After a group of Islamic militants gunned down 10 climbers in a remote base camp in Pakistan last weekend, the Pakistani government elected to suspend all mountaineering expeditions as a safety precaution. In light of the decision, dozens of alpinists have had to abandon their climbs in the Himalayan and Karakoram ranges, including attempts on K2, the world’s second highest mountain.
Despite the violence and terrorism that plagues many parts of the Middle East, climbers had continued to visit the mountainous areas of Pakistan in recent years. The Gilgit-Baltistan region, where the attack occurred, was known to be peaceful and welcoming to foreigners. Many local people earned their livelihood guiding or otherwise serving international expeditions during the busy trekking season, so it was imperative to maintain good relations. Because of the area’s economic dependency on mountaineers, the government’s decision may have devastating implacts on these mountain communities.
Meanwhile, in the capital city of Islamabad, climbers are waiting to hear whether they will have a chance to climb at all this summer. While there have been no other attacks since the incident, the government wants to take every precaution. If climbers are allowed back into the mountains, there will now be a notable change to the scenery: Armed guards on the trekking routes to the country’s major peaks.
With any luck for local communities and mountaineers, the increased security measures will help ensure that foreigners can continue to safely climb these famous peaks.