Naila Kiani, “mom mountaineer”, sets her sights on K2

KARACHI: Almost a year after setting a record by becoming the first Pakistani woman to conquer an 8,000m, Gasherbrum-II, in Pakistan, Naila Kiani began her journey for the K2 expedition on Friday, but without her mentor the late Ali Raza Sadpara, the one who believed in her prowess and told her she could conquer the second highest mountain in the world.

What made her story even more interesting was the fact that 8,035m G2 was the first mountain she ever climbed and that too about seven months after giving birth. “My daughter was seven and a half months old when I climbed Gasherbrum-II,” the Dubai-based climbing enthusiast, a banker by profession, said over the phone before arriving here to take on the new challenge.

Leaving for Skardu on Saturday after having a team briefing on Friday, Naila will be joined by accomplished Pakistani mountaineers Sirbaz Khan and Suhail Sakhi, who accompanied her on the G2 summit with the late Ali Raza Sadpara. “The same G2 team goes to K2,” Naila said. “We have decided to dedicate this expedition to Ali Raza chacha.”

Sirbaz has already reached the summit of K2 in 2018.

Be accompanied by climber Sirbaz Khan; will dedicate the summit to the memory of Ali Raza Sadpara

“When I reached base camp after the G2 summit, it was Ali Raza chacha who said to me, ‘You can climb K2’,” Naila recalls. “He gave me that confidence.”

Ali Raza chacha, as Naila called him, died last month while recovering from injuries sustained during a training climb. It was for their next expedition to K2. His loss hit Naila hard. He was the person who encouraged him the most. “A lot of things stood out about him,” she said. “He was an incredibly humble man. And he would always teach and guide others. Although he was twice as old as most, he was the fastest even when carrying a load. Finally, what I loved about him is that he was always in a good mood. There was always a smile on his face. During some of our toughest times on the mountain, he would crack a joke and we all ended up laughing .

“My expedition has now taken on new meaning. I will certainly. Chacha is no longer in this world to realize his dream but I will dedicate my climbing expedition to him,” revealed Naila.

Most climbers train in the mountains but Naila is based in Dubai. On top of that, K2 is one of the toughest 8000m mountains to climb. How does she manage to train for this expedition? “It’s been incredibly difficult for me to deal with it all,” she said. “I climbed the G2 during my maternity leave. I headed straight for work when I came back after doing my summit as I have a full time job.

It doesn’t help that she also has a baby that keeps her up all night. “My little girl is teething now,” she adds. “Even now, I don’t get a full night’s sleep. Dealing with sleepless nights, a baby, training for the climb, preparing for the expedition, etc. is very difficult,” she told Dawn last month.

Besides her daughter, her “baby G2”, Naila is also the mother of a three-year-old son. Considering that shipments can take well over a month, will she have a hard time leaving them behind? “We don’t ask men that question,” she replies.

“Even strangers have asked me this question because mothers are expected to take care of their children even if they have a full-time job. Sirbaz was with me [on G2]”She adds. “Her daughter was born a day after mine. But no one asked her, ‘How do you do your 14 peaks mission and stay out of the house for most of the year? ?’

Naila’s K2 expedition is supported by the Bilquis and Abdul Razak Dawood Foundation. “Without their support, K2 wouldn’t have been possible for me,” she said. “They have a vision to support talented young Pakistanis in sports or education and help so many other people like me.”

K2 is known as “the wild mountain” due to its high mortality rate, but it has an irresistible charm for climbers, especially in Pakistan. What is it for her? “The peace you get in the mountains keeps bringing you back. When I planned my first climb, I just wanted to test my physical and mental strength, just to see how far and how far I could go. Of all the sports [including boxing] I did, this tests you the most. Plus, there are the incredible views from the top,” she adds. “You ask yourself: is it heaven or is it earth?

Posted in Dawn, June 25, 2022

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