Atop the Everest: A mental feat more than a physical one
On May 29, 1953 Edmund Hilary and Tenzing Norgay became the first men to reach the top of Mount Everest. Sixty years to the month, UAE-based quartet, Arabs with Altitude scaled the peak.
Raed Zidan (Palestine), Masound Mohammed (Iran) and Qatar’s Sheikh Mohammed Al Thani have been scaling peaks around the world for the last four years. About a year and a half ago, they launched Arabs With Altitude, to encourage more people from the region to share their passion. Which is when Raha Moharrak (Saudi Arabia) joined them.
Zed “Zeddy” Al-Refai, a Kuwaiti climber, was the first Arab to climb Mount Everest in 2003. He is also the person who initiated Sheikh Mohammed into mountain climbing. In 2011, Suzanne Al-Houby, a Palestinian, become the first Arab woman to do so.
Two months after they set out from UAE, they found themselves at the summit. Raha on May 18, and the other three on May 22. Sheikh Mohammed, or Moe as he is known, spoke to JustHere on the months leading up to the climb, and the string of long moments leading to the ascent.
In an interview a couple of years ago to this author, Sheikh Mohammed had mentioned that the passion for peaks started when he first spotted the Everest. “…it was on a river rafting trip in Nepal in 2008, the love of mountains started with the first sight of Mount Everest. One year after my river rafting trip I decided to give trekking a shot, hiking all the way to Everest Base Camp (5,360m).”
Four years later, he was atop the highest peak in the world, holding up the Qatari flag, which Sheikh Mohammed says is the proudest moment of his life.
Everest might or might not allow you to climb. We can only be ready enough…
…climbing the Everest is 60% physical and 80% mental resistance.”
Scaling the Everest is a momentous enough task… but to do so along with the youngest Arab and first Saudi woman to achieve the feat are historical milestones. Was there a statement being made?
On Raha’s feat, he says there was no statement to be made outside of her singular achievement. “She just likes climbing mountains. And started last November with Kilimanjaro. She is a very strong lady. She has done things quite quickly.”
Though all four of them live in the UAE they didn’t train together. “We trained separately, but kept comparing notes… we were competing with each other. It motivated us to keep pushing harder, to raise our ‘benchmark’.
The 60th anniversary had no bearing on their decision either. All that Sheikh Mohammed has to say is that the time was right. With great reverence, he says, “Everest might or might not allow you to climb. We can only be ready enough. We decided last August to aim for an ascent this year, and started working towards it. But the mountain itself should allow it.”
Since 1953, over 4000 people have scaled the summit and some 200 have died attempting to.
The scariest moments for him were when he was sick. “I was sick a few times. Those were the scariest moments. You get terrified. Even as you are throwing up, your mind plays games with you. You start thinking of the worst-case scenarios. They say climbing the Everest is 60% physical and 80% mental resistance… it requires 140% effort. As you climb, the smallest things will scare you.”
That relief of having conquered the Everest and telling the tale is captured in the picture (left), being received by his 6-year-old son Abdullah. Does he realise the enormity of the feat? “Yes, he does. He has been telling all his friends that his baba climbed the highest mountain.”
Always in search of the next big adventure, what could quite overshadow his latest one? “A dream that matches this. To scale Mount McKinley in Alaska, with which we would have covered the seven summits in the seven continents. Raha has to cover Kosciuszko in Australia, which is fairly simple. And then the four of us would attempt Mount McKinley.”