In the latest stage of her seven-year voyage of discovery and adventure, Tima Deryan has skied to the South Pole – another mammoth step towards becoming the first Arab woman to complete what is known as the Grand Slam of mountaineering.
The Explorer’s Grand Slam, often referred to as the Adventurers’ Grand Slam, is the challenge to complete the Seven Summits, the highest peak on each continent, and ski to the North and South poles.
Not content with wrapping up the Seven Summits challenge, Ms Deryan ― from Lebanon ― skied to the South Pole on December 16.
With a North Pole ski now firmly set in her sights and an expedition there planned for April, her childhood dream of becoming the first Arab woman to complete the full set of challenges is within touching distance.
According to Explorer’s Grand Slam website, about 73 people have completed the challenge, of which fewer than 20 are women.
This makes Ms Deryan’s ambitions for 2023 an extra special entry into the history books.
“I have been climbing since 2016 and have always been into extreme sports,” she said. “Living in the UAE encourages you to try new things, so I have done scuba diving and sky diving.
“I was working in finance in Dubai when I listened to a motivational speaker talk about Everest.
“It reminded me of my dream when I was 14 years old when I flew over Everest with my family, and I told them I wanted to come back to climb it one day.”
Tima Deryan's adventure journey
Ms Deryan, 30, started by climbing the highest peak in Europe, the 5,642m Mount Elbrus in the western Caucasus mountains of Russia in 2016.
That ignited a passion for climbing around the world and a dream to conquer all seven summits on each of the continents of the world.
They include the highest, Mount Everest in Asia (8,850m); followed by Aconcagua in Argentina, South America (6,962m); Denali ― also known as Mount McKinley in Alaska, North America (6,190m); Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa (5,895m); Puncak Jaya or Mount Carstensz in Indonesia, Oceania (4,884m) and Mount Vinson in Antarctica (4,892m).
“Not a lot of people have done that, but it made me want to extend my challenge further by skiing to the North and South poles,” Ms Deryan said.
“I completed the ski to the South Pole while I was in Antarctica and now I hope to complete the other leg of the ski in April to become the first Arab woman to finish the challenge and only the 17th woman overall.
“It was very costly, but I saw it as an investment in myself.”
After the climbing began in 2016, on December 16 she completed the penultimate leg of her challenge, a South Pole ski.
Each challenge involved a different support team with specialist local knowledge to ensure the climb continued safely.
A planned journey to the North Pole will take Ms Deryan to a latitude of 90° north, where all meridians of longitude meet and the only direction is south.
It is found in the middle of the Arctic Ocean in frozen waters 4,000m deep that are covered with constantly shifting sea ice about 3m thick.
“The mental fortitude and physical side is one thing, but funding these trips is also a challenge. It is important to go after your passion,” she said.
“Antarctica was like landing on the Moon. Once you land there, it is so beautiful, but also so empty with just research centres and continental outposts.
“Frostbite was a constant threat and you can never get warm. You learn to live with the cold.
“You hike, trek or ski for 10 hours a day and camp anywhere you can ... it is the same scenery every day.
“Every hour we would take a 12-minute break to rehydrate, we were exhausted so we had to load up on fat and sugar after each day.
“The wind could reach 40 knots and it would be minus 50°C on some occasions, so it was very challenging making camp each night after pulling a 45kg sledge during the day.
“My aim is to represent the image of a strong Arab woman around the world and show what we can do.
“My freedom was not easy to take and I have broken through barriers to do what I want to do.
“Hopefully I can help people to change their mindsets.”