Tell us about yourself - who are you and what do you love doing?
I am a British-born Pakistani climber with a focus on alpine-style mountaineering. I love hiking, cycling, horseback riding, running, scuba diving and especially climbing as a way of exploring nature and the world. I live for the next expedition. I am also passionate about showing the strength of the Pakistani woman and truly embodying the notion that anything is possible, no matter what background you come from. In a largely male-dominated sport with limited minority representation, it’s important to me to show women – especially from my part of the world – that we can have a seat at the table in the mountaineering world.
Give us three words that you identify with most?
Adventurous, driven, limitless.
What brings you the most joy outdoors?
The peace and the ability to disconnect. We’re all so glued to technology and constant stimuli that I relish the ability to be in nature where phone signal doesn’t work. It brings a whole new meaning to being truly focused in the moment. I find that the conversations I have and the thinking I do is most meaningful and productive while I’m in the mountains because I’m 100% present.
What has been your biggest challenge to date?
Overcoming prejudice and earning respect in the climbing community, coming from the 'disadvantageous' position of being a petite woman in a male-dominated sport. Working on my inexperience and lack of know-how to training to be fitter than the fittest male member of my team so that I wouldn’t be seen as 'weak' or 'slow', I finally got to a point where my climbing CV, ability to manage myself, and resolve to push harder than most male members of the team have earned me respect within the groups I climb with. Now to keep reaching higher and pushing harder!
If you could share a core value or abiding principle with others, what would it be?
Someone once recited a climbing proverb to me when my summit fever momentarily got the better of me: “There are old climbers and there are bold climbers, but there are no old bold climbers.” The proverb stuck with me ever since and has been my voice of reason on several summit bids that I have aborted due to questionable conditions. Exercise good judgment for your safety and the safety of others on the mountain; the summit will always be there for another try.
Tell us one small change we can make as individuals to help our community?
Mentor instead of critique. There seems to be a lot of 'evil eyes' on others’ success. Climbers seem to judge each other by routes taken, use of oxygen, use of Diamox, speed, use of fixed lines… the list goes on. We should be celebrating each other and lifting each other up! Especially in mountaineering, my experience was one of being thrown in the deep end and criticised while I was trying to swim to stay afloat. I had a mentor who took me under his wing and taught me, but if not for my fortuitous meeting with him, I either would have suffered unnecessarily to get where I am or I would have quit. Passion should be fostered; we should all be supported in our quest to learn and everyone’s individual successes should be celebrated, not picked apart. Seek out opportunities to help lift up other climbers instead of critiquing and putting people down.