For centuries the menfolk of Gilgit and Chitral have mounted their rugged horses for a brutal annual game of polo, played on a 12,000ft high mountain pass in Pakistan's remote north.
The turmoil of independence, war with India and creeping rise of the Taliban have not stopped the rivals slugging it out for local bragging rights once a year.
But this year, the contest has been abandoned for the first time after Gilgit's political leaders ordered their team home in protest at a long-running over who owns the pass.
With thousands of spectators already gathered for the world-famous Shandur Polo Festival which began Wednesday, village teams from Chitral played a series of friendlies instead.
"It's supposed to be between the two rivals – that's what makes it spectacular," said Gul Fooriqi who had made the journey into the mountains for the three-day meeting. "If there's only one side, it's not really the same." With no referees and no holds barred, the chukkas are impassioned affairs played out in front of fervent supporters.
The field – the highest polo field in the world – was long used in a traditional form of the sport with the two sides playing beneath the moon, until the contest was formalised by Major Evelyn Cobb, a British officer, in 1936.
Since then it has become a draw for Pakistan's political and military elite. The sport reached a new audience in 2004, when Michael Palin camped at the festival in his TV series Himalaya.
Hundreds of foreign tourists now make the bone shaking journey to an area known as the "roof of the world".
This year, however, ministers from Gilgit-Baltistan said the pass – at the meeting of the Karakoram, Hindu Kush and Pamir mountain ranges – was within their territory and their team should not be treated as guests by organisers from the neighbouring province of Khyber Pakhtunkwa.
"Shandur is a historical part of Gilgit-Baltistan but the Pakhtunkwa government is managing the festival," said chief minister Mehdi Shah, announcing the boycott.
The pass, which runs between Chitral and Gilgit, has been disputed ever since colonial times with both sides claiming historic documents support their arguments.
It took on a new importance in the 1980s when a growing number of visitors to the festival turned the pass into a useful revenue spinner.
Crisis talks to resolve the dispute broke down at the end of last week.
Officials from Khyber Pakhtunkwa dismiss the Gilgit claims. They say the question is already being considered by a commission set up by former president Pervez Musharraf.
Rehmatullah Wazir, Chitral's top administrator, said the show would go on.
"We have the security force here and there are already many tourists from abroad so we will continue to celebrate the festival," he said.