Raha Moharrak Becomes First Saudi Woman To Climb Mt. Everest

Raha Moharrak
Raha Moharrak

Raha Moharrak has become the first woman from Saudi Arabia to climb Mt. Everest when she made it to the summit yesterday after a grueling climb.

The 25-year-old climber first had to convince her family to allow her to make the attempt, and then had to undergo rigorous training to climb the world’s tallest peak. She was part of a four-person team called Arabs on Top of the World. The team also includes Sheikh Mohammed Al Thani, the first Qatari, and Raed Zidan, the first Palestinian to make the attempt. Masoud Mohammad, an Iranian, is also on the expedition.

The team is working on a rotation system with other expeditions, so the men are currently trying to make the ascent.

The team isn’t only making history; they’re also making a difference. They’re trying to raise $1 million for educational projects in Nepal. A donate button can be found on their website. This is a cause near and dear to Moharrak’s heart. She’s currently a graduate student in Dubai.

80-Year-Old Climbers Vie For Record Of Oldest To Summit Everest

Min Bahadur Serchan looks to remain the oldest to summit Everest.Two octogenarians are preparing to go head-to-head to determine who will hold the record for the oldest to summit Mt. Everest; 81-year-old Min Bahadur Sherchan of Nepal and his 80-year-old rival Yuichiro Miura of Japan are both currently in Everest Base Camp on the South Side of the mountain. Sometime in the next couple of weeks, the two climbers will set out for the 29,029-foot summit as they both look to fulfill a dream of climbing Everest in their eighth decade. Setting a new mark for the oldest person to accomplish that feat would simply be icing on the cake.

Sherchan is the current record holder, having previously climbed Everest in 2008 at the age of 76. He managed to reach the top of the world’s tallest peak exactly one day before his Japanese counterpart, who was 75 at the time. That was Miura’s second successful summit as he also climbed the mountain in 2003 at the age of 70.

Unsurprisingly, the rivalry between these two climbers is a bit one-sided. Sherchan says that he hasn’t returned to Everest in an effort to keep his record but instead he simply wants to attempt to climb the mountain in his 80s. Miura on the other hand is quoted as saying, “records are meant to be broken.” Clearly he would relish the opportunity to claim this crown for himself. In order to do that, however, he must first reach the summit and then hope that Serchan does not.

The two men will soon get the opportunity to prove that they still have the strength and skill to pull off this difficult climb despite their advancing age. If everything goes as planned, the Sherpa team charged with fixing the ropes up the mountain will complete their work tomorrow. That will clear the way for the commercial climbing squads to begin their ascents once they get a clear weather window that will provide access to the summit. The forecast calls for high winds over the next few days, but things should start to improve early next week. After that, the two men will have their duel on the slopes.

[Photo Credit: Yuichiro Miura]

Three Mountaineers Assaulted On Mt. Everest By Sherpas

Sherpas on Everest attacked three climbers this weekendThe 2013 spring climbing season on Mt. Everest took a strange and unexpected turn this past weekend when a team of three climbers was assaulted by a mob of angry Sherpas. The incident first began at one of the mountain’s high camps, then reignited further down the slope when tempers flared up once again. If it weren’t for the brave intervention of other Western climbers, the conflict could have resulted in severe injury, or even the death, of the mountaineers involved.

This past Saturday, independent climbers Ueli Steck of Switzerland, Simone Moro of Italy and Jonathan Griffith of the U.K. were all climbing towards Camp 3, located at 7200 meters (23,622 feet), when they came across a team of Sherpas. The high altitude guides were busy fixing lines up the mountain that the commercial climbers will use as they scale it over the next few weeks. The Sherpas asked the Europeans to stay off the ropes while they were being worked on, as it was possible the climbers could dislodge debris and send it falling down on them while they worked. Steck, Moro and Griffith, who are each very accomplished climbers, agreed with the request and proceed up the slope using their own ropes that ran parallel to those the Sherpas were working on.

As they neared their campsite, the three climbers needed to cross the fixed ropes in order to get to their tents. As they carefully proceeded over the lines, the lead Sherpa, who was working above them at the time, rapidly descended and immediately began shouting at them to stay off the ropes. He accused the team of dislodging a chunk of ice, which struck and injured one of his workers below. Something the European climbers deny. The argument only escalated from there, culminating with the entire Sherpa team ceasing their work and descending to Camp 2 in a huff.Steck, Moro and Griffith then proceeded to their campsite to drop off several loads of gear and discuss what to do next. In an effort to extend an olive branch and show respect to the Sherpas for their efforts, Steck decided to help with the rope fixing himself, adding 260 additional meters to the work that had already been completed. But after spending some time mulling their options, they decided it was best to descend to Camp 2 just as the Sherpas had.

Sherpas on Everest attacked mountaineers this weekendUpon arriving there, they were immediately met with an angry mob. The team of 17 Sherpas that the climbers had confronted on the mountain slopes had grown to nearly 100. The group attacked the three men, punching and kicking them repeatedly. Some threw rocks at them in an effort to severely injure or even kill them. The incensed Sherpa contingent was clearly out for blood.

Fortunately, other Western climbers were on site and jumped in to serve as a buffer zone between the trio from Europe and their assailants. It took the better part of an hour, but things finally began to calm down. At that time, the Sherpas told Steck, Moro and Griffith that they had better get back down the mountain to Base Camp, because if they spent the night in C2, one of them would lose his life. They promised to see to the other two climbers as well.

