Pamir Times arranged an email interview with John Silvester, “Birdman of the Karakuram”. John is a reader of Pamir Times and gets updates about the landslide disaster through our blog. He also reposts updates about the Attabad landslide on his personal blog. Pamir Times is thankful to John Silvester for sparing his time for this interview. [Nur]
“I had a fairly normal safe childhood, in the flat country of Southern England. I did quite well at school, and did a hons degree in biology at a good university. I was the first member of my family to go to university…not because i was particuarly clever, but because i was lucky to get financial help from the government to pay for it at that time”.
“I spent alot of my time there rock climbing which became a passion, so i moved to a small mountainous country next to England called Wales, which is still part of the UK, but has a different language and national parliament, and has not the greatest liking of the ‘English’ (wars!!)….much like many former mirdoms!”
John in Pakistan
“I first visited pakistan in 1987, to attempt to climb the 6000m south east wall of bibli-mo-tin, or lady finger…and came again in 1988 to try again! we had brought parachutes with us so that we could jump from the top and fly back to karimabad, but we never made the summit, so had to make do with jumping off Hon…that was scary enough!!! Eventually i got good at paragliding, became national champion, European and British record holder, and started dreaming about returning to what i thought of as my roots…the big mountains of Asia”.
Flying over Nepal
“[I] flew from the Dalai Lamas home in exile, Dharamsala in india, to the Nepalese border 500km away in 1997, stopping high up in small villages for the night, then flying again the next day. 2 years later i flew across west nepal on a tandem paraglider with a cameraman friend, and made the film NOWHERE
Hunza and Flying
“And then i remembered Hunza …. and imagined flying around those majestic peaks. I went back there after 12 years in 2001, and it was as beautiful as i remembered it, but how it had changed. The KKH was so much faster, there was a proper new road up to Karaimabad from Ganesh….there were ‘proper’ expensive hotels and shops. and electricity!”
“But still it felt like coming home…and somehow remained unspoilt, which is a real achievement in this modern world”.
“Since then i have visited many many times, it is my favourite destination…..and another visit is well overdue!!!”
Paragliding and Pakistan
“Pakistan is probably the ultimate paragliding place in the world…it is dry (so the lack of moisture in the air, plus the heat means the clouds are often very high….and we can fly up to the clouds).
“Hunza is also good because it has generally light winds in the bottom of the valleys….some mountains get very strong winds developing during the day, which are dangerous to paragliders and small planes. Bbut the thing that makes it even more special is flying around the summits… we can in a couple of hours take off from Mr Ali’s Eagles’ Nest at Duikar, and be close enough to Hunza Peak or Bibli to touch the summit.”
“It is a very special privilege…we are lucky”
John as Birdman of the Karakoram
“In 2005 I had seen the high 6400m col to the west side of Shispar Sar (7600m), and thought that it would be great to cross it from the Karimabad side, and fly down to passu, looking at the north face of Shispar, that you can see from Passu and Borit. And thats what we did in 2008. I was going to Hunza flying with another mate Eddie Colfox. The filmmaker Alun Hughes asked if he could come too and try and make another film…That became “Birdman of the Karakoram”.
“Future plans?… I have always wanted to see the summit of rakaposhi…who knows!”