"Extreme mountaineering is dangerous enough without terrorism, crime, or geopolitics entering the picture." Peter Gwin begins his National Geographic piece "Pakistan Attack Casts Light on Troubled Climbing Zones" (6/25/2013) with this statement in response to the recent attack on an international group of climbers on Nanga Parbat, Pakistan's second highest peak. On June 23, 2013, the Taliban reportedly killed ten climbers to avenge a previous American drone strike. When I first heard of this story, I was angered and confused. I was angry that the Taliban would seek revenge against individuals so far removed from the politics of war and religion. At the same time, I remain confused that anyone that respects the inherent dangers involved in climbing - weather, altitude, falls - will choose a spot with the added hazard of political upheaval. We prepare for the environmental hazards, but should also consider current political factors that can adversely affect an otherwise euphoric experience. This incident is not the first where hikers and climbers set out to enjoy a natural area free from drawn borders, only to encounter danger due to politics and religion. On July 31, 2009 three American hikers in Iraqi Kurdistan were arrested by Iranian Border Agents, and charged with espionage and entering Iran illegally. They all denied the allegations, but were incarcerated for years. My first reaction was: why choose there to hike, of all places on the planet?
Smart outdoorsmen weigh the risks when planning their trip. They consider all that Mother Nature has to offer, as well as their own personal limits. Smart adventurers need also consider current events, too. Because although we may recognize this beautiful spherical landscape as serene and shared by all living things, there will always remain those who believe that their god and their government possess exclusive rights to even the most unique features of the planet.