UAE Armed Forces team returns from Everest climb
ABU DHABI // For 30-year old serviceman Ghanim Al Durg of the Armed Forces, the only thing that could have got between him and the summit of the world’s tallest mountain would have been bad weather.
Luckily for him and a dozen of his military colleagues, a suitable window of opportunity appeared at just the right time, allowing the group to plant the nation’s flag on the peak of Mount Everest.
“When I stood on the summit, it was as if I was in a plane,” he said. “All the clouds were beneath me.
“I don’t know how to explain it and I don’t think you’d be able to feel what I felt when I was on the top. I saw the entire Earth.”
The serviceman and his team were welcomed back to the country on Thursday after scaling Everest last week.
Their plane touched down at Al Bateen Executive Airport in Abu Dhabi in the late afternoon, where they were given a hero’s welcome as family, friends, Armed Forces colleagues and Government officials gathered on the tarmac to greet the climbers, along with their team of physicians and trainers.
“Physically we were capable of doing this, but mentally, it depended on the individual,” he said.
To make their final push for the summit, which is at 8,848 metres above sea level – approximately the cruising altitude of a jet aircraft – the team had to climb 1,600m over the course of 17 hours from camp three, stopping only for a brief rest at camp four in the oxygen-deficient so-called “death zone”, while enduring temperatures as low as -30°C.
The group of soldiers planted the UAE flag on Everest’s peak in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the unification of the country’s Armed Forces.
Even before making the successful final push to the top, the group had received a message of goodwill from Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.
Sheikh Mohammed said: “You men have already made me very proud with what you have achieved … you are already winners to our nation.”
He later sent them a congratulatory text message after learning they had reached the summit.
To get there, they had spent about five years training all over the world, including Alaska, Switzerland and Morocco.
About 150 climbers summited on the same day as the servicemen, making for quite a competitive environment, said Hasan Al Naqbi, 32.
“There was a lot of traffic up there, moving slowly,” he said. “It was every man for himself, but we had teamwork. The feeling was amazing. You train for five years and you see all those five years in one moment.
“We spent about 10 minutes up there, but I’d give anything to go up there again.”
The team’s achievement will be the focus of a documentary – a joint effort between the General Command of the Armed Forces, represented by the Moral Guidance Directorate, and National Geographic Abu Dhabi TV.
But the Everest climbing season was also marred by tragedy. This year five climbers lost their lives on the mountain.
And in April last year, a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Nepal, triggering an avalanche that killed at least 22 people on the mountain, making it the single deadliest event at Everest.
“We had our target, to do these small things for our country,” said climber Nasser Al Blooshi, 39, who suffered frostbite on his hands and feet during the expedition. “But my mind was only on reaching the summit.”
A 12-member Armed Forces women’s team also returned home this month after climbing 5,364 metres to reach Everest base camp. They also earned the Crown Prince’s praise.
Updated: May 26, 2016 04:00 AM