Season 2, Ep 10: Conquering Peaks and Stereotypes: Naila Kiani’s Trailblazing Achievements in Mountaineering

“For me, the achievement is experiencing the journey,” says Naila Kiani, who in just a few short years has become the first Pakistani woman climber to summit ten peaks above 8,000 meters, and the only Pakistani person to ascend seven peaks above 8,000 meters in six months. In that brief span of time, she has experienced both the zenith and the nadir–witnessing great tragedy and being—almost literally—over the moon. Though she started her journey simply to fulfill a personal ambition and act as a role model to her daughters, showing them that they could do anything, she soon became an inspiration to many–particularly to women. 


Naila, like many women of her background, grew up feeling restricted. Like many parents, once she had children, she was expected to give up adventuring in order to provide and sacrifice for her family. Yet, as notice of her climbing grew, she began to receive more and more messages from people in Pakistan and throughout the world saying that she had inspired them to follow their own passions and to break barriers. Despite receiving her fair share of criticism from people who doubted the legitimacy of her achievements, she has kept moving forward with determination. Such a sense of mental toughness, which she says is even more important to climbing than physical toughness, was forged at an early age. 


On today’s episode of Women Igniting Change, Naila explains how mountaineering has fundamentally changed her approach to life. 



  • “My friends were telling me, ‘Why are you climbing it? What if you don’t reach the top? It’s not an achievement. Why don’t you climb a 7,000 meter peak, reach the top, raise the country’s flag, that will be an achievement. I disagreed because for me, achievement was actually experiencing the journey.” (2:53 | Naila)
  • “Even when I started this, I was already mentally super strong, because I had a tough life, a really, really tough life growing up. I had a very difficult childhood, I had a very, very difficult university life. My early adulthood years were quite tough. I went through that, and I think I’m a strong person because of my challenging life.” (6:08 | Naila)
  • “I wanted to inspire my daughters. I had a very restrictive life, I’m from a very conservative family, or I was. I want my daughters to grow up with the mindset that they can do anything that they want to do. I want to be their role model.” (9:23 | Naila)
  • “When I first started mountaineering, climbing, it was just for me and my daughters. It was a personal reason why I was climbing. But I started getting messages from a lot of females, mostly from Pakistan, but also from outside of Pakistan, and a lot of men, too. They thought it was incredible that a married woman with two very young children, a full-time working professional, was climbing high peaks. And they were very inspired because I was not from the mountains.” (9:45 | Naila)
  • “Why should I give up just because of someone’s perspective or someone’s perception? So, I continued.” (14:51 | Naila)
  • “Before, adventure was really not associated with, not just married women but even married men. Eventually they stop doing adventurous activities after having kids, because you now have to be responsible for your family and sacrifice for your family. I love my children, but I think after seeing my journey a lot of women especially tell me they’ve started to do whatever they were always passionate about.” (16:59 | Naila)
  • “I could be judgmental. Not in a negative way, I would never go and tell somebody, ‘You shouldn’t do this or that, but deep down, I used to judge people. But being in the mountains, I was very close to death, I saw people dying. I think that helped me to be a non-judgmental person.” (20:22 | Naila)