Born in early 1900s, Ata was an officer in Indian Medical Service of British Army prior to Partition. Later, he served in Pakistan Army as colonel. In February 1953, Ata received an unexpected letter by American mountaineer Charles Houston inviting him to join the summer expedition to K2 later that year.
Devoid of mountaineering knowledge or previous experience of similar kind, reluctant but excited Ata joined the expedition. Although he never climbed beyond Camp II or Windy Gap, but his mere presence at Base Camp served a great deal to the expedition. 1953 Expedition is well remembered for heroic belaying of Peter Schoening, saving five fellow climbers.
Back row: Dee Molenaar, Art Gilkey, Charlie Houston, Bob Craig, Bob Bates, Tony Streather. Front row: George Bell, Colonel Ata-Ullah, Pete Schoening - K2: The Savage Mountain book
Same year Professor Ardito Desio of Milan, Italy was in Pakistan busy in preliminary arrangements for his 1954 expedition to K2. Ata was invited and he joined the expedition with a similar role as of previous year. This Expedition turned out to be successful putting Achille Compagnoni and Lino Lacedelli atop K2 on July 31, 1954.
Ata traveled extensively later on, and had opportunities to climb in European Alps, Canada and United States.
Further Reading: "Citizen of Two World" published in 1960 is an autobiography of Col Muhammad Ata Ullah.