logo

A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children.

- John James Audubon

image

Expeditions

May 08, 2019

Oman’s Nadhirah Alharthy Knows No Limits as She Prepares to Summit Everest

In a country where mountaineering falls far outside the traditional gender purview of women, Oman's Nadhirah Alharthy is poised to become her country’s first female to ever summit Everest.

WRITTEN BY

Kela Fetters

The frigid 8,848-meter summit of the world’s tallest mountain is an environ as opposite from hot, arid Oman as imaginable. But Nadhirah Alharthy is enlivened by the gnawing cold and high-consequence terrain of the Himalayas. In 2018, the Omani woman attempted Nepal’s Ama Dablam, a 6,812-meter precipice with a reputation as a training ground for Everest hopefuls. Just shy of Ama Dablam’s exposed pinnacle, she gazed across the ice-choked valley at the Everest Massif, her eventual goal.

Two years ago, she met Khalid al Siyabi, who became the first and only Omani to tag the peak in 2010. “I want to summit Everest, too,” she recalls telling al Siyabi. In Oman, mountaineering falls far outside the traditional gender purview of women, but al Siyabi sensed the depth of Alharthy’s ambition. “Alright, let’s do it,” he replied.

In Oman, mountaineering falls far outside the traditional gender purview of women.

The 42-year-old is not an obvious candidate to be her country’s first female to crest the world’s tallest mountain. Alharthy grew up in rural Oman and moved to the capital of Muscat to study education and social sciences. She received a master’s degree in geography with an emphasis in geomorphology; her research analyzed road damage due to flash flooding.

Read about the wider Dream of Everest expedition, along with regular updates from Everest here.

Post-graduation, Alharthy landed a position at Al Amal (“The Hope”) School in Muscat and as a coordinator with NASA’s Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) program, which is an international effort to crowdsource atmospheric and environmental data. Through GLOBE, Alharthy led a team of students up Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro to collect hydrological measurements in 2015. The climb of Africa’s tallest peak was her first experience with altitude, but the native Omani acclimatized to the challenge and returned to the Arab peninsula with a nascent craving for more. Back in Oman, Alharthy threw a finger to the pulse of the nation’s climbing scene as her fledgeling mountaineering thrill fermented into an intoxicating ambition: to summit Everest.

Abseiling in wadi Qasheer

Fate would push open the door Alharthy had cracked. It was after Kilimanjaro that she met al Siyabi, who saw room for an Omani woman on the roof of the world. Alharthy began to prepare per his instruction; she was a “gym regular”, but Everest training pushed her into uncharted depths of the pain cave. What does it take to develop a mountaineer’s inexhaustible cardiovascular engine? Alharthy describes her regimen as “endurance-based”, with hiking, climbing, and swimming peppered throughout her week. For anyone without an athletic background, 2+ hours of intense aerobics is arduous‒to Alharthy, it was “a gift to myself for my upcoming 40th birthday, to prove that I could push my limits”.

In late November of 2018, she used the gruelling 137-km UTMB-Oman ultra-trail run as a measuring stick of her training progress. Despite dropping out of the race after 90 kilometers, Alharthy evinced considerable fortitude on the grinding, technical course in the remote wadis of Jebel Akhdar.

All smiles after running 90 kms of the 137-km OMAN by UTMB ultra-race

Whether training on chossy mountain trails, desert dunes, or on the paved roads of Muscat’s oven-like 33°C (91°F) heat, Alharthy is bound by Islamic Sharia law to wear the hijab. Proponents maintain that the headpiece allows wearers to retain their modesty, celebrate their religious or cultural identity, or exercise freedom of choice. Critics have called the garment an instrument of female oppression symbolic of the barriers that have kept Himalayan summits out of reach for many hijabi women. Alharthy knows that to some Omani, her pursuit of mountaineering is preternatural and improper, but she has never felt that the hijab restricts her opportunities.

“…I recognize I am carrying a message when I am climbing: if you have a dream‒even if it is hard or takes a long time, even if you must convince those around you‒you can do it.”

When Alharthy broke the news of her aspiration at school, there were a few sceptics, but most of her co-workers were encouraging. Full disclosure with her family, however, was more emotional; after training in secret for two entire years, Alharthy had to address the concern of her parents. But they’re unnerved by the danger of the ascent, not their daughter’s gender-defying pursuits. “They think that Everest is a death-wish,” she laughs. “I’m convincing them that both the technology and my ability level are there.” In short, her Everest aspirations have been largely well-received in a country where women have only recently made inroads into male-dominated activities. Images have power, and the significance of a hijabi Arab woman on top of the world is not lost on Alharthy, who noted that initially, she trained for individual fulfilment. “When I began, I was focused on a personal accomplishment,” she recalls. “But I recognize I am carrying a message when I am climbing: if you have a dream‒even if it is hard or takes a long time, even if you must convince those around you ‒ you can do it.” Sporting a hijab and an indomitable spirit, Alharthy will trumpet her message from the tallest podium known to man or woman in May of 2019.

Alharthy on Jabal Shams, Oman.

Introducing The Outdoor Voyage

The Outdoor Voyage booking platform and online marketplace only lists good operators, who care for sustainability, the environment and immersive, authentic experiences. All listed prices are agreed directly with the operator, and we promise that 86% of any money spent ends up supporting the local community that you’re visiting. Click the image below to find out more.

Continue Reading

image

Expeditions

Nov 18, 2019

Stories From The Sahel: Lake Chad, at the Cross-Section of Chad, Niger, Cameroon and Nigeria

A part of the world that explorer Reza Pakravan considers the most remote region he's visited. A place where millions of people do not feel that they belong to any particular nation.

image

WRITTEN BY

Reza Pakravan

On the 31st of July, Reza Pakravan, an explorer and filmmaker, became the first person in modern history to have travelled the full length of the Sahel. A belt of land stretching across the southern boundary of the Sahara desert, the Sahel spans the width of Africa, from Senegal to Somalia, and is home to some of the harshest conditions on the planet, where the effects of climate change are most felt and rebel uprisings are common.

Like many explorers, Reza has had a fascination with Africa since he was a boy, but felt there were still vast areas of the continent we knew little about. He wanted to document these forgotten frontiers and tell the story of those who live there, whilst setting himself a new challenge.

Having made a host of incredible journeys, including cycling the Sahara (for which he holds a Guinness World Record) and the length of the planet and travelling 4000km through the Amazon, Reza felt he was ready for this latest adventure, but it turned out to be his most courageous challenge to date and stretched him both physically and mentally like never before.

Over the coming weeks, Reza will recall stories from the region. The story below is a follow up to Reza’s first of the series, Trekking the Dogon Country in Mali.

Lake Chad, at the Cross-Section of Chad, Niger, Cameroon and Nigeria.

I have travelled to some far-flung places on Earth, but Lake Chad is the most remote place I have ever been to. In fact, Chad itself was named for a mistake. In the 1800s, European explorers arrived at the marshy banks of a vast body of fresh water in Central Africa. Because locals referred to the area as ‘chad’, the Europeans called the wetland Lake Chad, and drew it on maps. But ‘chad’ simply meant ‘lake’ in the local dialect. So here it is. Lake Chad, or ‘Lake Lake’.

The bare desert around Lake Chad – One of the harshest climates on earth.

Located right in the centre of the continent, Lake Chad is shared between four countries – Chad, Niger, Cameroon and Nigeria – and millions of people living there do not feel that they belong to any particular nation. It’s one of the largest wetlands in all of Africa: 30 million people depend on it to survive. I entered the Lake Chad area from the Niger side. As I was travelling west to east, it meant I had to go around the lake to be able to continue my journey east.

Amazonian tribes embrace technology, running their campaigns on Facebook, while a simple mobile phone has never made it to Lake Chad.

As I stepped into the small town of N’guigmi, all my senses came to life. The smell, the noise, the sights. The streets were nothing but dirt tracks, and I felt I had stepped back in time by a hundred years. I have been to over 80 countries around the world, many of which are developing countries, but I have never seen anything like that. It was hard to spot a motorised vehicle. Most people simply walked and carried heavy loads over their shoulders. Those richer ones had camels and donkeys. Dressed in their traditional outfits (the women in bright and beautiful colours; the men more conservative), they stomped through the 45-degree heat.

BOUDOUMA TRIBE WOMAN OF LAKE CHAD – ONE OF THE MOST UNTOUCHED TRIBE ON EARTH

The more I travelled, the more I realised that the modern world had not made it to this region. All over Africa, you see many people carrying mobile phones. In Lake Chad, I rarely saw any. I began to make my way around Lake Chad on the desert track roads – The heat was excruciating. Life in 45 degrees is punishing, especially when you are trying to walk over sandy terrain. Survival in such conditions, in such heat, is no easy task.

THE ONLY WAY TO GET AROUND THE REGION, A TRUCK CARRYING PEOPLE AND GOODS – IF YOU ARE LUCKY TO FIND ONE

I visited village after village, with their charming houses constructed from bamboo and hay. The Chadian army controlled the territory, leaving everyone tense and ill at ease. Checkpoint after checkpoint – I have never been to a place where my documents were checked so many times.

In the absence of any public transport, I hitched a lift with a convoy carrying people and goods, finally making it into Baga Sola, a small town which in its heyday was a hub of trade. Livestock used to be exported from here to Nigeria, fishing was rife, and islanders came from far and wide to trade their goods. I have no idea how the drivers navigated those roads. It was incredible. With nothing more than desert tracks, it was so hard to distinguish which one was going where. Arriving at different villages gave a sense of travelling back in time. No boats had engines. Instead, fishermen used pirogues and paddled long distances to fish.

“Technology here is a taboo. People don’t want to change their way of life.”

Villages are formed based on ethnicity. Lake Chad’s largest ethnic groups are the Kanembu, Boudouma, and Bougourmi, distinguished by the variously patterned scars on their faces, received during their initiations. These tribes remain some of the most untouched cultures in the world. For example, the face of a Boudouma tribesman has one major scar in the centre of his forehead and four scars on each side of his face. This easily distinguishes him from the rest of the tribes.

CARRYING WATER HOME – SURVIVAL IN THIS HARSH ENVIRONMENT IS A TALENT

I have met many indigenous people around the world and seen the rapid changes in their ways of life by the ever-encroaching imposition of the modern world. And yet, in Lake Chad, the tribes seemed to have no connection with this modern world whatsoever. This is, perhaps, no surprise. The region is so remote, so hard to get to, and the lack of infrastructure makes any connection with the outside world almost impossible. Everything is done manually and the lack of access to modern tools is felt especially.

I have seen how Amazonian tribes embrace technology, running their campaigns on Facebook, while a simple mobile phone has never made it to Lake Chad.

My guide said: “Technology here is a taboo. People don’t want to change their way of life.”

THE 20KM WALK BACK FROM SATURDAY MARKET BY LAKE CHAD REFUGEES

Reza would like to thank his the Scientific Exploration Society for making the trip possible, and his sponsors: Sun ChlorellaEagle Creek, BodyMe vegan barsTentsile Tree TentsWildlingLeStoff

Recent Articles



New World Record: Nirmal Purja Summits the 14 Highest Peaks in Just 6 Months

Nepali ex-soldier Nirmal Purja just smashed the record for summiting all the 8000ers in just half a year—the previous record? The same achievement took Kim Chang-ho, over seven years.

Book Review: Tales from the Trails

From the top of the world to the end of the earth, essays from a marathoner’s odyssey to compete on every continent and the lessons learned of friendship, life and pushing past borders

The Undeniable Beauty of Poland’s Gory Stolowe National Park

Visitors will find a rare-looking, 70 million year-old untouched land with rock formations and wildlife in this anomalous European landscape.

Privacy Preference Center

Necessary

Advertising

Analytics

Other