Albert Einstein said to “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” Nature is almost a meditative place for most of its seekers and this is the common thread that you will find with most people who seek outdoor adventures. This is especially true for mountaineers and through-hikers who seek an added element of challenge and adversity in their adventures, whether it's a physical challenge because it’s the first time or the challenge of rough weather beyond what they're accustomed to. That’s why you’ll always find people asking themselves: why do adventure seekers do this? What will they gain from it? What pushes humans to seek risk-laden adventures when you can just as easily travel somewhere and sightsee and have a good time without the danger element? It's probably best you hear it from the adventurers themselves as they share their most memorable experiences climbing a mountain and how standing on top of some of the highest peaks around the world changed their perspectives on life.
SARAH GHALI, MOUNT KILIMANJARO, TANZANIASarah Ghali loves outdoor adventures. Her first travel experience was a volunteer trip to Namibia in a wildlife rehabilitation centre in 2011. There she heard a lot of people talking about Mount Kilimanjaro – one of the seven highest summits in the world and the highest in Africa – and without further ado, decided it was going to be her next adventure. When she came back to Egypt she very easily managed to convince four other friends to join her on this adventure at a time when that wasn't yet common here.
“This was the first time any of us had climbed a mountain, so it was unknown territory for all of us. So as we were sort of learning as we went along, we started to research about what it means to hike a mountain that's higher than 5800 meters and what kind of dangers you might face, what kind of weather to expect as you go higher and the gear we need to have with us. For example, we found out that there is this device we have to tie to our footwear and then to our pants in order to stop mud from getting inside the shoe. So it was like a crash course on mountaineering. No matter how much you learn or study about mountains, as soon as you get out there and actually do it, it’s a whole other story.”
No matter how much you learn or study about mountains, as soon as you get out there and actually do it, it’s a whole other story.
The climb was definitely not an easy feat for either Ghali or her friends but as soon as they reached the top everything else melted away. To the extent that she felt that any description she could give will fall short or sound like a cliche. “The view of the sunrise and the peak I was standing on made me feel how small humans are in the midst of the nature that surrounds us. And even though I did feel some form of regret as I was trying to reach the top and questioned what the hell made us come here even, as soon as I arrived at the top I found myself already thinking about where my next adventure will take me and which peak I am going to stand on top of next. I even found myself thinking about how I would love to one day bring my own family here to experience this with me like the countless other families that I found doing the same thing here and how these parents are teaching their children from such a young age how to live in nature and how to love it and cherish it instead of being on their phones all the time.”
ALI EL MOFTI, MOUNT BWAHIT, ETHIOPIA For Ali El Mofti, climbing a mountain was something he had been curious about for a very long time. For a while, he had been wanting to immerse himself in other African countries, especially Ethiopia. So when he had a 17-day trip planned to Ethiopia, he decided to take the opportunity to summit Mount Bwahit (also known as the Simiens Mountains), which is located in the north of Ethiopia. Even though he already had some climbing experience, climbing both Mount Moses and St Catherine in Egypt in 1997, the 4400-metre mountain in Ethiopia was a whole other ball game.
“The nature and the formation of the earth over there was something I had never seen before in my life. It was also one of the most dangerous experiences I’ve ever had. To be hiking up a mountain this high while it's constantly raining to the extent that the rocks and paths became quite slippery – it was really dangerous.” But despite all these dangers, for El Mofti, the climb wasn’t the most memorable thing. What he remembers most are the locals who lived along the path on his way to the top and how their lives are so simple in the middle of all this beauty. These moments of tranquility and beauty that these people lived in, in the middle of nature, left him in awe.
HAZEM EL SHAMY, MOUNT KYAJO RI, NEPAL
In 2016, Hazem El Shamy was returning from a Himalayas hiking trip where he climbed mount Nirekha when he saw a mountain that caught his attention. Despite the fact that a cluster of mountains usually look unremarkable or very much the same, this one looked different. It had a pointy peak and steep slopes, and El Shamy decided then and there that he must climb this one. So, in 2017, he returned to Nepal and climbed Mount Kyajo Ri, which is 6186 meters high.
