Overcoming “tons of snow” and a thunderstorm, climbers Sirbaz Khan and Muhammad Abdul Joshi became the first Pakistanis to summit the 8,091-metre Annapurna peak in Nepal on Friday.
The Sirbaz-Joshi duo made the first summit push on April 13 but were unable to succeed as ropes could not be fixed. The second summit push on April 14 was again unsuccessful as the team ran out of rope at Camp IV (6,900m). For the Pakistani team, it was a case of ‘third time lucky’ and at 1:17pm on Friday, Sirbaz and Joshi were standing on top of Annapurna, according to details shared by their teammates on social media.
This is the first Pakistani expedition on Mt Annapurna which aimed to honour late Pakistani mountaineer and high-altitude porter (HAP) Muhammad Ali Sadpara, acknowledge local porters, and inspire the younger generation.
The four-member team left for Nepal to attempt Annapurna, the 10th-highest peak in the world, earlier this month. Led by Sirbaz, the expedition included climber Joshi, manager Saad Munawar and photographer Kamran Ali of 'Kamran On Bike' fame.
Nepal, China and Pakistan are home to the 14 highest peaks in the world, also known as the 8,000ers. While the world's tallest mountain Everest (8,848m) is located in Nepal, Pakistan is home to five 8,000m peaks including K2, Gasherbrum 1 and 2, Broad Peak and Nanga Parbat.
Climbers enter the ‘death zone’ (above 8,000m the pressure of oxygen is insufficient to sustain human life for an extended time span) to reach the summit of these 8,000ers.
At 8,091m (26,545 feet) above sea level, Annapurna I Main is the 10th-highest 8,000m peak and said to be one of the most treacherous mountains to climb. The extremely steep south face of Annapurna I Main is a wall of rock that rises 3,000m (9,800ft) which makes it one of the most difficult climbs in the world.
On June 3, 1950, Annapurna became the first 8,000m peak to be climbed, with French mountaineers Maurice Herzog and Louis Lachenal reaching the summit.
Sirbaz, who hails from Aliabad, Hunza, began his professional climbing career in 2016 and credits Nazir Sabir (the first Pakistani to climb the Everest) and Ashraf Aman (the first Pakistani to reach the summit of K2) as his inspiration. In 2019, Sirbaz became the first Pakistani to summit Mount Lhotse, the world’s fourth-highest mountain at 8,516m in Nepal without the use of supplementary oxygen. His other 8,000m summits include K2, Nanga Parbat, Broad Peak and Manaslu. On four of his 8,000m peaks expeditions, Khan had accompanied Sadpara. Their last expedition together was in Nepal to Manaslu.
Joshi, who hails from Shimshal, Hunza, is a professional climber and HAP. He has been part of various expeditions to the 8,000m peaks in Pakistan. This is his first successful 8,000m peak.
Congratulations pour in
The last few days in Pakistan had been full of negative news and in this backdrop, the story of the relatively unknown Pakistani climbers' summit on Annapurna came across as a welcome relief.
Talking to Dawn.com, ace mountaineer Nazir Sabir praised the young climbers on this feat. “Congratulations on great success and prayers for safe return. I hope this will inspire more youngsters in this country. I also wish the best of luck to Shehroze Kashif who is currently on Mount Everest and hopefully he reaches the top.”
In a short statement, Karrar Haidri, secretary of the Alpine Club of Pakistan (ACP), said, “On behalf of the ACP, its president, executive board and members, I congratulate Sirbaz Khan and Abdul Joshi climbing team on its successful first Pakistani ascent of 10th-highest and most difficult peak Annapurna. It is an outstanding achievement, and we all are very proud of you.”
In a Facebook post, Munawwar, the expedition manager, wrote: “GREEN FLAG RAISED AT THE SUMMIT. With the grace of ALLAH SWT, Pakistani climbers Sirbaz Khan and Abdul Joshi summited Mt Annapuma at 1:30pm on 16th April, 2021. Communicating via radio sets, both climbers thanked the nation and asked for prayers for safe return.”
He went on to add that this was not the success of the two climbers only but the whole Pakistani mountaineering community.
“Time has come for our unsung heroes to get the respect, recognition and appreciation that they deserve.”
He summed up his post with a heartfelt tribute for Sadpara. “This summit is dedicated to our big brother and the best mountaineer Pakistan ever produced: Muhammad Ali Sadpara.”