"Mountains are hypnotising, there is a bond between the man and the nature, and it is strong," explains the 23-year-old Asad Ali Memon, who is set to become the youngest Pakistani to attempt the speed ascend record, leaving the country on February 11 for his climb on Kilimanjaro.
While most mountaineering stories that come out of Pakistan are from the northern areas, Memon's journey is unique, as he grew up in a place that has no mountains at all.
"I grew up in Larkana. There are no mountains there but I knew I have always been good at sports. I have been athletic and then I just stumbled upon mountaineering when I came to Karachi and attending a workshop on extreme sports, and just fell in love with it," Memon told The Express Tribune. "Where I am from, no one even thinks about mountains. It is easier for the people in northern areas to pursue this but not as much for someone like me who is from the southern part of the country. I feel my climb can motivate others from Sindh hopefully, give them an option for a sport too."
Memon have been on the go with his series of climbs for about two years now, earlier he climbed Mount Elbrus in Russia (Europe’s highest peak) and Mount Aconcagua in Argentina (highest South American peak), claiming to be the youngest Pakistani to achieve the feat.
Now, Memon's goal is to climb Kilimanjaro at 20,000ft in 24 hours. He explained that he has trained in Gilgit-Baltistan in January before flying to Tanzania, whereas he also spent time in Islamabad in order to track, apart from training rigorously for over three months.
“I have worked tirelessly on improving my fitness, mental health and oxygen levels. The goal of this climb is ‘Speed Ascend’. Nobody from Pakistan has ever dared to attempt this. If successful, I would be the first Pakistani who has climbed the continent's highest peak in less than 24 hours. This would be a huge milestone not only for me but the people of Pakistan too," said Memon, who has made a pact with his mother to make sure to stay safe and back off in case of danger if there is 50-55 per cent of risk involved.
"My mother has been the best support for me. She is a health worker, she is very caring, so the agreement is that I need to be safe and if the risk is too much I will back out," said the BBA student.
He added that he works and studies besides establishing his career as a mountaineer, but it is not easy and the challenges are far greater as mostly there is no sponsorship for mountaineers, and he has to rent the gear just to pursue his passion.
"I work part time, I study as well, and it is challenging. My aim is to gain the experience, the insight and leave a mark for others to follow, because eventually everything fades away.
“For my expenses I started to save money, but I rent out the gear, because I can't afford everything new on my own, it is tough, it is expensive.
"The only thing I own is a jacket, the rest I have to rent out, which can be unreliable at times. A new gear can cost between Rs800,000 to Rs1 million and that of course I don't have. It can be used for five climbs at least," said Memon.
Memon feels Tanzania is a good destination as it is comparatively cheaper and easier for the given time frame due to the travel limitations too.
He mentioned that he felt that climb in Argentina was the easiest, while there has been a learning curve in Russia and in Nepal, where he climbed to Camp 3 of Mount Everest and Kala Patthar.
"Mountains have taught me patience. They have taught me the importance of life. One wrong step can be deadly. There is a whole new world and life to discover," said Memon.
He is going for the climb in the backdrop of the K2 Winter Expedition that has turned into a search and rescue mission, but Memon is undeterred.
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