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Mountain Day and Chitral

Hussein Ahmed

Mountains are home to 15pc of the world´s population and host about half of the world’s biodiversity hotpots. They provide freshwater for everyday life to half of humanity. Their conservation is a key factor for sustainable development and is part of Goal 15 of the SDGs.

The increasing attention to the importance of mountains led the UN to declare to 2002 the UN International Year of Mountains. The first international day was celebrated for the first time the following year, 2003.

The High Hindukush range is mostly located in Chitral, Pakistan. The high altitudes of the mountains have historical significance and aid to most of tourism in the region, creating valuable opportunities.

The word Hindukush has long since attracted a large number of mountaineers all over the world. They see the scope of adventure on grand peaks like Terichmir 7708m, Noshaq 7492m, Istoro Nal 7403m or Saraghrar 7349m.

Chitral and its mountains were just brought to public notice after Major John Biddulph first visited this region in 1876 after a long journey. He was highly impressed by the calm environment, majestic mountains and high passes and the unique Kalash culture. On his return, he wrote his book – The Tribes of Hindukush. So Chitral was introduced to the outer world as an attractive region.

In 1892, the British regularly visited the Hindu Kush valleys to explore its passes, peaks and glaciers and then Germans came to be followed by Americans and Norwegians, climbing the high peaks. From 1960 to1980, there was a big rush of tourists, especially mountaineers and trekkers of different countries, who took interest in the mountain blocked valleys of this region and dozens of teams came here each year. Many people lost their lives while climbing.

In the early 1980s, this great rush decreased due to the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan. The interest in the Hindukush dropped dramatically and a new generation of climbers knew very little about the region, except from information from older climbers. There was a great need of further exploration but lack of information about peaks prevented climbers from entering the region.

During this period, a large number of expeditions visited the Karakorum and the Himalaya and those areas became overexposed with negative effects like pollution while the Hindu Kush still remained and remains today in good order, with no or minimal pollution. The local porters have been given training in eco-tourism and the destinations are by far cleaner than in other ranges.

Hindukush lies in the North of Pakistan and the highest section of their range lies within Chitral – Pakistan. All of the 43 seven thousand-metre peaks have got defined routes that lead through Chitral and the Terich valley. The main chain forms a division between Pakistan and Afghanistan and the big peaks are from a mountain wall just on the border of the two countries. There are also about 180 named and 50 unnamed peaks over 6000m high and most of them are still unclimbed.

Mountains contribute considerably to global biodiversity on Earth, providing many ecosystem services such as food and medicinal resources and freshwater to more than a fifth of the world’s population. These mountains have immense value that we as mountaineers derive from mountains for recreation, connection, and well-being. For this reason, International Mountain Day is a way to not only to remind us of this value, but also to invite us to partake in the advocacy and actions needed to ensure we contribute positively to preserving and enhancing mountain biodiversity.


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