ISLAMABAD: Arifeh Hassan became the first Malaysian Muslim girl to conquer a mountain peak in the Karakorum ranges to celebrate her country’s Independence Day despite inclement weather recently.
We were planning to reach the top of the peak on August 31st, which is the Malaysian Independence day but due to bad weather and unexpected storm we reached the top on September 1, she said in an exclusive interview to The Express Tribune.
“I always wanted to climb mountains but we have very different ones in Malaysia. So I searched and found the nearest one in Pakistan, which was economically affordable,” she said.
Narrating her feeling, while reaching on the top, she said, “It gave a strange feeling of accomplishment.”
About her experience and observations, Hassan said: “I wanted to explore Pakistan; so instead of travelling by air I opted to go by road, which totally changed my perception about the country.”
“I found people brimming with hospitality and peace,” she said.
“Pakistan is a great country rich in food and cultural diversity,” Hassan said.
About security concerns, she said Pakistan was a peaceful country but when you entered every district there was a checkpost which created fear among tourists and locals.
The Western media spreads stereotypes and misperceptions about it. I would surely recommend Malaysian people to visit Pakistan.
“The trip to Hunza itself was very nice. I always wanted to explore northern Pakistan,” said Najeeb Khan who also reached the top of the peak.
The two were part of a basic climbing training-cum-expedition programme arranged by the Shimshal Mountaineering School from August 22 to September 3.
Famous mountaineer and rescue expert Shaheen Baig gave them the training.
They successfully completed the training course as well conquered the 5,200m high peak of Shifktin Sar situated in Shimshal valley of Hunza-Gojal.
Talking about their expedition and training Najeeb said, “We reached Shimshal valley after three hours drive, where we stayed for a night and reached Mulangudi Glacier on August 22. We set up our base camp at a height of 3,400 meters where Shaheen Baig and Abdullah taught us basic mountaineering skills.”
Khan, who was born in Karachi, said, “I was only 15 years old when I migrated to New York along with my family and did my schooling there.”
“The nature has always been a major attraction for me. Since I was a child I wanted to climb every mountain I see,” Khan said.
There are no proper tracks here, no lodges which makes it harder for the mountaineers to trek and if Pakistan assures security to the tourists then it can be a source of huge income for the country.
Shimshal lacks the two basic resources, communication which is nowhere found in the valley and electricity which stays for four hours in a day. There are numerous water bodies and rivers. It’s just the matter of putting hydro plants. The road to Shimshal, which is three hours drive, is mostly built by locals and is not safe.
“I would recommend the government to provide funds for the mountaineering school,” Khan said.
The school was established by two mountaineers from the valley — Shaheen Baig and Qudrat Ali. Initially they started to train local girls.
“It has been two years since we started advertising about the school which led these two participants who contacted us for training,” Abdullah, a photographer who assisted Shaheen Baig in the training, said.
He urged the regional and federal authorities to take steps for the development of tourism.
Abdullah said, “Shimshal is the only village in Hunza which has no telephone or any other communication system.”
Published in The Express Tribune, September 19th, 2016.