Shimshali girls create mountaineering history

ISLAMABAD: Eight young Shimshali girls added a new chapter in Pakistan’s  history of mountaineering when they summitted the 6,050 meters Mingligh Sar peak on January 3, traversing  1,750 meters on a windy day when winter temperatures dipped 38 degrees below zero. The peak straddles the Shimshal Pass bordering China.

Qudrat Ali and Shaheen Baig, two renowned climbers who led the ascent told The Express Tribune that it was challenging for the girls, who trained at Shimshal Mountaineering School, to do the winter climb.

The eight women mountaineers who embarked on the first-ever winter expedition to the peak on December 29 were Dur Begum, 30, Farzana Faisal, 22, Tokht Bika, 23, Shakila Numa, 25, Mera Jabeen 21, Gohar Nigar 22, Hafiza Bano, 16, and Hamida Bibi, 18. They made it to the summit on January 3 along with instructors Qudrat Ali, Shaheen Baig, Wahab Ali Shah and Rehmatullah Baig. Their fellow Shimshali girl Samina Baig, in an earlier expedition on the same mountain, was unlucky in her attempt. The tough weather and lack of proper gear (down suit) forced her back just 150 meters short from the summit.

Hafiza Bano at 16 became the youngest Pakistani girl to climb Mingligh Sar in winter, Qudrat Ali said, who has also scaled four of the five 8000ers in Pakistan, except K2.

Among the students Farzana Faisal was the first girl who made it to the summit in 2006 during summer followed by Dur Begum in 2007, he said.

The summit push was made after a first acclimatisation night in clear weather but in 30km per hour winds. “None of the girls had altitude-related problems; we were concerned about Hafiza, who’s only 16, but she performed confidently,” Shaheen Baig said, who has climbed K2, the world’s second highest peak, Gasherbrum-II, Mustaghata in China, and nine 7000ers in the Karakorum and Himalaya ranges in Gilgit-Baltistan. He also attempted with Simone Moro on two winter expeditions on Broad Peak (BP) in 2007 and 2009 together with Qudrat Ali. In 1997, Qudrat Ali and Shaheen Baig scaled an unclimbed peak, Chashken Sar in winter expedition. In 2006, they organised the first local expedition to K2, to prove that the mountaineers from Gilgit-Baltistan are second to none.

Summit day was reportedly cold and quite technical. All climbers were in top shape; the push took off at 6:30am from base camp in good weather. It took four hours to high camp and only another 40 minutes from there to the summit. “The girls climbed in Alpine style and no ropes were fixed in spite of the icy surface,” Ali said.

The members climbed 1,750 meters altitude in one day which is a record of sorts for women in winter. According to Ali, GPS readings from the top showed the wind was flowing at a speed of 45 km/h and the temperatures at minus 38ºC.

The original plan for a double-header expedition including the 6030-meter high Vulyo Sar, was scrubbed for lack of porters. “Many refused to join the expedition due to heavy snowfall at the time of departure from Shimshal, which left the team with inadequate supplies,” Baig told this scribe. “Otherwise the climbers would have been ready and willing to storm up their second target also.”

Samina Baig forced back at 5,900 meters.

The Shimshal Mountaineering School has created the love for this sport among the youth of Shimshal, known as “valley of mountaineers”. Over a dozen mountaineers including Rajab Shah, Mehrban Shah, Subedar Yousuf Khan, Mohammedullah, Qurban Mohammed, Wahab Ali Shah, Sarwar Ali, Aziz Baig, and others have scaled most of the five highest peaks in Pakistan. The expedition was part of the training programme of the school.

Before heading for the expedition, the school organised three-day acclimatisation and training session in which they attempted the famous Ice Wall and the 4500 meters Shefkateen Sar peak.

Dur Begum who was the woman leader having climbed the peak earlier said that this first-ever women winter expedition would promote women mountaineering in the country.

“We wanted to set an example for the women of Pakistan that they can also adopt mountaineering as a sport like women in other parts of the world. The women of Pakistan are not behind anyone else,” said Farzana Faisal, deputy leader of
the expedition.

About establishing the mountaineering school, Ali and Baig considered it imperative to provide basic training to the younger generation, particularly women, and provide them opportunities to enhance their potential in the field of mountaineering.

“Setting up a climbing school in such a remote area was not easy, but we worked hard and used our own resources to establish the school. Simone Moro donated the equipment and visited Shimshal to train the students on different climbing techniques,” Ali said.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 31st,  2011.

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  1. once again a great achivement by the SHIMSHALI Girls.we congrates to all team members and the orgnizers. the contribution to buildup this great institution by Mr.Qudrat Ali and Shaheen Baig is remarkable.we congrates them on this great achivement. and hope this school will ecourage not the youth of Shimshal but also at national level. proud of you.

  2. These young girls have made Pakistan proud of them.
    They should get pride of performance award and GB administration should recognize their achievement.

