EDITORIAL: The deeply saddening news came last Thursday that the search for Pakistan’s celebrated mountaineer Mohammad Ali Sadpara along with Iceland’s John Snorri and Chile’s Juan Pablo Mohr, who had gone missing on February 5 while attempting to summit the world’s second highest mountain, K2, was called off and the three men officially declared dead. Sadpara had also taken his son, Sajid, along to do something no one had done before: to get to the top of K2, branded as the “killer mountain” for its treacherous terrain—in wintertime without oxygen. The son had to turn back at 8,220 meters, some 300 meters short of the top after falling sick. It may never be known what happed to the trio, though they are believed to have ascended to the top and met with an accident while descending.
Staring off as porter for Western mountaineers and adventure tourists because of the disadvantage of having limited resources, Ali Sadpara rose to become one of the world’s famous high-altitude mountaineers. It is a measure of his extraordinary qualities of strength, courage, and persistence that his humble background did not stop him from setting his goals high and achieve them, too. A skillful climber, he earned the respect of international mountaineering community and admiration of his fellow Pakistanis when he made the first-ever winter ascent of another dangerous mountain, Nanga Parbat. He went on to be the only Pakistani who climbed eight of the world’s highest mountains, making us all proud. He was as brave as they come, knowingly taking risks. Not long ago he had told an interviewer, “I have lost 12 of my 14 colleagues in the mountaineering business, two of us remain. So my friends now often ask me, Ali, when are you going to die?” Death has now come in way he had expected, as his son said, embosomed by the mountains he so loved. He lived life on his own terms, surmounting challenges few had taken before, and proving that nothing is impossible if you believe in yourself.
This time Sadpara had wanted to do what the Nepalese had done weeks earlier, “because K2 is our mountain.” He could not succeed, but will always be remembered for the many feats he accomplished before. In a befitting tribute to one of the nation’s finest sons, the Gilgit-Baltistan government has recommended civil awards for Sadpara and his son, and also decided to rename Skardu Airport – not far from where he spent all of his adult life – as Mohammad Ali Sadpara Airport. A mountaineering school in Shigar is also to be named after him. He will also remain a hero in the hearts of his people.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021