The Nanga Parbat Diaries

Update 4th July 1997, Islamabad, Pakistan

Alan reached Pakistan on 30th June heading for Nanga Parbat, the tenth of the fourteen 8000 metre peaks he is aiming to climb.

Nanaga Parbat, which means 'Naked Mountain' is the western most peak of the Himalayan range and at 8125 metres, the worlds ninth highest mountain. Nanga Parbat is the fastest growing Himalayan mountain increasing in height by 7mm each year. Its southern face is so steep that it is bare of vegitation, the southern wall is one of the worlds great precipices with a drop of 5000 metres. First climbed in 1953 by a joint German and Austrian expedition it is reputed to be the home of fairies, demons, giant frogs and snow snakes!

Access to the mountain is from the Karakoram Highway which runs north from the North West Frontier province of Pakistan up the Indus river valley towards China. The approach runs south from Chilas and then east up the Diarner valley. The local Kohistani people have a reputation for lawlessness and resistance which goes back beyond the days of the Raj.

Alan and the team are now acclimatising to the 40 degree plus temperatures in Islamabad that mark the coming of the Monsson. Fortunately Nanga Parbat is on the extreme north-western edge of the monsoon belt and compared to Nepal the July weather is less of a problem for climbers. However landslips and avalanches regularly sever the lines of communication and delays when travelling are to be expected. Meanwhile the process of regaining peak fitness has started with runs with the locak Hash House Harriers, walking the Margalla hills and cycling.

Bureaucracy is synomynous with the organisation of expeditions, and working days since arrival have been taken up with a series of meetings with officials from the Ministry of tourism, shipping agents and the British High commission. Air freight has still to be released but equipment is begining to pile up. Tents and sleeping bags are being aired and checked over, cooking utensils acquired from the local bazaar and radios tested. hopefully all will be ready by the middle of next week and subject to cooperation from the various authorities the team should be ready to head north on Wednesday 9th July.

Nanga Parbat 8125 metres, Pakistan

30 June 97 Arrive Islamabad.Peter (Jackson) meets me at airport. David & Robbie with me from Tyne Tees Television. D&R to hotel. I go to Peter and Maureen's house - a haven of air conditionong and good food. Bacon sandwiches, beer and real coffee. Very tired but don't have a nap. The flight to Islamabad was overnight & I didn't get much kip en route. Do some preliminary admin and call in at British High Commission Club (BHCC) for a beer and snack. Eventually to bed at about 2200 hrs Pak time.

1st July. Do not wake until 1230 hrs !! because so tired. Pak is 4 hrs ahead of UK time. 40 + degrees C outside. Do mixed "hash" run.

2nd July. Lots of organising and admin to do. Quite a lot of stress because there's cargo (air freight) to clear customs. I need more back up support and understanding in Britain to help organise the myriad of things necessary for an expedition. I will be worn out before reaching the mountain. Call in at Ministry of Tourism to see Alvie and Jamal. I will have a "formal" briefing later from them together with the whole of my expedition's team.

Organise a mobile phone from Paktel - very useful to keep in touch with UK. Speak to media and Berghaus.
I flit around Islamabad and Rawalpindi organising equipment and food, eg petrol generator for lighting and charging batteries at Base Camp, kerosene stoves, Base Camp Mess Tents. (I have brought mountain tents with me from UK)
I am also trying to have fun with friends in Pakistan - both Pakistani and ex-pat's.


3rd July Reception at Peter and Maureen's so I can meet old friends and some of theirs: Nazir Sabir and Sher Kahn from 1997 Pakistan Everest Expedition Malik who runs Adventure Tours - I often have lunch with him, and many more.
It's a good social evening, very enjoyable. Fabrizzio Zangrilli arrives to. He's just flown in and will join me on the climb of Nanga Parbat.

4th July Really a "hell of a day" negotiating with agents and buying kit. Stressful! Very hot.

5th July Finalise payment to an agent to help at Ministry of Tourism. Meet Asem (Journalist) for a feature in THE NATION a Pak newspaper. Telephone Fiona.

