First Emirati woman conquers peak-to-peak Everest challenge

Danah Al Ali climbed Mount Everest and Lhotse in less than 24 hours

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An Emirati woman has set a new record by climbing Mount Everest and nearby Lhotse in only 24 hours.

Mount Everest is one of the deadliest climbs in the world that has claimed more than 300 lives so far.

But mother-of-two Danah Al Ali defied the risks on May 24 to become the first Emirati woman to reach the top of both mountains within a day.

Danah Al Ali becomes first Emirati woman to climb Everest and Lhotse in one day

Danah Al Ali becomes first Emirati woman to climb Everest and Lhotse in one day

As the UAE flag was unravelled from her rucksack and hoisted into the wind on the summit of Lhotse, Ms Al Ali’s thoughts turned to her children, Hamdan Al Remeithi, 15, and Elyazia Al Remeithi, 14, waiting at home and the significance of her achievement.

You never know how your body will react to the altitude, even with experience
Danah Al Ali

“The biggest challenge was leaving my children,” Ms Al Ali told The National after arriving back in Abu Dhabi.

“Your brain doesn’t stop, so my mind was always with them while they were with my parents. Even on the mountain you miss your family, and some people ended their expedition early because it is such a long time away from home,” she said.

Ms Al Ali said that to be successful on a climb, you need to have patience waiting for the right weather window and listen and trust your guides.

“We left for the summit at 1am and reached Everest about 10.30am, then set off for Lhotse four hours later,” she said.

“It was an incredible experience,” she said, adding that she opted to climb both mountains because she had “unfinished business” with Lhotse.

According to local reports, 12 climbers died trying to reach the peak of Everest this year, with five more reported missing.

If those climbers are not found alive, it will take the total mountain deaths this year beyond the previous record of 16 reported in 2014.

The climbing season this year has also been one of the busiest on record, with delayed expeditions resulting from the pandemic cited as a contributing factor.

A record 463 climbing permits were issued by the Nepal Tourism Board for the 2023 climbing season that ended in May.

Ms Al Ali was one of 96 women to attempt to climb Everest this year, but few took on the peak to peak challenge to also scale Lhotse, the world’s fourth highest mountain.

Her dream began in 2013 after returning from the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

That experience inspired her to begin a decade-long journey of preparation, which included sleeping in an oxygen tent for eight hours a night to acclimatise to the low oxygen levels experienced in the Himalayas.

Other preparations included daily physical training, hikes in the mountains of Ras Al Khaimah and snow and ice climbing in Chamonix in the French Alps.

Ms Al Ali was part of a 16-strong climbing group from a range of backgrounds and nationalities.

She left the UAE on April 26, arriving at Everest Base Camp on May 14 to complete the final preparations of her challenge, which was scheduled for a good weather window expected between May 23 and 25.

“It was a quiet day, with just our team up there,” she said.

“The weather was perfect, the sun was out, which was very lucky because it was super cold in the previous weeks, with temperatures down to about -20ºC.”

Ms Al Ali said she wanted her climb to inspire others.

“I was only the second Emirati woman to summit Everest and the first to climb both, it was an amazing feeling,” she said.

“You never know how your body will react to the altitude, even with experience.

“Unveiling the Emirati flag was an incredible moment.”

The expedition cost about $85,000 and was funded via sponsorship, including funding from Top of Her Game, a programme that encourages women to be active, ambitious and resilient. Other sponsors were Adnoc, Aldar and Thuraya.

“Despite multiple setbacks, Danah has finally achieved her dream,” said Christina Ioannidis, founder of Top of Her Game and Danah’s coach.

“To add a second peak in 24 hours seemed risky and daunting.

“However, we worked hard on her perseverance and strength to overcome the challenges, and she did just that.

“She is a role model to every woman, to every mother, who aspires to break the mould and conquer whatever mountain they have to climb.”

Updated: June 08, 2023, 12:22 PM