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Part of our series: Voices of the Mountains

Voices of the Mountains, the latest series for the Uphill Athlete Podcast, is devoted to the unique stories of those who choose the mountains. Each episode explores what it means to be a human in complex and challenging environments.

In the latest episode, Steve chats with Lindsey Hamm and Priti Wright about their experiences in the Charakusa Valley in Pakistan. The three reminisce about their time in the valley climbing the magnificent walls and peaks. Along with specific discussions on objectives and routes, the three also reflect on the relationships they built there and the warmth of the local people. From cultural learnings to volleyball games to movie nights, Steve, Lindsey and Priti discuss how the Charkusa and its people have left a lifelong impression on the three of them. Listen to a conversation that will leave you yearning to travel to unique and untouched places.

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00:00.51
Steve
Welcome to the Uphill Athlete Podcast our mission is to elevate and inspire all mountain athletes through education and celebration. My name is Steve House and I’m your host today and I have two very special guests Priti Wright and Lindsey Hamm and we are going to talk about one of my favorite places in the whole world. The Charakusa Valley in the Karakoram range of Pakistan. Priti, Lindsey welcome to the Uphill Athlete Podcast thanks so much for being here.

01:07.68
Lindsey
Yeah, yeah, thank you appreciate it.

01:07.91
Priti
Thanks for having us. It’s really amazing to be here.

01:13.60
Steve
Yeah, so you are both here because you were both recently in the Charkusa valley and you know, but those people that aren’t familiar with this can one of you kind of jump in and give a quick orientation to what this exotic sounding place as it is, what it is, where it is and yeah paint a little visual picture in people’s minds of the charkusa.

01:34.25
Priti
Yes.

01:41.73
Lindsey
Do you want me to go?

01:45.22
Steve
Think she was pointing at you.

01:47.71
Priti
I’m happy to. But yeah I’m pointing at you but I’m happy to go? Um, so the Charkusa Valley is located in the Karakoram in the Gilgit Baltistan area. It is at the end of a long valley that jump off point is Huse the village of Huse. Then it’s a 3 day trek into the Charkusa Valley and the Charkusa Valley has been a popular place for rock climbing and for alpine climbing mostly because of the sheer steep peaks and the vastness of the train. It’s super beautiful I know I was super inspired to see pictures and really wanted to go.

02:31.85
Lindsey
Yeah I would say the same thing. It was almost like a little yosemite in my head and just like lots of climbing rock or if you want to take it to alpine like with snow ice and rock and all the things you can kind of have the playground of all that in one setting. I think the valley brings a lot of different and special people animals, flowers and like wonderful porters that come with you as long as the and. With guides that are part of the logistics company. You’ve got like such amazing culture in that one spot that’s like a limitless amount of climbing and opportunity to meet new people. But been there.

03:29.26
Steve
Yeah, when I think of the the Charkusa Valley. Ah, one of the main impressions I have and I I have not been there in a very long time but I was there in 2003 in 2004 in 2007 and it’s a dead end kind of valley like it’s this huge long valley as you said and the chart because a glacier itself is pretty good size glacier and it’s just the glacier just sort of ends in this ring of Peaks and there’s no path at the top of the Valley. There’s no easy way like it’s just sheer walls of you know 6 and seven thousand meter or not seven thousand but six thousand meter peaks and it’s quite an impressive sight. You know, the first time I was there I was coming the first time I was close was in 1999 trekking out from an attempt on Gashbum 4 and we treked out over the what’s called the gondogorrala. And we came down to a little camp called shaishu I think I’m saying that right and from there you can kind of see these crazy steep Alpine Rock peaks it looks like the peaks of Patagonia only Himalayan scale and you could kind of see these up in the head of the valley and we’re just like what is that place and it was sort of this thing like oh yeah, somebody we know like no one’s treked up there and there’s no real information and not much has been climbed up there and it was just sort of this mystery and for me the charkusa a big piece of it was always that ah, for me was always that regional feeling of mystery that I had that that it just was was pretty untouched at least.

05:30.86
Steve
When I first went there and I know some of that has changed I don’t want to want to get into that but you do you enter like this I don’t know it feels like something that place it could be out of a tolkein novel or something. It’s just this incredible landscape. And not the least of which is the places you spend a lot of your time Basecamp is you know you guys forgot to mention the bouldering. Did you go bouldering.

05:59.22
Lindsey
And oh yeah, we were bouldering. Oh yeah, magnificent bouldering and really fun with no pads. Um, but if you have enough people and if you get the porters and some of the guides to come out with you. You got more hands on deck. You know it was great me and Pri went and Jeff went bouldering and she crushed it was amazing to watch and no, it was pretty fun like there was a good crew of us bouldering out there. So yeah, that valley brings like.

06:24.17
Priti
Lindsay crushed I was stealing all her beta.

06:35.69
Lindsey
So much in this one like cul-de-sac you know you end up like a cul-de-sac of all mountains around you know and the striking nasza and and of course case 6 and case 7 in that area is just how can you really be mad out there.

06:57.25
Steve
Yeah, so Lindsay tell us a little bit about your journey this year you went it was as I recall. It’s not your first time there and you know what did you go to climb and what what type of climate was the climbing light?

07:14.51
Lindsey
Yeah, so I kind of have to go back just you know the first time I went twice in one year you know by like a month in between of that year like I went last year in the end of August into September or sorry August into September and then this year we went a little bit earlier just to see if maybe the weather would be a little bit more stable in July because we had heard. Maybe it’s a little less rainy. But last year we treked in and went for a route and you know I still don’t know what this mountain is called because we’ve tried to look in the peak in between Spainster and Nasa that little tiny thing I don’t know what it’s called because I’ve looked and I’ve asked Vince but we put up a route that started along the side of Vince’s route and they just went to the estate on the skyline and we kind of went bust out left and went through the gut of this route or this peak. No yeah, you are there too. Sorry you’ve done.

08:24.41
Steve
Vince and I got to get credit in there too I was with Vince. I was with Vincent, Marco and I in 2007 yeah I know where you went because you sent us both pictures I think before you went like asking what have been.

