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Review: Nazir Sabir @ Kendal Mountain Film Festival
'MOUNTAINS are like my Mecca'- acclaimed Pakistani mountaineer Nazir Sabir gave a breathtaking snapshot of life amongst the Himalayan giants at his lecture in the Kendal Mountain Film Festival.
Bleary-eyed after a few too many tipples at the Brewery Arts Centre the night before, I entered the darkened theatre room for Sabir's lecture in the hope that I could slink off to the back and catch forty winks.
But within minutes, Pakistan’s most accomplished and celebrated high-altitude mountaineer had captured our imagination.
His captivating slideshow took his audience through his lifelong journey scaling the mountains of his homeland.
Humble and mild mannered he spoke of his achievements over the past four decades- climbing four of the five 8000m peaks in Pakistan, including K2 via a new route and becoming the first Pakistani to scale the roof of the world as he summitted Everest in 2000.
Hailing from Pakistan's Hunza mountains- one of the most demanding ranges on the planet- his life has been one long adventure.
Sabir has been in the jaws of death on numerous occasions and one such moment was when he was part of the Tohokeiryukai Japan Nanga Parbat Expedition in 1983.
He was almost crushed after an avalanche swept him 400m down the Rupal Wall.
On the same day his climbing partner Shimura fell another 2000m never to be found again.
"A river of snow came hurtling towards us and the ground came away beneath us and the first thing I thought was I'm not ready to die.
"It is amazing how you fight for life in those moments- my entire life went through my head and all I kept thinking was that I have so much that I still want to do.
"And then all of a sudden everything stopped and I was being helped out of the snow by my friends and I just thought that was a wonderful ride!
"But moments later we were to realise that Shimura had gone and we were never to see him again." he said.
As shots of stunning mountain scenery drifted through the screen, Sabir also drifted into the spiritual world and the loss that he suffered over the years.
In 1980, Sabir's eldest brother Inayat Shah, was to die during a doomed expedition to the pyramid shaped Diran mountain, in the Karakoram range in Gilgit-Baltistan.
Inayat had been on his second attempt after his first trip in 1979 ended in tradegy when his friend Khalid Bashir developed pulmonary oedema falling to his death on the descent.
When they returned to look for Bashir's body and tackle Diran again Inayat along with two other climbers was buried under an ice avalanche.
"It was a very hard time for me and especially for my family and I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to go out there again. But in the end I did and the person that I am today is because of nature and the mountains." he said.
Sabir's lecture was awe-inspiring but at times heartbreaking.
He spoke of the difficulty in getting climbers to visit his country due to the political unrest that has shadowed Pakistan for decades now.
He said: "Whatever is happening in the rest of Pakistan the mountains, to the north of Islamabad and the borders of Nepal, are a peaceful haven and it is a beautiful place that deserves to be discovered.".
His call to climbers definitely did not fall on deaf ears and I for one will be attempting to follow in his footsteps.
Tomorrow: review of American climber Lynn Hill's appearance at the Kendal Mountain Film Festival.