As it was International Women’s Day yesterday, I thought I’d share an inspirational story about a female first. Raha Moharrak was the first woman from Saudi Arabia to climb the Seven Summits and Mount Everest. She climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Vinson, Mount Elbrus, Aconcagua, Kala Pattar, Pico de Orizaba, Iztaccihuatl and Mount Everest all within a year.
On May 18th 2013, Raha Moharrak summited Everest alongside 34 other mountaineers and 29 guides.
Moharrak was part of a four-person team ‘Arabs with Attitude’. Her team-mates included the first Palestinian man to reach the summit, Raed Zidan, and the first Qatari man to achieve that feat, Mohamed Al Thani.
I was told I couldn’t
This one’s for you and my mom, my aunties and my brother and sister, and everyone that knew that I was insane but still loved me anyway.
I was told I couldn’t possibly climb mountains on account … being an Arab woman and a Saudi woman. It enraged me that people dictated my capabilities that way. It enraged me that someone thinks they have the right to tell me what I can and cannot do.
My name is Raha Moharrak, and I’m here because I’m the first – but hopefully, not the last – Saudi woman to climb Everest, and the Seven Summits of the world.
From the desert to a mountain
We just got to 17. And I think I have amnesia because I remember it was a difficult move, but I think I forgot how hard it is to go on that ridge. I come from a very flat, very hot area.
The only ice I saw was in the fridge or in my glass. We don’t have ice caps or mountains, or cold for that matter. So, to begin with, I had to educate myself. So I kept researching online.
Thank God for Google and for YouTube, because I kept searching about mountain climbing and training and what gear to buy. All of it was a challenge. At some point, all I had was my boots, my backpack, a scale and a garbage bag. I kept adding sand into this garbage bag and putting it in my backpack and walking for hours, and then I would add an hour and I would add a few more kilos, and add an hour and add a few more kilos – because all I had was that. I didn’t have altitude, I didn’t have ice.
Moharrak’s sporting background
I’m very lucky that I’ve always had a very good background in sports. I was always very sporty, very hyper, very athletic. But actual mountain climbing? I had no idea what I was doing at the beginning. On Kilimanjaro I was hypothermic. I was snow blind. I was blue everywhere. I was like a cat left in the cold outside for too long. It was a disaster, but I loved it so much. And I promised myself that I will never, ever get that kind of desperate. I will never get that kind of horrible situation. I will never put myself in a horrible situation like that. The most narrow-minded thing I’ve ever heard, repeatedly, is, “I want to climb Everest.” Just like that. And I asked them why, and they can’t give me an answer. And if you can’t figure out why you’re climbing that mountain, you shouldn’t be climbing it.
Being uncomfortable for 60 days, that’s a long time of mental abuse. That’s a long time of being uncomfortable. And it takes that long to climb it. So being on Everest, the time is one of the most difficult things you will have to manage.
Why Moharrak climbs
I’d love to give you a deep, profound reason why I climb. I’d love to sound like a badass and give you something that was deep. But the truth is: I climb simply because I believed I could.
I didn’t care about being youngest, first or history. I would have still climbed it if I was the anonymous, oldest nobody. Me, Saudi girl from the desert, managed to touch the sky. I love it, and I want every girl to come after me and think, “You know what? If she could do that, then I can not only touch the sky I can go to the stars.”