I never thought I would enjoy being cold as I spend a lot of time freezing in the mountains, wishing for warmer weather. However, trying to lead an outside life in Islamabad, where the thermometer sometimes hits 48 degrees Celsius, is pretty tough. Everyone who tells me that the heat is not that bad usually walks from the air-conditioned house to the air-conditioned car straight into the air-conditioned office and all the way back again. Of course, when you move around like this the heat is not so stifling but when you try to go for a run and bike 30 minutes to work in the morning, the heat can be crippling!
Do not worry, I will not be writing a whole newsletter on the weather, however, it does become an issue if it is either too cold and rainy (like it was in Germany in April and May) or too hot as it is here at the moment. In order to get my exercise fix here in Islamabad, I have to go running at 5am as otherwise my run turns into a crawl at snail’s pace, which is more frustrating than rewarding.
But last Saturday I got a break from the heat when I went to Nathiagali with Zulfikar from Pakistan and Virginia from Italy. We drove for about two hours and the higher we got, the cloudier it became and by the time we arrived in the little village of Nathiagali, we were hit by a full blown hail storm. However, we did not let the weather stop us from our little hike and we tackled a little hill of about 2,900m. I was actually quite happy that I had brought my hat and gloves (even though I felt almost ridiculous putting them in my rucksack back in the heat of Islamabad). The greatest thing about our trip was that I was actually freezing and for the first time since I arrived here three weeks ago, I did not feel hot and sweaty, but cold. The longer we hiked, the colder and wetter we got and at one point we were so wet that we decided to turn around to seek shelter and warm up in a restaurant.
A break in the clouds
When we got back to the village there was a break in the clouds and the sun came out. And at this point I noticed that the sun was still my friend, and not my enemy, which it had become in Islamabad. It was fantastic to feel the warmth of the sunrays on my skin and the sensation of slowly getting warmer reminded me of how I feel about the sun when I do high altitude mountaineering. When you start climbing in the middle of the night in -20 C you cannot wait for the sun to rise and warm you up. The sun is your friend in the mountains, but the last three weeks in Islamabad have been a completely new experience for me as I have started drawing my curtains during the day to shut out the sun – something I had never done before as I love the outdoors.
Being outside is pretty difficult in these boiling temperatures but I know that I will be going to Manaslu in September this year and that thought keeps me going when I sit in the office all day staring at a computer screen. Knowing that I will be spending five or six weeks in the Manaslu region makes my office life bearable. I am still trying to find my feet in my new job but having worked in Pakistan for six months before certainly helps. It is a different environment, a different office and a different job but I like a challenge and I guess that working and bearing the heat in Islamabad must be similar to climbing an 8,000m peak.