08:30.78
Lindsey
Lot of steps.

08:40.49
Steve
What we knew about which is one of the things I love about you know climbing is getting emails like that from people who are still exploring and checking places out and so was the climb like was there more of a rock climb or a mixed climb or an alpine climb.

08:57.66
Lindsey
So it was just rock. It was all rock climbing. It was awesome more slabby feature had a little bit of a roof climb and then very sparse gear and it felt like I was a bit in the Black Canyon climbing.

09:14.79
Lindsey
I trained in the black canyon prior to coming out there just because I know you and Josh Wharton always says if you want to go to Pakistan train in the black canyon and so I went and I’ve spent a lot of time in the black canyon and with this route we called it pull down the sky at the end of it and it had really techy climbing I would say a little bit off width in there but it was more techie slab climbing and then when we got back down to the ground that evening. We pulled the rope and it just started raining and it didn’t stop raining for a long time after that, but it was awesome because it was all like such a beautiful moment. After all, we sent this out and you know it just it was cool. It was just like the porter I’m sorry our guide came in got us and the cook and gave us cookies and tea and held our backpacks as great and then just like a really nice feeling to feel loved by 2 people that we just met and then like really wanting to make sure we were good and like giving us juice and cookies and I just thought that was such a welcoming feeling. It was a start of a relationship I built with one of the guides Ilias and I spend like a lot of time chatting with him on Whatsapp and his wife gives me the best hugs I’ve ever had. The most warming feeling I’ve ever had from a person and the first time I went which was last year we stopped at Ilias’s house and I met his whole family and you know I got to see them this year too. So last year was a little bit different. With the climbing but we also did your route tasty talking and it was awesome I thought that it was super spicy in some spots and really fun route finding and I was like man the fact that they found this line is incredible. It was really a special feeling to top out 2 peaks and I thought that was a bit lucky you know I was like wow I’m sure people come out here and don’t send anything and have to come back and I just got 2 peaks and on one the Nasa is like so beautiful. It’s striking right? Every morning you get out of your tent and you see this beautiful pyramid and you’re like oh my gosh am I really seeing this every day.

12:00.99
Steve
Yeah I’ll have to link a picture of Nasr on the post with this because it really is like this giant pyramid of Giza made out of granite that is almost eighteen thousand feet tall but it also offers like pretty moderate climbing by you know those standards for most of it.

12:23.80
Lindsey
Totally well, we tried this year when we were going back I had you know, talked to Vince I think I spoke to you about some new lines on the same formation and so last year on one of our regular days me and another. My partner Dakota put up like a single pitch. It was like five eleven 5’12 but neither one of us got to finish it and it was on the west side of Nasa and we were going to just start a new route starting from this really cool cliff band. You know it’s like you could put up sport climbs and tri climbs and make a little mini crag right? It’s pretty spectacular and so that was kind of our vision and I was like well next year I want to go back and like extend that which was going into the southwest ridge of Nasa though at that five eleven you put up with Mark and Vince.

13:03.82
Steve
Oh yeah, I bet. Yeah yeah.

13:22.11
Lindsey
We went we put like 6 pitches up into the Southwest Ridge and then were trying to complete the route but we kept getting shut down by weather like we would get these afternoon showers and it was a little bit difficult to finish at what we originally wanted to do is half of the southwest surge and then bust out onto the face on the west side of it and it just didn’t happen but I do see the vision and maybe sometimes it’s fishing not catching and these things you know and you just kind of have to like be patient and enjoy the process of meeting everybody. You know, like not staying in your tent and enjoying the group of people like the cooks and we’re all playing volleyball outside and at a base camp and there’s just more to the climb more than just climbing there. You know you can take pictures of all the flowers and then research them later and figure out what was out there that was comparative to sometimes the cascade flowers and so it’s just like a lot of it just felt like home. At some point you know and so I went back and.

14:25.80
Steve
Your.

14:37.74
Lindsey
And also to look at stuff on far off far East and other opportunities just extend my alpinism you know but I was more on the rock side of everything just because I wanted to go rock climbing.

14:47.50
Steve
Yeah, just another just another place where you can spend the rest of your life climbing in that one pretty place like and I have to say like in my journals I have some pressed flowers from way back when wildflowers in there.

15:07.21
Steve
They are incredible and just so beautiful. Tell me Priti about your experience. You’ve climbed a lot in this lower range. You’ve climbed K6 a few years ago you got really high on K7 central I guess what are we calling that now.

15:25.72
Steve
Last year you went back again this year you did some training with myself and coach Martin Zhor and you’ve been around the block here on the Charkusa and these K6 and K7 Massifs tell us a little bit about that.

15:50.34
Priti
Yeah, I’m kind of on the opposite page of Lindsay. I am not doing like the rock climbing strategy. Although we were there. We were both in the Charkusa valley last year we didn’t see each other last year. But we hung out a lot this year and I would have loved to get to climb on a couple of the low leather peaks like Naser Brock of course I think everyone wants to climb. It looks like a beautiful perfect pyramid who wouldn’t want to climb on that.

16:23.34
Steve
Yeah.

16:26.77
Priti
But me and my husband Jeff focused on trying to climb K7central which is still unclimbed. Last year we put up a new route. Although we didn’t make it to the summit of anything so it’s hard to call it like a new route. But we went to explore the north face of K7 because we saw some pictures from well actually we saw some pictures that Graham Zimmerman passed along to us from Kate Ballard of that side of the peak and it looks pretty fascinating. And we strung together what we thought might be a line that would go and last year had no idea if it would actually go until we went out to check it out but the route is really circuitous. It goes all the way around the Masstif to try to access K7 in central. It was amazing to get some of your pictures Steve from your incredible solo and second ascent of K7 main because that helps give us an idea of what we might see on the final rock pyramid. So we made the ascent up the North Side following Cowars on the North Ridge and got onto the K7 glacier which is at like six thousand four hundred meters so it’s a pretty high glacier but it’s huge. You could land a plane on it. Um, it’s just giant.