“The main difficulty in climbing Kyajo Ri was the fact that it was quite remote and difficult to get to, and there were rarely any climbers who wanted to climb it. So it was not really equipped with any of the regular 'amenities' you’re used to when climbing other mountains like support ropes, camping sights, etc., so that meant that we had to take every single thing we needed with us.”
You go in not knowing what to expect and not knowing what will happen and whether you’ll be able to deal with what comes your way or not. Adventures like these teach you a lot about yourself.
Even though both climbing experiences in Nepal were only one year apart, El Shamy found the experiences completely different. His body had to learn very different techniques and he needed to deal with the weather at such altitudes, and the snowstorms no matter what. “It was an incredible feeling to reach the top after all I went through to get there, and an even better feeling to reach the bottom and the point where it all started. But the best feeling was returning to Egypt in one piece without any losses – that's what made me feel truly accomplished. This is how I would explain all of my mountaineering experiences: you go in not knowing what to expect and not knowing what will happen and whether you’ll be able to deal with what comes your way or not. Adventures like these teach you a lot about yourself and the bonus is that you make amazing connections along the way.”
SAM NASSIF, QORNET SODE MOUNTAIN (OR MOUNTAIN OF THE MARTYRS), LEBANONLebanon has no shortage of beautiful mountains that are green and lush in the summer and snowy in the winter. Even though Sam Nassif was used to seeing those mountains on his weekly hikes or cycling trips, he still decided that his first climb should be Qornet Sode Mountain – the highest mountain in Lebanon and the Levant with a height of 3,093 metres. Its difficulty is in the fact that the mountain is surrounded by nothing at all along the way; it's completely deserted, where the only thing you’ll meet are the occasional sheep or goats.
“I wanted this mountain to be my training for Everest Base Camp. I needed to get used to reaching such altitudes. But the climb itself wasn’t very challenging for me because I hike a lot in general so my body is used to that. The toughest thing for me was being completely alone the entire time. I had a group of friends who were supposed to join me but changed their minds five hours before we were meant to head out, but I insisted that I will go even if I was going to be alone.”
Like anyone who likes this type of adventure, Nassif views this as a way to get back to nature. “Closing your eyes and hearing the sounds of nature – like trees rustling, rivers flowing or birds chirping or even just the sound of the wind –we forget what that feels like in our cacophonous daily lives.”
OMAR SAMRA, THE ALPS, SWITZERLANDOmar Samra needs no introduction. He’s the first Egyptian to reach the top of Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world and the first Egyptian to climb all Seven Summits. He is a well-known seeker of adventure but what was it that started it all and sparked this love? For Samra it all started in 1994, he was 16 and he was at a month-long summer camp in Lausanne, Switzerland. Every weekend there would be different activities to choose from and one day one of the options was climbing the Alps.
“I had never seen snow before and never climbed a mountain before and I thought this was something I’d never get a chance to do again and I want to try it. And I did and I was the first one in the group to reach the summit, despite the fact that I was not used to navigating snow at all. When I got to the summit, there was a book up on top, which had the names of the people who summited the mountain before and where they’re from, and I realized there was no Egyptians who’ve been here before, I was the first one. I wrote my name and I wrote Egypt, it was such a big moment in my life feeling that I was representing my country up there and at that early age; it was something really cool.”
There was a book up on top, which had the names of the people who summited the mountain before and where they’re from, and I realised there was no Egyptians who’ve been here before.
In that moment of pride is when he first had the idea to summit Everest and be the first Egyptian to do it, a feat he managed to accomplish many years after in 2007. “What I like the most about hiking or climbing mountains is the sense of peace that I get when I’m in the mountains, fighting the inner battles in my mind when I’m out there in nature. It’s also when I get the best clarity for my thoughts and ideas and what I want to do with my life. It’s a very beautiful place, the mountains, the scenery also from a spiritual serene kind of perspective. Not to mention, the sense of camaraderie you get when you climb with people. Going through something really hard with them, you get to know them and bond with them, the kind of experiences you don’t get from anything else.”