Greg Mortenson: Conquering mountains and hearts
There have been a handful of mountaineers in the annals of history who have been able to face all odds to climb the toughest of mountains on the face of earth. Fewer among them managed not only to summit these peaks but also conquer the hearts of the natives.
Greg Mortenson is one of those legendary mountaineer-turned-philanthropists who risked his life for the welfare of the people drenched in sordid poverty in the remote Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan, and continues to do so to this date.
Greg hails from a family of teachers and social workers which goes as far back as his great grandfather. Born in 1957, Greg found an early interest in the sport of mountaineering and rock climbing while his family was based at the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro
in Africa. His father Dempsey, founded the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre while his mother Jerene, founded the International School Moshi. Greg struck a chord with the beauty of the Tanzanian savannahs and forests and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro at the
age of 11.
Living most part of his life as a climbing bum, Greg decided to conquer the world’s second highest peak K2 in 1993 to pay homage to his crippled younger sister Christa who had died the previous year. Christa was a patient of epilepsy by birth and being deeply
attached to her sister, Greg vowed to climb the toughest mountain on earth also known as “The Savage Mountain”. Greg fell short of just few hundred meters and had to abandon his attempt for the peak to carry out a rescue mission for his missing fellow climber.
Greg was brought back to the Korphey village in the remote and rugged terrain of Karakorum by one of the high altitude porters and was nursed and brought back to health by the locals. Greg stayed in the village for few weeks and while wandering through the
houses during his stay, noticed a girl trying to write something on dirt with a maple twig. He was so moved by the sight that he decided to built a girls school in the village, something which was unprecedented in the history of the region.
Greg, during his stay in probably the darkest corners of the world, came to witness the extreme life routine the locals followed. Under-fed and illiterate, these people did not have access to the basic health facilities. A broken limb often resulted in lifelong
disability due to negligence and lack of medical care. Infant mortality figures were the worse and one out of every third child died by the age of one. Literacy rate among women was the lowest which often resulted in miscarriages during pregnancies and other