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Ahmed Mujtaba.–Photo by Dawn

ISLAMABAD: If the Alpine Club of Pakistan (ACP) can clear the controversy surrounding ascents on the Malika Parbat, Ahmed Mujtaba could be the very first Pakistani to have ascended its North Peak, after the British climber Norman Noris in 1967.

After five years of surveying the Queen of Mountains in the Kaghan Valley and two failed attempts, on August 31, 2012, Ahmed Mujtaba summited the north peak of Malika Parbat, earning respect of some of the best respected local climbers.

According to the mountaineering community, Malika Parbat was a mountain that commanded respect from even experienced climbers because of the extreme technicalities and other climbing hazards involved.

The Executive Member for the ACP, Karrar Haideri could not confirm the number of ascents made on the North Peak of the Malika Parbat because not many climbers had attempted the peak. “There is no information of mountaineers conquering the Malika Parbat,” said Karrar Haideri.

Karrar Haideri said that there had been an ascent on the North Peak in July 2012 by a Danish climber Jens Simonsen and Pakistani climber Imran Junaidi.

“But since the mountaineers did not give any briefing of the mission before the ACP like all expeditions do before and after climbing, we cannot confirm their success,” Karrar Haideri explained.

Before this, Ahmed Mujtaba had tried to climb the mountain back in 2009. He and his four member team were forced to abandon ascent on the Malika Parbat, when bad weather set in and climbing on soft snow became dangerous. The team had to abandon their second attempt again in 2011 because of technical problems at the climbers’ end.

“You have to reach the top before 11am in the morning before cloud covers the peak, completely blinding the climbers or after 3pm when the skies open up,” said Ahmed Mujtaba explaining some of the challenges to the summit.

According to the 36 years old mountaineer there was no information available on Malika Parbat, no established base camps, no sponsors, no porters and that the climbers had to negotiate bottomless crevasses and the steep ascents on a mixture of rock and ice. All based on climbing knowledge of one of the most technical peaks above 5, 000 metres.

Nonetheless, team leader Ahmed Mujtaba and his four member team Ahmed Naveed, Kamal Haider and Saqib Ali set out on August 30, 2012 to push for the summit at 4am. The climbers split up with Ahmed Mujtaba and Ahmed Naveed leading.  The two mountaineers reached 5, 180 metres by 1:30pm. By then, clouds had gathered and a hail storm followed.

“The first 30 minutes or so seemed like fun. But then the bad weather started getting worse. And we do not have the words to explain what my partner and I went through until the hail storm ended at 4:50 pm,” said Ahmed Mujtaba who sat through the storm on the edge of a rock in a tight spot where changing posture in the wind and hail could mean falling into nothingness.

While the second team following close behind the abandoned mission, after a teammate fell ill, Ahmed Mujtaba and his partner Ahmad Naveed decided to find a resting spot and push for the summit again the next morning not knowing that they were roughly 55 metres away from the top.

“We kept each other awake, talking, sipping on water and eating dry fruits. Sleeping can be dangerous so high in the snow,” Ahmed Mujtaba said.

At 6am on August 31, the two climbers set out again and at 7:12am Ahmed Mujtaba and Ahmad Naveed were at their destination – the space no wider than ten-by-ten.

“The day was crystal clear. We spent about 50 minutes taking pictures and making video recordings,” said the team leader. At a simple ceremony at the Sports Complex Islamabad, Ahmed Mujtaba was recently awarded a shield by ACP for his successful mission.