  3. thumbs up these young girls, making Pakistan proud one after another! we should solute you all for making such great efforts to show a different face of Pakistan, well done the team and the leaders! well done Qudrat Ali and shimshal school!
    well, i am not a mountaineer or anything, i just love reading adventure stories,magazines and books
    after reading this nice article, i have few questions, i may be wrong but please correct me!
    1> i read last year about Miss Oh Eun-Sun from korea who became worlds first woman to summit all 14 x8000r, but other woman Edurne pasaban from spain ,said her Shishapangma summit was doubted because the photo they took was below the summit and the summit back ground was not clear, the other similar story was last year on K2,a guy claimed summit without proper summit photo,so that was challenged and later proved fals. the same, i see in this pic,there is not any background mountains visible,this makes summit doubtful, until summit back ground is clear?
    2> the story says, 4 hours and 40 minutes to the top,for a 6000m ,i read on internet that ,normally it takes 6 to 7 hrs in summer just below the black ridge?
    3> Samina baig retreated 150m short of summit due to insufficient gears,(down suite) .some of these girls even have jeans pants and no Gaiters ,how they survived in -38 temperature? even these girls have no mitten, which i always read is important -25 degree?
    4> the summit is soft snow or icy? since they photos seems they are standing on some ice Dom or there was no snow on the summit?
    i am sorry if it hurts but its what i often read in adventure stories, wanted a clarification ! after all you people did great! next time, will go with you people and train me !
    thank you
    Sadia Javeed

  4. Great job Shimshali girls, well done Qudrat and Shaheen we believe in your expertise.
    Sadia, if you will have a look back on the same story, please read this comment.
    In General your comment can be believed by any one, the way you have described the situation with examples and references and to some extent I do agree with you but it is more based on stories and theoretical information. I think that if you are analyzing the situations, you should have at least some practical experience in the field. May be you will have, but I don’t agree with you due to following reasons;
    • The story of Miss Oh Eun-Sun from Korea and Edurne Pasaban from Spain you have mentioned is not clear. Because Miss. Edurne Pasaban have alleged/claimed that the photo taken is from bellow the summit but she did’t prove it (your comment say it).
    • It is not important that the background should be always clear. Ok here in this photo it is clear weather but the photo has been taken wrong. What I think is that, it is mistake of the camera man who is not professional. Yes of-course, people from the villages are not well aware of professional photography.
    In the most cases, when you reach on the summit you are sometimes covered suddenly by clouds, in such a situation you have to take the photo because you can’t wait for the weather to be clear. In such a photo the background can’t be exposed, how would you say that the photo is doubtful?
    • You have also written that the story says, it took 4 hours and 40 minutes but you have read on internet it normally takes 6-7 hours. I agree! But you also know that Shahid Afridi score a century in just 37 balls and Yonous Khan( Also Pathan) sores a century in 200 balls?
    Another example is that it takes 3-4 days for a tourist group to reach shimshal pass from the main village while, shimshalies( I myself) crossed the same rout in just 12 hours. If you can’t believe it, just prepare a budget and arrange a tour for me, I will cross it in 12 hours.
    • About Samina Baig’s 150 meter short retreat, I wouldn’t like to comment because It may have happened and I don’t have good enough knowledge about it. But you did’t mentioned the source that who told you this
    • You have also written that the summit is soft snow or icy? Since they photos seems they are standing on some ice Dom or there was no snow on the summit. Do you know that in 38 degree below zero temperature the snow will obviously convert into ice? It becomes so, when the wind moves the snow and presses it and when sun light touches the snow it melts and in the night when it becomes severe cold the snow automatically converts into Ice.
    • You also have doubt about, how the girls survived in 38 degree below 0 temprature in geans pants? Well, first I would suggest you to once again look carefully at the photo, I think non of them have wears geans pants, every body are with water resist trousers. And you go with geans pant, it is possible because you wear warm wooly inner cloths and in the cold weather the snow doest make your geans pant that much wet that you can’t climb a four or 6 hours long expedition. It is possible but difficult.
    • In the end I would tell that this is not a fake attempt, have been climbed this peak for two times in 1995 and 1997,and I can well recognize its summit. It is the same summit but the photo has been taken wrong
    So I appreciate your effort to analyze, the technical points you have mentioned and the theoretical knowledge you are having about mountaineering. It reflects that you are interested in mountaineering, so why don’t you try????
    Please do mind if you perceive any thing I told hearts you.

  5. Dear Shimshal Girls. A well done and heartiest congrats to you, your families and your community. You made us proud. The journey of thousand miles starts with one single step and that you have already taken. Keeping on doing your efforts to become role models for the young generation. By opening your eyes among the heaven of peaks you are highly privileged. Yes, limitations are there, but its well said where there is will there is way. Be determined and focused to be the pacesetters in your field.

  6. Wow what a spectacular achievement! Congratulations for the girls, their parents and their supporter to make a history. Well done.

    Aafiyat Nazar

  7. Hi First of all Congratulation from my side !!!as a Shimshali i am really happy and im proud to be a shimshali!! So these guys are really Awexum really Gorgeous i dnt have any word to say about their effort they prove their selves …..
    May God bells u all guyz

    Keeping on doing your efforts …….

  8. Dear Shimshal Girls.
    We appreciate the effort you made to scale a mountain though it’s not that easy for girls, it doesn’t matter if its 0 temperature or -38 at least you ppl ve done something…I am sure next time you will do nice photography that every one should be happy…. Very well done to you all…

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