Undeterred by Taliban, climbers scale Pakistan's Killer Mountain

Thu Jul 25, 2013 10:08am EDT
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By Maria Golovnina

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - When Taliban gunmen mowed down a group of foreign climbers last month, Romanian mountaineer Zsolt Torok was perched on an icy flank of Pakistan's second-highest peak oblivious to the mayhem unfolding thousands of meters below.

"I called my wife (on a satellite phone) and she said the Taliban came and killed everyone in the base camp," he said. "I was shocked. We survived only because we'd chosen a different route."

Undaunted, Torok and four other Romanian climbers carried on with their ascent, becoming the first expedition to scale Pakistan's Nanga Parbat last week since the bloodiest attack on foreigners in Pakistan in a decade.

The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the pre-dawn massacre on June 22 when gunmen dressed as policemen stormed the 4,200-metre (13,860-foot) base camp, killing at least 10 foreign climbers and a Pakistani guide.

Victims included mountaineers from China, Lithuania, Nepal, Slovakia, Ukraine and one person with joint U.S.-Chinese citizenship. One Chinese climber escaped.

Several expeditions to Nanga Parbat - at 8,126 meters (26,660 feet), the world's ninth highest peak and known among climbers as the Killer Mountain - have since been canceled, dealing a blow to Pakistan's once thriving mountaineering sector at the height of the trekking season.

Torok, 40, and his team, passing though Islamabad on their way home after bagging the mountain on July 19, said they were unnerved by the attack but felt safe in the company of 10 armed Pakistani guards protecting their camp.

"Those climbers were innocent people," Torok told Reuters at the Romanian ambassador's residence in Islamabad. "Clearly those terrorists had prepared well. They wanted to shock everyone."   Continued...

Romanian climbers (L-R) Bruno Adamcsek, Teo Vlad, Zsolt Torok, Aurel Salasan and Marius Gane pose for a photograph after a news conference at the Romanian Embassady in Islamabad July 25, 2013. REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood