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My journey to the top of the world: Nadhira Al Harthy on summitting Everest
June 12, 2019 | 9:29 PM
by Al Sayyida Halima Al Busaidi/[email protected]
 
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Muscat: “I didn’t focus on being the first - I focused on reaching Everest. I learned more from the two-year journey to Everest, than from finally reaching the summit.”

Nadhira Ahmed Al Harthy became the first Omani woman to climb Mount Everest on May 23, 2019. On her first sit down interview, Al Harthy spoke to Times of Oman regarding her journey to the world’s highest point. “I found myself in the mountains. We would climb during night as the ice is softer during the day.

“On our final push to the top we began climbing at 9am, non-stop until 7pm.”

According to reports, this year has been the deadliest for climbers of Mt Everest since 2012, “There were times where I had to step over dead bodies, or I would climb and see dead bodies hanging. One of the reasons that many people died was because of the long queues and lack of oxygen,” said Al Harthy.



There are specific seasons during the year, in which climbers have the chance to climb Everest. One of the options is winter while the other starts at the end of March until the end of May.

“It takes two months to climb Everest, I started on April 1 and I arrived back in Oman on May 28. The reason it takes so long is because of the procedures put in place in Nepal. More importantly, you need to give your body time for it to adjust to the altitude, oxygen level and pressure.”



Al Harthy was joined by a team which included three other Arab climbers, a Saudi woman, two Lebanese women, and documentary filmmaker Elia Saikaly.

On May 23, 2010, Khalid Al Siyabi became the first Omani man to climb Mount Everest, and on the same day nine years later his prodigy Nadhirah Al Harthy became the first Omani woman and the second Omani to reach the top.

Greatness runs in the blood

During the same week, Al Harthy reach the top of Everest, her niece Johka Al Harthy won the Man Booker prize for her book Celestial Bodies.

“I was really happy when I heard the news because I knew she worked really hard for it. Johka really deserves it. When I came back it was so nice to see everyone’s support, it was the week for Al Harthy women,” she said.

Before climbing Everest, Al Harthy had a normal life, happy with her family and her job in the public sector, however she always felt that something was missing.

“When I went to climb Kilimanjaro with some students for work, I felt a connection with the mountains. I was never a nature lover - before Kilimanjaro I always preferred cities, but after Kilimanjaro I saw the beauty of nature and I never understood it until I experienced it.

“I set my dream to climb Everest two years ago. It was hard and very challenging because I had to go through specific training since Everest is unlike any other mountain in the world.

“When I decided, I would always picture myself at the top with the Omani flag, and that would push me,” she said.

Conquest

“The idea of climbing Everest came from caption Khalid Al Siyabi, when I met him to listen to his story about his journey to Everest. He inspired me. I told him that I wanted to climb Everest too, and he told me ‘yes you can,” Al Harthy said.

Al Siyabi became Al Harthy’s coach. Her training sessions included running for 50 kilometers, swimming for four hours, and climbing the Sultanate’s various mountains and caves in order for her to increase her endurance level.

Al Siyabi tragically lost his life on April 28, 2019, a few weeks before Al Harthy reached the peak. Al Harthy was at the base camp when she heard the news of her coach’s death.

Terrible news

“It was terrible news for all of Oman. Khalid knew so much about climbing mountains There are many types of mountains, rocky ones, icy ones, so there are different techniques and different training for each of them,” said Al Harthy. During hard times, Al Harthy would remember all the great advice that Al Siyabi gave her.

“Captain Khalid once told me ‘this is not a race, so take your time in walking and climbing and focus on getting up and down safely,” she said.

Once she reached the top, Al Harthy held a paper which read “In memory of Khalid Al Siyabi.”

Training

As soon as Al Harthy set her goal to climb Everest, nothing would hold her back.

“I was very serious from the start. I never said I want to stop or say that this is something beyond my abilities. Yes, I was tired and many times I was crying because for those two years, I didn’t enjoy many simple things like going out to restaurants and coffee shops with my family or even travel. All I focused on was my work then training after it.”

Other mountains

In preparation for Everest, Al Harthy decided to climb in the Himalayas first. “Last year, I went to Himalaya in Nepal to climb one of the hardest mountains technically, Ama Dablam It is considered one of the hardest because of its elevation, I didn’t summit but I reached 6,500 metres,” Al Harthy said.

“I chose Ama Dablam first because I was looking for something difficult. I felt that if I choose an easy mountain it wouldn’t challenge me or help me in achieving my goal in Everest,” added Al Harthy. “I always say that I am a dreamer more than a climber, but my dream took me toward being a climber.”

In order to take the big leap towards her dream, Al Harthy had to be strong and prepare physically and emotionally.

“To live in the camps in the tents and sleeping in sleeping bags was not easy, and we only had basic dehydrated food and boiled ice water, and it was so cold because of the snow. All of that was new for me but I told myself never to complain because I knew that this is what we can have there. I had to stay positive.

“We must have goals in our life, whether it is related to work or hobbies. We must help children to know what they want to be. I wish that all families support their children from the start and not only after they succeed.” Now that Nadhirah has achieved her dreams she has set off to create new goals in her life. “Until now I don’t have a dream like Everest, but I have other goals, for example this year, I would like to patriciate in the UTMB race in Jabal Al Akhdar, and so I am currently training for that. I also want to learn about rock climbing, these are all small goals that I will go through until I get the next dream,” added Al Harthy.

Award winning filmmaker Elia Saikaly's documentary film charting the ascent, ‘The Dream of Everest’, is set to be released in October.

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