11.09.2006

Rakaposhi (7789m)

Wikipedia, I found, has quite a few entries on mountains and mountaineering. A list of the world’s 100 highest is available and for each mountain information is available on the first ascent, the possible routes and notes about its location. The entry for Rakaposhi remarks on how close it is to terrain of a much lower elevation. At one point on the KKH you can look straight up from your position to the summit up a nearly vertical wall more than 6000m high. From the major town in Hunza, Karimabad, you are remarkably close to three 7000m peaks. Just before I left ISB I met Isobel Shaw’s traveling companion, back from a couple of weeks in this part of the world. “The mountains are so big!”, she said.

On Monday (Nov 6) I traveled back to Karimabad to participate in a meeting with the village organization of a town near Karimabad. We discussed matters relating to a mini-hydel under construction just above the town. The second part of my small mission was to conduct a market survey of the area, relating to the sale of surplus electricity from the hydel. Much to my delight we decided to start with Eagle’s Nest, the hotel situated on a remarkable viewpoint several hundred meters above Karimabad. I was there earlier and wrote about that in a previous post. At that time, however, my camera was not functioning. We ended up electing to stay the night at Eagle’s Nest and continue our survey the following day – perfect.

The sky was clear and the air crisp. I whipped out my camera and started shooting as the sun set, flaring above the ridge to the West and silhouetting Rakaposhi as it sank. I shot Hunza peak and Bublamating rising high above the hotel to the North. I tried to concentrate on the discussion at hand (the aforementioned market survey) as we sipped tea in the gathering cold.

Just before supper, at about 8pm, I walked up to the official viewpoint above the hotel. The valley was bathed in light from the rising moon. Rakaposhi glowed clean and pale. I set my camera to a 15 second exposure and balanced it on a rock, pointing out across the valley. The scene was ghostly and cold and beautiful.

I set my alarm for 6am. The next morning it was 10 degrees in my room. I jumped out of bed and into my synthetic long underwear, finished dressing and walked back up to the view point. It was light. It was cold. The sky was perfectly clear, the air like crystals and daggers. Rakaposhi glowed muted and the hazy sky at the bottom of her Western flank was rose and dark blue. I started shooting again. I got a great picture of the entire Hunza bowl in the pre-dawn light. My right hand was out of its glove and starting to sting with cold.

Then the sun touched the summit, slicing through the rarified air near 8000m, cold and dark blue. The sun was golden on the snow and red on the rock. I kept shooting as the glow crept down Rakaposhi’s Eastern shoulder, eventually resting on a triangular face perpendicular to the direction of the sun. The valley under Spantik, lying across the path of the sun filled with glowing mist.

Hunza peak with its 6000m granite spike stands to the north and catches the morning sun after Rakaposhi. Its southern face is vertical, twisted veins of granite. The round summit is crowned with snow. I was close enough that my limited zoom allowed me to capture details of the rock and the snow highlighted by the strengthening sunlight.

I kept shooting, fine-tuning my exposure, desperate to capture the light that changed by the minute and every crease in the snow and ice on the mountains around me. When the sun was high enough that the light turned white. I stepped back to capture the mountains with the bleak foreground available on the lookout point, rock cairns, brown earth and flags still standing from the recent visit of the Aga Khan and Prince Charles. The flags are a field of forest green with a crimson diagonal stripe bisecting the green. They stood fixed by the rock cairns.

Below, the sun had started to filter through the remaining fall colours hanging on the trees, light highlighting the leaves, leaves leaving orange and yellow and russet streaks through the morning haze like an impressionist’s brush strokes. I shot those too.

Finally the sun reached my position and started to warm me. Two of my colleagues had come out to have a look at the world before breakfast. I shot some more, different angles, and exposures and compositions of fore and backgrounds. And then it was time to go. I was torn between the beauty and clarity of the moment and the hot, flaky parathas and steaming tea that awaited me inside.

Such a day could hardly improve.

But the skies remained clear and around 4pm, we were driving back towards Gilgit, but on the north side of the Hunza river. The valley was in shadow, but the afternoon sun was highlighting the Western ridge of Rakaposhi and we stopped in Hussainabad where the entire Western ridge of Rakaposhi from summit to just above the point where it meets the KKH is visible. I shot about 60 more pictures from the village. Wisps of spindrift billowed off the summit and another irregularity lower down, illuminated by the sinking sun.

By the time we reached Gilgit, Rakaposhi was glowing dust pink and orange. But my memory card was full and I had already spend Sunday afternoon with the mountain shooting until all the light was gone and the wood and coal smoke had started to fill the valley.

1 comment:

josiah said...

your blog continues to be a serious hindrance to my academic career. I'm supposed to be writing a paper on development. Instead I'm reading about mountains and tea and parathas. I sure wish i knew what parathas were because they're making me hungry.