Mountaineers Abroad: The Dangers and Rewards of Climbing Overseas

international-mountaineering-featuredA trag­ic and glar­ing spot­light has been placed on inter­na­tion­al climb­ing and moun­taineer­ing expe­di­tions in the past few weeks after ten for­eign climbers camp­ing near the base Nan­ga Par­bat  of Pak­istan were killed by the Tal­iban. This rais­es safe­ty con­cerns for out­door adven­tur­ists who, so keen to sum­mit a for­eign peak or send a cov­et­ed route abroad, may ven­ture into dan­ger­ous ter­ri­to­ry. Though the group of climbers observed many safe­ty pre­cau­tions, obtained the nec­es­sary per­mits, and employed a guide, the fact remains that they met their end in a tumul­tuous area of the world plagued by war and upheaval. This begs the ques­tion: Should out­door enthu­si­asts risk their lives by ven­tur­ing into hos­tile or unsta­ble areas? And what pre­cau­tions should they take before leav­ing the safe­ty and pro­tec­tion of their home countries?

Reg­is­ter with Your Embassy
Tak­ing the time to reg­is­ter with your embassy is the first step to adven­tur­ing safe­ly. When you reg­is­ter, this ensures that you’ll receive updates if life-threat­en­ing emer­gen­cies arise in or near the area where you’re trav­el­ing. Your embassy will also let you know if U.S. Cit­i­zens are being evac­u­at­ed from the area and as con­tact your fam­i­ly to inform them if you’re safe. That being said, most climbs take place in remote loca­tions where access to inter­net and cell phones is min­i­mal, so if you find your­self beyond the reach of your embassy’s elec­tron­ic updates, be sure to have a go-to check-in point where you can get the lat­est scoop on new world and region­al developments.

Research the Region
There is no sub­sti­tute for talk­ing with climbers and ex-patri­ots trav­el­ing through and liv­ing in the region you plan to vis­it. Read expat blogs, con­nect via Face­book and Twit­ter with folks in that part of the world, and do your home­work. The climbers in Pak­istan serve as a cau­tion­ary tale; they were climb­ing in an area of Pak­istan that was known to be peace­ful and far from the Taliban’s reach. Despite the seem­ing­ly safe nature of their vis­it, they found them­selves at the mer­cy of for­eign rebels intent on harm­ing peace­ful adven­tur­ists to make a polit­i­cal statement.

Make the Call
In the end, only you and your team of fel­low adven­tur­ists can make the call con­cern­ing whether or not to risk your lives by ven­tur­ing into a region that may be haz­ardous for for­eign­ers. Often times, the moun­tains them­selves are dan­ger enough that climbers may view any oth­er risks as a mute point worth fac­ing. That being said, climb safe­ly and, above all, climb on.