By Prof Rahmat Karim Baig
It was in the 60s that we were quite young and did not know about any kind of etiquette or decency when adventure tourists in the form of expedition reached our villages where there was camping site from the time of the Mehtars of Chitral, as mentioned by R.C.F. Schomberg whose account of the travels (Kafirs and glaciers) in the borderlands of Chitral was famous enough for its hard language against all classes of Chitralis. The Urdu translation of the same book has already been made and in the press, will soon be in the book shops – with interesting travel stories.
As children we used to sit at a discreet distance from the camp site of the Farangis for fear of the village Chharbu who drove away children from the camp of the tourists. When they unpacked their food and camping articles we looked with great interest and often with water in our mouths to see the strange packets of food items, biscuits, toffees etc., and they kindly gave us one piece each and asked to go away as fears were entertained that children could steal their valuable articles.
Once there was a Swiss expedition in 1967 which was heading for Roshgol valley and they were actually trekkers, wanted to buy a goat but did not pay in cash – they wanted a barter by giving a good rope for the goat; the owner did’t agree to take the rope and said that it was a thin one hence poor quality. The Swiss wanted to bet, they tied one end of the rope to a big apple tree and asked the porters present there to pull as hard as a tug-of-war. More than 30 men jointly pulled the rope but the tree shook and showed clear signs of being uprooted but the rope did not break. Then the bargain was struck and exchanged.
Other expeditions to Terich Mer in 1950 and to Saraghrar in 1958 and 1959 also came over Lowari pass on foot and trekked to the Base camps of the peaks. They hired donkeys for carriage of their luggage from Chitral to Oveer as they wanted to reach Terich Mer and the Italians travelled to Drasan where they took local porters instead of donkeys and reached Washich. From that last village they ascended Duka Daki Aan and reached the Ziwar valley to reach the BC of Saraghrar east and finally summitted the 7349m virgin peak for the first time. They had reached the main summit of the big massif where 13 peaks stand separately and a walk from one to the next is a big challenge due to high altitude pressure, exhaustion, bad weather, bad acclimatization and some other unforeseen reasons like shortage of food, frost bite etc.
In 1958 an Oxford expedition had also come in the same way and reached Terich valley from where they entered Roshgol valley and reached the BC at Totirazno-kuh, on the third day of their departure from Zondrangram This good camp site is situated at the bottom of Saraghrar West. They had, unfortunately poor information about the routes to the peaks of this gigantic massif and selected a steep ridge flanked by coulours and at the middle of the ridge one of the climbers dropped his ice ax and failed to keep his balance and fell to the bottom of the narrow valley. The expedition was abandoned and his dead body was carried down by porters. I and one of my cousins were locked in the house as to save us from the evil spirits that were believed to accompany the dead body of the Farangi who was then buried in a waste land in the valley. In 1999 another Oxford expedition came back to Saraghrar to commemorate the 1958 expedition but failed to ascend the peak due to continued bad weather but they paid a visit to the grave of the late climber.
By Prof Rahmat Karim Baig