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Yes, we have scaled the Miranjani Peak too

(Shaikh Muhammad Ali) “When we get out of the glass bottle of our ego and when we escape like the squirrels in the cage of our personality and get into the forest again, we shall shiver with cold and fright. But things will happen to us so that we don’t know ourselves. Cool, unlying life will rush in.” – D. H. Lawrence

Yes, we scaled the Miranjani Peak too!

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Since the time that Hassan Nasir Zaidi and I had scaled the Mukshpuri (Mushkpuri) peak on 27th July 2010, we had always craved to scale the Miranjani, the highest peak in the Galiyat also. We had planned and tried to do this first in July 2011 but failed since some friends had contracted stomach infection while again tried to plan on 15th July 2012 but due to heavy rain, had to abandon the plan. I started planning for this hike and sent the first e-mail to nine fellow hikers on 28th August 2012. By 6th September 2012, eleven people (including myself) had confirmed that they would be joining this trek. Nine of the fellow hikers met at the HEC parking lot on the designated day i.e. 14th Sept. 2012 at 5:00 p.m. and embarked upon the journey while I decided at the last moment to take my car for the trip. I left the house slightly early i.e. around 4:30 p.m. along with Adil, my older son. Incidentally, I noticed that the temperature gauge on the speedometer was rising fast. I stopped the car close to Serena Hotel in Islamabad to check the water level in the radiator and to my disbelief and horror; water was leaking fast from underneath the engine. I first took the car to a mechanic in Melody market in G-6/3 which was the

Yes, we scaled the Miranjani Peak too!

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closest option but he scared me that the fault was not apparent as to where the water was leaking from and it could take four hours to diagnose and fix the problem.

(Hikers gathering at the HEC car park) I then called up my mechanic in the G-10/1 sector and he asked me to come to him instead while refilling water in the radiator after every kilometer. I slowly and gradually reached him and conveyed to him the entire scenario as to how important the trip was for me. He was quite confident and started opening the engine and got to the root of the problem whereby a ‘Tikki’ in their parlance had developed a small hole and the water was leaking thus from underneath the engine.

(This is the culprit which had leaked) Long story short, it took us till 9:00 p.m. to get the problem fixed and I almost called off the trip but Adil was heartbroken and wanted to do this trek badly. He had also Yes, we scaled the Miranjani Peak too! Page 3

forgotten his hiking shoes home and thus we went home, collected his hiking shoes, had a quick biryani dinner and decided to rush to Khanaspur. The group which had already left for Khanaspur through the Hiace were devastated to learn that I had met with this catastrophe and was deciding not to come. They were jubilant to learn that I ultimately decided to join them albeit late.

(The earlier group acclimatizing at the Khanaspur guest house by 8:35 p.m.) While I left the house at 9:30 p.m. sharp, the other group had already reached Khanaspur by 8:30 p.m. and after lodging at the guest house had their dinner by 10:00 p.m.

(The earlier group enjoying their dinner at Khanaspur)

Yes, we scaled the Miranjani Peak too!

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Usually, I don’t drive in the hilly areas after Maghreb (Sunset) since there are no street lights and why take the risk in the first place but this time around due to the persistence of the group; I left my house at 9:30 p.m. sharp and at razor sharp 12:00 a.m. I was at the guest house. My fellow hikers were overwhelmed and much relieved to see me again. I had a quick grub and we went off to sleep around 1:00 a.m. since we had to rise early the next morning. We got up early around 5:00 a.m., said our Fajr prayers and assembled in the dining room at 5:30 a.m. for a sumptuous ‘Anda – Paratha’ (Omelets & Bread) breakfast. The weather was chilly yet pleasant and we were all anxious to succeed on this trek.

(The trekking team is enjoying the early breakfast) Although Khanaspur had always served as a summer training retreat and summer excursions for us at HEC but lately it has also become a base camp for us hikers when we attempt the Galiyat peaks.

(A beautiful view of the HEC guest house @ 5:44 a.m.) Yes, we scaled the Miranjani Peak too! Page 5

We assembled for a group picture around 6:00 a.m. before we left for the base camp of the Miranjani peak.

(A group photo of the 11 hikers at the Khanaspur guest house) Nathiagali has several guesthouses and small-time hotels which provide the basics – yet that is what makes this town so charming. But no visit to Nathiagali is complete without a hike up the hill on Mukshpuri or Miranjani to a vantage point. We had to drive for about 30 minutes or so to reach the starting point of the Miranjani peak. We took pictures on the way without stopping.

(The enchanting picture of the Miranjani peak around 6:35 a.m.)

Yes, we scaled the Miranjani Peak too!

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Around 7:00 a.m. we had reached the starting point of the trek which was close to the road which goes to the Namlimaira village.

