Mounting political uncertainty in Pakistan and visa delays have poured frigid water on foreign adventurers plans to visit Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) this winter and attempt to scale some of the worlds highest mountains, and not a single foreign mountain expedition has arrived this season.
High permit fees and the US, Australia and Saudi Arabia cautioning their citizens against travelling to Pakistan also added insult to injury, Dawn reported.
According to the GB tourism department, no foreign expedition or trekking group has been issued a permit this winter expedition season, which usually lasts from November to February.
And the fact the season is set to end after a little over a month, no adventure group is expected as they usually need at least two months to prepare for expeditions.
Only two foreign expedition groups applied for a visa to summit Nanga Parbat this winter, but visa delays compelled them to cancel their plans.
This stands in stark contrast to previous years when hundreds of foreign mountaineers visited Pakistan in winter to attempt to summit the mighty mountains like K2 and Nanga Parbat, Dawn reported.
Besides, last summer was the first time when more than 1,600 international climbers visited GB.
Karar Haidri, secretary to the Alpine Club of Pakistan, said that prevailing political uncertainty in the country was the main factor behind the decline, as many adventure tourists cancelled their visits to the region.
However, Asghar Ali Porik, a tour operator from GB said the visa policy was main cause, as it resulted in delayed issuance of visas, Dawn reported.
“There is no time frame to the issuance of visa to trekkers and mountaineers once they have applied. Foreign adventure tourists couldn’t manage their plans accordingly,” he said.
Another factor was a 40 per cent hike in permit royalty fees from this year, said Porik, who organised many foreign expedition groups at K2 and other mountains last winter, Dawn reported.