Pakistan celebrates first woman up Everest

ISLAMABAD (AFP) - Pakistan on Monday congratulated Ms Samina Baig on becoming the first woman from the country to reach the summit of Mount Everest.

The 22-year-old Ms Baig, from the small town of Shimshal in the Hunza valley in Pakistan's mountainous north, scaled the 8,848m peak early on Sunday after a gruelling expedition in rough weather.

Mr Karrar Haidri, a member of the executive council of the Pakistan Alpine Club, said Ms Baig had raised Pakistan's name in the world.

"She is a brave girl who summited the peak and sent us a message of her achievement, and the whole Pakistan is feeling proud of her," Mr Haidri told Agence France-Presse. "She used her own resources and despite rough weather and fears of avalanche she never lost courage."

Mr Haidri added that Ms Baig's brother Mirza Ali was with her, but was unable to reach the summit as he was unwell.

Ms Baig was among 146 climbers to reach the world's highest peak on Sunday, including the first woman from Saudi Arabia, Indian sisters who were the first twins, and a British climber who gave a "live" video interview via his smartphone.

In 2010, Ms Baig became the first person to scale the 6,000m Chashkin Sar peak in northern Pakistan, and the mountain is now named Samina Peak in her honour.

Pakistan is home to five of the world's 14 peaks over 8,000m, including the world's second-highest mountain K2, but Mr Haidri said mountaineering needed more government support.

"I sincerely hope that Samina's achievement will induce more and more women to join this sport and help us convince the government to give more funds to us so that our people can attain more height in this department," he said.