An interview with mountaineer Fatima Nasir
ountains are one of the most alluring features of the physical world. Our country is blessed with many. Pakistan is a mountaineer’s heaven, with mountains ranging from the second highest on earth, the mighty K2, to those still yet to be conquered. Fatima Nasir, from Lahore, has now made history by going where no one had been before, and proclaiming it as her own. The peak is now named after her father, Col Nasir.
It started as a journey expected to last a couple of days. Fatima set out toward the north of Pakistan in an effort to find herself and cope with the recent loss of her dog. “It can really move you,” said Fatima, speaking about the recent demise of her pet. There’s no doubt that a dog is a person’s best friend. They’re like a family member, someone who has had only one emotional state for you throughout their lives, and that is selfless and unconditional love. It’s very hard to recoup from such a loss. For me, the best way to do so was through the mountains.
Fatima has been an adventurer all her life. From being a certified chef (from COTHM) to being a licensed pilot, Fatima has been doing wonders in various realm.
Venturing north, her sole purpose was to transcend her boundaries. Having been scuba diver and accomplished swimmer, she was now poised to venture into mountaineering and kayaking. Her ascent was swift, progressing from Level 1 to Level 5 in kayaking within a matter of days. Fuelled by an unwavering drive, Fatima’s determination demanded that she conquer Level 6 too. Yet, concerned for her safety, her mentors, advised against it.
Setting herself up for another exhilarating adventure, Fatima then embarked on a journey to conquer Minglik Sar, an awe-inspiring peak nestled in the majestic Karakoram range. She joined a group of like-minded individuals looking for a similar challenge.
Minglik Sar, towering at around 6,050 metres (19,849 feet), is a breathtaking beauty and a formidable climb. Its steep faces, icy slopes and treacherous crevasses demand a high level of skill. Also, the weather in the area can be extremely unpredictable. Upon reaching the base camp, Fatima and her guide, Naveed Pitcher, had to turn back.
“I came here to conquer… I wasn’t going to go back home without testing my limits,” Fatima said.
Fatima Nasir has gone where no man has gone before, and as anyone who would now look towards Mount Col Nasir, they would always know that a girl did it before them, and a girl can conquer anything she sets her mind to.
She remained unwavering in her resolve to conquer a mountain. After resting for a few days, she set her sights on an unchartered 5,800m (19,028 ft) peak. Together with her guide, Fatima laid out a detailed plan. Her gaze was now settled on a peculiar mountain that resembled a “pan ka patta.” The challenge beckoned her. Amid the rugged terrain, glimpses of life emerged as rabbits darted and fossils revealed ancient secrets of the remote land. Rocks along the way had cracks that housed “Pokemon-like creatures,” as she calls them. It’s fascinating how once creatures of the sea wandered these high grounds and are now embedded in the mountains as a testament to natural history.
Upon reaching a reasonable height during their climb, Fatima and her guide set up a base camp for themselves, clearing rocks from the wilderness. As she settled in for a while, eyes wandering the skies, she saw a family of ibex standing at the edge of the mountain.
The bid for the summit began at 9am as the sun came up. Hours later, they exhausted their water supply. Snow was now the only fall-back source of sustenance. Fatima’s tenacity carried her through the daunting expanse of ice. A gruelling ascent followed, every step tested her strength. At one stage she felt that cerebral oedema was setting in. Water was accumulating in her brain and causing excruciating headache. Undeterred, she persevered, took some medicine and overcame her bouts of vomiting. Pushing forward all the time. Oxygen levels dropped precipitously, registering 53 percent on the oximeter, a stark reminder of the perils of the journey.
Facing a tough choice, the guide urged retreat. Fatima, however, clung to the hope of a summit. “I still have 50 per cent oxygen,” she said whimsically. Her determination defied the odds. Her unwavering spirit carried her to the summit, a triumph she dedicated to her father.
“As I stood upon the summit, a profound silence enveloped me. At that moment, I got what I wanted. A sense of accomplishment surged within me – the triumphant feeling of having conquered an uncharted peak.”
“And yet, as I stood at the top, the question came to my mind: what next? The hunger for adrenaline, a thirst for new challenges, seemed to be unending.”
This summit was a monumental accomplishment; a chapter in a larger story of venturing for uncharted experience. “The endless craving for that rush of excitement propels me forward, reminding me that the journey is never truly over,” says Fatima.
Fatima Nasir has gone where no man had gone before her. Anyone climbing Mount Col Nasir, will always know that a girl had been there before them. A girl can conquer anything she sets her mind to.
“For every girl out there, who has been told, you can’t do this; you’re a girl; I’m here to tell you there are no limits to what you can do. All you need to do is believe in yourself.”
The interviewer, an ex-serviceman, is a freelancer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.