Gilgit - Baltistan

Women mountaineers from Shimshal, Gojal, climb three peaks in the Karakoram

Israr Salahuddin

Women of Shimshal Gojal created history with Shehrbano Saiyid, who was leading an eight-member women moutaineer’s team which conquered three peaks in the Karrakoram range in the Gilgit-Baltistan region.

Designated the Pakistan Women’s Expedition (PWE), the team climbed the Julio Sar (6035 metres), a peak  which had not, to date, been conquered by a non-professional Pakistani climber, and the third summit, Quz Sar, was the first all-women’s unassisted climb where the women handled all the logistics. The other peak conquered by the team was Manglik Sar. Two of the peaks had an altitude of 6,000 metres (a little over 20,000 feet) and Quz Sar was 5,950 metres high.

As mentioned in an official press release (a press conference was held in Karachi in late January, this year, presided over by Shehrbano and women of Shimshal Gojal), Saiyid said that these young ladies and other climbers deserved to be rewarded by the government for the credit they had brought Pakistan, which demonstrated more than amply to the world that Pakistan had its own positive aspects and that the impression generated the world over about the suppression and isolation of Pakistani women, and societal violence was erroneous. “These ladies have done Pakistan proud and must be rewarded”, she said.

“Saiyid said that the main aim of the climbing and filming project was to promote the cause of women in sports, speak for women’s independence and their right to pursue their goals and ambitions whether it’s mountain climbing or any other profession. In addition to that the project was initiated as a means to help promote tourism in Pakistan and highlight issues that affect it. Saiyid hoped to use the press conference as a platform for bringing Shimshalli locals in front of the public to talk about their area themselves with its tourist potential, culture, village life and socio-economic challenges.”

Shehrbano Saiyid cited the case of a male climber who was the first and only Pakistani to climb the 26,000 feet-plus Himalayan peak, the Nanga Parbat , but, Sheherbano said, he was today living in a Godforsaken, secluded place, totally unrecognized, a remote corner of the area which lacked electricity and other facilities of modern living.

Sajjad Mehdi, an expert mountaineer from the area talking about the complexion of the society and the value pattern of the area, said that their society was a wee bit different from Pakistani society in other parts of the country in that men and women worked shoulder-to-shoulder in almost all fields of human endeavour and gender mattered little.

He said that it was a source of pride that women from our region had conquered these peaks which was a source of pride for Pakistan. He said all these ladies had been trained at the Shimshal Mountaineering School, an institution set up by a team of professional mountain guides and high altitude porters from Shimshal. Talking about tourism in the area, Mehdi said that it had visibly witnessed a decline after 9/11.

Shehrbano plugged a status on her Facebook page:

“These girls are my inspiration…I would not have reached a single summit without them dragging me up rocky, icy sections; carrying my backpack for me at times and even carrying me on their backs across rivers…and I don’t mean the men…the women carried me on their backs literally and helped me down the mountain as well. These records are theirs…”

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