17:51.75
Steve
Yeah I’ve seen your pictures I mean I was at your slideshow in the Arcteryx store in Seattle last fall I mean it’s incredible up over I was never on that side of the Masstif if I never really even saw it from where I was so it it was.

18:07.58
Priti
Yeah, you can’t see it at all.

18:10.17
Steve
Really cool to see the pictures that you and Jeff took and just hear your adventures and so cool on so many levels. But yeah it’s a huge flat like it’s kind of a hanging glacier I assume right like doesn’t it just like cave off into that valley over there to the north somewhere I don’t even know what happens over there.

18:29.13
Priti
Yeah, to the northwest side. Yeah, it kind of caves off which is why none of the routes directly from like the Kabiri glacier look super promising. It’s all kind of like falling off that direction.

18:40.85
Steve
M.

18:46.20
Priti
The trouble with the route is it takes a long time to haul the way around the mountain to climb up that side as you go three days just to get to the base of the technical climbing we’re going up and over Kabiri pass and then down again and losing significant amounts of elevation just to get to the base.

18:49.55
Steve
Oh what’s a long time like a day like three days

19:05.71
Priti
Um, and then it’s a bit of a trek across the glacier. Ah, but then last year we climbed up to the call between central and Maine and we had amazing weather and we got to climb pretty far up the granite the like last steep rock pyramid to get to the summit. But we didn’t have enough rock climbing gear. Um, we didn’t we had just had our mountaineering boots. No rock climbing shoes and we’re running out of time. The weather was coming in so we turned around and this year we did the same route again and got to the same spot again and the weather was so bad. The whole face was covered in snow and ice and it’s so steep I don’t think it’s really high level in the conditions we have. It was so snowy and so icy.

19:52.30
Steve
Yeah I mean from the pictures I saw of you from the previous attempt at rock climbing you did it look rope rock climbing. You know, yeah like I know no question about that like real cracks and real jamming and proper right for me.

20:10.15
Steve
Real fifth-class rock climbing. Not just like some stepy icy sort of fun mixed terrain blocky. It wasn’t like that at all. Yeah interesting.

20:22.12
Priti
When we saw what conditions it was in, we kind of wanted to go up to K7 main and summit that and go down your route. But avalanche conditions were too high and the snow was just way too loose it had been snowing every single day for ten days in the evenings.

20:40.48
Steve
Yeah, and I think it’s worth noting because I’ve talked to a couple of I’ve talked to one guy that I coached to climb K2 last summer and having another conversation with one of our coaches Martin who you briefly met.

20:57.10
Priti
Yeah, yes.

20:58.79
Steve
Who was attempting an fkt on broad peak. But you know it’s just the weather this year in the Karakorum was tough and the weather can be like that in the Karakorum you can just have summers where there’s just never really, you never really get a break. And it’s never really in my experience at least it’s never really bad like you might get in Alaska where you get a big storm and you get lots and lots of snow and it’s just kind of hard to let’s say keep your tent from collapsing but it’s also never really good.

21:30.42
Priti
Um, no yeah.

21:34.54
Steve
Never good enough to climb and it’s just wet can be really wet and yeah that’s actually kind of how I got to the Charkusa the first time when I actually went up there was in 2003 on the way out from one of those summers attempting a peak called Gashabrum we went out over the
Gondargorala again and ended up back in um Shaish show. But that time we planned to go up to K7 basecamp and just check it out and it was wet that season and stuff but I did the same thing you did Lindsey I actually went back to Islamabad changed my plane ticket got a $50 trekking permit and went back up there for a number of weeks just by myself with just a cook. But in those days there was nobody else around. It would have been nice to have had other climbers around actually I mean maybe not actually. I don’t regret anything about my experience I was up there completely by myself. There was nobody really climbing up there on a regular basis as far as I understand the the history of the climbing. There was the japanese that made the first ascent of K7 in I think 1981 and then there weren’t any climbers in there for a long time and then there is a British climber who you actually met apparently Priti is that right or was he there this summer again or what Dile Lambert.

23:01.40
Priti
Oh yeah, Dile Lambert. He wasn’t this year. But yeah, we got to meet Dile Lambert and his son in law and their other climbing partner last year.

23:14.30
Steve
Yeah, and I mean he’s still going there I mean and he’d been when I was there in two thousand and three, four I think he’d already made like four attempts on K7 four separate expeditions and I know Angela Haas had been on a trip in there to try to climb some of the peaks on the opposite side of the the glacier.

23:33.30
Lindsey
But yeah, she was on I think they successfully put up a route more a big wall style on Fahad.

23:42.35
Steve
And fahad. Yeah, oh okay, so on fahad. Okay I wasn’t ever really completely clear on where that was, but there just wasn’t much going on. It wasn’t really on the map. And there was another kind of I’d say sort of spooky thing that happened is there had been a Hungarian alpinist who had gone up there by himself and just disappeared and was never found and they never found like his passport surfaced like three years later and some so it’s you know somewhere and got sold to somebody but like he disappeared like nobody was ever found. He was climbing up in there somewhere nobody knows what happened to him so there was just that was basically like all the information that was kind of a roundback then. Sound like that old guy telling him our mac in the old days when I used to be climbing. But there was really just a different time and I’m actually really sort of with these places that you love so much it doesn’t feel fair to keep them a secret like I love it so much because it is so incredible and it’s like even a place I want to take my kids someday like even if I just go trekking back there and maybe go climb one easy rock route or attempt as you said, go fishing a little bit just for some rock climbing or something I would love to do that sometime but yeah, tell me about the scene now like what is it or maybe a scene isn’t the right word but there’s a number of expeditions there every summer with people attempting a variety of objectives from hard rock climbs, hard free climbing all the way up to this sort of high altitude alpinism.

25:36.67
Priti
It seems like every couple of years. There’s like a resurgence and interest in the Characusa valley. We’re probably right in the middle of that there seems like there’s a lot of people interested in a variety of objectives.

