It was the first Pakistani Expedition to Mt. Annapurna comprising two climbers, Sirbaz Khan and Abdul Joshi, Saad Munawar as the expedition manager and myself as a photographer/filmmaker.
The expedition was nothing short of a roller coaster ride. There were moments of fear and apprehensions and deep joy and gratitude during the 25 days we spent at the base camp.
We made ourselves home in our tents at the base camp overlooked by the Annapurna goddess. We shared laughter and stories. We watched movies, danced together, and enjoyed the company of each other. When climbers went for rotations on the mountain, they underwent a great deal of pain and suffering. They also had quite a few close calls from the dangers that come from any 8000er peak. Whereas we, who were at the base camp, felt helpless and couldn’t do much apart from giving them weather updates and moral support.
Our climbers, Sirbaz and Joshi, made four rotations on the mountain during the expedition. The first time, they went from Basecamp to Camp I, deposited climbing gear and returned. The second time, they went from Basecamp to Camp II and came back. Likewise, the third time, they ascended from Basecamp to Camp III.
On their fourth and final rotation, they left the Basecamp on 11th April 2021 and began their long journey to the summit. After spending two nights at the intermediate camps (II & III), they arrived in the early afternoon of 13th April at Camp IV, where they rested for only a few hours before pushing for the summit. However, the summit push didn’t succeed as rope fixing was taking too long. They returned to Camp IV, and after spending the day, set out again the next night. However, the 2nd summit push on 14th April was also unsuccessful because teams ran out of rope. They had to fix more rope than expected because of slippery blue ice. A heli from Kathmandu flew to drop off 800m of rope at Camp IV.
The climbers had to spend yet another day at Camp IV. Thunderstorm and tons of snow threatened plans for the next summit push. There was a lot of radio communication regarding the weather. We prayed and prayed until the weather started clearing, and the team pushed for the summit for the third time.
The final summit push didn’t come easy. The fixing team ran out of rope many times, and Sherpas gave their safety rope for fixing.
Finally, on 16th April at 1:17 pm, the base camp radio crackled, and we heard Sirbaz’s voice. He and Joshi had become the first Pakistanis to stand atop the summit of Mt. Annapurna. They dedicated their success to Pakistan’s legendary mountaineer Mohammad Ali Sadpara who perished on the K2 Winter expedition a few months before. “Ali bhai, you will always remain alive in our hearts,” Sirbaz said while filming him.
As for me, it was the first expedition I have covered as a filmmaker. I shot a couple of terabytes of footage at the base cam. This video is one of the short movies I will be releasing over the next couple of months. Once we find a professional editor, we will cut a feature-length documentary film to tell the entire story of the expedition.
Many thanks to our partners:
University of Lahore
Shama Ijaz Foundation
Sapphire Finishing Mills
Find My Adventure PKR
Vegas Cosmetics PK
Shot and Edited by: KamranOnBike
GoPro footage: Sirbaz Khan, Abdul Joshi
Drone footage: Gao Li