Two Ismaili mountaineers recently summited K2, the second highest mountain in the world and considered by many to be a more difficult and dangerous climb than Mount Everest. Fazal Ali is the first Pakistani to have ascended to the summit of K2 (8,611m) on three separate occasions. He first conquered K2 in 2014, followed by a second successful climb to the summit in 2017.

Fazal, who comes from the Shimshal Valley in Hunza, began his mountaineering career in 2002. His accomplishments include climbing Spantik (7,027m) in Pakistan, and Muztagh Ata (7,509m) and Gasherbrum I (8,080m) in China.

Sirbaz Khan, who hails from Aliabad, Hunza, also climbed K2 as part of the same expedition. It was his first summit of this peak. Sirbaz started his mountaineering career in 2016. As part of an international expedition in 2017, he climbed Nanga Parbat also known as Killer Mountain (8,124m) in Pakistan, successfully reaching the summit on 2 October 2017.

K2 sits on the Pakistan-China border, and is often termed the most difficult mountain to climb, for many reasons. It’s not the world’s tallest mountain, nor does it have the highest fatality rate, but it is both very steep and has an unusually long distance that mountaineers must trek just to get to its base, with no villages to stop at and restock supplies. Moreover, several extraordinary difficult sections on the route to the summit occur at high altitudes where oxygen is already an issue. It is the one mountain that has never been summited in winter and is nicknamed “Savage Mountain,” with a reputation as deadly and ineffable. The legendary climber Reinhold Messner called K2 the most beautiful of all the high peaks, saying “An artist has made this mountain.” Ascending K2 is a task for a master climber.

Recalling his journey, Sirbaz said, “When I was six, I remember; I used to go out to the mountains with my late uncle to graze our cattle. I was fascinated and mesmerised by the breathtaking birds-eye view of my hometown from the grazing area. I asked myself how beautiful it would be to be on the top of the mountain and see the other sides of the world. As time goes by, it became a routine for me, as it is our tradition to graze cattle in the winters. I started going to the mountains with my friends taking our cattle with us. Whenever I go out into the mountains it gives me a spiritual calmness,” he recalled.

Sirbaz has also been associated with the Aga Khan Youth and Sports Board (AKYSB) Hunza for the past 10 years and serves as a master trainer for climbing and mountaineering. Talking about his inspiration, Sirbaz said, “My inspiration came from Nazir Sabir (the first Pakistani to conquer Mount Everest) and Ashraf Aman (the first Pakistani to conquer K2).”

Both Fazal and Sirbaz proudly displayed the Pakistan flag and the Ismaili flag upon reaching the peak of K2.