‘No mountain is big enough’

ISLAMABAD, Feb 21: “I may be small but I’m not that small,” said Samina Baig responding to the laughter she caused on coming to the rostrum to speak about her big achievements.

Her shade above 5-foot frame was almost completely hidden by the rostrum set for speakers invited by the Alpine Club of Pakistan (ACP) to honour her and her brother Mirza Ali’s latest achievement in mountain climbing at a function held on Friday. “No mountain is big enough,” began Samina as the audience laughing at her small frame fell silent.

The brother-sister duo has returned from Tanzania after scaling the 5,895-metre high Mount Kilimanjaro last week. Samina and her brother Mirza are among the few athletes keeping sports alive in Pakistan, according to the ACP President Col Manzoor Hussain.

“Samina’s achievements have been beyond our expectations,” he said. “No matter how well prepared you are, every mountain is challenging. A slightly worsening weather can increase technicalities while climbing a mountain that otherwise seems easy to conquer,” said Samina Baig who became the first Pakistani woman to climb the Mount Everest on May 19, 2013.

Since then, she and her brother have undertaken to climb the seven highest peaks in seven continents around the world. The duo is now part of the Adventure Diplomacy Group funded by friends and managed by the Serena Hotel to conquer all the highest peaks around the world in eight months.

In December 2013, Samina Baig became the first Pakistani woman to have climbed Mt Aconcagua in Argentina, the highest peak in South America. She and her brother made it to the top together in two weeks. A month later, they flew to Antarctica and conquered Mount Vinson. “Climbing was tough and bad weather reduced visibility and it was difficult to see beyond one or two metres.

And it was not just the 10 or 15 below zero temperatures but the stormy and chilly wind at least -35 degrees that became extremely challenging,” she said. It was wishful thinking when the pair thought that Mount Kilimanjaro would be like a walk in the park with the trek already laid out and people reaching its summit in sneakers, shorts and t-shirts. At least that’s what they saw on television, said Mirza Ali.

“The weather became so extreme that more than 100 visitors returned without reaching its top. It rained continuously while trekking. And the snowfall made ascent slippery and difficult and the descent even harder,” he added. Mirza Ali said he intended to summit Mt Everest alone this time. “If all goes according to the plan, I intend to summit the Everest and the neighbouring Lhotse Peak in 24 hours,” said Mirza Ali who stopped short of the summit of the world’s highest peak in May last year and let his sister carry on.

Samina Baig said there were three more mountains on three other continents left where she and her brother still had to raise the Pakistani flag. They will be flying on March 10 to attempt Puncak Jaya 4,884 metres, the highest peak in Indonesia. During the summer of 2014, the two would be attempting Mt McKinley in Alaska. They would also be flying to Russia to climb Europe’s highest mountain, 5,642 metres high Elbrus, which would be their last target peak in August 2014.

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