6th July Up at 0630 and out for a walk/trek in Margalla Hills above Islamabad. Leave vehicle at 0730 and it's already nearly 40 degrees
C. The air is so hot and thick that it feels like I'm at high altitude. It is difficult to breathe! Fortunately Iam carrying four litres of water and oral rehydration salts (ORS) - the stuff you take in water when you have diarrohea. Half way round there is a tea shop and I drink a litre and a half of Coke, Pepsi and Miranda (fizzy orange). Then I fill a Nalgene bottle with another litre of this sweet concoction. At least it is fluid. I am sweating as if I am in a sauna. It was nearly 50 degrees C.

There is a "tufa" waterfall with 2 or 3 plunge pools where I cool off along with a lot of local (male) Pakistanis. In some ways this tufa cascade reminds me of the Yorkshire Dales. I think I would rather be scrambling up the tufa cascade in Goredale Scar with a pint of cask beer at the end of the hike.Eventually we make it to BHCC for a tin of imported ASussie insipid fiz. It does the trick and tastes better than it would back in Blighty.
Later find out that 26 people have died due to the extreme heat in Islamabad!

7th July

Meet Liaison Officer (LO). Try to clear the air freight. Still v.v. hot - seems like surviving the heat is a challenge before reaching Nanga Parbat. Mens' hash run. Islamabad Hash House Harriers (IH3). Too hot.

8th July

Eventually clear air freight after spending FIVE hours in the Custom's shed at Islamabad Airport. Lots of interviews with British radio stations and newspapers. Just as well I have the Paktel mobile phone so they can contact me. Mixed Hash run. Back at Peter and Maureen's early and watch Blackadder video. Great!

9th July

Andrew (Guthrie) arrives. He will join me as BC support for a while. So now there are five to trek in :- two from TTTv; Fab & I; and Andrew. The 2 TTTv men will leave after a week at BC.

10th July

"Formal" briefing at Ministry of Tourism. Pay US$ 4000 helicopter rescue bond; US$ 1000
Environmental Bond; US$ 200 Environmental Fund donation. Already paid US$ 7500 Peak Fee. US$ 800 (minimum) to LO plus US$100 worth of equipment to him. This LO actually thinks he can join Fab
and me on NP!! He has never climbed a mountain in his life. NP is known as "The Killer Mountain" and he seems to think it is 'No
problem' ...It annoys us all as I know he will only hang out at BC like a spare part. Finally leaving early tomorrow morning. Maureen cooks a superb leaving meal. Roast lamb, roast potatoes & parsnips, Yorkshire Puds. From now on it will be 'dal bhat' - dal & raice & chapattis & eggs and chips.

11th July

Up at 0430 in Peter and Maureen's house in Islamabad ready to load the expedition gear onto the bus. There was another
impressive thunder and lightening storm during the night - sounds like WW3. I hurt my back lifting big heavy barrels when I am not warmed up - 35 to 45 kg weight. Eventually all loads are on the traditional Pakistaini bus. It is
more like a gaudily decorated 1960's dustbin lorry. It smells like it too. It has not been cleaned - ever probably - inside. Noisy and no air conditioning - only open windows in 45 degrees C heat.
Peter gives us two cases of beer for BC. Maureen makes us all bacon sandwiches as we leave at 0730 hours.
After 8 -10 hours we stop overnight in a Pakistan Tourist Development Corpn (PDTC) motel at Besham approx half way to Bunar Das - the road head for the trek to NP.

12 July

Besham to Chilas, 8 hours. Bus and all the gear goes on 20 km to the road head at Bunar Das. The 45 porters will set off ahead of
us. We stay in Chilas and will catch them up tomorrow in the Diamer valley.
Walk down to the mighty Indus River. The heat here in the valley is overwhelming. It is like a furnace. There is a scorching wind blowing up river, it feels as hot as if it is coming from a hair dryer. The Indus is grey-brown full of glacial silt and mud. It is flowing rapidly and alarmingly fast. I paddle in it & cool myself off.Tired after the journey and kip a little in the hotel rooom. It has a 'cooler' and a fan - no aircond. We have fun chucking newspapers and empty plastic water bottles into the speeding fan.

