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ICE, ICE, BABY

Nadhirah al Harthy becomes the first Omani woman to scale Mount Everest

Just about a fortnight before Eid, when Oman was still in slumber in the wee hours of May 23, Nadhirah al Harthy, a 41 year old former civil servant, secured an incredible present for herself and the Sultanate of Oman. Surrounded by vast stretches of ice and snow under sub zero temperatures (-25º C), she became the first Omani woman to scale Mount Everest, the tallest peak in the world in the Himalayan range.

“As I held the Omani flag across my chest with chill winds blowing atop the icy summit, mixed feelings went through me. On one hand, I had just lived out my dream – it did feel quite like a dream – and on the other hand, I remembered my family members and folks in Oman whose aspirations were aligned with mine as I stood on top of the world, on the 8848m high summit of Everest,” Nadhirah told TheWeek as she made her way back to Kathmandu in Nepal earlier this week.

Nadhirah said she had tears in her eyes and she couldn’t quite believe that the mission of her life, for which she had been preparing for the past two years, had been fulfilled. Nadhira had started out in early April along with three other Arab women (Joyce Azaam and Nelly Attar – both from Lebanon and Mona Shahab from Saudi Arabia) and their entire journey was being filmed and documented by Canadian adventurer and filmmaker Elia Saikaly who is creating a documentary titled Dream of Everest which will be eventually screened in Oman.

“I was inspired to take up this challenge by Khalid al Siyabi, the first Omani to climb Mount Everest in 2010,” Nadhira said explaining that she had been undergoing rigorous training under him over the past two years but had kept her mission a top secret. “He was my mentor, my coach, and he gave me everything I needed to climb Everest, from getting physically fit to mentally strong,” she said.

After spending two months at the base camp to get acclimatised and doing rotations to and from higher camps, Nadhirah was finally to go head on towards her dream. She was also helped by a Sherpa to carry her belongings and oxygen supplies and truly acknowledged his support and skill without which it would’ve been difficult for anyone to get to the summit of Everest, she admits.

Nadhirah had taken up stringent training in running, climbing, swimming and hiking to get ready for this task. And being an ultra athlete herself, who has undertaken the 42km Muscat Marathon twice, as well as then 900km Oman UTMB race, all these pursuits had a role, to play in fulfilling her dream of climbing Everest with greater ease.

When she had set out to climb Everest, being the first or second woman from Oman to do so did not matter at all. However, gauging from the overwhelming response she got on social media after achieving the feat, she did feel really proud of her achievement as well as the prestige it brought to Oman, she said.

Every mountain has a particular part of the year which is best for climbing and this was the best season to climb Everest – between March to May – she said adding that the weather was exceptionally good though many sections of the climb were quite dangerous. Also, there were many disheartening scenes involving other climbers and casualties all along the way but she kept her focus intact till the end,

Nadhirah was lucky to be keeping good health all through her climb unlike other teammates who needed medical attention at times. As for her parents, there had been shocked when she disclosed her desire to scale Everest and had been praying for her success and safety all through her journey.

Though there were many reasons to give up and turn back, she never succumbed to them but looked towards her goal with blinkers on and worked hard towards achieving it, she said, adding, “nothing in life is achieved easily.”

“Oman is always in my heart and I feel proud of my country wherever I go. But I did carry the Omani flag with me. It was always with me tucked inside my jacket. And the first thing I did on the summit was to unfurl the flag and hold it out for everyone to see,”

said Nadhirah, adding that it also helped in displaying to other climbers from around the world there that she came from Oman.

Actually, when they had got quite close to the summit, she wondered where it was and asked Elia, the filmmaker, who pointed to it right in front of them. Nadhirah couldn’t  believe that her dream was about to be fulfilled. “It was the place I kept dreaming about for two years, seeing myself standing there holding out the Omani flag. It was quite an emotional moment and I started weeping for joy,” she said adding that the place was quite crowded as several teams had queued up to fulfill their missions as well.

Nadhirah’s message

“It’s good to have a dream and set a difficult goal before oneself. One needs to build up strength and passion to take on challenges and be successful. It helps in adding some adventure to one’s routine lifestyle, besides improving our personality and taking us to another level in life.

Most difficult part

“Some stretches were quite difficult and one had to rely on team members for support. But, the most dangerous part was the route to the summit itself. It was quite steep and one could slip and fall to one’s death with slight error.

Best part

I met a lot of interesting people from different countries, besides my Arab team mates with whom I shared some very interesting moments of my life.”

Relation with ice

I enjoyed the cold weather and the icy peaks which had their own beauty. It’s quite weird, but after living with ice around for so many days, after coming to Kathmandu, I still woke up feeling I was in my sleeping bag in the midst of ice.

Next ambition

I’m waiting for another dream and then I will go for it. No plans yet.