Grabbing a few pieces of gear, the three men descended back to Base Camp, but out of fear for their lives they didn’t use any of the fixed ropes that are in place along the route. When they arrived in BC, Ueli Steck was immediately flown to a hospital in a nearby village for treatment. He had suffered a minor injury to his head when he was struck by a rock during the melee but doctors didn’t find any serious damage. After spending a night under observation, he was back in Base Camp the following day.

The team had been considering continuing the expedition. Steck and Moro are two of the best climbers of their generation and they don’t give up easily. But after meeting with authorities yesterday and members of the Sherpa association, the three European climbers have decided to call it quits for the season and head home.

In the aftermath of the violent incident, three of the Sherpas have been removed from the mountain, while the police and the Ministry of Tourism investigates what exactly happened. Everyone knows that this story won’t be good for Nepal’s image, which relies heavily on tourism dollars from climbers and trekkers to stay afloat.

[Photo Credits: Rupert Taylor-Price via Wikimedia, Jonathan Griffith]

Polar Explorer Attempting January Denali Summit Again

Polar explorer Lonnie Dupre is attempting a Denali summit in JanuaryThere are two things you can say with certainty about polar explorer Lonnie Dupre. The man is certainly persistent in his pursuits and he has an undeniable affinity for the cold places of our planet. For the third straight year, Dupre has ventured to Denali (also known as Mt. McKinley) in Alaska to attempt a solo summit of the mountain in January – the coldest, darkest and harshest time of year on that unforgiving peak.

With a height of 20,320 feet, Denali is the tallest mountain in North America and a difficult climb under the best of conditions. Only 16 climbers have ever managed to reach its summit during the winter and none were able to accomplish that feat in January when temperatures routinely fall below -60°F and high winds pummel the mountain’s upper slopes. As if those conditions weren’t difficult enough, blizzards can rage for days, depositing heavy snow across the mountain and creating potentially deadly avalanches as well. In short, it is pretty much one of the most inhospitable places on the planet at the moment.

Dupre, who has visited the North Pole on two separate occasions and navigated the length of the Northwest Passage by dogsled, is clearly unphased by these challenges. As in years past, he is climbing with just the bare essential gear and supplies in an attempt to move as fast as possible. He hasn’t even bothered to bring a tent on the expedition choosing instead to dig a series of snow caves that he can use for shelter at various altitudes.Thus far the weather has been less than cooperative once again this season and Dupre spent the better part of the month waiting in the small town of Talkeetna for the skies to clear. Eventually conditions improved just enough for him to catch a flight out to the Kahiltna Glacier. From there, he was able to organize his gear and start the two-day trek to Base Camp, but so far he hasn’t been able to climb any higher than 8800 feet. A heavy storm has fallen across the region and according to Dupre’s support team at home, more than 7 feet of snow has fallen on his position in the past few days. That has made it impossible for him to climb any higher, as visibility as been reduced to almost nothing.

For now, our intrepid climber sits and waits for conditions to improve to see if he can actually make a serious attempt at the summit. In 2011 he was able to get as high as 17,200 feet and last year he reached 15,400 feet before being forced to turn back. Perhaps this time he is getting the bad weather out of the way early and it will clear up later in the month. Temperatures haven’t been nearly as bad as they were on his previous attempts either, so that is a promising sign for possible success should the snow ever stop falling.

Dupre is documenting his climb with the hopes of making a film about his adventure. But rather than wait for that film to be released down the line, you can follow his progress on his website now.

[Photo Credit: National Park Service]


20130108.lonniedupre.interview from Lonnie Dupre on Vimeo.

Climbers summit K2 for first time in three years

Four climbers reached the summit of K2 earlier this week.K2, arguably the world’s toughest mountain to climb, was conquered for the first time in more than three years earlier this week, when an international team of three men and one woman reached the summit. They were the first people to stand on top of the mountain since the tragic 2008 climbing season, during which 11 people lost their lives.

Located in the Karakoram mountain range, K2 straddles the border between Pakistan and China and stands 8611 meters (28,251 ft) in height. It is the second highest peak in the world, behind only Mt. Everest, although it is orders of magnitude more challenging to climb. While each year more than 500 people summit Everest, the top of K2 is rarely visited at all due to its extreme technical challenges and notoriously bad weather. In fact, K2 has earned the nickname “the Savage Mountain” because of its high level of difficulty and the fact that for every four climbers who have successfully reached the top, one has died trying.

On Tuesday, Austrian climber Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, along with Polish mountaineer Darek Zaluski and Kazakhs Maxut Zumayev and Vassiliy Pivtsov ended the three-year drought on K2 by reaching the summit from the Chinese side of the mountain. Climbing for nearly 18 hours, the team endured waist deep snow and -25ºF temperatures on their way up, although the winds were mercifully light and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. That afforded them some great views from the summit, but the exhausted group didn’t linger for long, as they still had a long trek back to their high camp below.
The successful summit earned Kaltenbrunner the distinction of becoming the first woman to climb all fourteen of the world’s 8000-meter peaks without the use of supplemental oxygen. While most high altitude mountaineers wear an oxygen mask and tank to help them breathe in the thin air, she did it using just her own lungs, which puts her in a very elite squad of climbers.

The team has now descended back to their Base Camp, where they are collecting all of their gear and are preparing to head home. After spending two months on K2 preparing for this summit push, they are no doubt more than ready to get back to their friends and families, not to mention a few creature comforts. I’m guessing a warm shower, a comfortable bed, and their favorite foods all sound pretty good about now.

[Photo credit: Kevin Mayea]