EDITORIAL: Nineteen-year-old Pakistani mountaineer, Shehroze Kashif, is now the youngest person to summit K2, the world’s second highest mountain. He humbled the ‘Savage Mountain’ summit on Tuesday morning, braving overnight the ever-lurking threats of avalanches. It was his life-long dream. But he is not a newcomer to climbing high mountains – he scaled the world’s 12th highest mountain, 8,047-meter Broad Peak, when he was only 17. In fact, this was a week of significant happenings – four other local climbers too reached the K2 summit. A day before the sherpas affixing ropes for climbers about 300m below the obstacle known as the ‘Bottleneck’ discovered the bodies of Muhammad Ali Sadpara of Pakistan, Iceland’s John Snorri and Chile’s Juan Pablo. They had gone missing on way back from the summit in February. The same day, Samina Khayal Baig, the first Pakistani woman who in 2013 climbed the Mount Everest and then all Seven Summits by 2014, had given up her attempt to scale K2 summit because of ‘dangerous conditions’. And on Sunday night, the body of 68-year-old Scottish climber, Rick Allen, was recovered after he was swept away by an avalanche while discovering a new route to summit. As snows melt due to summer heat it is hoped the body of South Korean Kim Hong-bin, who had gone missing early this month after falling from the nearby Broad Peak, too, would be discovered. Indeed, the K2 dares the intrepid, but it also takes its due toll. George Bell, who climbed K2 in 1953, had warned: “It is a savage mountain that tries to kill you”. As of February this year, 377 people had completed the ascent to its summit while there were 91 deaths. The summit of Everest is at a higher altitude, but K2 is more difficult and dangerous climb, due in part to its more inclement weather.
As we celebrate the teenager Kashif’s triumph we must also ensure that the K2 retains its aloofness and is not subjected to stampede. Mountains do not speak, but when hurt by humans they respond in equal terms. In 2019, at least 11 people died on Everest during a record season with a heavy traffic of climbers. They ran out of oxygen after they were trapped in the “death zone”. The government of Nepal had issued 381 permits – each costing $11,000 – for the current spring climbing, and the route to the top was overcrowded. Commercial climbing business has turned Everest into the world’s highest rubbish dump. But on the Chinese side of Mount Everest the rule is stricter where the climbers are required to bring down the same amount of wherewithal they took with them. We, too, are also required to see to it that our high mountains’ pristine glory is not vandalized and there is no ugly footprint of unwanted human intrusion. Mountaineering should be strictly regulated. As we had earlier suggested in this space, one way of doing that would be to declare these summits out of bound for climbing above a prescribed altitude for a couple of years. The high mountains being common human heritage the United Nations should assist the concerned countries in cleaning up the polluted areas. The stunning beauty of glimmering snow-covered mountain tops is required to be protected and preserved at all costs.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021