Thursday, July 11, 2019

Meet Pakistan's First Female Mountain Guides

Mountaineering is a serious hobby, replete with dangers on each step one takes on the steep mountain slopes. A wrong step may cost one's life. Every year a lot of mountaineers come to Pakistan and wander around in the wilderness of Karakoram, home to four of the fourteen Eight Thousanders including the K-2, the second highest mountain top after the Everest.

And it is the sturdy mountain guides of the area that take the mountaineers from the wilderness to tracks leading to these lofty and revered mountain peaks they had dreamed of scaling. The valleys which lead to the mountains trouble overlooking the valleys are home to countless mountain guides, who know every inch of the area and can lead expeditions without much trouble and never wandering off the right tracks.

Shimshal Pass [Photo Mobeen Mazhar]

Shimshal Valley is one of the most favoured valley for the mountaineers for it provides easy access to many a mountain peaks of Karakoram. And most of the mountain guides can be found in the Shimshal village. In one of my earlier posts I wrote about the Shimshal Pass that takes it go from Shimshal village. The village is part of the Gojal Tehsil of Hunza District, in the Gilgit–Baltistan province of Pakistan. At 3,100 m above sea level, it is the highest settlement in Hunza Valley. The village is closest to China. As are typical helmets of high altitude, it has just over 200 houses with a population of approximately two thousand.

Mountain peaks overlooking Shimshal village include Distaghil Sar (7,885 m), Shimshal White Horn (6,303 m) Minglik Sar (6,150 m), Lupghar Sar (7,200 m), Yazghail Sar (6,000 m), Kunjut Sar and others are well known among mountaineers. Shimshal Lake sits at the base of the mountain near the Shimshal Pass (4,735 m). Due to closeness to these mountains, more than twenty well known mountaineers hail from this valley that have made Pakistan proud in the field of tourism. Some people call it " The Valley of Mountaineers". Rajab Shah and Mehrban Shah have received Presidential Award for Pride of Performance in recognition of their extra ordinary achievement in the field of tourism and mountaineering.

But wait a minute, where are the girls that I was supposed to talk about, for so far I have only been talking of male mountain guides and mountaineers of the area. Well that was just the introduction to the subject I am going to introduce. 
Qudrat Ali briefing the potential female mountain guides before the tougher tracks ahead

So here comes in  Qudrat Ali, one of Pakistan's best-known climbers, who thought that the girls of the area were equally sturdy, strong, motivated and ambitious as men to be in the mountains and could be good mountain guides. With this noble and ambitious plan, he has opened a small Mountaineering School where he is training the female mountain guides for the first time. 
The girls in full gear to scale their first test peak

I came across a video which is about three daring females from Shimshal Valley, Banu, Samreen and Zubaida, who decided to take the demanding course, hoping to make a good living for their families as fully qualified mountain guides. The video says it all about the efforts of Qudrat Ali in motivating females of his area and taking them to mountains the girls have never gone before. With these three becoming the first mountain guides, the complexion of mountain guidance may now change with girls sharing the role of guides, which has been the men's domain hitherto fore.

Watch the amazing video below prepared by the German TV Channel DW about the females of Shimshal Valley of Gilgit Baltistan learning to climb with their sights set for adventures even higher:
The video is both refreshing, motivating and a cue for other girls to come forward and join men in helping mountaineers finding their way up to mountain tops. May be female from other areas may too join in and attend Qudrat Ali's school and too become beacon for others.

Photo: Courtesy DW | References | 1 | 2 | 3 |
If you like Jaho Jalal, please follow us on Facebook