Normally, the trek to Fairy Meadows offers a good view of the peak. But on that day, Nature had something else in mind.
Nature in Pakistan has always fascinated me, both as a Pakistani and a photographer. It is my strong held belief that my country is second to none when it comes to lush landscapes, snowy mountains and beautiful people.
Fairy Meadows and the Nanga Parbat base camp had been on my wishlist for a long time, so imagine my delight when all of a sudden, things started falling into place. I took a leave from work, and was all set to go with my friend’s touring company on what I knew for a fact would be a beautiful ride.
We set off via the Karakoram Highway, which is a marvel of its own. Scenic views sped by us as we arrived at the Raikot Bridge. From there, our way ahead was on jeeps, and so began a more adventurous and rather perilous leg of our journey; about an hour and a half of sharp turns, uneven roads and precipitous climbs.
That was just the beginning. After the 90-minute adrenaline-pumping jeep ride, was a 4-5 hour trek to Fairy Meadows. Ordinarily, when you’re trekking towards Fairy Meadows, you can see Nanga Parbat looming ahead like a colossal giant raising its head.
On that specific day, though, Nature had something else in store for us.
For the entire five-hour trek, clouds hovered over us, at times drifting around us, like a veil in front of the great mountain, concealing it from our view.
Nonetheless, the magic of the landscape around us did not diminish. Every step of those five hours was worth it.
Trudging and traipsing along by the end, we finally arrived at Fairy Meadows, exhausted and out of breath, but realising how aptly named it is; the clouds still in front of us, mountains on both sides and the beautiful green valley where we stood – it was a scene right out of a fairy tale.
I sat down on a bench to rest my tired legs, and saw a white peak at my eye level peeking out from behind the clouds. I had heard stories of the grandeur of Nanga Parbat, but this glimpse of its peak did little to impress me.
It seemed much smaller than I had anticipated. As I was mulling over this disappointment, the clouds slowly began moving away. And that's when I gaped at it wide-mouthed; how mistaken I had been.
What I had assumed to be the peak of Nanga Parbat was actually nothing but a small part of its lower half. The clouds lifted very slowly, revealing bit by bit, the most breathtaking view I’ve ever seen. It was like a curtain being slowly raised to reveal the most magnificent, glorious stage to a mesmerised audience.
I was so spellbound that after taking a few photographs, I let my camera hang around my neck, and just focused on only taking in this very moment.
The clear sky lasted for only 15 minutes, but those few minutes were like a divine revelation. The clouds came back and for the next two days, the rain kept us from moving forward.
The weather cleared on the third day and we set off once again on a six-hour hike towards the Nanga Parbat base camp.
We started at sunrise, hiking over slippery glaciers and pearly white, snow-covered ridges. The basecamp gave us an even closer view of the Nanga Parbat. We then set back towards Fairy Meadows to get there by sundown.