By Farman Ali
ISLAMABAD, March 2: The only Pakistani conqueror of Mount Everest, Nazir Sabir, has been given honorary membership of American Alpine Club (AAC) for his “outstanding achievements in Himalayan climbing and services in the field of environmental protection”.
Nazir is one of the few selected climbers outside America who has been given this honour. He was invited to deliver a lecture at the annual dinner of the AAC in Golden, a mountain outpost, in Colorado. AAC President Jim Donini announced the honorary membership for Nazir Sabir on Feb 27. Nazir was given a standing ovation by a crowd of hundreds of climbers from across America including three of those from the famous 1953 American K2 Expedition at the end of his presentation about Pakistan’s mountain potentials for tourism followed by his slide talk “Mountains of My Dreams” that consisted of 128 selected pictures from his own collection of over 7,000 slides.
Established 106 years ago, AAC is one of the leading mountaineering clubs in the world with great historical achievements all over the world. (click the thumbnails below for larger picture views)
It is worth mentioning that the British Alpine Club, the world’s oldest and pioneering organization in Alpinism around the globe, also gave the same honour to Nazir in 1998. Nazir Sabir later flew to Canada to participate the International Vancouver Mountain Film Festival, an annual feature, as part of his promotional activities and addressed a gathering there, did a slide talk for the Pakistani community organised by the Pakistan Consulate in Vancouver on Feb 29 showing selected pictures from his climbing exploits.
“32 years ago [July 17, 1976], on a remote unclimbed peak in the Karakoram, a young climber fought his way up the final slopes to the summit of the 6660m virgin Paiyu Peak. The first man to step on its virgin summit was an ambitious 20 year old Nazir Sabir followed by Maj Manzoor Hussain…This was the first time a major first ascent was made by Pakistani climbers… It would also mark the beginning of an extraordinary career for Sabir who would go on to distinguish himself as Pakistan’s most accomplished and celebrated high altitude mountaineer,” the citation read at the ceremony says.
“Over the next years he made over 25 expeditions and in 1981, climbing with the Japanese climber, Eiho Otani, Nazir reached the summit of K2 via a new route and without supplementary oxygen. Short on daylight on the summit bid and in a daring display of strength and determination, they survived an open bivouac at nearly 28,000 feet without stove or sleeping bags.
“The following year he climbed both G-II and Broad Peak, in pure alpine style with world’s famous mountaineer Reinhold Messner and close friend Sher Khan. With his ascent of G-I the next year he became the only Pakistani to reach the top of four out of the five 8000 meters high peaks in Pakistan. In 1992 Nazir received the prestigious President’s “Pride of Performance” award for outstanding achievements in mountain sport and then the “Star of Distinction” in 2000 when he became the first Pakistani to reach the summit of Mount Everest,” the citation added.
Born at Raminj village in the remote Chipursan Valley of Gojal, northern Hunza, Nazir Sabir started his climbing career with a Japanese expedition to the 7,284 meter high Passu peak in Gojal in 1974. In 1975 he attempted Nanga Parbat (8125m) with a German Expedition. A documentary film of the climb, shown all over Japan, made Nazir Sabir a household name in Japan. Nazir had also picked up Japanese language and could speak it fluently. Later in 1986 he tied the knot with a Japanese girl.
Nazir Sabir is the only Pakistani to have climbed the world’s highest mountain Everest (8850m), on May 17, 2000. He has also climbed K2 (8616m), the second highest in the world from a new route, West Face, got him respect and distinction in the mountaineering fraternity.
Nazir Sabir lost his elder brother, Inayat Shah, who was buried under an ice avalanche while attempting Diran peak in Nagar with an Army expedition in 1980.
He was elected member of the Northern Area Legislative Council in a landslide vote defeating the self-styled Mir of Hunza, Ghazanfar Ali Khan, in 1994, for the first time as a commoner — yet again climbing another Everest in his own way. The late Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto appointed him adviser for education and tourism.
Nazir has travelled extensively lecturing on climbing and promoting tourism, conservation, and education in the mountain regions. In 2002, along with friend and AAC honorary member Harish Kapadia, Nazir participated in the UIAA-sponsored first ever India-Pakistan peace climb held in the Swiss Alps to help focus awareness on the Siachen the world’s highest battleground and pursue a solution to this longstanding conflict.
He was elected President of the Alpine Club of Pakistan (ACP) in 2004 and re-elected, as ACP chief in 2007, the first non-military to assume the post. As president of the club, he has applied the same energy and passion he has for climbing to implementing positive change in club policy with major streamlining of foreign permit application processes, reduction in peak fees, and aggressive conservation approaches including a complete re-write of expedition procedure and protocol to embrace modern climbing approach.