There’s no room for naked fear tackling the first paraglider circumnavigation of 8,126 m Nanga Parbat – the naked mountain. Bob Drury reports
IN THE 80S and 90S the tour of Mont Blanc, the highest summit in Europe, held the fascination of many pilots as one of the great unflown challenges of the world. Legend has it that crates of champagne and even hard cash were offered as prizes to the first pilot to make it round.
Twenty years later many have made the tour and ambitions have moved on, but still the achievement of completing a circumnavigation is captivating to many. With the biggest peak in Europe out of the way the next big objective must surely be one of the world’s fourteen 8,000m mountains.
During his travels Olivier Laugero met up with former British paragliding champion, John Silvester, in northern Pakistan. Since retiring from competitive flying a decade ago, John has been developing paragliding in the Karakoram and Hindu Kush mountains of Pakistan, and has arguably spent more time pioneering new high altitude routes in these mountains than any other pilot.
John’s aims were squarely sighted on attempting a day trip around Nanga Parbat, the ninth highest mountain in the world, and asked Olivier along to join him. John tells the story.
Tarashing, 28 October 2005
The cold night is broken by the sun rising through the Kashmiri mountains. It wakes me, shining through the east facing curtainless window of our ice cold room. I turn over, still content to snuggle deeper under the mountain of quilts until the sun begins to melt the frozen condensation on the ceiling, and icy drops drip down on my face and shock away the sleep of the night.
Soon the cook arrives with an armful of kindling for the stove, and serves us morning tea. Just five kilometres away the summit of Nanga Parbat shines in the sunlight and begins to shed last night’s snow.
Olivier and I have only been here three days now. We’ve positioned ourselves on the southeast side of the massif to get the best chance of an early start to follow the sun around the mountain through the day.
Already we’ve found a perfect take-off, pioneered a successful first glide across the first big glacier, and climbed up onto the immense Rupal face. It’s a first, but crucial, step on the tour, but now we only have two days left to realise our dream: to fly up to the head of the Rupal valley to the 5400m Mazeno pass and cross through the gateway to the grand tour of Nanga Parbat…
John Silvester paragliding in Pakistan, from Birdman of the Karakoram
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