ISLAMABAD: After conquering the K2, Vanessa O’Brien has won more than just the title of becoming the first British-American woman to climb the treacherous mountain.
“I carried Pakistan’ flag to the K2 summit as a reminder of Pak-US friendship,” she said, but reportedly that it was not a symbol of Pak-US friendship for the US President Donald Trump.
At a news conference she once said I love Pakistan’s people more than its mountain, and then she elaborated how the Pakistanis won her over. She said: “On my first day in Pakistan in 2015, I had a tooth fall out. I took a piece of candy from reception and as I was walking to my hotel room, I bit down on the candy and I could tell immediately that it took my tooth out. I was so shocked and horrified – I mean, how could I climb at altitude with a missing tooth?”
Recalling she said further: “I called a dentist in Islamabad who insisted I visit him immediately. He knew how important it was to secure my tooth in order to prevent trapped air otherwise I would have a problem at high altitude. When I tried to pay him for his services, he wouldn’t let me. He said that when he was in New York City years ago, a stranger helped him. So this universal debt had landed in my lap.”
“In my three years in Pakistan, I received many other acts of kindness and made many friends. I did not experience anything negative either culturally or in the way of security. Pakistan, Great Britain, and the US were there to celebrate Pakistan’s 70th year of Independence,” she added. Continuing she said: “The UK’s history we know well – in August 1947, Pakistan saw the end of the British Empire’s reign. But relations between the U.S. and Pakistan began prior to Pakistan’s independence, when the United States Secretary of State, George Marshall, sent a message to Mohammad Ali Jinnah, extending best wishes on behalf of the United States, as mentioned in Jinnah’s address to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan in 1947. We are allies and friends.” “The point of the flag carry to the K2 summit was to remind people of the continued support of friendship, peace and solidarity between the US and Pakistan.”
On July 28, 2017, after reaching the summit of the world’s second highest mountain, Vanessa unfolded the Pakistani flag she was carrying and stretched it out in front of her while one of her team members snapped a picture – signifying a monumental moment for the climber and marking yet another effort towards pushing boundaries for the women.
Here’s why it’s significant: only 19 of the 376 people who have climbed K2 have been women and Vanessa now marks the 20th. Images got in touch with the mountain climber to ask her about her journey, the significance her achievement holds for other women, and of course, Pakistan’s famed hospitality.