Samina Baig - First Pakistani Woman to Summit Mt. Everest
This article first appeared in the Outdoor Women's Alliance.
In May 2013, at 21 years of age, Samina Baig became the first—and youngest—Pakistani woman to stand on top of the world’s tallest mountain. Summiting with Tashi and Nancy Malik, two female climbers from India, the three placed their countries’ flags on the roof of the world to spread the message of Indo-Pakistani friendship and peace. In addition to her accomplishment, Samina is also a strong voice in Central Asia for women’s empowerment.
Why did you want to climb Mt. Everest?
When I was young my brother Mirza used to tell me that when I grew tall, we would start climbing together; his mission has been to promote women’s adventure in Pakistan. When I saw women coming into my village from different countries for trekking and mountain climbing it also motivated me [to climb]. Then in 2010, my brother started a program, “Pakistan Youth Outreach,” a program to educate youth about outdoor adventure sports and to promote women’s adventure sports and programs in Pakistan. Since 2010, my brother and I have climbed for gender equality in Pakistan, especially to promote women’s empowerment. In 2013, it was the 60th anniversary of the first Mt. Everest climb, and in 60 years no woman from Pakistan [had] attempted Everest or any other 8000m peak. I wanted to climb it for gender equality and women’s empowerment—which is the reason for our climbing expedition. I wanted to represent Pakistani women in adventure sports, such as mountain climbing, on the 60th anniversary of the first Everest expedition.
What kind of support did you have for climbing Mt. Everest?
Equipment and financial support—which was very important for this great adventure; without donations, and sponsoring from friends, this wouldn’t [have been] possible. I was very lucky; …I had most of the things which were required for this life-time dream expedition for gender equality and women empowerment. But for earlier expeditions, it was tough; we often had trouble getting all the gear we needed for climbing. It is tough to get large expeditions funded in Pakistan.
How did you emotionally and mentally stay strong during the difficult two months of climbing Everest?
I think our mission for gender equality was the best thing that led me to reach the top. I felt I was climbing for all the other women who did not have a voice or equal rights in their countries. I wanted what I was doing to help empower them. Also, my brother and his support was very important and my hard work and determination to do something new in my country for women.
How did it feel to summit Everest?
It’s a feeling that can’t be expressed—being on the summit of the tallest mountain on earth, working hard for two months, making my home a tent and facing different weather conditions. This was a journey that my brother started six years back and together for us it took 3 years to get here. Reaching the summit for a reason that was not for personal gain, glory, pleasure, but for a mission, was surreal. When you see the mother earth planet below you, [as you stand on top of the mountain], it is amazing—it’s just incredible. And to be the only woman from my country to summit Everest or any 8000m mountain—it is just an unmatched feeling. [On the summit] My eyes were in tears and I had no words to say. The only thing running in my mind was that I am on the top with a green flag [the Pakistani flag] and the world is below me. I am standing on the top of the world for a reason and mission, to empower women of my country through my adventures. This is something that can’t be expressed. …some people in my country didn’t believe in me and my brother when we left for this expedition. One journalist told me that I am very tiny; how could I climb? But by grace of the Almighty I made it to the top and made history—it’s history and everlasting!
Which mountains do you plan to climb next?
My brother Mirza and I are planning to do the Seven Summits [the highest peak in each of the world’s seven continents]. Next year in June we hope to do Denali in Alaska. We would be the first Pakistanis to finish the Seven Summits… We will have the same mission while climbing these mountains: to promote gender equality and women empowerment. We will go on each continent with this message.