25:48.90
Lindsey
Yeah, it was last year it was just me and I guess you and your husband were there by yourselves and then I was there with you know the three other gentlemen that I was climbing with and then this year it was like 16 people in K7 days camp it was I mean I had a volleyball to block 16 people.

26:11.71
Steve
16 climbers so suppose so 60 are you counting guides and cooks.

26:14.47
Priti
Yeah, very busy. It went 16 climbers.

26:22.53
Steve
16 climbers plus I don’t know how five cooks, 5 guides so.

26:27.33
Priti
Yeah, yeah.

26:30.98
Lindsey
So yeah I was getting into that. There’s just so many people we have yeah and so many porters coming in coming out. They were doing multiple loads same porters and I just have like a whole nother respect for those humans like them going in and out not at all and they with the clothes that they have and the shoes I’m like oh I have like the best shoes on and they have like they’re just regular plastic.

26:49.99
Priti
Um, it’s not an crack in.

26:58.85
Priti
Truth of it.

27:05.39
Lindsey
You know, just normal shoes. They are sold at the market and just have like your falling apart for that’s good because I gave my shoes.

27:07.46
Priti
Last year they didn’t even have those shoes. They were all falling apart. It’s ridiculous Jeff and I like bought new shoes for porters. And socks.

27:23.53
Lindsey
Next year pair. So I did the same thing I gave shoes and a bunch of clothes like this year I gave like sleeping bags and jackets and stuff that I and I see I think that’s so great. You know that when we can like get off of that and see that they’ve put in so much time and effort to get all of our stuff out there I want to show more gratitude and just a tip like they appreciate it. You know and they remember you.

27:50.85
Priti
Yeah, this year Jeff and I had the same cook and cook’s assistant as we did last year Ibrahim and Cook’s assistant Edris and it was fantastic because they were wearing the shoes we gave him last year and making the same jokes. We made the year before Adri had another baby while he was gone on an expedition again, ridiculous and for contact this is all like at the height of basically Ray near that’s where base camp is it’s at like 6300 and sorry four thousand three hundred and sixty five meters so there’s no snow on the ground but it’s really high altitude.

28:31.35
Lindsey
Yeah I mean you’re burning calories while you’re sleeping you know like and that’s before I go into the Charkusa. I mean you did uphill athlete like I did my own training program to build muscle. And because I knew that I was going into place that I’d be even if I’m going up to 18000 I mean you’re working hard just being there. You know and it’s great.

28:58.60
Priti
Yeah, absolutely it was really fantastic to get to train with Martin Zohr and uphill athlete and also I did do an acclimatization program here in Seattle which is fantastic because I got to base camp one with no illnesses because my body wasn’t so taxed and then 2 feeling pretty well acclimated and after like one day at base camp Jeff and I went up to climb sulu peak which is like the acclimatization peak six thousand meters and we got to the top and slept at the top with no problem. Like ten days out of Seattle which is that sea level. So I call that like huge success I’m really impressed.

29:40.67
Steve
Yeah I think we’re figuring out a lot in the last couple of years about how to better like we don’t of course understand we’re going to do a whole other podcast series about this in the future. But I think that we’ve.

29:42.75
Lindsey
That’s really great.

29:59.23
Steve
We don’t understand why it works but we’re figuring out more and more about what works working with people like you Priti where like and it’s a lot of the sort of trial and error. We’re not really sure. Martin’s been doing also he’s involved in research on the research level.

30:16.54
Priti
You know.

30:19.46
Steve
And he’s doing a master’s thesis around this sort of normal baric hypoxia training and how could what is actually the mechanism and he has a certain theory that he’s testing and he’s one of his own test subjects to study and I think we are getting closer to figuring out some of these things and it’s ideal for this kind of scenario where you know it’s not like you’re going to be acclimated enough to go to like eight thousand meters without supplemental oxygen but for going to you know six thousand meters which you know is actually to be honest, most of the peaks in the world. You’re going to have a real advantage and be able to but away from the technical stuff I am really fascinated. I want to hear from each of you more about your experience with the culture and I’ll also say you know. One of the pieces of feedback I’ve always had when I’ve talked about climbing in Pakistan or trekking in Pakistan is always people like oh isn’t it dangerous and I’ve always been a big kind of proponent of adventure travel in Pakistan and in particularly in the Karapor range I just think it’s so incredible. It’s such a unique landscape and there’s set to unique culture and I’m so grateful for climbing that it opened that door for me where I was able to you know at a young age like see these different cultures and ways of living that are completely different than anything I would have experienced otherwise and I feel like you two have an even additional window because as women you can so you know step into and see a part of the world and the culture there that I would never be allowed to see as a male so you know can you talk to me about how you experience that and you know I mean outside of the climbing for a second just just just stepping into the kind of lands of maybe tourists I don’t know for lack of a better word.

32:28.18
Lindsey
Yeah, I think like being an outsider of all the things I’m from Texas so I’m so happy about climbing because it brought me to this place I never would have ever thought like I’ve even have a chance to climb out here. On top of that to be a woman within the climbing realm is already a huge step forward for a lot of us even in the guiding world and that are women and dealing with a lot of patriarchy and like how do we? What space do we have improving ourselves within these spectrums? But you know people said the same thing like aren’t you scared of going to Pakistan isn’t it dangerous and yeah, all of it is I could say a lot of things are dangerous right now. The first time I went I think it was a little bit of a different experience because I was with 4 men and then I was just you know it was around them and maybe some of the things that I saw this year compared to last year was different. There was a different feeling when I was there and with a lot of people maybe staring at me one could get really like nervous about that. But I was like well this is I mean it’s like a different stare I think they’re just like curious. You know like I’m a white woman and that climber and I’ve got big muscles and I’m with 4 dudes like I think there’s just curiosity. And then I also think there’s the curiosity of the women looking at me as well and being like who is she like why is she here you know these are like gossips of their towns of seeing women, climbers and climbers you know and I think that my experience of the first time was really great I had a guide named again it was ilias we had him twice and he looked at me as like hey are you nervous about people staring at you. And my guide was very noticeable of that asking me is like let me know if you’re uncomfortable and that was super respectful. He was doing his job I was only woman there and then he goes if anybody touches you let me know because we don’t do that. Like we are good people of Pakistan I’m like ok like it just felt very I got lucky to get this person that was going to be my guide because I felt very much backed by this male he was really good at his job. That’s why I hired him again. So I think this year was a little different. It was 4 women and 1 male and we definitely had 1 issue with one of the porters following us into the bathroom and looking at us and that happened you know and we told the guide. The guide made every single one of the porters come sit down and have a chat with them and we didn’t see that person again I thought that it was handled really well so I did feel very well like I felt protected and respected in that sense by my group of people.

