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Karakorum: 35mm Film Scanned

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The Thalo Glacier. Where no person had stepped before … as far as we know.

January 2019: I’m starting the process of scanning images created on Fuji Velvia and Provia 35 mm film. This is proving to be a time-consuming process. Slides that haven’t been viewed in years, and in some cases, decades. Despite care being taken in their storage, the scanning reveals a lot of dust. A blower is used to reduce the amount on each transparency before scanning. However, spot removal is required on every image.

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The first batch I’m showing via this blog is from an expedition to the Thalo Glacier, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (formally NW Frontier), Pakistan. This visit was undertaken in August 1994, a time before the area became a no-go for foreigners. It was a serious region to visit then. As we approached the small town of Dir, a notoriously independently controlled tribal settlement, between Peshawar and Chitral. It was nearing dark. It was strongly suggested by our guides to carry on driving as quickly as possible and to keep our heads down in the Jeeps as we passed through. No problems were encountered, but it was evident from the demeanour of our local guides and drivers that they were extremely nervous leading up to entering the settlement, and they didn’t relax until several hours away.

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Chitral Scouts. The local ‘police force’.

Other experiences rekindled are from the interactions with other villagers. Especially in Chitral, Mastuj, Sor Laspur and Mingora. The latter we stayed in before heading back to Rawalpindi.

These memories are kicked to the foreground on my memory by viewing the slides and their resulting scans. Many exhilarating! A few ‘interesting’! Particularly camping at the road head waiting to meet our arranged transport at the roadhead of the Swat Valley. This valley became notorious when the Taliban took over the area in the 2000’s. Listening to AK 47’s being let loose and the resulting reports ricocheting around the vast granite walls and peaks is as vivid in my mind’s eye as it was cowering in a tent at the time.

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The descent in to the Swat Valley.

I’m keen to find out how many other memories are rekindled or brought vividly to life as I sort out more 35 mm transparencies.

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Our ‘base camp’. The Thalo Glacier can be seen as a tongue leading up and right from the centre of this image. 

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High altitude ‘chai’. This was a tea break at around 16-17,000 feet moving over the Kachakani Pass in to the Swat Valley

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One of the famous ‘Polo Horses’ that play the highest polo match in the world on the Shandur Pass (13,000 feet) between Chitral and Gilgit.

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A particularly easy river crossing. Some rivers became impassable raging torrents once the sun hit the glaciers that fed them through meltwater. Early stars were necessary!

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Typical scenery and grandeur of the Hindu Kush

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Always amazing campsites.

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The leading slopes of the Thalo Glacier.

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The turbulent glacier waters heading from the Shandur Pass towards Chitral. 

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Our group can be seen in the bottom left of this image, giving a scale of the 20,000 feet (plus) peaks populating the Hindu Kush region of the Western Karakoram. The Afghan border is less than 30 km as the crow flies.



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