“Qaqlasht means Dryland. It’s barren and No water! Winters cage us inside our houses for a period of nearly five months. Extreme cold and lots of snow limits our movement and our working environment are disturbed. This has been here for centuries, even inside our houses we feel cold”, said a resident of Booni-Chitral.
“I am amazed that some people have put up a small tent city at Qaqlasht. It feels unreal! Completely surprising! People in the village call them crazy for sleeping in the tent on snow in extremely cold conditions. It NEVER happened in the whole Chitral putting a tent in winters”, said another villager.
The Pakistan Youth Outreach Foundation (PYOF)—in collaboration with the Hindukush Mountaineering and adventure club—successfully organized the very first Ski and Mountaineering training camp for youth at Qaqlasht – Booni, from January 2nd to 7th.
The event was organized during the coldest period of the year. The camp featured a total of 50 daring participants from various regions, including Lahore, Faisalabad, lower Chitral, Kalash, Mastuj, Booni, Broghil, and Hunza. Girls from Shimshal, Chitral, and Punjab actively participated in the event. There were trainers from Shimshal and one ski trainer from Austria. They gave training to the participants in basic ski and mountaineering techniques.
Julian from Austria and Mansoor Kareem from Shimshal trained the participants in Ski. Arshad Jon, Ahmed Baig, and Samana Rahim from Shimshal gave training in basic mountaineering techniques, like introduction to climbing gears and teaching climbing knots essential in mountaineering. Under their leadership, a team of 8 participants, including 4 girls and 5 boys successfully summited a small peak in Qaqlasht.
Using the ‘Jhoomering’ technique, the participants climbed up to 400 meters through a very steep route in deep snow, for the very first time. According to the expert mountain guide Arshad Jon, it was a good route to practice technical mountain climbing.
The purpose of this event was to engage the youth of Chitral in winter sports, to promote tourism in this region during the harsh cold season, and to promote cultural interaction and harmony. The whole team camped at Qaqlasht in snow and the region saw the very first snow camping in its history. The participants not only survived the cold weather but also enjoyed the challenges and converted the white snow plateau into a colorful sports arena. They shared their cultural values, languages, traditions, stories and created an environment of peace, unity, and harmony.
Mirza Ali Baig, the founding Chairman of Pakistan Youth Outreach Foundation, the pioneer of women adventure, winter sports and winter tourism in Pakistan, believes that this area has much more potential for winter sports and winter tourism than any other region of Pakistan.
PYOF since 2009 has been actively working on the promotion of sports tourism and winter tourism, with a core focus of creating awareness about the winter Olympics and its scope in Pakistan. It also focuses on creating economic opportunities for youth both boys and girls through winter sports and winter tourism, unleashing youth potentials. Mirza Ali himself climbed the seven highest mountains in the seven continents being the first Pakistani man to do so. He is willing to continue to work for youth and aims to conduct further such events in Chitral.
According to Mirza Ali Baig, “the guest house and hotels should not remain closed in winters and the life must not stop, youth should have winter-related sports to play, no matter how harsh the weather is, there are potential and possibilities”.
People of Chitral were extremely happy and thankful to the organization for arranging this camp. According to one of the female participants of Chitral, such events are necessary for the youth of this area and especially for the girls of Chitral. She believes that such sports events would help the girls of this area to improve their overall mental health and come out of the depression that the majority of girls are facing due to lack of opportunities.
Asif Murad who is president of Hindukush mountaineering and adventure club thanked PYOF and team for coming to Chitral and arranging new sports activities. “In the past two years, we conducted rock climbing, basic mountaineering course for Booni youth. I am glad to attend the PYOF camp in 2016, in Shimshal-Hunza. I learned a lot from the camp and now I’m glad that PYOF is also helping us in promoting Chitral, particularly regarding winters tourism and sports.
The event concluded with certificate distribution and Chitral music!