The life and times of Rajab Shah, an outstanding mountaineer

By Karrar Haideri

Rajab Shah was an exceptional mountaineer. He was the first Pakistani to climb all peaks above 8,000 meters located within the country. He had climbed K2, Nanga Parbat, Gasharbrum I (two times), Gasharbrum II and Broad Peak. He had been awarded the President’s Pride of Performance Award for his mountaineering prowess. He passed away in Gilgit last night after brief ailment. 

A native of Shimshal, Hunza, Gilgit-Baltistan, Rajab Shah started off his mountaineering career in 1987 when he accompanied a French expedition to K-2. In 1988, he accompanied an Italian Expedition to Broad Peak. In 1989 he achieved major mountaineering achievement when he reached the summit of Nanga Parbat (8,125 m) as part of the Pakistan Army Expedition. In 1990 he accompanied a Japanese expedition to Gasherbrum I and later accompanied another Japanese Expedition to Trivor Sar next year. His other success was in 1992 when he climbed Gasherbrum I (8,068 m) as part of another Japanese Expedition. In 1993 he climbed Broad peak (8,047 m) with another Japanese expedition. He reached the Zenith of his climb in 1995 when he along with Meherban Shah became the first Pakistani couple to stand on the K-2 Summit (8,611 m) as part of Dutch-Pak Joint expedition. Later in 1998 by climbing Gasherbrum II (8,035 m) he became the first Pakistani to summit all five Pakistani peaks above 8,000. On the recommendations of Alpine Club of Pakistan, Government of Pakistan honored his achievements in the field of mountaineering by awarding President’s Medal for Pride of Performance.

Besides other mountains he climbed Passu peak in 1996 as part of the Alpine Club of Pakistan expedition, led by Lt Col (Retd) Manzoor Hussain, now the President ACP. In 1997 he was selected for the first Pakistani Expedition to Mt Everest launched by Alpine Club of Pakistan from North side in Tibet in collaboration with Chinese mountaineers to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Pakistan’s Independence. The expedition was led by famous Pakistani mountaineer Nazir Sabir and also included Col. Sher Khan. During their two brave summit attempts Rajab Shah was turned back 300 metres short of the Everest summit due to very strong winds.

Rajab Shah,  Meherban Shah and Col (r) Sher Khan with President Farooq Laghari
Rajab Shah, Meherban Shah and Col (r) Sher Khan with President Farooq Laghari

Rajab Shah a humble, simple and loveable person served as beacon of light for all the aspirant mountaineers from not only Gilgit-Baltistan, but for the whole country. He opened Alpine Club of Pakistan branch at Shimshal and started a local mountaineering school which produced a number of renowned Pakistani mountaineers. It was his efforts that Shimshal became hub of Hunza mountaineers. He motivated numerous local youth, both boys and girls, to take up mountaineering as sports and profession. Prominent amongst those being Meherban Shah, Qudrat Ali, Shaheen Baig and many others, including the first Pakistani women to reach Mt Everest and climb all high summits of the Seven continents Ms Samina Baig and her brother Mirza Ali. At the time of his death Rajab Shah was 63 years old. He will be buried in Shimshal, Gojal with full honours on Friday 1st May 2015.

Rajab Shah practicing ice climbing
Rajab Shah practicing ice climbing. Photo: waytok2.com

Lt Col (Retd) Manzoor Hussain, President of Pakistan with whom Rajab Shah had long association, climbing and otherwise, has expressed his deepest shock and personal anguish over his untimely death.

Talking to members of his family, he said that Rajab Shah was a great mountaineer who brought commendable laurels to Pakistan in the field of mountaineering through his record setting summits.

Admiring his mountaineering contributions he stated that Rajab Shah had become an icon not only for Hunza, Giglit-Baltistan only but for the whole country. He termed his untimely demise as a great loss for the Pakistani mountaineering community. On behalf of all members of Alpine Club of Pakistan, and on his personal behalf, he expressed heartfelt condolence over his sad demise and prayed for the departed soul to rest in eternal peace in the heavens.

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