The Central Karakoram in the Gilgit-Balitstan of Pakistan is a mountain area endowed with rich biodiversity, natural beauty and important resources. The Park compasses the world’s largest glaciers, outside the Polar Regions. It was declared as the Central Karakoram National Park (CKNP) in 1993: today it is the largest protected area of Pakistan, covering over 10,557.73 km2 in the Central Karakorum mountain range and the highest park all over the world, it is characterized by extremes of altitudes that range from 2,000 m a.s.l. to over 8,000 m a.s.l., including K2, the second highest peak in the world. It falls into four administrative districts of Gilgit-Baltistan Region. In order to facilitate the maintenance of Central Karakoram National Park ecological integrity while, at the same time, providing sustainable management opportunities for local communities and visitors, a zoning system has been implemented.
This consists of two main zones, the Buffer Zone and the Core Zone, for a total of 10,557.73 Km2. The Buffer Zone, which is part of the Park and the Core Zone, which includes areas with an higher degree of protection and corridors for tourists with basic facilities.
The Buffer Zone (BZ) is supporting a harmonic interaction between nature conservation and the use of the natural renewable resources through a sustainable way. This promotes the conservation of landscapes, traditional forms of land use, together with social and cultural features. It is considered a part of CKNP and is spreading for about 2,950.9 square kilometers. It is not continuous around the whole Park, but it is present mainly near the human settlements and near to the areas where there are unsustainable activities and therefore a transition zone is needed.
The Core Zone (CZ), with a surface of about 7,606.83 square kilometers aims at preserving a unique ecosystem, representative of the CKNP area. It is populated by important species, where long-term conservation and preservation have to be ensured. On the one hand, this area is impressive both for flora and fauna, on the other hand, the presence of a relevant number of high peaks, many of them over 7.000 m, and glaciers covering about the 38% of the whole Park surface, is attracting a relevant number of visitors. To preserve the nature integrity, the Park has designated specific corridors where tourists are allowed to enter, with basic facilities to reduce as much as possible their impact on this fragile, yet highly valuable, zone.
For centuries, the Gilgit Baltistan was one of the most remote and inaccessible region of the sub-continent but, since 1965, roads to the southern lowlands of Pakistan connected the GB on a year-round basis. Then, the realization of the Karakoram Highway (completed in 1978), which links Pakistan and China, opened up the Gilgit Baltistan to a series of unprecedented changes (social, economic, cultural and environmental) K2 1954 Italian Expedition First Karakoram explorers have been the English during the period of their possession of the area. We have to wait early twentieth-century to find a real interest which can be defined “climbing-touristic” as well as “exploratory”. Duke of Abruzzi arranged the first expedition toward the Baltoro Glacier on 1909, while in 1929 Duke of Spoleto with the famous scientist Ardito Desio organized a new scientific expedition in the area. Eric Shipton and other climbers started a more extensive frequentation of the area up to the first expeditions till years of postwar period, paving the way for the climbing Karakoram tourism. The Italian expedition to K2 of 1954 has seen the first ascent of this mountain and some years after, in 1957, the German expedition to Broad Peak marked the turning towards a touristic development of the area included in the present CKNP. From 1960s the touristic flow of climbers and trekkers has progressively increased, also for the concentration in the area of exceptional opportunities for mountain adventure activities, of peaks and unique sceneries known all over the world.