“I have always believed that Pakistani women can climb any mountain; they are equal to and as brave as any other woman coming from Europe, USA or any other country. I therefore started Women’s Expeditions in Pakistan to Educate and encourage Pakistani women in adventure sports, particularly Mountaineering.”
Mizra has a mission: to promote women in his home country of Pakistan to become recreational and professional climbers. He is currently organizing women’s mountaineering expeditions and film documentaries to educate, inform and encourage women to climb. He is trying to change the face of Pakistan, mountaineering and the lives of Pakistani women one mountain at a time.
1.How did you get started in mountaineering?
I inherited mountaineering from my predecessors, those who used to climb mountains for wood to construct houses, bridges and make even fire wood. Modern mountaineering reached my village in the early 1980s when local people started going with foreign expeditions. My uncle climbed for Pakistan Army. Mountaineering became a source of livelihood for the villagers; hence my other cousins became involved in this profession.
Beside this, I used to work with foreigners at a very young age. The tourists, who came to see the mountains of my village and trekked in the high pastures, also would climb the mountains. Thus, I got the inspiration to climb the mountains because if the foreigners come all this long way to climb these mountains, why not me? So I started climbing, the mountains standing tall around my village also attracted me to conquer them.
2. Where did the idea of having a women’s mountaineering expedition come from?
My involvement in adventure sports started at the age of 16. Since then I climbed on my own and I guided tourists from all over the world. I observed that lots of people, including women, come from different countries to climb either trek peaks or 8000ers. But there was no experienced woman mountaineer from Pakistan to climb any mountain either small or tall; in spite of having the world’s great adventure areas.
Thus, I developed the idea to promote women adventures in my country. This endeavor was promoted in addition to educating youths about mountain adventure and outdoor activities. I have always believed that Pakistani women can climb any mountain; they are equal to and as brave as any other woman coming from Europe, USA or other country. I therefore started Women Expeditions in Pakistan to Educate and encourage Pakistani women in adventure sports, particularly Mountaineering.
3. Why have there been so few women climbers from Pakistan?
It’s been very unfortunate that Pakistan has not been able to produce good women mountaineers or athletes, having world’s largest adventure area’s; such as the great Karakorum, Hindukush and the Himalaya’s. The reason for not producing world class women mountaineers is;
1st Issue: Mountaineering is a costly sport and it’s not possible for individuals to arrange independent expeditions. Sponsors for mountain adventures are very rare in this country. One reason is not having adventure sports gear manufacturers. As a consequence, there is a scarcity of potential sponsors.
2nd issue: Permission from the family. For women in Eastern societies it’s hard to stay away from the family home and live in the tent with strange people; most of whom are male. Living among men, women sometimes feel a problem with privacy. However, those who go into this field can work to find all possible solutions to be in the sport!
3rd issue: Lack of education and awareness. For a long time there has not been any ideal woman mountaineer from Pakistan, that’s why lack of education and awareness keeps the woman away from this sport.
4. Why are Pakistan women now becoming serious climbers?
Adventure sports are greatly loved by every walk of life. Pakistani women have shown their talents in other sports, cricket, football, tennis, etc. But adventure sports, including mountaineering, remained ignored for long time. The Karakorum is well known for its massive Mountains and lots of women every year come across the globe to climb these mountains. Hence, some women have developed interest and want to become involved in mountain adventure. It’s my and Pakistan Youth Outreach objective to promote women’s adventure through organizing women’s expeditions. Plus, encouraging them, as well as, training them for more mountain adventure awareness in the country. It’s also our aim through women’s expeditions to encourage other adventure women across the world to explore Pakistan, and mostly likely, its adventure potential areas, such as the great Karakorum.
5. What is the significance of having a women’s expedition? Is it the first?
The significance of the expedition is very unique. It’s organized for the first time in the country’s history. Having the first Pakistani women’s winter expedition is an interesting event for local people, as well as, for others. This women’s winter expedition is an important and significant event in Pakistan for women’s adventure (mountaineering) history. This expedition is to educate youth, and to encourage women in Pakistan and across the world to experience Karakorum; even in winter.
6. Do you think women climbing and summiting mountains will have a positive impact on Pakistan women in terms of self-reliance and independence?
Indeed it will. It’s always been believed in the western media that Pakistan is a male dominated society. It’s also believed in western societies that Pakistani women are not equally treated. Through this program and the expeditions, it’s my aim to send a soft image of Pakistan; that women are equally treated in Pakistan; even participating in the most tough adventure sports. They are equally competent, talented and brave, and have no any restrictions or limitations culturally or religiously. I also want to give a message to western societies and the adventure community that Pakistan is a peaceful loving and adventure -supporting country and has blessed with beautiful valleys, mountains, and glaciers. It is a rich culture with historical sites that are inspiring for visitors across the world. It’s also acknowledged that every tourist, trekker, adventurer, photographer or culture lovers is welcome with a big heart.
This expedition can bring a positive image and impression to the western media.
7. Do you see women climbers becoming role models for girls?
Indeed for world class women mountaineer are role models for girls… I am thrilled by their adventure great achievements. Somehow controversies arise and sometimes bring an ill impression to adventure sports when it comes to gender rather than respecting the adventure.
8) Have you had any resistance to the idea that women can become serious mountaineers?
