Mountaineering in Pakistan


The first course of “The Swat Project,” took place last month, where instructors of Mountain Wilderness International (Asian Desk) went to Pakistan to run an eco-compatible mountaineering course for young locals of the mountainous Swat region. The course was the first stage of what is known as “The Swat Project”, whose final objective is to establish a National Park for the defense and enhancement of the unparalleled valleys of Swat. Although the Swat valleys’ are already in close proximity and are fairly accessible to major cities in Pakistan, the area hopes to avoid irreversible damage and increase tourism in an area as it was once known as the “Switzerland of the Indian sub-continent”.

The inspiration for this project started over half a century ago, when renowned professor Giuseppe Tucci was leading the Italian archaeological excavations in the Swat District. He convinced the young mountaineers of the University Subsection of the Alpine Club of Rome to discover the region’s mountaineering/hiking potential by creating a cultural link between visits to the most ancient Buddhist monuments (the remnants of which still dominate the hills of the Lower Swat District) and outdoor activities that would be respectful of the northern Kohistan’s natural high mountain environment.

In 2017, by collaborating with the archaeologists of the International Association of Mediterranean and Oriental Studies (ISMEO), Mountain Wilderness agreed to revive the old project, widening its focus to embrace a more explicit and effective defense of the natural environment.

This led to “The Swat Project”, a task that ISMEO and Mountain Wilderness International are now running with equal commitment, skill and enthusiasm. Additional support and financial participation were provided by the Italian Ministry of Culture, by the Mountain Partnership Secretariat at FAO, the Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research, the Italian Academic Alpine Club, the Rome Chapter of CAI and several generous private donors whose names are listed below.

The two-week course trained 21 students and the course began with two days of theoretical lectures that included a range of concerns: the duty to protect the environment, first aid, high altitude medicine, the geological and morphological history of the mountains, the handling of trekking customers, the correct description of itineraries, and so forth.

Two base camps were also set up. The first was set up at the foot of the very spectacular Batin Peaks, for rock climbing practice. The second at an altitude of 4000 metres at the base of the massive glacier that stretches toward the final ridge of Falak Sar (6000 metres), for practice on negotiating ice and snow.

These sessions took the students 4800 metres high along the summit ridge of Falak Sar, where they confronted very steep slopes with deep crevices and snow bridges.

The ceremony for awarding the diplomas took place in the city of Saidu Sharif in the presence of Italian Ambassador to Pakistan Stefano Pontecorvo, the Director of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region’s tourism department Sayd Mohmmad Ali, Mayor of Swat Mohammad Ali Shah and president of the Adventure Foundation Brig. Mohammad Akram Khan. A few journalists from the main national newspapers and TV networks also attended, and offered excellent media coverage in the days that followed.

The Mountain Wilderness International (Asian Desk) have laid the foundation in the project to train not only skilled, but conscientious trekking guides in the upper Swat valleys. Additionally, the project aims to establish genuine, well-grounded local outposts for the defense of the environment that are capable of preventing degradations in the mountains.

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Photos by Mountain Wilderness 


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