were a myriad of reasons to choose another destination. Pakistan is
almost exactly half way around the world from California, and coupled
with a high priced ticket was my loathing for sitting in planes. This
journey would require three flights adding up twenty-two hours in the
air, followed by two days of driving. The previous year in Newfoundland
swore that my yearly international pilgrimage would never again be to a
If you believe the news in America, it is suicidal to
Pakistan. The seemingly endless struggle with India over Kashmir
continues, and international “War on Terror”
continues Afghanistan, with the US launching unsanctioned drone attacks
The Marriott bombing happened weeks
before our flight, so this is what
everyone thought about Pakistan.
I was on the fence about the trip, leaning away from it,
received this compelling letter from Roland
, who had lived in
Islamabad for three years while his father worked in the embassy.
“Without getting too philosophical, this is a
in Pakistan's history. They're on the brink of Talebanization, dealing
with a bad economy, etc. It sounds like a war-zone when you watch CNN
or read about it in the papers, but I hope the trip will be able to
show a large number of people that most people in Pakistan are
peaceful, friendly, and caught between extreme political forces from
both Afghanistan and the US. At the end of the day, the trip's about
taking the opportunity to relate to people as normal human beings and
share stories of Americans and Pakistanis having fun together with the
world. We could go in and take a bunch of pictures at the arms market
in Dera-Adem-Khel, dress up in shalwar kameez and turbans, and talk
about how extreme we are because we're on the front line in
Pakistan.... but I don't buy that angle at all. If we succeed at
anything, I hope it is to run a safe expedition and draw some attention
to the beauty and power of the Karakoram and Himalayan drainages. In my
opinion, the story isn't about war, guns, and insurgency,
its’ huge mountains, epic rivers, and good
I couldn’t resist and bought my ticket, as did Ben
. Roland was already
working a rafting trip in India and would meet us in Islamabad. We
would fly into Islamabad, drive twelve hours to Chilas, and then
another nine to Skardu. Despite being sandwiched between Afghanistan
and India, the people of the Northern Areas known for being peace
loving and friendly.
Unusual to our international expeditions, this one
about a first descent. We were looking at the Indus River from Skardu
to the confluence near Gilgit. It was a hundred and seventy kilometer
section that had been run before, with the first descent done in
The 1989 expedition was led by David
, be sure to check the
photo gallery on this page, it’s impressive.
Phil and I had the fastest flights possible, with no
layovers. It took
us about thirty hours door to door, arriving in Islamabad early in the
morning. We were glad to be met by Roland, who quickly took us to Mr.
Zakaria’s house where we organized our gear into two vans,
got breakfast and hit the road.
The mountains and culture were enough
to make the drive engaging.
We drove through the day and into the night, finally
Chilas, got up early again the next morning and hit the road. While
still on the Karakoram Highway we stopped to enjoy Nanga
The crew top to bottom, left to right:
Rafa Ortiz, Phil Boyer, Rashid,
Mustaffa, Darin McQuoid, Ben Stookesberry, Chris Korbulic and Roland
Nanga Parbat the “Killer Mountain”
It seemed like we were in the middle
of nowhere, then our driver Rashid
pulled out his cell and called home.
While back in the states Ben and I had ourselves convinced
November the river would be low…between 5,000 and 10,000cfs.
Here we are at the confluence of the Gilgit and Indus, and it looked
like somewhere around 15,000cfs.
One factor that helped me motivation was the thought of
being in the
Karakoram and Himalaya, so I had too get lots of pictures of the mighty
mountains. This place will make you feel small.
Phil Boyer stands near the river with
the same mountain range towering
“That looks big, even from a few
hundred feet up”
The larger rapids mandated several
stops to check things out. This is
the cover shot portaged viewed from below.
The road reminded me of the Cal-Salmon road, just a lot longer and a
several hundred feet higher above the river. With lots of traffic too.
The driving was honestly the most dangerous part of the whole trip.
The restaurants aren’t boring
either. We stopped in for lunch
halfway to Skardu and while getting lunch, tried to ignore a goat being
slaughtered next door.
The days end early at these elevations in November, but every evening
We made it! After four days of constant travel we were in
quickly secured a hotel and went to the bazaar to shop for expedition
Rafa Ortiz checks out the options
offered by the bazaar.
Once we secured enough food and some fuel we went back to
the hotel and
crashed out, still not sure of our exact plan for the following day,
put on the Indus or secure a jeep to drive us to Askole, and run the
Braldu down into the Indus?