GILGIT: Porter-turned-climber Mohammad Ali Sadpara of Gilgit-Baltistan on Monday set out on one of the most dangerous mountain expeditions — to climb Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain — without supplemental oxygen.
Accompanied by Spanish mountaineer Alex Txikon, 35, and six Nepali Sherpas (porters), Mr Sadpara left Thukla at 4,620m above sea level, for the Everest base camp on Monday evening. The 41-year-old mountaineer, a resident of Sadpara village in Skardu, is optimistic that his team will set the record of summiting the mountain in winters without using bottled oxygen.
The mountain has been climbed only once during the winter season before, by Polish climbers Leszek Cichy and Krzysztof Wielicki in February 1980. Interestingly enough, Wielicki, now 67, is on another winter expedition this year with a team of Polish climbers — to climb K2. The winter climbing season lies between Dec 31 and March 21 each year.
“I am optimistic that I will make history by hoisting Pakistan’s flag on top of the world’s highest mountain during winter,” Mr Sadpara said.
This is the first time such a feat is being attempted on Everest
In February 2016, the mountaineer from Skardu accompanied foreign climbers on an expedition to scale the 8,126m-high Nanga Parbat, also known as the Killer Mountain, during the winter season.
“I made history by climbing the Killer Mountain in winters for the first time...it was after this successful adventure that I decided to attempt that on Mountain Everest,” Mr Sadpara said, adding: “The main hurdle for climbers trying to explore their potential in mountaineering is a lack of finances.”
Sharing his story of struggle, Mr Sadpara said that following the successful summit of Nanga Parbat, his team, which included foreigners, were welcomed and felicitated by GB Chief Minister Hafeezur Rehman. There, he said, he shared with the chief minister his hopes to set a world record by climbing Mount Everest during winter without supplemental oxygen. The chief minister heard him out and then announced in front of his team that he would sponsor Mr Sadpara’s winter climb of Mount Everest. Determined not to let those discouraging words bring him down, Mr Sadpara said that he continued to struggle to raise funds for the expedition that was estimated to cost around $80,000. Some of that money was raised by his fellow climbers who had approached international organisations. Mr Sadpara’s friends in the tourism sector also lent the expedition financial support.
“I was first person to climb Killer Mountain during the winter of 2016... I had earlier climbed Nanga Parbat (which translates to the Naked Mountain) four times,” he said, adding: “I began my career as a porter, however, the GB government has not encouraged me to go for any record or supported me in my struggle so far.”
There are 14 mountains in the world that are over 8,000m high and five of them are in Pakistan — K2, Nanga Parbat, Gashurbrum I, Gasherbrum II and Broad Peak. Mr Sadpara has so far scaled Nanga Parbat (8,126m), Gasherbrum 1 (8,080m) and Gasherbrum 2 (8,051m).
In reply to a question, he said three Pakistani mountaineers — Samina Baig, the first Pakistani female alpinist, the late Hassan Sadpara and Nazir Sabir from GB — have climbed Mount Everest; however, they had all submitted the peak during summer. “I will be one of the first climbers in the world to summit the peak in winter,” Mr Sadpara said.
Sending Dawn updates over WhatsApp, he said: “We are at a hotel in the Thukla area near the Everest base camp...it is 4,620m high and we have internet here. We have all the equipment needed for the climb. Today we will depart for the base camp and from there we will start laying ropes to ascend the peak...after laying down ropes and [setting up the] camps, we will start moving towards the peak.”
It is at this point that the weather condition will matter the most, so they will start their journey after receiving a weather update. “We will be disconnected from internet and mobile service from today,” Mr Sadpara said.
Published in Dawn, January 2nd, 2018