Saturday, October 19, 2013

Hassan Sadpara: First Pakistani to Climb Six highest Mountains. (Interview)

Kashmir is called heaven on earth because of it's beauty and it wouldn't be unfair to call Gilgit Baltistan the same because it is part of Kashmir. This beautiful place, which is situated in the shadows of Himalayas mesmerizes everyone who visit from around the world. Another speciality of this beautiful place are the people who are as beautiful as the place itself.

The lake of Satpara is one of the most beautiful lakes of Pakistan, recently a dam is being constructed nearby which will enhance the beauty of the lake. Anyways, coming to the point. Hassan Sadpara is also a resident of this valley. The same Hassan Sadpara who is the first Pakistani to have climbed six eight-thousanders including the world's highest peak Everest (8848m) besides K2 (8611m), Gasherbrum I (8080m), Gasherbrum II (8034m), Nanga Parbat (8126 m), Broad Peak (8051m). He is also credited for summiting 5 of the eight-thousanders without using supplemental oxygen.

This was a sudden interaction, so it initially started with the usual questions.

Introduce yourself; Where were you born? where did you live? how did you live? Where did you study?

I belong to the famous village of sadpara there were no schools or hospital in my village so I couldn't attend school and I have no bookish education but I am thankful to Almighty that he gave me such a big name even without education so there are no regrets. I started climbing at a very young age because my father and uncle were also had the same occupation. It was actually my father who told me stories about his trips, that I choose climbing as my occupation. I promised myself that I will be like my father one day so I took Allah's name and in 1999 climbed the killer mountain, Nanga Parbat. On 2nd July 1999 I raised Pakistan's flag on the mountain and that was a start of my memorable journey.

Does it mean that you started climbing from a very young age? What was your age and the motivation behind it?

My age at that time was 16. When my father was still a climber I had already decided I will choose this field for myself. I asked my father if he can request Changezi Sabab, who was a dear friend of my father, to add me in his party. Changezi Sahab said, why not, you are my friend and you son is like my own son, I will send your son on a quest soon. Thanks to that I got a chance to climb a 7000 feet high mountain with a french team, which was my first unofficial trip.

You inherited climbing from your elders, but what made you climb Mount Everest? 

All the five 8000+ feet mountains in Pakistan, I had climbed them all. Every time I climbed one of these I promised myself that I will raise the flag of Pakistan on Mount Everest one day too, but I had no money. One day I told the Chief Secretary of Gilgit Baltistan,  Babar Yaqoob about my desire so he arranged the funds for me, backed me and said he will support me as much as he can. He forwarded my application to the President of Pakistan who accepted my request and allotted funds. But to get those funds I had to struggle a lot, had to run behind the tourism department and other people, all the savings was spent on this, but thankfully after two years the funds were released and in 2011 I was able to fulfill my dream. I want to thank him and also Muhammad Changezi who was always there to help me and when I requested him to join me in the team he accepted and we set off to Kathmandu, Nepal to climb mount everest.

Why couldn't you study, what were the reasons?

There were no facilities and we were poor. My father spend two months in climbing and had nothing to do for the next 10 month, he didn't have any other job and we were a big family, we found it really difficult to manage our expenses so studying was something beyond. Moreover there were no such facilities in my village as there are in other cities so there were several reasons.

Tell us about your family?

We were five brothers and three sisters. Out of seven two sisters and three brothers have passed away. I got married in 1987 and my kids have grown up now. My eldest son is doing BA while the younger son and daughter are in the 9th grade and the youngest son is in the 8th grade. I have to work really hard to run my family.

You are a famous personality now, you must have gotten many cash prizes, how much did it help improving your condition?

How my father struggled for us and how I struggle for my family, only I can tell. As I told earlier we work 2 months with foreigners and earn around 150,000 in cash. The next 10 months I have nothing to do. We still rent a house, there is no doubt that whole Pakistan considers me a hero and if it wasn't for their prayers I wouldn't have achieved what I have. Here I am no more than a worker. Your question has made me sad, I have achieved so much for the country but the government did nothing. I am sure if government supports me I will climb the remaining 8 mountains as well and that too within 3 years, it is my next dream. Everyone knows there is a lot of talent in Pakistan, but we are short of resources.