(A group picture before we embarked upon the 3 hour trek) This particular trek goes a little beyond Nathiagali up on the Miranjani top at a height of 9,700 feet above sea level. It takes about 3 hours from the base camp to reach the top at a brisk pace and if the weather is clear, you can get to see the Nanga Parbat peak (The 9th highest peak in the world) which is about 300 - 400 kms away from here. We started hiking at 7:10 a.m. sharp and very soon 7 of us took the lead, formed a group and the remaining 4 of us started trailing at a slower pace.

(The adventurous me at the start of the trek) Yes, we scaled the Miranjani Peak too! Page 7

Slowly and gradually we ascended towards our destination while enjoying the beautiful chirping sounds of birds who were singing their morning hymns and the insects getting ready for their morning breakfast. The first group of 7 hikers had already reached the top exactly in three hours and celebrated their achievement.

(L-R: Dr. Qaiser, Adil Shaikh, Ahtesham, Dr. Fahim Hashmi and Sajjad Baloch at the top) Pictures of beautiful wild flowers were shared by the first group which had reached almost 66 minutes ahead of us.

(A beautiful arrangement of wild flowers at the top)

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We continued walking while appreciating the beauty of the valley and nature till we also reached the peak; our ultimate goal for the day.

(L-R: The author, Dr. Qaiser, Dr. Amjad and Rizwan Ahmed resting at the top) Five people in the first group decided to go further to the Dagri rest house which was another 4 hours trek from this point while the 6 of us stayed back and enjoyed our stay at the mountain top. We feasted on the snacks, rested and enjoyed the beautiful views around us.

(We could even spot PMA – Kakul far away in the distance)

Yes, we scaled the Miranjani Peak too!

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At the top, we met Mujeeb Qadri and his cousin who had travelled all the way from Lahore to scale the Miranjani peak. Hikers, irrespective of what color, creed, country or religion they belong to; all are of the same stock. Mujeeb, a seasoned travelling buff would later become a good friend and we would share notes on hiking escapades through Facebook and WhatsApp.

(Mujeeb Qadri [center], his cousin and I discussing some trekking tips) The other group had already left for the Dagri rest house and they took a few pictures on the way.

(A local gathering some herbs on the way to Dagri)

Yes, we scaled the Miranjani Peak too!

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The trek to Dagri is thickly forested and is surely off the beaten path. The trees and the plantation is very peculiar on this route.

(Age old trees on the route to Dagri) It takes about 4 hours to reach Dagri bungalow from the Miranjani peak and the 5 fellow hikers decided to cover this as well during this trip.

(The sign board close to the Dagri rest house) Although it is popularly noted in the hiking circles that the Dagri trek takes four hours but our five hikers reached the site in three hours instead of four.

Yes, we scaled the Miranjani Peak too!

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(Ahtesham posing at the famous Dagri rest house) While our five members were on the way to Dagri, we took rest at the Miranjani peak and chilled out at the top.

(The five of us are resting off the Miranjani peak) By 2:40 p.m., the forward group started to retreat from the Dagri rest house and took this parting picture.

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(From L-R: Dr. Zia, Sajjad, Dr. Shahzada Alamgir, Farrukh and Dr. Fahim Hashmi) The trees in this area are claimed to be over 1,500 years old and a sign board on one of the trees is a witness to this claim.

(A sign board at one of the trees) By 4:30 p.m. the Dagri group was retreating fast and met a Sadhu on the way back.

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(One of the natives on the way back from Dagri) By 5:15 p.m., we had also decided to retreat from the Miranjani top. While taking a few more pictures and enjoying the fresh, crisp air we started to descend.

(Adil posing for the parting picture before the retreat from the top) By 6:15 p.m. we had reached the base camp while the group of 5 slightly got lost and took half an hour more to reach the base. After saying our Maghreb prayers here, we started the journey back home. Around 7:05 p.m. we reached the Dunga Gali end of the Pipe line trek and stopped for a hot cup of coffee and tea.

Yes, we scaled the Miranjani Peak too!

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(Dr. Shahzada Alamgir, Dr. Fahim Hashmi and I are engaged in the details of the trip) Since I was driving my own car thus we departed in our separate vehicles and we reached home in the next two hours or so with a new sense of achievement i.e. scaling the highest peak in the Galiyat region.

In my philosophy, hiking represents a mystical journey of spiritual ascent through mind and love to the Perfect One. In this journey, the seeker symbolically turns towards the truth, grows through love, abandons the ego, finds the truth and arrives at the Perfect. The seeker then returns from this spiritual journey, with greater maturity, to love and to be of service to the whole of creation without discrimination with regard to beliefs, races, colors, classes and religions.

Shaikh Muhammed Ali ‘The Wandering Dervish’ E-mail: Cell: +00-92-321-5072996 th Tuesday, 24 July 2013, 09:52 p.m. (PST)

Yes, we scaled the Miranjani Peak too!

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