35:54.14
Lindsey
Especially I had been there twice in 1 year and I think with that violation I don’t think I lost like I didn’t feel like I was going to lose any trust with these people because I felt like they did their job and got the person out and made everyone feel comfortable again, you know and I think as you know these more and more tourists come and climb and stuff they’re going to have to deal with that as women in certain circumstances. You know like we’re not covered up. And I wear long sleeves. But maybe my hair is not covered up and just I’m a different human to him you know and there is not a lot of us and I think that this year was pretty unique because we had 4,5,6, 7 women out in.

36:51.42
Priti
You know it might have almost overnumbered the men.

36:51.74
Lindsey
Base camp this season. Yeah, a lot more porters coming in a lot more guides and cooks and I played volleyball with all of them every day like. As much as I was curious about them. They were curious about me and I got to know them and hang out in the cook tent and hang and try to get some type of dialogue going on with them. You know and know where they’re from and I just felt like the connection there for me was really genuine and I think that there’s in every place you go. There’s genuine people and there’s not genuine people. Regardless so I felt like there was a lot of genuine humans at base camp like Sam. Yeah, your liaison happens.

37:41.82
Priti
Captain Sam Ipda who is very respectful I learned lots of things from him.

37:45.87
Lindsey
Um, like very respectful yeah and like he spotted me and I think he grabbed maybe he thought he grabbed my stomach or something or an inappropriate part and he was just like I’m so sorry. He kept me from breaking my ankle Just now it’s okay and then he built that beautiful Spa. The cold.

38:06.24
Priti
Yeah, the cold plunge in the River that he lined with beautiful rocks. It looked like a piece of architecture built out of the rocks in the valley.

38:15.40
Lindsey
Yeah, yeah, it was pretty wonderful I think that like even with the kids there and the young girls and they’re all trying to talk to you in English and we’re trying to talk tell them to teach us Urdu or Voly and it just felt pretty great. You know and I think that it was different experiences I don’t know if it was because I was with more men versus women but you know.

38:51.50
Lindsey
That’s just how it goes sometimes.

38:54.17
Priti
And I’ve always had a slightly different experience because I’ve been with Jeff my husband and he’s a man who can handle the man things. It’s just kind of the way it has been in the past I suppose where you just. If there is a man in the group. That’s the one everyone will talk to but I see changes and I always try to meet the ladies out there I met Amina Hanif who’s a climber and her little sister and they had just returned from climbing Gonegora peak out there with their dad.

39:28.64
Priti
People have interest in this and she’s gone climbing internationally as well and I have also been a bit of a part of the Icarra fund. That Genevieve Walsh and Doug Chabot are helping educate girls in specific in the Hushe Valley and other places.

39:48.40
Priti
And I got to meet Nasreen who is going for her Ph.D. in math and she’s from Hus she’s the first woman to graduate with a math degree and she’s going for her Ph.D. now and it’s just amazing to see this kind of shift where I think it’s more than just foreign ladies who are seen as more capable of doing things besides the normal womanly functions and treated with respect.

40:13.26
Lindsey
Yeah to piggyback we are part of that we worked with the ICRA fund this year and raised 2 grand for the women and we got to meet some of the women that have their master’s degrees in Hus and they’re the teachers and we met some of them and so had a wonderful time. Yeah I think Priti and I both were on an interview and voted the same thing I like we are both funding and helping out similar women and it was really cool to hear and we also donated like school supplies like $1500 worth of school supplies and the teachers came and divvied up that to the schools and I think to add on to Priti like we are not just we’re far more than a lot of people expect. In this world as a woman and I really love being out there to see them see us. You know, go and trek and carry packs and see maybe they can spark something with them. You know like spark their curiosity to go climbing and there’s I think Priti and knows that there’s so much we could do as climbers when we’re out there to introduce that and if it’s to meet the women or meet the kids meet all the individuals I think that’s a huge part of it. I don’t think a lot of climbers do that.

41:42.40
Priti
I also felt like Captain Sam Captain Nipdesome was so respectful to everyone I feel like personally, I learned a lesson of just how to treat people in general and I came back with that here and I’m like I’m just gonna treat everyone with. That level of respect. It’s pretty cool.

42:03.42
Lindsey
Yeah, that was the best smile every day right? God It was like just cute and you’re like I could never be sad when I was around him and he hugged me a couple times it was like the best hug.

42:15.61
Priti
If anyone was struggling to do anything he would immediately just jump in to try to help them. Do whatever they’re doing. You’re like oh you need this? This is our liaison officer me and Jeff and also Tom.

42:21.12
Lindsey
Yeah, yeah, yeah.

42:23.90
Steve
Who is this person?

42:34.49
Lindsey
And he had such a swagger when he’d walk so you knew because Priti and Jeff and Tad and Tom were all up on the upper camp and we were down below and you would see Sam come in and I’m like oh that’s totally Sam walking in and he has his pain his high. He just has a swagger like ah cool Sam’s coming over I’m excited to see him and then we get the whole crew of like cooks and porters to play volleyball and then he and I would like.

42:58.12
Priti
He walked quite quickly.

