The Northern Areas of Pakistan (NAP) attract two distinct groups of travelers. First, there are the thrill seekers, who come for the sheer challenge of navigating the challenging landscape of the area, and include the mountain climbers and trekkers. Second, there are groups comprising the mild natured—at least in terms of their adventure spirit—travelers who find less challenging ways to explore NAP, be it through biking, hiking, cultural safaris or just visiting the Gilgit, Hunza or Chitral valleys. Unlike major tour operators, who competed aggressively for mountain climbing parties sponsored by local companies, HA due to the limited marketing, logistical and budgetary constraints, competed only in the trekking, mountain biking and the cultural safari tour markets.

Climbing expeditions are contingent on two factors—cooperation of the Pakistani government in granting climbing passes and most importantly the availability of good climbing weather. Out of 12 years that he had been involved in this business, the first five of them as a guide for mountaineering expeditions, Abdul Bari surmised that the actual scaling rate[1] for mountain climbers had been less than 5%. This statistic had a major role to play in turning people away from climbing towards the more rewarding trekking adventures, which are 14-day-plus hike-a-thons designed to take tourists to either one or more base camp sites around the mountain ranges and are less contingent on weather severities due to the low altitude exposure. Most of the trekking expeditions are carried out between the altitudes of 9,000 to 17,000 feet. Most importantly they are less expensive and, depending on the tourist demand for a particular Trek,[2] economies of scale are achievable by merging two or more groups, hence reducing the cost for the trek. Seventy percent (70%) of HA's clients comprised this group, with the rest being in either the biking (two popular routes are the Karakorum Highway or the silk route ride, and the Gilgit-to-Chitral ride; both rides are in excess of 600 km) or the cultural safari category.[3]

Abdul Bari—The Indigenous Adventurer with an Entrepreneurial Dream

Born in a village in Astore valley, the oldest of seven siblings and made to work at his family's livestock rearing operation when he was just 10, Abdul Bari had little in terms of formal education. Just like many other teenagers in the villages of Northern Areas, he always wanted to work as a guide due to the attractiveness of the wages offered to porters or guides. (A porter can expect to earn $10–15 per day, and in one month can earn more than the average per capita income of the whole Northern Areas; guides generally earn twice the wages offered to porters.) As a result, when he was just 15 years old, Abdul Bari started working as a porter, then as a trekking guide and later as a climbing guide for visiting tourists. In just 10 years Abdul Bari had guided through almost every major trek in the Northern Areas and led climbing parties to K-2 (also known as Mount Godwin Austin—the second highest in the world), as well as Nanga Parbat (ninth highest mountain).

[1]Defined as number of times at least one person from the whole climbing expedition had reached a summit. Most expeditions make it up to the third or the fourth (generally the last camp before the summit) base camps and have to abandon their attempts due to poor weather.

[2]Treks can be customized to fit the needs of a particular group as well. However, most people opt for the standard 10 treks, which generally covered all the major mountain ranges. All of these were offered by Himalayan Adventures.

[3]Cultural Safari's are generally 5+-day jeep rides to and from major tourist destinations in the Northern Areas and are customized for each group—generally no more than four people per group.

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EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2005
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