Face of Pakistan: Muhammad Ali Sadpara

Muhammad Ali Sadpara, Pakistan’s national hero

Muhammad Ali Sadpara, Pakistan’s most successful mountaineer, a naturally talented mountaineer and a national hero was born on February 2, 1976, in a village called Sadpara, near Skardu in the Gilgit-Baltistan region.

He was the first of his sibling who survived childhood. Eight of his eleven siblings died during birth or from a disease which was once a common occurrence in his village. The loss haunted his mother, Fiza. When Muhammad Ali Sadpara, her last child was born, she was determined to keep him alive and close, and she breastfed him until the age of six. By then, she hoped he’d be out of danger.

Ali believes that his “mother’s milk made him strong enough to climb mountains.” Later on, Sadpara became the proud national hero who has risked his life to wave the national flag on the world’s highest peaks.

The mountaineer began his career as a porter and worked his way up to climbing high peaks with expeditions.

At nineteen, Ali felt ready for marriage. Prevented by the custom from approaching the young woman, Fatima, he couldn’t ask her himself. His uncle delivered the proposal, and Fatima’s parents accepted it. Later on, both got married which bring pressure on Ali to feed them and soon, also, for their newborn son, Sajid. He turned again to the mountains.

Portering for foreign mountaineering expeditions was the best-paying job available. By hauling 25 kilos to base camps in the Karakoram Range, he could earn almost $3 a day. K2, Broad Peak and the Gasherbrum became familiar contours, though he wasn’t fantasizing about their summits yet.

In 2004 he found his first proper climbing gig when he accompanied an expedition to K2. In an interview, he said: “One of my very first jobs was to deliver supplies to Pakistan Army posts leading to Siachen way back in the mid-1990s.” When a Pakistani army truck pulled into Sadpara to recruit porters, Ali couldn’t resist the opportunity. At the time, Pakistan and India were locked in a longstanding conflict over the Siachen Glacier, a strategic corridor to China. Ali was headed into the world’s highest battleground. At night, he scaled walls of ice, ferrying supplies to soldiers in remote mountain passes, praying darkness would shelter him from shell-fire that seemed, he recalls, ‘as relentless as firecrackers at a wedding.’ “‘After the Siachen, I wasn’t afraid anymore,’ Ali remembers. ‘In climbing, there are two outcomes—life or death—and you must find the courage to accept either possibility.'”

The family advised him to join the police force or the army but he stuck with his heart’s calling, “I used to tell my wife and family I don’t want to work, it’s climbing that I want to do.”

In 2006, he climbed Gasherbrum II the 13th highest mountain in the world, his first 8,000m pea, without proper climbing gear. “I didn’t have the right boots, didn’t have a down jacket, let alone a down suit to protect me from the harsh cold. I had some second-hand climbing gear which I bought from the market in Skardu and repaired. But I still managed to climb and come back safely.”

Since then, he didn’t look back and show his talent all our the world. He went on to climb Spantik Peak (Pakistan) in 2006, Nanga Parbat, ninth-highest mountain in the world (Pakistan) in 2008, Muztagh Ata (China) in 2008, Nanga Parbat (Pakistan) in 2009, Gasherbrum I, the 11th highest mountain in the world (Pakistan) in 2010. Sadpara was part of the team which successfully achieved the first-ever winter summit on Nanga Parbat in 2016. Both his teammates, Alex Txicon and Simone Moro, have gone on record stating that they could not have done it without Sadpara’s brilliance.

Broad Peak, the12th highest mountain in the world (Pakistan) in 2017, Nanga Parbat First Autumn Ascent (Pakistan) in 2017, Pumori Peak First Winter Ascent (Nepal) in 2017, K2 (Pakistan) in 2018, Lhotse (Nepal) in 2019, Makalu (Nepal) in 2019 and Manaslu (Nepal) in 2019.

In June 2018 he was enlisted by Marc Batard to undertake a five-year program known as “Beyond Mount Everest”. They plan to summit Nanga Parbat in 2019, K-2 in 2021 and Mount Everest in 2022 to mark Batard’s 70th birthday.

Sadpara also played his role in the search team that had been looking for a British climber Tom Ballard and Italian climber Daniele Nardi who was reported missing on Nanga Parbat. Their bodies were later found on the mountain.

Muhammad Ali Sadpara, along with John Snorri from Iceland and JP Mohr Prieto from Chile, went missing while attempting to summit the world’s second-highest mountain K2. The reports emerged that the three lost contact with base camp late on Friday and were reported missing on Saturday after their support team stopped receiving reports from them during their ascent of the 8,611m-high.

Sajid Sadpara, the son of Ali who was also part of the expedition but had to abandon due to equipment and health issues, said the three climbers probably met an accident while on their way back after summiting the K2. He said the trio had already climbed 8,200m when he broke away from them.

Search and rescue operations have been underway since then, but yet no success.

Raja Furqan Ahmed

Raja Furqan Ahmed is the News Editor of The Pakistan Daily.

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