Mahfooz Ilahi Hajam, the 35-year-old resident of the Kulgam district in south Kashmir is the first person from Jammu and Kashmir to have set his foot on the world's highest peak.
Hajam successfully scaled Mount Everest at 6.20 am on June 1, 2021 achieving the feat which many mountaineers around the world dream of.
Mahfooz, is an instructor at the Jawahar Institute of Mountaineering and Winter Sports (JIMWS) in Pahalgam, where he has been imparting technical expertise in adventure sports activities including mountaineering, hiking, skiing, white water rafting to the students from across the country.
After its establishment in Kashmir on 25 October 1983, Jawahar Institute of Mountaineering and Winter Sports (JIMWS), has for the first time chosen a team for this coveted expedition.
The team of seven members, four from JIMWS and three members from Nehru Institute of Mountaineering (NIM), Uttarkashi participated in the expedition.
Mahfooz made entry into the team at the last moment as one civilian was chosen each from JIMWS and NIM. All other members in the team from the two premier mountaineering institutes of the country are soldiers.
The expedition was led by Colonel IS Thapa, an ace climber who has scaled Mount Everest twice. Colonel Thapa is currently the principal at JIMWS Pahalgam.
On April 1, 2021, the team was flagged off from Delhi for Kathmandu where they stayed for a few days to arrange all the equipment and logistics.
The team started its expedition to the peak on April 4 and covered four base camps till April 12.
Despite facing tough weather conditions, the team did not lose heart. They waited for 10 days to find a window at the advance camp for the final push to the peak.
Six of the seven members finally made it to the highest peak of the world on June 1, 2021.
The team returned to base camp after the successful summit of Mount Everest without any injury.
Coming from a humble background, Mahfooz is from the Kujjar area in Kulgam district. His journey into adventure started as soon as he completed his graduation and joined Jawahar institute as an instructor.
“I’ve been into adventure since my childhood and it is the dream of every adventure lover to scale the world's highest peak. I feel lucky to be part of the team which was fully sponsored and facilitated by the Jawahar Institute of Mountaineering and the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering.”
This successful expedition will attract more Kashmiris to adventure and mountaineering.
“We have been training youth at our institute for the last many years but there has been less response from Kashmiris."
JIM&WS conducts several courses every year with around 100 participants in each batch.
Most of the students are from various parts of the country.
Mahfooz advises local youth to take part in at least a basic mountaineering course in JIM&WS before taking any mountaineering expedition.
“Locals here take the course for granted. It is like taking mountains and nature for granted. We train the students to survive difficult situations during hiking. One should know what to do if weather turns unfavourable or someone is injured,” he said.
Former Chief Ministers of Jammu and Kashmir Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah besides CPI (M) leader Muhammad Yousuf Tarigami congratulated Mahfooz and Iqbal Khan for the success.