In the wake of the brutal killing of 10 climbers in Base Camp on a remote peak in Pakistan this past weekend, the country has suspended all mountaineering expeditions to the region. This unprecedented move has forced dozens of alpinists to abandon their climb as the Pakistani government scrambles to ensure they can keep visitors safe following the tragedy.
Early Sunday morning a team of armed gunmen dressed as local police stormed Base Camp on Nanga Parbat, the ninth tallest mountain in the world at 8126 meters (26,660 feet). The attackers reportedly pulled 10 climbers from their tents, bound their hands and shot them execution style. A Pakistani guide was also killed in the massacre while another Chinese climber was shot and wounded, but survived. Afterward, a militant group known as Junood ul-Hifsa, a relatively new splinter group from the Taliban, claimed responsibility for the killings, which they say were in retaliation for a U.S. drone strike back in May.
News of the attack sent a shockwave through the closely-knit mountaineering community, which has been coming to Pakistan to climb in the summer months for decades. The Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan, which is where Nanga Parbat can be found, is normally considered to be very peaceful and welcoming of foreigners, which has only added to the sadness and confusion that has come with this massacre.Immediately following the attack, the Pakistani military moved onto the mountain and secured a safe exit for the other climbers, most of whom were further up the slopes at the time. At the moment, only one team remains on Nanga Parbat – a Romanian squad that is attempting an ascent along a different route. Their camp is located far from the scene of the attack and they are awaiting word to see if they will be allowed to continue.
Meanwhile, back in Islambad, other climbers are stranded in the city while they wait for an opportunity to travel to their targeted peaks. A number of teams hoping to make an attempt on K2 – the second highest mountain in the world – are now left wondering if they’ll even get a chance to climb at all. The Pakistani government want to make sure it can guarantee their safety before letting them depart for the mountains and as a result it is erring on the side of caution. While there have been no other attacks on mountaineers elsewhere in the country, an armed presence now exists on the trekking routes that lead to those peaks.
Summer is typically the busy climbing and trekking season in Pakistan and the economy there depends on visitors feeling safe. This attack is likely to make adventure travelers and mountaineers think twice before they travel to the region in the future, which could have a big impact on the poor people that live in these remote areas.