Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 23 August 2019

UAE's Everest hopeful tells of yak attack, gruelling training - and a $60,000 bill

Fatima Deryan is on a mission to climb the highest peaks in all seven continents

An adventurer is out to prove "nothing is off limits" for women in the Middle East as she embarks on the latest leg of a mammoth mountain mission.

Fatima Deryan, who lives in Dubai, will be scaling Mount Everest in March as part of her lofty goal to climb the seven highest peaks in all seven continents.

The 26-year-old, from Lebanon, has already successfully reached the summit of five of the formidable mountains - with only Mount Everest in the Himalayas and Vinson Massif in Antarctica left to conquer.

Ms Deryan is set to jet off for the challenge, which she expects to take two months to complete, on March 23.

She believes her personal journey is symbolic of the progress being made by women in the region.

“Women in the Middle East are experiencing a period of transformation in terms of what is possible for them,” she said.

“Look at Saudi Arabia where women are now able to drive. Women now have a greater voice than ever before here.

Fatima Deryan is driving forward with plans to tackle some of the most challenging mountain climbs on the globe.
The National joined Fatima as she trained in the RAK mountains. Anna Nielsen For The National

“I want to show them that nothing is impossible for Middle Eastern women. Arabic women can now achieve anything they want to – nothing is off limits.”

Ms Deryan launched the challenge by climbing to the top of Europe's highest peak, Elbrus in Russia, which stands nearly 5,000 metres above sea level.

While the maiden voyage was relatively straightforward, her next climb was not so easy.

“My next target was climbing Aconcagua, the highest mountain in Argentina, but I was way too overconfident,” she said.

“I got altitude sickness because I wasn’t prepared properly and my tooth popped out because of the air pressure.”

Ms Deryan still managed to reach 6,400m of the mountain that peaks at 6,962m.

She described that experience as a turning point and a valuable life lesson.

“It was a shock for me but that mountain taught me so much.

“It showed that it’s about how much effort you put into being prepared.”

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Not to be deterred, she brushed herself down and returned to Aconcagua after completing climbs in the Alps and North America.

“There was unfinished business as far as I was concerned.

After she had completed her rise to the summit of Aconcagua, she successfully took on the world’s largest active volcano, Ojos Del Salado.

By doing so she claimed the distinction of becoming the first Arabic female to ever climb the volcano.

Her level of dedication does not come without its costs – both in terms of finances and her personal life.

“I train twice a day, starting at 6am, and I barely see my friends now as all my focus is on Everest.

“It is a question of mind over matter.”

Ms Deryan also dedicated her weekends to mountain climbing.

“I go down to Ras Al Khaimah on Fridays and go rock climbing or take long hikes,” she said.

The cost of climbing Everest was an eye-watering $60,000, according to Ms Deryan.

Fatima Deryan is aiming to inspire women across the Middle East to reach the peak of their ambitions.
Fatima climbs Jebel Jais in training for Everest in March. Anna Nielsen For The National

“$11,000 of that is for the permit to climb Everest from the Nepalese government,” she said.

“The rest is to pay my Sherpa guide who will help me on the mountain and also goes towards insurance, food, travel and equipment.

The cost of following her dreams does not stop there, however.

“Everything I have made over the last four years has went on mountaineering.

“I have become a minimalist and I don’t go out partying at the weekends, I think the last time I went shopping for clothes was three years ago!”

There have also been close shaves for Ms Deryan during her days spent climbing.

“I was attacked by a yak before in Nepal, it flipped me right over, and I nearly fell into a crevasse in South America.”

She is also balancing the opening of her new business, Yalla Cleaning, an online portal for the cleaning industry, with finding time to prepare for Everest.

It was through her company that she hoped to do more for Everest than simply scale it.

“I want to help the Nepalese government clean the mountain,” she said.

“On Everest you find plastic bottles, oxygen tanks, food cans and broken equipment. People live up there for months.”

She said that she was hoping to use the launch of her new company to help raise awareness of the need to clean the mountain.

Updated: January 19, 2019 03:31 PM

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