43:12.30
Lindsey
Try to get in this match of spiking the ball at each other. It’s just really fun. Sometimes even if you can climb air. There’s just like so much activity this year you know and it was nice to go and or walk over to Priti and Jeff and say hi to them and then. They had movies which was great for team Jeff had a full on theater and their best 10 years and the porters I’m certain the floor side the cooks, and the guides.

43:37.70
Priti
We had 2 movie nights and one dance night.

43:50.20
Lindsey
Who came and danced with us and watched movies but it was awesome. So was like legit. That there were a couple of them I was like all I am to use that back effect in the States. But you talk about community.

43:56.90
Priti
I learned some dance moves that’s for sure.

44:08.61
Lindsey
I mean their whole world is through out by community and it felt like we had this big one this year and I think there were tough times and good times and everyone could find some wisdom within each other even if it wasn’t someone who knows your full language and it is definitely a different feeling this year for me different vibe.

44:36.18
Priti
Me too. It was really amazing to go out there and see the same people again and these people know our other friends. It really is quite a community. It felt different this year I got to meet Russell who I think was probably made famous by Steve Swenson and all his books and he talks about where he just mentioned Russell constantly so I got to meet the man.

45:02.80
Steve
The man, the myth, the legend. I met Russell on the trip he went to 9099 and G4 and then he was my cook on a number of expeditions along with another guy Fida.

45:19.72
Steve
And yeah, it’s so interesting. This is warming and satisfying for me to hear you two speak about this because all of the things you’re relaying and talking about particularly around you know your interactions with your liaison officers with your porters with the people you hired to help prepare meals and base camp, and these things they’re all exactly like the memories I have. They’re just like these wonderful memories of these really genuine interactions with really genuinely good humans that you know we struggled to communicate oftentimes but that was what was always really clear was that there was like a good heart in those people. I’ve also participated and I mean granted the technology was different. We had like the Sony walkmans with you know, little portable speakers. It ran on double A batteries but you know we also had dance sites.

46:28.60
Steve
Ah, movie nights were not quite a thing yet back then in terms of like technology. But that all these things that you’re talking about like raising money buying schools supplies giving away your equipment like we did all of those things you know. There’s a girl you two know I mean you know there’s a school that I’ve been supporting there for I don’t know almost years of a girl school and in one of the villages and one of those students, a girl is now in medical school and her dream is to go back and be the first female medical doctor in the valley. I have other stories where there’s one in our cook Fida who you know I supported his 3 sons through their educations. They went through private schools and then they went to university one of them is an attorney in Islamabad and argued a case in front of the supreme court of Pakistan one of them is a wordpress developer and works in tech and lives in Lahore the other you know their father needed knee replacements last year and they just like did it like they have the means to organize it. Do it pay for it and now their father who spent his life starting as a porter and then a cook who now needs double knee replacements got it and this is the guy who lives literally in a stone hut with no electric light I mean and and he got a double knee replacement last year and they call me on.

47:52.38
Priti
Yeah, it’s incredible.

47:59.51
Steve
Christmas Eve like on Whatsapp video calls and like stuff you know it, here it is. I haven’t seen those guys since 2007 and they’re still staying in contact and they still care about me and they still want to see pictures of my family and want to hear what I’m up to and I still want to hear about them too. It’s just so cool right now like they’re just as likely to comment on a Linkedin post of mine as they are said which is just crazy right? Like who would have thought that we’d be on conversing at this totally different level this totally different. Means that I think you have lifelong friends is what I’m saying and that is something that’s special.

48:42.30
Priti
Yeah there’s this like portal how we can go to these small villages across the world and meet people in person and then although. Now everyone is on the internet people in Hushe are learning. This is Instagram this is Facebook it’s so important to stay in communication. But when you meet people in person and spend this amount of time with them in harsh conditions like you just build a family and a connection. That spreads across the world.

49:19.17
Lindsey
Yeah I think that is like my favorite part of the expeditions. You know, like how can I give back. I feel like that’s super fun to meet all the kids in the guide’s families or the cook’s families if we can I’m like you know I’ve been asked by Ilias to come live with him for six months in their house and I’m like I love you like that is amazing. You know just to have that like invitation like he invited me to his son’s wedding last year and it was so close for me to like I think I was taking my alpine exam so I couldn’t go but it was just like wow like I got invited to a wedding you know and it’s just that endless friendship that I’ll have with him. And you know what I’m gonna continue to every year that I go I’m going to hire him and I get to see their family and I get to see all their sons grow up. He’s got a little son right now grew like a whole foot since last year two feet since I’ve seen him like oh my gosh.

50:31.57
Lindsey
And you know I just love it and seeing the kids again like every year and they’re like I remember you. It’s a different feeling and I enjoy my second family is what I call them for sure.

50:48.30
Steve
Yeah, and 15 years from now you’re going to be like seeing those kids are going to be grown up and in university and in professional roles and you’re going to be like emailing them for advice on you know wordpress programming or something you know it’s just like such a circle. It’s incredible. It’s so great to hear that piece of that still truly lives on and the experiences that you two are having over there.

51:18.62
Priti
Yeah, absolutely.

51:20.31
Lindsey
Yeah, and like before our logistics manager he is amazing. Such a funny guy his son knows like 4 languages and he spoke all of them while we were in Condi and told me what he was doing at the University and it’s just impressive. I was very jealous of all the languages he knows because I’m like I wish I had done that, it’s inspiring and it makes me want to try harder with language and other things I do abroad.

52:00.21
Priti
Me too definitely and also just how happy everyone is and satisfied and also just inviting like very kind to everyone. You don’t get that everywhere.

52:17.96
Priti
At least in the Husier Valley, everyone is extremely inviting and friendly.

52:25.72
Steve
Yeah, and I think that is something that I have seen and I know others have experienced throughout this sort of Balta stand region which is this little upper right hand corner of the current Pakistani border you know outside of Kashmir but you know not all the way like into Gilgit and some of these other areas that are still the Karakorum but that you know people are just super genuine and one of the things that I think is interesting too is if we turn this around and we think about it from their perspective and they were doing a podcast about the people that came to their home valleys and came to their weddings or came to their schools.

