Adrenaline. Thrill. Excitement. Adventure. Whilst many people avoid this, some people live for getting a hold of these feelings. Adventure sports is something not made for all, but individuals who are driven by passion and constant adrenaline rush, are tailor-made for adventure. Mountaineering and trekking Is one such sport that requires a rare combination of skill, hard work and passion.
One such individual is Muqeem Baig who has been in and out of this sport for over a decade now. Not only has he trekked quite a few peaks, he has tried playing his role in promoting tourism as much as one can through his very own Climax Adventure Pakistan.
The team at Orange Ink asked Muqeem a few questions regarding trekking, his personal milestones and about Climax Adventure in general.
Mountaineering is an extreme sport. Have you always been this adventurous?
In reality, mountain climbing is one of the most extreme and dangerous adventure sports, one that requires a lot of guts, stamina as well as heart; a combination that is rare. I have been involved directly and indirectly in this adventure for the past 15 years. Yes, when I look back, I see that I have always been fond of thrill and adventure. I am not really involved in Mountaineering per say. I mostly do trekking & high passes ranging from 4000 to 6000 meters.
How did you get into trekking?
What I am today has got a lot to do with my birthplace. I was born in Shimshal Valley which is also called ‘The Valley of Mountaineers’ located in upper Hunza. I used to go through various passes like the Shimshal Pass – 4735m, Uween-e-Sar – 4650m, Shachmerk Pass – 4560m, Maidur Pass – 5700m, Shepodeen Pass – 5350m, etc along with my father and villagers. Other than that, I used to take our family’s herd up mountains from a very little age. With time, I became accustomed to such adventure and before I knew it, I was trekking very high passes. My source of motivation is my father & he is my inspiration. He is one of the best Mountaineer, he climbed few 8000m peaks in Pakistan & he is a rescue specialist in Pakistan which inspired me & gave me more power.
Has your family ever stopped you from adopting such a dangerous profession?
Like I said earlier, my father was already very much into trekking and mountaineering so there was never really any hindrance from his side. My mother, on the other hand, used to stop me at times but that was only because of her sentiments. I think all mothers wish for the safety of their children, so that was pretty natural. But overall, I never faced any such pressures as far as my family is concerned.
What led you into making climax adventure?
Since I had a background in trekking and mountaineering, I was always interested in promoting this sport, and ultimately help our tourism industry in the process. Whilst growing up, many foreign climbers used to visit Pakistan for trekking high and climbing beautiful peaks. After 9/11 however, things changed dramatically and foreigners stopped visiting our country owing primarily to security concerns. It was at that time, I finally realized that I should play my part in helping out so instead of targeting the foreigners straight up, I decided to get our local youth involved. One idea led to another and finally I was able to come up with Climax Adventure; my brainchild. So through this platform we are educating youth by outdoor and adventure activities and giving people an opportunity to explore beautiful Pakistan.
Out of all the climbs you have undertaken till date, which would you say was the toughest one and why?
The Snow Lake trek was a very challenging one for me personally which is 11 days trek. In order to get to the other side of the lake and cross the high passes, my team and I had to trek very slowly and carefully. In order for the lake to remain frozen and intact we had to cross with extreme discipline. I remember all of us made a straight line and tied everyone with a safety rope crossing it by matching each and every step of ours completely. That was a really intriguing experience for me as a very young team lead, one that I would rate as the most challenging till date.
Is there any peak you aspire to climb in the near future?
Climbing the K-2 would be a dream come true for me.
What are some of the challenges you face in this business?
The biggest challenge that I faced with Climax Adventure came during its initial stages. The birth of the business took place at a time when our country was going through a very tough time collectively. Terrorism was at its peak at that time. So, it was obviously very challenging for us to convince the locals to promote tourism via our venture because naturally everyone was afraid. That time there were no social media to advertise our work and show it to the people, like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc . As time passed, however, our door to door campaigns coupled with the improving security situation within Pakistan helped us a lot and soon, we had thousands of locals on board.
You have trekked mountains in Europe as well as in Pakistan, how would you compare the two experiences?
My answer may surprise quite a few but what I believe is very straightforward. I have visited few countries; especially the Alps but honestly no country can beat Pakistan in terms of its nature and beauty. The only major drawback is that countries in Europe are fully facilitated & secured. Our tourism industry lacks quite a bit in terms of world class facilities, security, infrastructure and state of the art equipment required for trekking and mountaineering especially on a professional level.
What is your most favorite memory concerned with trekking?
When I was around 16 years old, I went to the Nanga Parbat base camp via Diamir face for the very first time in 1999 when the famous climber Reinhold Messner was climbing Nanga Parbat via a new route. That was a very exciting and nerve wrecking moment for me personally but one that I would always remember.
What advice would you give to the people who want to take up mountaineering or trekking?
I know passion can really drive a person but one thing to be noted is that at the end of the day, health triumphs everything. So ultimately, I would advise everyone never to trek alone and that everyone should always take expert opinion and months of full-proof training before attempting a climb.