13th July

Up in dark 0300 and have open pick-up ride to 3 km above Bunar Das. Begin walk in at 0530. It gets very v.hot. See NP at head
of Diamer valley. Korean Expedition is trekking out. One member is carried out on a stretcher made from two logs. He has frostbite. Most of locals have guns. Old rifles or newer Chinese manufactured automatic AK 47's with the distinctive banana shaped magazine. This area has had a reputation for banditry and lawlessness. Even the porters are carrying rifles as well as their loads!
If we want they will let us have a shot! Some porters have donkeys to carry loads. The trek turns out to be 13/14 long hours, especially
due to the filming by the TTTv lads. With the heat and sweating it is quite debilitating.

Night stop is in a squalid village under some walnut trees and there are swarms of flies. We eat fried eggs and chips and chapattis.

14th July

A very short trekking day - 2 hours! - to a village known as Kachal. Wait out in the heat. I have a wash in the stream to
remove the caked on dust which has made a thick brown layermixed with my sweat. Ritual slaughter of a goat and a sheep for the porters
which I have to pay for. Its a slow death for the sheep. Jugular slit and windpipe cut but NOT the spinal cord. A Halal killing. Gruesome.

15th July

To Base Camp at 4000m. 5 hours of pleasant trekking through woods and meadows carpeted with blue forget-me-nots and purple clover flowers.
Nanga Parbat is THERE just above Base Camp at the North Face of the Eiger from Alpiglen above Grindlewald. A really impressive huge mountain.
Base Camp is on rough grass and low at 4000m. Most Base Camps are at 5000m plus and are on morraine and ice.
In fact the weather is good still so it is hot and quite pleasant. No need for a down jacket or the usual thick sleeping bag. I expect it will rain though as the monsoon comes in.

Evening meal: chapattis, chips and eggs. We had 2 bags - 50kg of potatoes - but most have gone rotten in the heat so the spuds and chips will run out in a couple of days.

The night is warm and the three quarters moon in the clear sky gives a harsh white light. The porters have been paid off and gone - yippee!

16th July

Gunfire at 0650 - just porters and base camp cooks "playing". Breakfast was porridge, chapattis, oiled chapattis (or parathas) and eggs.
Set up base camp, organise generator to charge batteries etc.
Back seems fairly well recovered. The walk in wasn't too much of a problem. Only a slight strain in Islamabad. Sunny all day.

17th July

Clouds move in ominously in afternoon. Little rain. Heavy for half an hour.

18th July

4 people reach summit of Nanga Parbat. 2 Russians and 2 Japs. Probably go to Camp 1 tomorrow at 4700m - an easy walk. Rain - heavy for 2 hours from 1600h and thunder and lightning.

19th July

Bed tea at 0700hrs. Breakfast is at 0800hrs, usual porridge, chapattis and eggs and Wheatabix. Pack to go to Camp 1. Then the TTTv lads want to film all the kit, so I lay out all the gear for the mountain and film & photograph it.
Lunch - spam (fried), onion, garlic and chapattis.
Heavy rain by 1500 to 1800hrs - & thunder and lightning.
Because of torrential rain dig a narrow runnel at the top end of the tent. Must go to Camp 1 tomorrow.

20th July

Back is bad - aches and can't move properly. Probably re-strained it digging (for only 5 minutes!). Back gets worse, cannot go to Camp 1. Try a short walk, back gets even worse. By afternoon I cannot walk. I am crawling around Base Camp - in agony!!

21st July

Back is seriously bad now. I can hardly even crawl on my hands and knees. It seems to spasm and I'm in agony.
Russian expedition is leaving. Russian doctor and back expert "beat me up". I get good treatment if a little violent! Rest in tent.
Heavy rain 1530 to 1830.
Wake in night because of back.