53:22.74
Steve
What they would be talking about what they learned and what their perspective is and one of the things I’ve noticed over the years is they genuinely and like have a perspective on climbing and on what we do as climbers as alpinists aswhatever we are explorers of our little mountain worlds and they value it and they see the beauty of it and I think that while they, for the most part, don’t like long for it themselves with obvious exceptions.

54:00.64
Steve
They really do appreciate it and really do appreciate that we come over there and are climbing in their mountains and they feel honored by that and you know their mountains are incredible. Let’s face it.

54:12.49
Priti
Absolutely.

54:13.67
Lindsey
Yeah, some of the stuff right outside on the right side you could find so much rock climbing from there and yeah, they just live in such a paradise in my eyes. Just because of the sunsets and sunrises that come out of there and I think all the animals that you see I would love to see an Ibex in real life. But we only got to seee some poop and some skulls.

54:41.11
Priti
Me too. They’re out there.

54:47.24
Steve
I’ve seen a few in the Charakusa. But you know there weren’t as many people around I think when there’s that many people I bet they hightail it out of there. Well yeah, that’s incredible.

55:05.30
Steve
You know if we have to kind of think about the I don’t know next fifteen years of climbing in the Charakusa what does it hold, how much longer can it hold this sort of special place or this mystique that it seems to. Still have what are your thoughts. What do you see happening in terms of the climbers of popularity love to hear your thoughts?

55:36.21
Priti
It seems like a really complex environment. I don’t just because of the difficulty in getting there I think it’ll stay for like the next ten years still not too crazy crowded. Also it depends upon the Pakistan government and how many people they allow to get permits for different areas I know that there have been people who wanted to get permits to nearby valleys and they couldn’t they couldn’t get it. It also depends upon when like Starlink comes to Pakistan and everyone suddenly has excellent internet and hushe and they’re like oh okay, maybe I’ll jump out of here and go somewhere more profitable. I think things like that might end up changing this scene a little bit quicker than the access will still be difficult. There are so many landslides just across the road to get there.

56:35.27
Steve
Ah, what do you think Lindsay?

56:39.35
Lindsey
Yeah I think she put that perfectly. You know with what’s going on and the logistics of it all is super hard and it’s like a year of planning right?

56:51.20
Priti
Yeah, with like not a whole lot of climbing often.

56:55.18
Lindsey
Yeah, like you know the amount of work that goes into planning This is a huge thing you know with training with money with putting all the you know all the parts together talking to the companies, the government, the visas and it’s a lot and I think that yeah I think we have a bit of more time before it becomes too crazy I think that you know the more people climb out there. There’s more beta. It was fun not to have any real Beta on tasty talking. It just kind of like go up there and see if I could pick and find your line instead. You know not getting off too and I thought that was like a really special part of that and like of course I’m going to put stuff up in the AG but I do think it needs to stay a little wild and the fact that you know like I want beta out there but it’s also really fun to like let it be have a different vantage. Yeah I mean.

58:00.68
Steve
Those are no places with super topos. Sorry I didn’t mean it.

58:07.95
Lindsey
I’m down for that but not in this place for some reason. I just want it to be what it is you know and like that adventure and was like the most I’ve ever had in my life. Both times I had to really try hard and really swim through a lot of terrain that I may have not really experienced before and I think that with it being very wild having the experience and in the skills to be out. There is a huge factor that might not keep it still a bit secluded and real. It’s not like going to your back yard crag. It’s like even the rock climbing out there is one to make you pucker a little bit you know and make you really think and how how do I get through this terrain and how you know do I have the experience to do it. It’s just being prepared and that year of planning and figuring out your team and then you know there’s so many parts to it. So I think that it’s not going to Indian Creek and planning a trip with your friends. Or Yosemite you know it’s hard time getting back there hard time getting prep permits and everything has to align at the the day.

59:37.66
Steve
Yeah I like that idea that it sort of stays as you said as it is and you know I sort of feel like a really great route doesn’t need a topo because the route was already up there. We just sort of dusted it off and discovered the passage. The route was there all along and has been there for thousands of years so why should anyone need a topo to tell exactly where it goes. It’s pretty like you said.

01:00:14.76
Steve
You know you just can follow your nose and let the mountain show you where you should climb and that’s exactly what happens so much and like really what I consider sort of traditional alpinism and I don’t care if that alpinism is climbing on rock or ice or mixed or snow or whatever but just that kind of the spirit of Alpinism is really like adventure and discovering and uncovering and fishing more than catching and all of those things and it’s so lovely to hear that this spirit of alpinism really persists in this magical kingdom as I think of it.

01:00:55.36
Priti
I think it’s also really hard for me to say how many more people will go out there because there’s a bunch of people who go out and never say anything at all. We met a team of Japanese people to climb K7 last year they didn’t mention it anywhere I haven’t seen a single note.

01:01:14.93
Lindsey
Ah, yes, that.

01:01:15.31
Priti
They went out there. Um as well as the the other team.

01:01:21.54
Lindsey
Yeah, that is very true. Some dark horses just don’t put the topo out there you know? And yeah, but like I think Pete caught.

01:01:29.33
Priti
Sometimes I wish I would just so you’d know was this climbed before or not I don’t know.

01:01:40.80
Lindsey
What’s his I’m sorry I’m messing up his last name and Pete he does that I believe, where he’s gone out quite a lot I mean he’s been all over the place and he has said I believe in an interview that he doesn’t put out some of his topos because it’s like let somebody else find that line.

01:01:42.97
Steve
Cata.

01:02:00.48
Lindsey
And because a line has been there like you were saying Steve and let them have their own adventure and it’s kind of like that’s still that spirit of that like am I going to worry about getting on somebody else’s route like you know what? Let me feel it, let the mountain call to me a little bit. I bet Steve and all them are happy that I’m climbing on this piece of rock and feeling what they felt in the two that early two thousands now or in 2023 and just feeling that adventure and I think that’s like a very special thing and the alpinism you never know if you’re really on route sometimes and it doesn’t matter on your own way.