Yes, it’s been a huge challenge to bring the idea of women mountain climbing into the mainstream and to encourage serious mountaineering. It took me three years to organize the first Expedition; the main challenge was to get sponsors for the expedition. It’s even more needed to teach basic and technical training for future serious climbing. We are in the early stages; it’s in the beginning. There is much more needed for women in Pakistan to become involved in serious climbing. However, I didn’t face any problems taking my own sister into mountaineering, since my family was already in mountain sports, so permission was not an issue; there was not any social or culture resistance .
9. You plan to make a documentary about your expedition. How did that come about?
Since my mission is to educate youth about mountain adventure, outdoor activities, awareness and promote, as well as, encourage women mountaineering; for this reason, it was important to film the expeditions and make the Documentary for the people in Pakistan. It was significant for them to see the beautiful and peaceful part of the country and also become educated about mountain sports. The first expedition of Samina Baig (my sister) was filmed and will be aired in Local TV channel (Geo TV) in between 2nd week of December. It’s a Documentary to encourage women and promote women adventurers in the country.
The other reason for making the documentary is to show other people and women interested in climbing the Karakorum, that the region is peaceful and welcoming. It’s also meant to tell people that Pakistan and the Karakorum is a Tourist Center and people are friendly, hospitable and brotherhood is the mainstay of the high mountain culture.
10. Where do you hope to show the film?
The first documentary about Samina Baig who became the youngest and only woman from Pakistan to climb an unclimbed peak in the Karakorum, shimshal area of Pakistan, (chashkin sar 6400). It will go on air in Pakistan around 2nd week of December, From January onward we will work on our main project , Pakistan Youth outreach & Satwa Guna Project, to make the Documentary for National Geography.
It’s our aim to show the Documentaries in Foreign TV channels but need resources, and the right person and environment because we are in the initial stage. We hope to very soon promote Karakorum women adventure in other countries.
11. Do you hope to encourage more women to climb from the documentary?
As mentioned, the documentary we will educate youth about the mountains, nature, awareness, about outdoor activities, and encourage, as well as, promote women’s adventure mountaineering in Pakistan; plus to expose the Karakorum and show the beautiful valleys, mountains, and glaciers ranges to other adventure lovers around the world.
12. What kind of training do you need for your climbing expeditions?
For mountain training, we need basic mountaineering training, after basic training we need advance training and technical training. For mountain Expeditions technical skill is very important before going on a mountain adventure, besides technical skills, we need to get into shape for extreme or severe weather conditions, so physical training is also important; uphill’s, cycling, swimming, gym workouts, trail running, and beach jogging are necessary to shape up; apart from physical fitness, mental toughness is more important.
13. Does mountaineering require more mental toughness than physical toughness?
Exactly. Mental toughness lets you face the extreme, and harsh weather; technical and tough situations at high altitude. Mental preparedness can help you succeed even in unfavorable situations. An otherwise person in good shape with poor mental fightness can be a disaster. Mental toughness can keep you strong; to handle tough situations on the mountain, for instance, avalanche swipes a fellow mountaineer, or rock hits your friend, or your partner fell in the crevasse, or you get stuck at high altitude alone. Mental toughness is very important to meet the extreme challenges on the mountain.
How can people, especially women, join one of your climbs?
Since we are promoting youth, as well as, women’s adventures, anyone interested can join our basic mountain climbing trainings, and our advance trainings. Interested people join our expedition on trek peaks, 6000+, and technical mountaineers can join us on our future serious expeditions on 7000m and even 8000ers - that is our main goal. Interested mountaineers can contact us five to six months in advance to join our expeditions.
The expeditions can be categorized, beginners, semi-skilled and technical mountains expeditions. Since in the Karakorum there are several virgin & unnamed peaks, interested people can join us on those expeditions too.
15. I understand you’re looking for donations and additional funding for your expedition. How can people help?
Our program is youth mountaineering, outdoor education, and awareness, and the promotion of women’s adventures. We appreciate donors and potential sponsors to help us in providing necessary assistance and funding to achieve our objectives.
Those who can donate or can provide funding or issue grants for the mutual interest of promoting mountaineering for women and youth in Pakistan are encouraged to contact us. We are also seeking government support to deliver the necessary education to the public and to specifically, empower women in mountain sports.
What is you motto?
My motto is to educate youth about nature, adventure, and empower women in mountain sports; to provide a platform for every interested youth, and woman to get involved in mountain sports and explore Pakistan’s great adventure areas.
The second theme of the program is to send a positive image to the world that the country is a peace loving place and everyone is welcome to explore Pakistan. It is also our aim to expose Pakistan’s adventure areas; to show the world that Pakistan is rich culturally, historically, and that its mountains are unmatched in the world in the beautiful and peaceful Karakorum, Hindukush and Himalaya. These huge mountain ranges are heaven for trekkers, photographers, culture observers, historians, researchers, film makers, and mountain and nature lovers. The adventure area of the Pakistan Karakorum is the most beautiful and soul attracting in the world.
It is one of the best tourist attraction points in the world. The roughness, beauty and fierce towering mountains are awe-inspiring for all walks of life and interests. The variety of adventure has been experienced by many world class adventure lovers, trekkers, and culture tour makers. It is our hope to also give exposure to Pakistan and its wonderful and beautiful mountains, valleys, glaciers, and to also encourage youth adventure. However, the top objective is the promotion of women’s adventure.
Last and but not least, I want to arrange the first Pakistani women’s Expedition to Mount Everest and K2.