ISLAMABAD-American female mountaineer Vanessa O’Brien will embark on climbing down Pakistan’s largest and world second largest mountain K2 today (Tuesday).

Addressing a press conference here on Monday, Vanessa said: “I am here to strengthen friendly ties with Pakistan and also want to create history by becoming the first ever American female to scale down K2.

Vanessa is a distinguished British-American mountain climber and will attempt this summer to summit K2 in Northern Pakistan, which is home to the highest concentration of glaciers outside of the Arctic Circle as well as five of the 14 tallest peaks worldwide. O’Brien is a fellow of Royal Geographical Society and a member of The Explorers Club.

Vanessa is an accomplished explorer, public speaker and former business executive who utilises sports diplomacy as a mean to transcend cultural differences and bring people together. K2 is the second highest mountain in the world, only 784 feet lower than Everest, at 28,251 feet (8,611m), O’Brien achieved Guinness World Record in 2015 for being the fastest woman to climb the seven summits, the highest peak on every continent in the shortest period of time (295 days).

Vanessa will be carrying the UN women’s flag to signal gender equality and women’s empowerment. “Physical activity helps to build self-confidence, individual empowerment and promotes good health,” O’Brien said and added: “It also teaches the principles of teamwork which aid in the process of conflict transformation and peace building.”

Alongside women’s equality, Pakistan is close to O’Brien’s heart. “As-salamu alaykum,” was the opening of her speech, when I was in London in the Women Achievers Congress. “I asked myself how I, as a climber, could repay the love and respect I received in Pakistan last year. What stood out to me the most were the misconceptions about Pakistan, its people, the country and its culture. It was then that I realized attempting to become the first American and British woman to climb K2 would give me a platform to help break down those misconceptions.”

Vanessa plans to carry American, British and Pakistani flags to the top of the world as a sign of solidarity, integration, friendship and respect for one another, as she sees it, this is nothing more than a continuation of the strong and enduring relationship that Pakistan, the UK and the US share. “My climbing experience has taught me respect and appreciation for the resilient communities of Gilgit-Baltistan in Pakistan. I am committed to raising awareness of the rich historical, ecological and cultural heritage of the region with the American public.”

“Vanessa O’Brien is to be commended for her climbing achievements as well as her efforts to highlight those who call this extraordinarily beautiful region home,” APF Board of Directors chairman Riaz Siddiqi said.

“The APF supports Vanessa’s effort to achieve new heights while strengthening ties between the United States and Pakistan.” The plans are underway for the APF to organise a multi-city tour celebrating Vanessa O’Brien’s success in the fall.