Being Prepared on K2

By: Tom McCormack

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December 28, 2018 | 50th Anniversary Stories

We were trekking in Pakistan on Mountain Travel’s Baltoro/K2 Trek in 1993. I had trekked and climbed in Pakistan decades before and this was my chance to return to the Karakorum. It was finally relatively safe to travel to Pakistan.

As we trekked up to a pass, we saw a group of Pakistani men in tribal dress and Afghan hats approaching. They were toting AK-47s, rifles and bandoliers in their long robes. We had learned this wasn’t that uncommon in these tribal areas, but it still gave me pause. One guy approached my wife, Penny, but he spoke to me and asked if we had anything to take care of bad headaches. Penny started to argue with me because she didn’t want to give up our limited supply of aspirin and Tylenol in this remote, high elevation region. I looked at the man who’d asked me and breathed through my teeth in fast approaching panic to Penny: “Get the god damned aspirin, Pen!” She rummaged in her pack and pulled out a large zip-lock bag with the aspirin and other medical supplies. She handed it to me and I gave it to the man who spoke English. He thanked us. We moved on as did they in the opposite direction.

We continued trekking and the rest of our group eventually caught up with us. We camped that night in a village and after discussing our aspirin encounter, we learned that the group of Pakistanis had been in the village the previous night to commit some kind of mercy killing. It brought home where we were and who we were dealing with. Thank God Penny had given me the aspirin when they’d asked!

Tom McCormack, MT Sobek Guest

MT Sobek Trip: Baltoro/K2 Trek, 1993