Obituary: Mountaineering community mourns demise of ‘humble master’

Published May 28, 2022
ALI Raza Sadpara at a mountaineering shop in Skardu.—Dawn
ALI Raza Sadpara at a mountaineering shop in Skardu.—Dawn

GILGIT: Legendary mountaineer Ali Raza Sadpara passed away on Friday morning at a hospital where he was under treatment for the critical injuries he had sustained over 10 days ago. He was 56.

His funeral prayers were offered in the Olding village of the city here and attended by a large number of people from all walks of life. He was buried in his native graveyard in Skardu. Fellow climbers, politicians, the army chief and the civil society expressed condolences with his family and called Sadpara’s passing “a great loss for Pakistan”.

On May 17, the veteran mountaineer had suffered serious injuries when he slipped off a cliff and fell into a ditch. He was immediately rushed to the Skardu District Headquarters Hospital where his spinal cord was found fractured and ribs broken. He was being treated at the hospital since then and died on Friday morning.

Ali Raza Sadpara was scheduled to attempt an ascent of K2, the world’s second-highest peak, this summer, and was practising for the purpose. Starting climbing mountains at the age of 20 as a porter, he soon became the strongest high-altitude porter in 1992. He also has to his credit the honour of climbing Pakistan’s 8,000-metre peaks (or 8,000ers) 17 times, including the Broad Peak (8,047m) five times, Gasherbrum-II (8,035m) four times, Gasherbrum-I (8,068m) four times and Nanga Parbat (8,125m).

Muhammad Ali, a tour operator from Gilgit-Baltistan, said Ali Raza was among the pioneers of high altitude climbing. He was considered the most technical and strongest climber, who not only promoted adventure tourism in Pakistan, but also guided and trained renowned mountaineers, including the late Muhammad Ali Sadpara — who had died while climbing K2 last year, Hasan Sadpara and Nisar Sadpara.

Sadiq Sadpara, who has summited five peaks above 8,000m in Pakistan and been a part of many expeditions with the deceased mountaineer, lauded Ali Raza’s stamina at high altitude. “We lost another star, the vacuum cannot be filled,” he said.

Luke Smithwick, an American climber, said it’s important to remember “a humble master” who climbed the mighty 8,000ers many times.

Renowned clim­ber Sirbaz Khan said the legendary Ali Raza had spent his life serving the country and trained a whole generation of mountaineers. “We called him ‘ustaadon ka ustaad’.”

Another eminent mountaineer, Sajid Ali Sadpara, said above everything, Ali Raza was a good human being who had taught his equally famed father. He said despite old age, Ali Raza had an amazing stamina and was more active than young climbers.

Naila Kiani, Pakistan’s first female climber to summit an 8,000m peak in Pakistan, undertook the Gasherbrum II expedition with Ali Raza last year, and had planned to summit K2 with him this summer. Mourning the loss of her “teacher, guide, friend”, she said: “He made us laugh like crazy during the most difficult times in the last expedition. Why did you have to leave so soon before seeing all of your dreams come true? You taught climbing to so many people, helped the Pakistan Army on so many missions, rescued so many people in the mountains. A true hero, a legend. Chacha, your name will live forever.”

President Dr Arif Alvi expressed grief over Mr Sadpara’s demise.

In a message of condolence, the president prayed to Allah Almighty to rest the departed soul in eternal peace and grant courage to the bereaved family to bear the loss with fortitude.

Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa also expressed grief over his demise. “May Allah Almighty bless the departed soul in eternal peace, Ameen,” he was quoted as having said in a tweet by the Inter-Services Public Relations.

Gilgit-Baltistan CM Khalid Khurshid Khan, opposition leader Amjad Hussain, and members of the GB Assembly also expressed condolences.

Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2022

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