Occasional Climber

Karakoram Highway – Rawalpindi to Skardu, August 1992

A matter of pride - a fine example of the lovingly decorated vehicle frontages seen frequently through the clouds of dust along the Karakoram Highway (and throughout Pakistan)
A taxi minivan in central Rawalpindi
Gaily painted and decorated buses congregate at the Pir Wadai Central Bus Station in Rawalpindi. Whether loading or unloading, departing or returning, blaring air horns and belching exhaust pipes always mark the occasion
There is little hint here of the beauty and majesty of the destinations further to the North that these vehicles will bump and rattle their way labouriously to and fro each week. Nevertheless, as the military centre of Pakistan and also the major Southern city on the Karakoram Highway, Rawalpindi is a bustly, interesting place to visit
The view through the front windscreen of my bus, bound for Gilgit
A view from the Karakoran Highway South of Gilgit. The mountain is Nanga Parbat (8,126m) which, in Sanskrit, means “naked mountain”. It is also known as Diamir – "residence of spirits". Nanga Parbat has the single largest unbroken face in the world – 4,500m of sheer rock and ice
Entering one of the many villages dotted along the Karakoram Highway, this one South of Gilgit
634 kms North of Rawalpindi and approximately a kilometre higher up lies Gilgit (1500 metres), the main town on the Karakoram Highway
A bridge spanning the Gilgit River
In Gilgit a driver proudly poses in front of his lovingly decorated vehicle. These multi coloured wonders continually ply the entire length of the Karakoram highway, transporting heavy cargos to the villages along it and also across the border to and from China
A closer look at a driver and his pride and joy
Seen from the window of a light aircraft en route from Gilgit to Skardu, it is strikingly obvious how significant the rivers' influence on the terrain is. On the one hand scouring deep guts into the mountain sides, on the other bringing brilliant green bursts of life to the valleys. This spectacular 240 km flight does not even clear the snowy peaks on each side of the Indus valley, which the aircraft traces up to Skardu
The journey from Gilgit to Skardu can also be made by road, taking 16 to 20 times longer than the flight. This leaves plenty of time to contemplate your vulnerability as you pass by sheer cliffs, prone to frequent rock falls
Local farmers plough their fields beside the Gilgit to Skardu road
No frills truck stop accommodation about four hours West of Skardu  > On to Rakaposhi Base Camp

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