A social media climber is an alpinist who climbs high mountain peaks on social media platforms without actually setting a foot on these mountains
There was joy all around when a ten-member team of Nepalese Sherpas made the first ever winter ascent of K2, on January 16 this year, creating mountaineering history. It was indeed an incredible achievement. One of the climbers from the expedition, Nirmal Purja, made the ascent without the use of supplementary oxygen which is, no doubt, a superhuman feat. The holy grail of mountain climbing had been claimed by the Nepalese. They had triumphed and went home as heroes.
However, there were other expeditions at K2 base camp waiting for their chance to bag the prized summit. Ali Sadpara, the inexhaustible and legendary mountain climber of several eight thousand-metre peaks, who had the first winter ascent of Nanga Parbat to his name, was also part of an international expedition. He was accompanied by his son Sajid Sadpara who had summited K2 in 2019. Even though the Nepalese had stolen the thunder, many Pakistani social media ‘climbers’ were frantically hailing the Sadpara duo to plant the Pakistani flag on the K2 summit. So far so good.
A social climber is a person who has ambitions to attain a higher social status. A social media climber on the other hand is an alpinist who climbs high mountain peaks on social media platforms without actually setting a foot on these mountains. I have suddenly noticed loads of social media climbers who are sharing their valuable experience and shedding light on the triumphs and tragedies that have unfolded on Mount K2 in the recent days and weeks. Interestingly enough, most of the real Pakistani climbers worth their salt kept their cool during all this time and refrained from posting their comments on social media.
Floodgates of expert opinions, rumours, snide remarks, hyper nationalism and prayers opened up and washed away all norms of logic, truth and decency.
Eventually the four members of this ill-fated expedition took their chances on the night of February 4 2020. As Ali, Sajid, Juan Pablo and John Snorri started off from Camp 3, Pakistani social media climbers joined them on their summit. That is when all hell broke loose on the cyberspace. Floodgates of expert opinions, rumours, snide remarks, hyper nationalism and prayers opened up and washed away all norms of logic, truth and decency.
False news of the climbers successful summit bid spread like wild fire when Sajid Sadpara turned back from Bottleneck –a dangerous part of the ground 400 meters below the summit – due to faulty oxygen gear and reported that the others were moving strongly and should reach the top soon. Social media warriors were hell bent on making sure, their man reached the summit. So, without being aware of the tragedy that was unfolding on the mountain they went ahead and placed Ali Sadpara, John Snorri and Juan Pablo on the summit of K2. Imagine the pain and anguish the families of these climbers must have felt when after all the chest thumping, praise and accolades prematurely showered upon them by social media warriors, the climbers were reported missing. They possibly never made it to the top.
When the rescue missions were launched to look for the missing climbers, the untiring and unflinching social media climbers went into overdrive again. They were not only praying for the safe return of the missing climbers, hoping for miracles but also accusing them of reckless behaviour and poor climbing tactics.
When Nazir Sabir, the famous Pakistani mountain climber who is also a veteran of K2 and many other eight thousand-metre peaks in Pakistan, finally gave his candid opinion to a few video bloggers, he was abused and called callous. His only fault was that he knew what he was talking about. What he said didn’t appeal to the heightened sensibilities of the social media climbers.
Armchair climbers should be sensitive while putting in their two penny’s worth on social media. They should realise that their rumour mongering, insensitive remarks and nonsensical opinions have dire consequences. They can not only cause anxiety and pain to the families of climbers but can also hurt the sport of mountain climbing in Pakistan.
The writer is a pioneer local adventurer, travel filmmaker, and broadcaster