Friday, June 12, 2009

Pakistani Alpine Club – hoop jumping and paper signing

The Alpine Club of Pakistan (ACP) is in charge of administering mountaineering permits here. So on June 11th we went over to the ACP to sign some papers and meet our liaison officer. Because K2 and Broad peak lie near the disputed border with India it is mandatory that all expeditions be accompanied by a military liaison officer. We have been assigned a 29 year old Major. I can't remember his name so I call him Major Tom. He doesn't get the reference, but also doesn't seem to mind. As in Nepal, where a similar system is in place, liaison officers are not chosen for their mountaineering skills, knowledge, fitness or whatever. I'm not sure how they are chosen, but it seems to be a coveted position and is usually their first trip out of the lowlands. It does not always go well for either party... and I'll leave it at that.

For those of you who have read the Trial by Franz Kafka, or seen the Orson Welles movie Le Proces from the thirties (with Gregory Peck; really awesome) you can perhaps imagine the absurdity of a bureaucracy that has rules upon rules, many of which contradict each other and none of which accomplish the stated aims of having the regulations in the first place. When we arrived at the office they had two people on the permit. One on K2 and one on Broad peak. Three hours and four signatures later our team of 21 people has a permit listing something like 27 and we were free to leave. Major Tom was conspicuously silent during most of this officious paper shuffling and seemed extra nervous when we started talking about the rigors of high altitude, avalanches and pulmonary edema.

On a positive note, no one blinked an eye when I walked into the office with my camera rolling and kept shooting the whole time.

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