Mushahid Shah is one of the top speed climbers in Pakistan. With minimal facilities in the country, climbing can be difficult, however, Mushahid is optimistic that climbing will grow in the country and the region.
We chatted with Mushahid recently, to talk about his career and all things climbing in Pakistan.
Zushan Hashmi: Tell me a bit about your own journey and in particular, your journey as a climber?
Mushahid Shah: I, Mushahid Hussain Shah, belong to Jhang, Pakistan and am a computer science graduate from the International Islamic University Islamabad. I started Climbing back in March 2013 as a university player in HEC all Pakistan Universities Rock Climbing competitions.
What got you into the sport? And how long have you been doing it for?
It was by chance, as I had never been to mountains before and our University announced a free rock climbing event so I decided to give it a go, just because it was a free event. From that day its been more than 6 years since I started climbing.
Is there a particular discipline (bouldering, lead, soloing etc.) within climbing that you specialize in or enjoy more? If so, why?
I’m more into speed Climbing because we just have a standard Speed Climbing wall here in Pakistan.
Is it the same as the discipline you most appreciate?
I love to bouldering but unfortunately, we don’t have any facilities here in Pakistan related to this, we do have some natural rocks for boulders but no artificial walls.
How long have people been climbing, in the modern sense of the sport, in Pakistan?
Due to the efforts of our club (Alpine Club of Pakistan) we got the standard wall in August 2017. However, the number of climbers is still small.
What is the most popular style of climbing in Pakistan at the moment?
As we have only Speed Climbing walls so, at the moment only IFSC standard Speed Climbing.
What are the facilities like in Pakistan?
Our club is trying hard to get more facilities but right now we only have speed climbing walls. A couple of walls in the twin cities and 3 walls in Lahore.
Are there a lot of spots outdoors to climb that climbers have discovered, labelled and bolted?
There are more than 50 routes of outdoor rock climbing here in Margallah Hills Islamabad.
In your opinion, how popular is climbing there?
It’s not that popular because most people think it’s risky and many others find it to be quite expensive, therefore we don’t have career growth in this field, which makes it difficult to justify as a career.
Do you think there is more support needed from sports officials for climbing to growing the country and the region?
Yes, support from Government is badly required in terms of indoor gyms and coaches and it’s only possible through proper media coverage, to make people aware of the game and telling them about the benefits of this specific sport.
With the inclusion of sports climbing in the 2020 Olympics, how long will it be before we see a Pakistani climber featuring in a future edition?
In my opinion, 2024 will be the year when Pakistani climbers will participate in Olympics for the very 1st time InshaAllah (God willing).’
In your opinion, which country has the best professional climbers today?
This sport has different disciplines and different countries have strong athletes in different disciplines. For technical climbing, Japan is leading and for speed climbing Iran, Indonesia and China are equally strong.
What do you see, or hope to see, in 10 years for climbing in Pakistan, and South Asia as a whole?
Pakistani athletes have a lot of potential in every sport, they just need proper facilities and guidance. If we get proper training and are provided with the best facilities, I’m sure we will bring medals in each discipline of climbing.
If I talk about South Asia, only Pakistan, India and Nepal are involved in the sport, the other 4 countries in the region don’t have climbing athletes.
I am sure we will see very tough competitions among all 7 countries within a few years because of the presence of climbing at the Olympics.