(The article is based upon Nazir Sabir’s Lecture Pilgrimage to Higher Heavens delivered in Feb 2016 at Lahore)
I belong to small town of Karimabad (Baltit) located in 160 km long beautiful valley of Hunza also called as Kanjut. The valley is famous for the natural beauty as well as long life span of the people and gained significant media attention in past including Time and the Life magazine.
Photo Courtesy: http://www.oldlife.net (Life Magazine,Jan 1950 )
Within this very small valley various languages are spoken including Burushaski, Wakhi and Shina. Hunza valley lies in the neighborhood of Rakaposhi and the mysterious Ultar Peak. Places near Hunza include Attabad Lake, Passu Glacier and bubuliomoting / lady finger, a unique rock spire.
In Hunza valley Yaks are used to carry 70-80 Kg weight up to 6500m. Hunza have fifty or more different types and tastes of apricots. In mountaineering history a man from a local Hunza village rescued the legendry German mountaineer Hermann Buhl during his one of expeditions and is regarded as a hero of Hunza.
Interestingly not all people living near mountains are passionate about mountains. In few cases locals might even curse mountains for imparting hardships of life upon them. A frequently asked question from the mountaineers is “Why to climb”. The answer is ambiguous.
“Going back to mountains is sort of addiction rooted deeply in the desire for taking risks. Car racing is also risky but in climbing you remain under the shadow of risk for much longer duration. In mountaineering not all are calculated risks sometimes you take educated guesses and at other times you are pushed to take blind risks. Most importantly, mountains are source of spiritual strengths, as one gets closer to mountains somehow they pull and even touch your soul.”
Ultar II PakPeak (7388m) also called as Death Peak/ Bojohagur Duanasir II is a mysterious peak that overshadows the Hunza valley and it is the source of water for the Hunza people. It has been climbed once only in 1996. Now in Karimabad in the neighborhood of Ultar lies the Hasegawa Memorial Public School that hints a tragic story.
Hasegawa Memorial Public School, Karimabad, Hunza
In October 1991,Nazir Sabir was part of climbing attempt of Ultar along with Hasegawa and Hoshino from Japan. He experienced a near death experience during the climb. Enroute to summit Sabir was in camp and another was about 6m away. He could not sleep due to freezing nose and heard sound of someone walking with crampons. At about 1 am he heard sound of eight /nine year old boy calling Arif……..Arif…….The next morning Nazir’s speed was slow and he was lagging behind others due to a sleepless and disturbed night. It was during this slow climb that almost at altitude of about 5,350 m when Hasegawa while leading from front was swept away by a massive avalanche. For Nazir Sabir it was shocking to see someone experienced like Hasegawa wiped away in seconds. Later he attributed his own narrow escape to previous night’s mysterious “Arif” sound that kept him awake, became reason for his slow discourse thus saving him from the massive avalanche. In local tradition, Arif is a name associated with spirituality and sanity.
After the incident a weeklong initiative to recover Hasegawa body was spearheaded by his the courageous wife. He was buried in the lap of the mountain. as per his will. Hasegawa’s wife died five years later in 1996 on Mount Fuji. According to Nazir Sabir the bitter experience left unpleasant memories and he spat on Ultar with the resolve to never return. A near death incident on Ultar however revealed that once death is too near the whole system gets reboot and the complete film of life flashes in front of eyes. For Nazir Sabir final takeaway from the Ultar peak was
ایک جان کے لئے آدمی کتنی جان لگاتا ہے
(For one’s life sake,one fights till end)
Ultar was finally summited five years later by Yamazaki and Matsuoka from Japan in July 1996.However in tragic sequence of events Yamakazi died while on the descent of Ultar and Matsuoka died one year later on the nearby Bubuliomoting.
The details are covered here Ultimate Ultar II (7388m) and the Japanese Tragedy- II
The Ultimate Ultar has never been climbed again.
Final Resting place of Hasegawa, near base camp of Ultar Peak