x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Abu Dhabi architect hopes to hit new heights on Mont Blanc

Thomas Fiala is the second Abu Dhabi resident to attempt reaching the top of Western Europe's highest mountain after bad weather forced Zeina Abdo to scrap a similar bid last month.

Thomas Fiala will start his ascent to Mont Blanc on Wednesday morning.
Thomas Fiala will start his ascent to Mont Blanc on Wednesday morning.

ABU DHABI // Another Abu Dhabi resident will attempt to reach the top of western Europe's highest mountain, after bad weather forced Zeina Abdo to scrap a similar bid last month.

Thomas Fiala, 47, an American architect and civil engineer, will leave the capital today.

"Ms Abdo's quest to summit Mont Blanc was a great way to focus attention on an environmental cause," he said. "Her story just hit so close to home."

The Lebanese mother-of-two had wanted to raise awareness about climate change, receding glaciers and water scarcity.

However, bad weather forced her to abandon her climb.

Mr Fiala will begin by climbing two mountains tomorrow, before embarking on his ascent of Mont Blanc on Wednesday morning.

He, along with three other climbers and two guides, expects to reach the summit on Thursday.

"I have to admit, for a very slight moment, I did say to myself, 'Are you sure you want to do this?'" he said. "But that lasted for about five minutes.

"Yes, the adventure is always a thrill but I have a great inner drive and I need to feed that drive with some sort of extreme limits."

In October last year, Mr Fiala made the 12-day trek to the base camp of Mount Everest.

"The climb was awe inspiring and a life-changing experience," he said. "There were times that I really thought I would not make it.

What made it even more worthwhile was that through the trek he raised Dh15,000 to help build a school for orphans in Kathmandu. It was part of a Gulf for Good effort that raised a total of Dh250,000.

"After the Everest climb, I had such a huge adrenalin rush for doing it again and I could not wait to sit down and plan my next trip," he said.

He looked at the Matterhorn, the Eiger and even thought of going back to Nepal and doing the Annapurna, where some of the most popular treks are located, or Mt. Kilimanjaro.

"But once I read about and saw videos of Mont Blanc, I was hooked," Mr Fiala said. "It was the setting and location, and it offered a very good, challenging and technical, quality climb."

He has been training since February. "I don't know what to expect. It's going to take a little bit of luck and skill."

His wife, Rebecca, while supportive, admitted she did worry about her husband while he is away.

"I'm scared about it and I worry about accidents, especially with the recent avalanche," she said. "I've seen videos of Mont Blanc and it's very scary. Let's just say I'm glad that he gets home."

rruiz@thenational.ae