“If you love mountains, you cannot ignore the hardships of people living in the mountains.”
These are the words by Saad Munawar (Saad Munawar – The Mountain Writer), who is a mountaineer and a writer from Islamabad. He is the author of two books. In 2019, he and Qudrat Ali made a world record by traversing three mighty mountain ranges of Himalaya, Karakoram, and Hindukush. They covered 665 km in 23 days.
“On our second day of the trek, we received the news that our dear friend Imtiyaz Ahmad, a climbing guide from Shimshal, lost his life in an avalanche while guiding a (Pak–Italian) expedition. The helicopter mission was able to evacuate other team members but couldn’t bring the corpse of Imtiyaz bhai due to bad weather. We paused our expedition and volunteered for the rescue operation. Once we recovered the dead body, we all went to Shimshal for burial.”
Imtiyaz was the only breadwinner in his family. He left behind a widow, a paralysed mother, and four children going to school.
“Thousands of adventurers come to Pakistan to climb some of the world’s highest peaks but without the help of local climbers, guides and porters, none of such expeditions would be possible. While these privileged climbers go back to celebrate their success with their big sponsors, the local climbers who were the reason behind that success are left almost empty-handed. Has anyone ever thought what would happen if these climbers, who are the sole breadwinners in their families, get frostbite or get injured or even die?”
Saad is young but sounds much wiser. Perhaps this is what mountains do to you.
To bring awareness to this matter, Saad gathered porter and climbing community and organised a group trek to the endpoint of their three mountain traverse which they named Imtiyaz camp as well as named an unnamed peak as Imtiyaz Peak. The documentary film of this trek will be soon out.
When I first met him in September, Saad invited me to this project. I will be documenting stories of porters, climbers, and local community members which we will share for the next few weeks.
You will agree how hard it is to climb mountains, but it is even more difficult if you are carrying someone else’s load. These porters are the real unsung heroes.
We have started a fundraiser in which you can contribute to support the people from the mountains.