Ismaili mountaineer Mirza Ali, from Shimshal Valley, Hunza, successfully climbed Mount Everest on Wednesday, 22 May, becoming the first Pakistani man to scale The Seven Summits — the highest mountains of each of the seven continents. Climbing The Seven Summits is regarded as one of the foremost exploration and mountaineering accomplishments. 

Mirza Ali’s sister, Samina Baig, became the first Pakistani woman to climb Mount Everest — the world’s highest peak — in 2013 and completed all seven summits by 2014. Mirza and Samina have become the world’s first siblings to accomplish this feat.

Mirza Ali, 35, who has a Bachelor of Commerce degree from Karachi University, started his career in mountaineering and adventure tourism at the age of 16. He promotes women’s empowerment and gender equality through mountain adventure and, together with his sister Samina, provides training and organises expeditions for students in schools and colleges. He trained Samina from the age of 15, supporting her to achieve the feat of climbing The Seven Summits at the young age of 23. The siblings have founded an NGO called Pakistan Youth Outreach which aims to promote gender equality through education and adventure sports among women and youth in Pakistan.

The pair have followed in the footsteps of storied Pakistani Ismaili climber Nazir Sabir — also from Hunza — who, after having conquered numerous other peaks since the 1970s (including a uniquely difficult ascent of K2), became the first Pakistani and the first Ismaili to summit Everest on 17 May 2000.

Mountain climbing is rooted in the history, geography, and culture of people living in Gilgit-Baltistan, though many are unable to pursue it due to a lack of resources. Even though other parts of Pakistan also offer mountaineering opportunities, the sport requires greater national support in order to motivate potential newcomers.