22nd July

Wet morning. Back tiny bit better. I can crawl and stagger short distances with 2 ski sticks for support.
At evening meal I sneeze and scream in agony as my back spasms. It is worse than ever and I cannot even hobble around now. Bad night,
little sleep because of the pain. Torential rain in the night.

23rd July

Can just about crawl to breakfast. A lot of pain. By afternoon I can hobble around again with sticks. I reckon I will need a week to recover. Will I recover or will Nanga Parbat have to wait I wonder. I have never had a back problem so I hope this heals enough so I can climb Nanga Parbat "The Killer Mountain". I will have to strengthen my back up in gyms back in UK.
Start to feel better and telephone Fiona on the satellite phone.

24th July

The 2 Tyne Tees TV lads leave Base Camp to trek out and return to UK. I will miss David and Robbie but look forward to a pint with
them back in the North East of England.

Alan Hinkes. 24th July, 1997.


That was the end of Alan's attempt at climbing Nanga Parbat in 1997. His badly injured back would take time to heal and the mountains would have to wait.
The following article was written as Alan began his fitness campaign back in Britain.


Alan Writes of his life while preparing for the next stage

Mountaineer Alan Hinkes can hardly be described as normal. Nor does his life resemble anything that most of us would consider ordinary. Which begs the question, what does Alan do when he's not half-way up a mountain? What is normal? Am I normal?

But what is normality? I'm often asked, 'what do you normally do, Alan?' Well, normally I climb mountains. I certainly feel at home in the hills, and completely 'normal'! Yet I donât feel 'abnormal' when I'm in Britain, in the office, giving talks, writing, driving and doing what most people would consider normal day-to-day activities and tasks.
In fact, when I come back I actually feel very appreciative of this normality. I miss having good wine, food and beer and I feel very lucky that I can do what I want to do.
Between my mountaineering expeditions, I have plenty of mundane things to deal with. At the moment, much of my time is occupied with getting fit, which is quite important after my recent run-in with a chapati on Nanga Parbat. In case you hadn't heard , flour or dust on a chapati caused me to sneeze and I prolapsed a disc. I've since learned that apparently sneezing or coughing is a common way to slip a disc, although there is usually an underlying weakness. In my case, I had strained my back muscle after suffering from high altitude rot. This somewhat strange term means that when you've been too high, too long, your body is getting debilitated and can't recover properly. My body and particularly my muscles had started wasting away and when I lifted a heavy load I pulled a muscle. The sneeze was the final catalyst. The whole chapati thing caused so much media interest, but then I suppose it was rather bizarre.
I'm having regular physiotherapy at The Newcastle City Health NHS Trust 'Back in Action' Clinic. This specialist sports injury clinic is staffed by very experienced physiotherapists and open to anyone. It is dedicated to getting athletes back fighting fit. They are even prepared to treat and advise a mountaineer such as me, well I'm an athlete of sorts!

The physio is proving very effective; I can bend right over and have increasing movement with less pain. The prognosis is that I should make a full recovery, although it will be a few months before I am really fit and strong again. In the meantime, it's a matter of trying to fit the exercise in around all my other commitments. At first, I need to do gentle exercise, specifically for back strengthening, before pushing my body to more extremes again later on, when I resume my Challenge 8000. A mini series of three documentaries is planned for the New Year on these expeditions, probably entitled 'The Death Zone'. And that's exactly what it is up there above 8000m, I often call my live shows 'Into The Death Zone'. Most of you realise that above 6000m, it is impossible to be rescued by helicopter and a human being can only live for a few days at altitudes above 8000m. It really is seriously 'out there'. Technologically no-one can help. Physically too, there are no rescue teams and, anyway, it would be too dangerous to mount a protracted rescue. I do most of the filming on the expeditions for a 'piece to camera (PTC). I hold the mini digital video camera at arms length, or prop it on a rock or use a tripod. It does increase the weight I have to carry, but it is worth it to see the finished film.

