Dubai: For many expatriates in the UAE, the annual leave is the most sought-after prize after a whole year’s toil.
Many plan it early with rest and recreation, family and friend visits, and exotic getaways in their itinerary. But four Pakistanis considered none of these when they planned their vacation for this year.
Mahmoud Malek, his son Jasem, Tahir Rafiq, and Shahid Bhatti will embark on a 15-day journey to the K2 Base Camp in Pakistan on June 30. It may be an adventure for many; but for them, it’s all in the name of charity.
The team aims to raise awareness on the cause of The Citizens Foundation (TCF), a non-profit organisation that operates 830 schools in Pakistan for underprivileged children.
Located near the Pakistan-Chinese border, K2 is the second highest mountain in the world standing at over 8,600 metres above sea level, just more than 200 metres shy of the height of Mt Everest. It has earned the moniker ‘Savage Mountain’ for its reputation of being more dangerous and deadly compared to Mt Everest.
The team, however, will not summit the mountain but will aim for just the Base Camp perched at 5,100 metres.
From Islamabad they will fly to Skardu, followed by a seven-hour jeep ride to Askole. All activities from there onwards will happen on foot for the next 13 days.
“It’s gonna be a difficult and challenging walk. We will be doing most of the walking at night because most of the avalanches take place around midday when the sun is hot and the snow starts to melt. It becomes very dangerous to cross the area,” Mahmoud, a chartered accountant, told Gulf News.
The average daily walk may take six to seven hours. But the Gondogoro la Pass crossing may take at least 14 hours.
“This is a high octane adventure—walking and camping on glaciers, crossing numerous glacial rivers and streams some with bridges and others without, skirting crevasses, ascending steep 60 degree, snow-covered mountain slopes to the top of the Gondogoro la Pass and equally steep rock strewn descent to Heshe, and [pitching] tent in -10 Celsius temperatures,” he added.
Mahmoud is no stranger to treks like these. Last year, he and his group made a similar trek to the Mt Everest Base Camp also for the benefit of TCF.
“The advantage of the Mt. Everest Base Camp track is that the track is very well laid out. It’s a well-trodden path. This is gonna be a lot tougher in the sense that from Askole, there are no villages after that. It is completely barren landscape,” Mahmoud said.
But it would all be worth it, the father and son said, as it is just their simple gesture of giving back to their country.
“Being in Dubai in a British school, I have access to some of the best universities in the world. But [for] these children, to go to high school is already an achievement and that’s really no fault of their own. It’s because they don’t have access to any of this stuff,” Jasem, 18, said.
“And what The Citizens Foundation proves is that once you give them a book and a pencil, they’re willing to go miles in the initiative,” he added.
The team will fund the whole trek. But everyone is welcome to contribute to TCF‘s cause to help subsidise the education of 115,000 children under its care.
Around 20 million children in Pakistan have no access to education according to Unicef figures. The cycle will go on if no one intervenes.
Helping one child break this cycle, Mahmoud said, helps generations to come and uplift the quality of life for entire families.