The tallest mountains in the world are located in Nepal, Pakistan and China. I have now visited Nepal on four occasions, Pakistan and China each one time...
Nepal is the place to start for anyone who wants to see giant mountains. It is home to nine of the fourteen tallest, including half of Mount Everest, which also lies half in Tibet.
Nepali terrain is characterized as a progression of steep hills - rising one after another into a crescendo of snow covered giants - The Himalaya. The word itself is Sanskrit - translated as "abode of snow" or "where the snow is."
Many national parks have been established here to facilitate tourism. Furthermore, Nepali culture is imbued with a deep tradition of hospitality; you will find among the locals some of the finest hosts and most indomitable guides in the world.
It is a place where people are generally very poor, with fewer material goods and less mobility, a country of high unemployment and established government corruption. It is also a culture of friendliness to strangers, with peaceful people who like to bargain and share company and have a good laugh and who don't take themselves too seriously.
Nepal is relatively unrestricted compared to other countries with this type of scenery - so with a pile of rupees in your hand and a good pair of boots, you can get to many wonderful places. I trek part of the time here solo in order to really feel lost. Other times I hire my friends Purna and Ramesh and we get even more off the beaten path.
I have been Around Dhaulagiri and to Annapurna South Basecamp (2008). I have climbed the Three Passes of Solu-Khumbu (2009), trekked Around Manaslu and to Langtang (2010), and I have been across the Annapurna Foothills and to Makalu Basecamp (2013).
Nepal is the hub of Himalayan tourism and an incredible state of mind. Needless to say, I cannot wait to go again.
In the summer of 2011 I finally was able to get myself to Pakistan. I had been dreaming about it for many years.
Living in America there was a certain level of apprehension and foreboding with coming to Pakistan, and I think that most people were a bit shocked that I was so keen to go. But it was probably the greatest trek I have ever done. Period.
I signed up for a trek led by The Mountain Company, a London based adventure travel company. They operate tours to Pakistan, specifically the humongous mountains of Pakistan. The plan was to drive the rugged Karakoram Highway into the Northern areas and trek to K2, second tallest mountain in the world. We comprised a group of twelve western tourists, neatly packaged into two tour buses with tinted windows.
Leaving the surprisingly secular capital of Islamabad, the landscape begins to shift and only men are out and about, dressed in the typical shalwar-kameez, the traditional male attire. The road follows the Indus River, weaving by in dark tones, making it's way out of the mountains down toward the Arabian Sea.
That summer everything was brown hues and scorchingly dry. Occasionally we passed through oases of green where there was pure water. The land felt hard, desolate, unforgiving - and savagely beautiful. Impossible heights frequently tower over the road, indiscriminately sending rubble flying down. People carry shovels and pry bars in their cars.
In the Northern Areas one skirts the Himalaya to the west and further travel northeastwards leads to another Great Range of Asia - the Karakoram - with dimensions attaining similar magnitude in scale. Karakoram is Ancient Turkic for "Great Rock". Within the range lies the fabled Baltoro Glacier, a place that has been called "The Throne Room of the Mountain Gods."
The architecture of this place is on another level - and it's fame to climbers, dreamers and lovers of mountains is great. Glaciers in the Karakoram are generally larger than in the Himalaya, and in this land of dust, ice and humongous peaks, with no villages. With us were three Pakistani guides, a cook crew of five, eighty odd porters, three goats and about twelve chickens. For 15 days we drank water stained with the silt and dust of this study in umber tones.
I am very lucky, for we had no security problems on our trip whatsoever. Many of the guys were very cool - with honest opinions, who didn't always say what they thought the westerner wanted to hear. We shared what felt like real discussion, and I enjoyed the honor and intelligence of my hosts. Many of these men have been doing business with westerners for many years, and it shows. Inshallah, I will return here one day as well.