“I started my journey back in 1996 when I was a schoolboy.” Muneer Alam is lead guide for our Pakistan trekking partner Beyond The Valley. “When I was a child, I used to see the adventure guides going on expeditions. When I was in Grade Seven, I decided to become one myself.” He now has more than 20 years’ experience trekking in the area.
Experienced guides like Muneer are integral in a long distance trekking team. Assembling the rest of the team is a careful balancing act. You are going to a place without a community, and so it’s important to build your own. Locality is important. “If we are from Hunza region we won’t take a guide from another valley,” Umer explains. Everyone who goes on the trek becomes very close.
“The local porters are with you throughout the journey. They are also on a transformational journey,” says Umer, “They are asking you about your life. You are asking about theirs. The bond becomes strong.”
are a hot topic as the popularity of long distance high-altitude trekking continues. Pakistan has regulations about the wages porters should earn and the maximum weights they should bear. Beyond The Valley observes these, pays porters and sardars (lead porters) above the minimum wage, and makes sure they are medically insured and fully equipped for the trek. After, or just before some expeditions, they will run a medical camp. “Many porters have long-term dentistry issues,” Umer explains.
The team also has a skilled chef. Useful on long distance treks, when there’s plenty of time to celebrate special occasions, “You will always have someone who has a birthday or a wedding anniversary,” says Umer. “One of the great things about the crew is your chef. That guy can somehow make a perfect baked cake at 4,000m – I have no idea how he does it!”