Late on the night of June 22nd, 2013, Eugeny Chukhanov woke to the distant clap of something in the darkness. Chukhanov, an alpinist from Kiev, Ukraine, was one of approximately forty mountaineers bed down on the lower flanks of the Diamir face of Nanga Parbat, the ninth highest mountain in the world. Alpinists are pre-conditioned to think of threats as emanating from above: sudden avalanches strike down from the heights; the higher up a mountain one ascends, the more susceptible you become to a litany of physiological dangers. But on Nanga Parbat that night, danger lurked below.
“I thought maybe it was stones or falling avalanches,” he later said. “But yes, I can now say that I heard the gun shots.”
Sometime in the late evening, an unidentified number of armed attackers infiltrated basecamp from the valley below (estimates vary between eight and twenty assailants), and coldly executed eleven men. Ten of the dead were foreign mountaineers; the remaining victim was Pakistani: Ali Hussain, a Shia Muslim from the village of Hushe, who had worked as a cook for mountaineering expeditions for many years.
The terrorist attack forced Gilgit-Baltistan’s vital adventure tourism industry into an immediate recession, and shattered the long-held belief that international climbers visiting Pakistan are safe from religious extremism once they reach the trailhead. In the midst of a story of such tragic proportions, Chinese mountaineer Zhang Jingchuan’s unbelievable escape should not be overlooked.
My report, published in the September 2013 issue of Men’s Journal, can be read here.