Its glaciers form the dress of a woman and its summit, the face. For the 40-year-old Elena Simona, Masherbrum is a mountain that is feminine and very elegant.
The Italian mountaineer and her father left for Skardu on Sunday, from where they will proceed to the 7,820m high peak also known as K-1, and attempt to summit it.
“Veteran climber Nazir Sabir suggested Masherbrum and I chose it because it seems beautiful,” said Simona. Drawing on the seemingly female characteristics of the peak, she said, “Last year I chose the Muztagata in China, which is a man of a mountain. Masherbrum seems a natural choice this year.”
Since mountain climbing is real hard work, the Italian duo had to go through rigorous training before coming to Pakistan.
“Since the mountains in Italy are not as high as the ones here, we had to take special lessons to learn particular techniques,” she added.
While talking to The Express Tribune, Simona revealed that she had visited Pakistan some 10 years ago and she chose to return because she loved the country back then. “I remember the emotions I went through when I saw the Hunza valley for the first time.
Travelling on the KKH, camping at Nanga Parbat, the sights and sounds of the north of Pakistan were some of the reasons why I had to be back,” she added.
Many of her countrypersons are afraid to come to Pakistan, but according to Simona, perceptions about a place may change but her memories cannot. “I feel in this country, I can really be myself. I do not need to put on a mask,” she said.
The guides and the plan
Simona and her father will camp at the base of Masherbrum. From there, she plans to summit the peak along with a local climber and a high-altitude porter, while her father will stay back.
Among the two locals, who will accompany the Italian duo, Shaheen Baig is the climber who has scaled K-2 and Gasherbrum-II. He has also attempted Broad Peak twice in winter.
Along with Qudrat Ali, another local climber, and Italian Simono Moro, Baig has made some of the first winter expeditions in the Karakoram.
Similarly, Aminullah Baig will also be going on the expedition as a high-altitude porter. He has previously been to Gasherbrum-I, Gasherbrum-II and Nanga Parbat. As a high altitude porter, he also supported the Polish winter expedition on Broad Peak in 2009 and 2010 and the Russian K-2 expedition in the 2011/12 winter season.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 31st, 2012.