In 1995, I filmed on the summit of K2, 'The Savage Mountain'. A first for a Briton and a most inhospitable place, dubbed the 'Third Pole', that is rarely filmed. In fact, I know of only one other. In 1996, I filmed on the top of Everest and Gasherbrum. This year, I filmed on the top of Lhotse which gave fantastic views down to the South Col, the South-East Ridge and the summit of Everest. There is plenty of footage to make the documentaries including my heli-rescue from Nanga Parbat. Channel 3 North East (Tyne Tees Television) is producing the films and more footage is being filmed now of my everyday life, physio treatment, training, etc, plus my thoughts and feelings now I'm back in Britain. I'm also planning my autumn tour, I give a lot of shows and talks around the country, some of which are for charity, the Cystic Fibrosis Trust. Organising the content of them can take weeks of work. I have to sort through 1000s of slides and edit hours of video footage. I labour over a lightbox to sort the transparencies, Channel 3 North East help by editing the video. And I write a script or story which I use as a general basis for my shows. I like to try and keep my shows humorous as well as informative, although sometimes there are sad moments as well as exciting incidents and pictures. I'm on the road so much between shows that sometimes I feel as though I'm a pro-driver rather than a pro-mountaineer.

A lot of my regular work is with Berghaus and their marketing department. So you'll often find me at the Berghaus offices in Washington, Tyne and Wear, doing my 'desk-job'! Mind you, writing my articles is also my desk-job and one that I enjoy tremendously , I don't do it for the money (that's hardly surprising!). I don't find my office work boring. I enjoy meeting people and it's a refreshing contrast to being outside in the hills or in the Himalaya. There are many times, though, when I've committed myself to some work and would rather be out on the hill, just like ordinary five-day-a-week workers. I know how that frustration feels, I've been there to some extent. In fact, I suppose I'm as trapped as the rest of you. When I'm on my tour, giving slide and video shows I can't shoot off to the hills. I have to turn up , even if I'm ill. Ironically, sometimes when I'm on a big Himalayan mountain, I yearn for the British hills and it's kind of like being trapped in an office. Usually, as I'm trekking out, I get the urge to be in Yorkshire, The Lakes, Scotland or North Wales. I daydream of a craggy scramble, a sun-kissed rock climb, a spectacular ridge walk or the distinctive, idiosyncratic, sights and sounds of the British hills. There is no way, of course, I can fulfil that desire for days or weeks when I am so far away. Even an office worker only has to wait four or five days at the most until the weekend or you can take a midweek break or a 'sickie'. Sometimes when I return from the Himalaya, I go straight out and refresh myself in the hills. It may be the Yorkshire Dales with their deep valleys, drystone walls, bleating sheep and limestone crags, the North Yorkshire Moors with sandstone outcrops, or a Lakeland ridge.

The British hills are my first love, but I also try and be a dad when I can. Fiona, my 13-year-old daughter is important to me. Recently, we went to Guernsey together for fun. I even do the mundane tasks of driving her to school sometimes. I enjoy that, although I wouldn't like to do a 'school run' everyday. Fiona usually gets the bus, which is more environmentally-friendly.
For the next few months, I will be concentrating on getting fit and training in as many ways as possible. As well as hillwalking and some rock climbing, I'll be using gyms, swimming, running and mountain biking. I even did the BUPA Great North Run, the classic north-east half marathon. This year, 36,000 entered, so it's hardly a wilderness experience, but great fun. I jogged it in two hours rather than run it for a best time. I bumped into several climbing and walking acquaintances too, so it would appear there are quite a few runners among us Trail readers.
Over the winter, I will be out in the hills with ice axe and crampons enjoying that special time when the hills become a more serious undertaking. I will also be skiing and really enjoying the white stuff , if it comes this year. By March, I hope to be fit and strong enough to set off for the Himalaya again. I still intend to climb all 14 8000m peaks and become the first Briton to do so, and only the sixth person ever.