First Emirati woman who climbed Denali now targets Vinson Massif
Dubai - The expedition to Denali took a total of 18 days
Despite freezing temperatures, fearsome storms and the effects of altitude, in June Hanady Alhashmi became the first Emirati woman to climb Alaska's 6,190-metre Denali, the highest - and one of the most treacherous - summits in North America.
Denali - formerly known as Mount McKinley - is one of the most sought after summits in the world, and forms part of the famed "Seven Summits" - the seven tallest mountains on each continent. Denali, in particular, is known for its unfriendly and unstable weather conditions, which are often freezing and wet.
According to Alhashmi, the expedition took a total of 18 days: 15 to reach the summit and three to descend back to base camp.
"From day one, it was very tough. You have to be mentally strong to continue every day, not just physically," she told Khaleej Times. "It was not only exhausting, but hard to believe. When I think about all the stages, it was unbelievable."
Alhashmi added that her expedition "was very lucky" with the weather, as this season saw particularly tough weather. Only about 30 per cent of expeditions managed to make the summit this season.
"A week or two before the expedition, (other groups of climbers) couldn't even make it halfway up the mountain," she noted. "They kept telling us we could get frostbite. Things like that can scare you. Sometimes you're hiking or walking up for hours. You can start to feel your hands get really cold and you have to swing your arms to make them warm."
|-Climb took 18 days: 15 to reach the summit and three to descend|
-Summit success this climbing season was about 30 percent because of harsh weather conditions
-Throughout the expedition, Alhashmi and the other members of her expedition had to be roped up at all times in case they fell into crevasses.
-There was constant sunlight because of Denali's proximity to the Arctic Circle, making sleeping difficult
-Alhashmi trained for five months prior to the expedition, which included pulling tyres in the desert while carrying a 20kg pack, wall climbing, weight lifting, cycling, swimming, running and hiking, often for two or three hours both before and after work.
Remarkably, Alhashmi managed to complete the trek despite suffering from the physical effects of the altitude and weather. She noted that the guides had to check on her constantly to ensure she wasn't suffering from high-altitude pulmonary edema, a potentially fatal fluid accumulation in the lungs that can strike down even the fittest mountaineers at altitudes of over 2,500 meters.
"A week into the expedition, I got a chest infection, which makes it really hard to breathe and walk up the mountain. With the altitude, my chest (was) heavy and I coughed endlessly," she said. "I had a hard time sleeping at night. I got a fever, but tried to drink as much fluids as I could and was given a course of antibiotics for four days."
"It wouldn't get any better until I got off the mountain," she added. "I was fortunate and strong enough physically to continue with the expedition."
Despite already having reached the summits of two more of the world's tallest summits - the 6,961-metre Aconcagua in Argentina and the 5,621-metre Mount Elbrus in Russia - Alhashmi says she has been climbing for only about three years.
"I started hiking in the UAE and Oman. I started off with just exploring. Then it became more of a hobby. I wanted to explore more, and I just kept going for more challenging mountains and joined a lot of groups," she noted.
"Then I started my quest to climb the seven summits."
When asked what advice she would give to other aspiring young female climbers, Alhashmi said that anyone interested in mountaineering should "start off small."
"Start local, like what I did," she said. "Just explore and have fun."
Alhashmi added that she has already begun thinking about her next conquest: Antarctica's 4,892-metre Vinson Massif.
"That's still a work in progress."