rao Jianfeng had conquered eight peaks above 8,000 metres around the world. He was climbing all four peaks in the Karakorum Range GI and GII, Broad Peak, including K2, this year. Yang Chunfeng had conquered 11 peaks above 8, 000 metres high.
The two were among the nine foreigners slain at the Nanga Parbat base camp.
“Their slaying is like 9/11 to me,” said Pakistan’s pioneer mountaineer Nazir Sabir who was managing one of the four expeditions present at the Nanga Parbat base camp. “I wish the Pakistani government had ordered the flag at half mast to let the world community know that Pakistan feels their pain,” he said.
President of Pakistan Tour Operators Association of Pakistan, Amjad Ayub, urged the foreign climbers to keep returning to Pakistan.
“The mountains are innocent. We may not have been able to protect the lives of our honourable guests but we will push our government to take every measure to protect the lives of adventure tourists,” he said, speaking for the hundreds of thousands of people, such as porters, cooks and transporters and their families that the adventure tourism industry sustains.
Members of the four expeditions evacuated from Nanga Parbat base camps following the massacre are waiting for the concerned government offices to return their climbing gears they left behind.
Serbian mountaineer Nina Adjanin, 31, and her Lithuanian colleague of same age, Saylius Damulevicius, were sad that they would be burying friends instead of celebrating the conquest of Nanga Parbat.
The two had moved on to Base Camp II where they heard about the tragedy that overtook the comrades they had left behind.
It was the first visit to Pakistan’s wonderful mountains. Nina Adjanin is a sports manager, and Saylius Damulevicius had quit his job to conquer Nanga Parbat.
“We returned to Base Camp I to find army soldiers around the camp. We were scared because we had heard that some 10 to 15 gunmen had attacked and the soldiers were not enough. We slept with our shoes on. We did not sleep in sleeping bags. The plan was to run with flashlights turned off in case the gunmen returned,” Saylius Damaulevicius told Dawn.
“Despite the reassuring presence of the soldiers, two to three members of our expedition took turns to keep a watch.”
Both Nina Adjanin and Saylius Damulevicius lost their friend Ernestas Markaistas amongst the nine foreigners killed at the Nanga Parbat Base Camp.
“We were planning a bigger expedition next year but after what happened it would be difficult to convince our families and friends about that plan,” said Saylius Damulevicius.
“We hope that those responsible are caught and punished without mercy. We hope that we get our gear back so that we could leave earliest,” said Aleksandra Dzik.