Whatever you have said it is your right, you are our hero and we should treat you as one. From what you are saying, it means there are many other talent people in your village. What should be done, suggest something?

Our village is a big one and  so are the problems. Government knows there are no roads, there is no bridge to cross the river, there are no hospitals, if someone is sick we have to carry them on our backs and take them to Skardu. There are no teachers. We used to have one teacher for 400 students but he barely taught for an hour because he same from Skardu and had to go back before night. Now you tell what can children learn in one hour? ABC, 123 or Alif bay pay? There are around 4000 people here, we deserve a big hospital, who can travel 8km carrying someone? There are so many problems I can go on and on but you'll get bored.

No I won't, you are our hero. People of this area have high hopes from you. What if the government starts a training institute or something, will you work for it?

This is a good question. I actually did suggest former President to start a training institute in the name of Benazir Bhutto. He ordered the Tourism Secretary and he asked me to give a proposal. I mean I can't even write? Still my brother Faisal helped me with it and we sent a proposal by spending our own money, but same problem we always have, funds are not being released. Whatever skills I have, I want to pass it on. But what can I do no one listens to me, I hope someday things will change.

What is the difference in the facilities of other countries you traveled for climbing and Pakistan?

To be honest, we don't have a proper tourism department, it is just a formality. In other countries the facilities are excellent, people are nice, they treat you well, serve you well and everything is clean. They  not only have talent but they have the modern technology. When I went to Nepal for the first time I was worried that I haven't prepared and it will take a lot of time, but to my surprise everything was ready for me, the Tourism Secretary was himself present there. Around 62 teams from all over the world were there, the government pays the tourist guides monthly, everyone enjoys it and goes back happily.

How many days did you take to climb Mount Everest? 

After landing in Nepal I got busy with all the paper work, after that I started my journey. The distance from the base camp and Mount Everest was 8848 meters and I climbed it in just four days and that is a world record.

Players from other sports like hockey and cricket are offered jobs in different fields, did someone ever offered you and how much did you earn after climbing Everest?

I don't think Cricketers have any problem but I am a poor son of a poor father who has no contacts, how tough is my life, you people have no idea. I am thankful that you let me say what I wanted to say for a long time. Except for one instance there hasn't been any offer, I am not a hero of Gilgit, I am a Pakistani, I raised Pakistani flag on Mount Everest. I am Pakistan's son, job is my right but what can I do.

I respect your feelings wish I could do something for you but hopefully Government will do something. What job were you offered?

I am a world record holder and the government gave that to me in written. I was also given Tamgha E Imtiaz. When I met president Zardari he announced a job for me in PIA. After that MD PIA sent me a letter saying there is no post of me. I wrote back twice to President Zardari, so then the MD said okay you will be given a non technical seat. But it has been two years now, where are the orders, I have no clue.

Tell us about your days on Mount Everest, how thrilling was the experience?

There are many dangers when you climb such a dangerous Mountain. It was a thrilling experience for sure but dangerous too. There were an incident when a person's liver burst right infront of me and he died. Then one morning on Everest when we woke up, three Africans had passed away due to the extreme weather, sometimes the rope breaks but I never cared about my life. In Pakistan I have climbed all the mountains without oxygen masks and I wanted to do that on Mount Everest too but sadly the weather got worst, it was snowing and wind was blowing fast and I had to wear the mask for a few minutes.

How did you feel after climbing Everest, tell us about your memories.

The first thing I remembered was the flag of Pakistan. There was a storm and no one was willing to go further up but I raised the flag and thanked Allah. I was literally crying. Then I offered a thanksgiving prayer. When I came back to the camp, everyone, especially the Nepalese clapped for me. I just can't explain my feelings in words.

Tell us about your other hobbies and interests so that people can know more about you?

Climbing is the only thing I know and I do, I have never watched a movie or listen a song, I have nothing to do mostly except for offering prayer five times a day. I fear the Almighty and that's about it.

Thank you for your time.
No, thank you for interviewing me and letting me say what I wanted to, thanks a lot.

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