UAE residents who scaled Everest recall the horrors
Dubai - Sixty-six years later, it is not quite lonely at the top.
In popular imagination, Mount Everest has been the ultimate test of human endurance ever since Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay stood atop its summit in 1953. Sixty-six years later, it is not quite lonely at the top. Not only was the recently-concluded climbing season deemed one of the deadliest with 11 deaths, a viral photo of hordes of climbers queuing up at the top has sparked a debate on who should be allowed at the Everest. Dubai resident Fatima Deryan, who became the first Lebanese woman to scale Everest, was part of this queue.
"We were in that line for two hours each while climbing up and down. There were just too many people there, I could guess there were about 150 of them in front of me. It was extremely windy, with very less oxygen and everyone was wearing masks," she says.
Fatima is not exactly new to the world of climbing, having started four years ago and prepping for Everest for six months. While she admits there is no substitute for preparation, Everest - she says - always throws surprises. "Sleeping in tents, showering four times in two months, walking in four degrees - all of this requires acclimatisation," she says.
During the course of her expedition, Fatima says she did observe several inexperienced climbers. "There were more than 300 permits that were given this year. There is one rope on the way to the summit. You have to hold on to it while going up. Most people were tired and would lean on each other. I had a guy collapse in front of me. On top of this, there was a storm when we were stuck in this traffic. It was a mess," recalls Fatima.
She emphasises on the need to do a detailed background check on the profile of the people who aspire to climb Mount Everest. "There are a lot of people who haven't climbed a mountain before and the Sherpa does everything for them.
The summit window is very short, you have about 10 days. I went on the most crowded day. I started at 8pm at night and completed at 9pm in the morning because of the crowd."
Fatima wasn't hoping to become the first Lebanese woman to reach the top of Everest. "There were two other Lebanese girls who were part of another expedition. According to the rules, if you even step one foot before anyone, you become the first person to reach the summit - it doesn't matter how and when.
I went there thinking I was young and didn't really care for any distinctions. I thought the other group would make it before me. When I climbed down, I saw everyone applauding and congratulating me. It was really unexpected," says Fatima.
This was also the week when Dubai-based mountaineer Dolores Shelleh, who hails from Jordan, became the first Arab woman to scale Everest from North Col territory. North Col is the region that connects Everest to Changtse in Tibet and is believed to be a more technically challenging terrain. Naturally then, it attracts fewer climbers. "The camps there are higher. The body often tends to get weak.
I lost a lot of weight and was dehydrated. The north side is more rocky and colder. The southern side is where most commercial companies hold expeditions and hence it's more crowded. On the northern side, there are more restrictions from the Chinese government; they make sure that you have more experience because the conditions are more difficult here."
Dolores, whose expedition was supported by the Dubai Sustainable City and who has also summited Mount Manaslu, says she chose to climb from the north primarily because she was aware of the challenges it would pose. "After climbing Everest, I am just thankful to be alive and back. In fact, on my way back, I saw a man die. What happened to him, I think, was that he had exhausted his oxygen. Some people just push their limits too much, to a point where they cannot function anymore." She also recalls a fellow climber climbing without oxygen. "It was his fourth attempt, but it did not go down well. They had to urgently send him down."
While the highlight of her trip has been interacting with different communities of people, she admits that it's the Sherpas who are "our angels".
"It would not be possible to climb the summit without them. Some people blame them rather easily - sometimes they are right and sometimes wrong. For instance, I had a small incident where I was with a guide and my Sherpa decided to go to a lower camp without informing me. I was shocked. Although I was with a guide but what if he needed to go," says Dolores.