Pakistani mountaineer Sirbaz Khan summits Everest, 7 more 8,000ers to go

Pakistani mountaineer Sirbaz Khan reached the summit of Everest at 8,848.86 metres early on Wednesday morning. With the latest summit, Khan now has another seven 8,000m peaks left to complete his 14×8,000ers set and become the first Pakistani to achieve the daring feat.

A day earlier, Shehroze Kashif became the youngest Pakistani to climb Everest at the age of 19.

Sirbaz, 32, who hails from Aliabad, Hunza, began his professional climbing career in 2016 and is touted as an extremely talented and focused climber.

Last month on April 16, Sirbaz along with Mohammad Abdul Joshi became the first Pakistanis to summit Annapurna (8,091m) and dedicated his summit to the memory of late Mohammad Ali Sadpara. In 2019, Sirbaz became the first Pakistani to summit Mount Lhotse, the world’s fourth-highest mountain at 8,516m in Nepal without the use of supplementary oxygen. His other 8,000m successes include K2, Nanga Parbat, Broad Peak, and Manaslu.

Following the successful summit, veteran Pakistani mountaineer Nazir Sabir congratulated the two climbers. “Congratulations to both Shehroze and Sirbaz for their outstanding achievement. Wish them more success from here,” he said. The success of these young climbers and the recent interest in climbing bodes well for the country’s mountaineering, he added.

Meanwhile, confirming Khan’s Everest summit, Alpine Club of Pakistan secretary Karrar Haidri extended “heartiest congratulations” to the climber on behalf of the club. “This is Sirbaz Khan’s 7×8000m mountain. Sirbaz has summited 2×8000m peaks in the last 26 days,” he said in a statement.

“On four of his 8,000m peaks expeditions, Khan had accompanied Mohammad Ali Sadpara. Their last expedition together was in Nepal to Manaslu. He is aiming to become the first Pakistani to climb all 14 8000ers,” it added.

The 8,000ers are 14 of the tallest mountains in the world located in the Himalayas and Karakorum mountain ranges which lie in Nepal, Pakistan and China. Climbers enter the ‘death zone’ (above 8,000m the pressure of oxygen is insufficient to sustain human life for an extended time span) to reach the summit of these 8,000ers. In 1986, Italian alpinist Reinhold Messner became the first person to summit all 14 8,000m peaks without supplementary oxygen.

Khan and Kashif’s successful summit comes at a time when international climbing teams in Nepal are facing strong criticism. The country is grappling with the second wave of Covid-19, with many climbers at the Everest base camp testing positive for the virus, though the government is keeping mum.

In a post on Instagram on May 11, Khan explained his decision for rescheduling his summit attempt.

“Life is unpredictable. You make your plans but life has something else in store for you. Everest was definitely in my plans but I had planned to come between 5-10th May. However, due to the current situation (with regard to Covid) in both Pakistan and Nepal, I had to alter my plans and could only spend 1 night in my home with my family. And so here we are.

“14 days after raising the green flag at the summit of Mt Annapurna, I have arrived at Everest basecamp to raise the Pakistani flag on the top of the world. I feel good and ready to represent the Unsung and Underprivileged Pakistani Mountaineering community on the highest peak in the world. Mt Everest will be my 7th peak in mission summit 14. inshaALLAH,” the post read.

He went to appreciate and extend support to Kashif. “Our young climber who is the only other Pakistani attempting Mt Everest this year. We are with different climbing groups but whenever we cross paths, I’ll do my best to support my fellow Pakistani brother. I am sure he’ll do the same for me. We both have the same goal: Raising the green flag on top of the world.”

Last year, Nepal was closed for mountaineering in March, leading to huge economic losses. Climbing permits were issued to over 400 climbers this year with strict guidelines including a negative Covid-19 result.

The Nepal Mountaineering Association is urging climbers to return empty oxygen bottles so these can be refilled and supplied to hospitals. Nepal has extended a ban on international flights until May 31 while some climbing teams on Everest have either left the base camp or opted for isolation. Teams have evacuated from the Dhaulagiri base camp to Kathmandu as Covid-19 symptoms appeared in some members.

In a Twitter thread, Kílian Jornet, a Catalan ski mountaineer and long-distance runner, who is currently in Nepal wrote, “When getting down we also got the news of how covid in Nepal, specially Kathmandu is spreading and we wish to all Nepali friends and people to stay healthy. Even if in the mountains the situation is much better, the base camp has a high concentration of people and had seen some cases. It’s important for all to remember to keep the sanitation measures and distance even up there.”

“Nepal is a country that has suffered a lot from the covid, in health and also economically with a year without tourism that supports many families, we should all do our best and use our means to stop the spreading,” he added.

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