“Mountains demand passion. Aap ki dillagi hone chahiyee paharoon kay saath [your heart needs to be in love with the mountains],” Ali Sadpara
Muhammad Ali Sadpara was born on February 2nd, 1976, the naturally talented and humble climber hails from a village called Sadpara, near Skardu in the Gilgit-Baltistan region and he is said to be a top Pakistani mountaineer. The youngest of eleven children, eight of his siblings did not survive childhood. He was married to Fatima, when he was 19 and had his first son, he named him Sajid, soon after. He has a total of three children. He completed his FA from a government college in Skardu. Sadpara started his career as a high altitude porter assisting in mountain climbing missions. Like most porters, Ali traversed the rugged Baltoro Glacier in flip-flops and castoff gear. His passion for mountaineering led to him becoming a successful mountaineer.
“I used to tell my wife and family I don’t want to work, it’s climbing that I want to do.”
“One of my very first job was to deliver supplies to Pakistan Army posts leading to Siachen way back in the mid-1990s,” he said in an interview published in Dawn. According to his profile in Alpinist magazine, when a Pakistani army truck pulled into Sadpara to recruit porters, Ali could not oppose the opportunity. At the time, Pakistan and India were locked in a longstanding conflict over the Siachen Glacier, a strategic corridor to China. Ali was headed into the world’s highest battleground. At night, he scaled walls of ice, ferrying supplies to soldiers in remote mountain passes, praying darkness would shelter him from shellfire that appeared, he recalls, ‘as relentless as firecrackers at a wedding’.
“After the Siachen, I wasn’t afraid anymore,” Ali remembers. ‘In climbing, there are two outcomes—life or death—and you must find the courage to accept either possibility.'”
He was part of that team that magnificently achieved the first ever winter summit on Nanga Parbat in 2016. Both of his teammates, Alex Txikon and Simone Moro, have gone on record expressing their love for Sadpara as they saud that they could not have done it without Sadpara’s brilliance. Ali Sadpara has effectively climbed four eight-thousanders in a time span of a year and a total of eight in his entire career. Staring out as a porter, he found his first proper climbing gig in 2004 when he accompanied an expedition to K2.
Sadpara is frequently portrayed by his peers as a tough as nails climber with a good-humored nature all over. The only Pakistani to have climbed eight of the 14 8,000 metre peaks, Sadpara came to fame in local media when he, along with Spain’s Alex Txikon and Italy’s Simone Moro, made a world record with the first winter summit of Nanga Parbat back in 2016. The Spaniard and the Italian said their summit would not have been possible without Sadpara, a stirring encouragement for a man was hidden from the public eye in Pakistan for the longest time.
Sadpara was in the search team that had been seeing for a British climber Tom Ballard and Italian climber Daniele Nardi who were reported missing on Nanga Parbat. Their bodies were later found on the mountain.
“The man who was always ready for the rescue operation to save lives, today I’m remembering your picture of 27 February 2019 when you were ready for the rescue operation of Nardi and Tom on Nanga Parbat. Today we lost you and your [sic] resting high on K2,” said Karim Shah Naziri, a skier and climber, in his tweet.
As we all are well aware of the fact that Pakistan is home to five 8,000m peaks including K2, Nanga Parbat, Broad Peak, Gasherbrum I and II. The remaining are in Nepal and China.
Over the years, the country has seen few climbers rise up e.g.
- Nazir Sabir, the first Pakistani to climb Everest.
- Ashraf Aman, the first Pakistani to climb K2.
- Samina Baig, the first Pakistani woman on Everest.
And many more
Financial limitations of Sadpara
As a perfect husband and a father, Sadpara came across as a person who would do anything to provide food to his family. Money encouraged him but mountaineering encouraged him even more.
He was Not the one to shy away from saying that it was poverty that propelled youngsters in Sadpara to become porters, as he said:
“Many climb for money which isn’t that much but it sustains people. However, not many of my fellow porters want to climb. If they had better opportunities, they would quit climbing.”
In the Alpinist interview, Sadpara said he wanted to buy a sewing machine for his wife and for himself a winter ascent of K2. All these pursuits demanded money. Money that was made by carrying backbreaking loads on rugged, cruel terrain that showed no mercy.
“There are few who would love to climb if their financial burdens were eased. For climbing, one has to be free from restraints,” Sadpara added.
He even said back in 2016, he said he would not want his children to follow his profession.
“Honestly if you ask me, I would not want my children to work in this field. My sons are studying, one of them is in college, and has simply refused to climb. I want to be able to earn enough to provide for my family.”
He has climbed 8 of 14 Eight-thousanders. His first climb was Gasherbrum II in Karakoram.
List of mountains climbed by Ali Sadpara
Following are the mountains climbed by Ali Sadpara throughout his entire life
- Gasherbrum II (Pakistan) in 2006,
- Spantik Peak (Pakistan) in 2006,
- Nanga Parbat (Pakistan) in 2008,
- Muztagh Ata (China) in 2008,
- Nanga Parbat (Pakistan) in 2009,
- Gasherbrum I (Pakistan) in 2010,
- Nanga Parbat First Winter Ascent (Pakistan) in 2016,
- Broad Peak (Pakistan) in 2017,
- Nanga Parbat First Autumn Ascent (Pakistan) in 2017,
- Pumori Peak First Winter Ascent (Nepal) in 2017,
- K2 (Pakistan) in 2018,
- Lhotse (Nepal) in 2019,
- Makalu (Nepal) in 2019,
- Manaslu (Nepal) in 2019,
In 2015 his team tried to scale the Nanga Parbat in winter and was failed. They again tried in 2016 and summited the peak, and this resulted in the first ever winter summit of Nanga Parbat. He has climbed Nanga Parbat four times.
In January 2018, Ali Sadpara teamed up with Alex Txikon, a Basque mountaineer, and tried disastrously to summit Mount Everest in winter without any supplemental oxygen.
In June 2018, he was volunteered by speed climber Marc Batard to undertake a five year program entitled “Beyond Mount Everest”. They plan to summit Nanga Parbat, K2 and Mount Everest in 2019, 2021 and 2022 respectively.
The K-2 incident
Sadpara with his 21-year-old son, Sajid Sadpara, who had previously climbed K2 in 2019, teamed up with Icelandic mountaineer John Snorri Sigurjónsson, and Chilean mountaineer Juan Pablo Mohr Prieto, for a joint K2 ascent, leaving the highest camp on the evening of February 4th 2021. Sajid had to come back because of a technical issue leaving the others at the Bottleneck, close to the summit. His father, Snorri and Mohr kept climbing up, but they did not come back by night as planned. A rescue mission with two army helicopters was organized on February 6th. The three climbers are still missing.
In some reports we also hear the news of Sadpara’s death along with the two other mountaineers.