Pakistan & Afghanistan : Paragliding


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The text below began as a post in the (<- click for thread)
It is a translated report of my trip to pakistan in May 2005.

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When I was flying in Karimabad, Pakistan this year, dozens of children surrounded me
and asked me if I was John or if I knew John. I was a bit confused, as I didn't know
who they meant at first. When I returned home, I found the videos of John Silvester
 on the Nova homepage -> Downloads -> Videos   and knew why they had asked me:
John had been there the year before, and he had flown a yellow Nova glider that looked
 just like mine! ;-)

Some Information on flying in Pakistan

Actually Pakisatan is a very nice country for people with a sense for adventure, but
also for those who are not so experienced, as long as they know where not to fly.

Pakistan is pretty flat in the south and starts to get hilly just above the capital, Islamabad.
There is even some take-offs right north of the city on a ridge, so you could have your first
flight within hours after arrival if you are in a hurry, and know where to go ;-)

Another site nearby is Khanpur Lake between Islamabad and Abottabad

Khanpur Lake: The gentle slopes of the hills are great to acclimatize!

I made a XC-Flight there in gentle conditions and there would have been
good landing spots in many places. (Of course I chose the prettiest one
which was a mistake, as it was the green lawn of a military compound ;-)

More to the north the hills soon turn into mountains and you can coose
between the Himalayas, Karakoram and the Hindukush ranges.
Nanga Parbat is an 8000m Mountain whose base you can reach within one day
by car from the capital to the point where you walk and a few hours of

Groundhandling before the flight in front of 8000m Nanga Parbat

I doubt that there is another 8000m peak that is that easy to reach. Easy
flying is possible at the base-camp there, and for the ones who like more
adventure, you can also start great XC-Flights there. (More on my web-page
and in the OLC, see below)

Some more to the north you get to Karimabad where XC-Flights and soaring
in the calmer afternoon conditions is possible.

Flying in Karimabad directly over the Hotel Eagles Nest

Flying Conditions

Of course XC-flying in these high mountains should be only attempted by
very experienced pilots. I regularly had valley-winds of 50-65 Km/h and
landed fullspeed, going backwards. You can imagine that a lee behind a
5000m mountain, (which is just about any mountain there!)
can be pretty hefty with these winds, if you don't know which areas to avoid.
But for those who are experienced alpine pilots: The laws of Physics are
also valid in the Himalayas! ;-) If you know about Lee's, Rotors,
Valley-Winds, etc you can use that knowledge nicely to avoid the danger spots.
If you find that the wind is too bad down in the valley you could even
top-land (there are nice green meadows with sheep on some mountains!)
and wait and talk with the sheperds for the afternoon before gliding down.

For the retrieve: Hitchiking is *very* easy and it & the country in general
is really safe! People are super-friendly and will always give you a ride
if there is space in their vehicle. The general rule of course is: Stick
to flying along paved roads if you intend to be back to your hotel on the
same day! ;-) Or do it John-style and bring your tent!

For your orientation I have prepared a Google Earth KMZ File (<-click) that
contains more information on the the Starting and Landing Areas mentioned
as well as a few flights. This is especially nice to watch in 3D mode. Here is
an example: Looking North from the flatlands, hovering over Islamabad.
On the horizon you can already see the high mountain ranges of the himalayas:

The best months (especially for the north) will be June and September,
I heard there is less wind and much higher cloudbase in September.

Unfortunately the area above Islamabad is now the one most affected by the
Oct 2005 eartquake, so at the moment the people there have other things to think
about than paragliding. I cannot tell you today how far north the effects of the
earthquake went and if they have sorted out their problems by next summer.
Maybe it would be best to donate some money to help them now and
go and visit the area in the next years to see who you have helped!

I can only say that the tourism in this area has picked up a lot in the
years 2000 and 2001 and many people have built hotels and restaurants
then and were looking forward to a better life when 9/11 put tourism to
a grinding halt again, which is ridiculous, as there is no danger there and
Pakistan is really not Irak! The people are happy about everyone who
comes and you can really feel that you are welcome as a tourist everywhere!

We were welcomed warmly by the P.A.F.F. - Pakistan Association of Free Flying
(not to be confused with PA of Flea-Frying! ;-)  who are *very* friendly. So it
would probably make sense to contact them if you have questions. You can
also contact myself if you want.

I plan to visit the Himalayas again (Pk or Nepal) and do some long-distance
John Silvester-style XC-bivouac flights in the next years, and I am looking for
pilots who would feel confident to do sth. like that. If you are such a person
or know of someone who would be a good candidate for that, please send
me a mail! There is not too many of those around and I prefer to fly with a
companion as it is more fun than flying alone.

Cheers, Ulli

Some more Impressions

Khanpur Lake


Nanga Parbat

Hunza / Karimabad



                                     Fight Gravity - go Paragliding !