01:02:41.34
Steve
Yeah, yeah, exactly it kind of doesn’t matter because it’s about the experience you’re having right? Then whether or not it’s about right or wrong on route or off route and it’s also fun like I’ve also done that and then you know climb something and then not really talk about it. But there’s a fixed piton like 80% of the way up there in the middle of the just a little clue just a little like the nope in case, anybody ever comes here again here’s a little hint.

01:03:15.94
Lindsey
But it’s kind of like blue sometimes I feel like when I’m asking everyone for beta like asking you, Vince, Steve, Mark you know like to put all these pieces together to figure out something like an objective to do even if I’m not really looking for specifically a line but like just having all these clues to get me to whatever’s calling me for that objective you know and I think that was a really fun part of getting to know some of you guys that have been climbing out there for a long time and now getting responses about the climbs that I ventured on and having these like you know I had Steve send me a message shows like all the memories out there in the Charkusa and just it was cool. It’s just been really nice to have some history behind it all and then also Vince dropping me every picture that he can be like go here, go there. Go just the psych level is so good from people you look up to and I think that’s the fun part of the planning of it all right? And I do hope people go out there. But talk to everybody and then you get to meet all these people and have conversations about the culture and the community and what else you could do out in these villages while being on your expedition.

01:04:52.98
Priti
When Jeff and I climbed K6 central and we got in contact with the first and only team to climb K6 main they climbed it in 1971 of the guys are still alive Fred praisel. And he sent us all these pictures of their expedition out there and they had to like inflate a bunch of sleeping pads and ford the river they have these black and white photos. It’s pretty cool to picture what it would have been like back then to go on this crazy expedition and they were all like under 30 they’re all like pretty young to be going and making the first ascent of like a seven thousand meter peak

01:05:34.82
Lindsey
It was cool to watch your Youtube videos Steve and Vince and Mark are out there and y’all are just with your video recorder just like awesome I’m like this is great footage.

01:05:49.81
Priti
Yeah, we watched it. We watched that video of K Seven West. It’s fantastic.

01:05:50.40
Lindsey
Always put a smile on face.

01:05:57.80
Lindsey
It’s so good.

01:05:58.67
Steve
Yeah we’ll have to find a link to that and put it in here I don’t know where it is anymore. But yeah, that was kind of a fun project because just in the sense of wanting to share and I think one of the themes that I’ve just heard again and again and again is community. We’ve talked about the communities of the Baly people. We’ve talked about the communities of all these climbers across all these generations from you know people climbing in the 70s to people climbing now to you know me and my contemporaries climbing there fifteen, twenty years ago and that’s what it’s really all about right? It is funny how I wouldn’t be talking to Youtube or have gotten to know either of you as well as I do if it hadn’t been for the climbing. Both done there and we have a connection essentially because of this place that we weren’t even there at the same time we were there like fifteen-plus years apart but it still kind of connects us and we have something in common and we probably know a lot of the same people just because of that connection and it’s just like this web of community. So either of you have any sort of final thoughts about the chart who so like I’m curious to hear if you could like say just a few words.

01:07:29.41
Steve
I don’t want to project too much of my own you know love for the place. I really want you to each have you know full agency and communicating whatever it is you individually feel for the place and I just want to know what that is like how does that in just like a nutshell.

01:07:55.32
Lindsey
Ah, for me, it’s like I guess like if I can give any advice or keep giving my own self advice about the Charakusa like don’t stay in the tent the whole time walk around go meet the cook.

01:08:13.85
Lindsey
Go listen to whatever the birds out there. There’s so many different birds and bring a little bird book like there’s you know like I think the opportunity to not just yeah, you want to sit in your tent and you want to talk to your friends and your partners but also get out of the tent be an insider if you can within that area versus being a little bit of an outsider and get kind of out of your comfort zone when it means playing volleyball with a bunch of people you’ve never met go and visit the next tent over and get to know new people. Even if it’s really scary. But like even go venture off into the Charakusa glacier just to look at this glacier and the boulders that are out there or you know like just have some meditation time within your own self. You know when do you get an opportunity to be that off the grid and enjoy that peaceful mind and just be you in a foreign area and be a little feel a little out of control and feel out of your comfort zone within the area and you’re already out there uncomfortable sometimes because it’s raining and there’s tensions of climbing and like try to open your scope and your lens of it just staying in a tent and wanting more privacy try to like open up their whole world is kind of like not as private I mean it’s like they are so in each other’s spaces like there’s barely any doors. You know everyone’s in and out of each other’s worlds and they share a lot within the Pakistani community. A lot of sharing and just go share stories and clothes and opportunities with people. Aside from your group and I think that was like my favorite part of it all and I’ll continue to do that and open my eyes to everyone around me and open my ears up and all my heart for everybody so it was like my favorite place in the whole world I’ll like always tear up a little bit when I talk about the Charkusa because it’s like my favorite place to be and that’s probably why I’m going again next year.

01:10:43.73
Lindsey
Yeah, probably sell my van and go back to Pakistan.

01:10:47.50
Priti
I agree with Lindsey. It’s like one of the most beautiful places on earth but it’s also so extreme and of course, you’re climbing mountains. It’s very extreme so you’re putting yourself in these difficult environments and situations. That brings the best out in people or the worst out in people and luckily we’re with so many people we get to learn a lot from each other and just try to put our best foot forward and continue to do that and learn so many new things. I’m learning how to stay respectful and civil and polite in extreme difficult situations and I hope that I can impart to other people how to like clean up all the trash and keep it a nice beautiful place for people in the future because there’s a little bit. Sometimes difficult in cleaning up all the trash we deal with it differently. I don’t know. There are so many things always to learn from everyone and continue to improve.

01:11:53.20
Lindsey
Yeah, that was good. Love that.

01:11:57.34
Steve
Beautiful sentiments to end on and I think we should just let your words speak for themselves. Thank you for joining me. It’s not just one but a community together. We are uphill athlete Thanks for listening.

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