A 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.