Nayla Al Baloushi has become the first Emirati woman to climb Mount Everest.
The UAE citizen reached the 8,849-metre summit on May 14 and had one word to describe the top of the world – “amazing”.
“I’m so happy, I’m really happy,” Ms Al Baloushi told The National.
“I still cannot believe that I did this.”
Mental and physical strength were both vital in the expedition through treacherous, icy terrain in which temperatures dropped to chilling minus 40°C.
“There was no other thought in my mind but that I’m going to do Everest,” she said.
“I had no doubt, nothing else, just Everest.”
Ms Al Baloushi said she was inspired by her husband Saeed Al Memari, a fellow adventurer who has climbed Mount Everest twice.
Mr Al Memari, 45, has already completed the explorer grand slam; a mountaineer’s goal to reach the North Pole and South Pole and climbing the world’s seven highest summits.
He is currently halfway through his Peak for Peace mission, spreading the message of harmony from the UAE by climbing the highest mountain in every country. He has so far climbed 100 mountains.
“My aim is to reach 193 countries,” he said.
Mr Al Memari was the first Emirati to scale Mount Everest in 2012 and part of the first Emirati team in 2016 with the UAE armed forces.
Ms Al Baloushi’s successful climb makes them the first Arab couple to conquer the world’s highest mountain.
“I thought about doing it three months before I went to Nepal,” she said. “My husband did not know.
“I was not sure I could do it so I called a company and they took some information and asked me a few questions. Last year I climbed Broad Peak in Pakistan. I did not summit, I reached 7,300m.
“But because of this they told me it was possible for me to climb Everest.”
Proud of his wife’s success, Mr Al Memari said it would show young Emirati women that they can achieve their goals with determination and focus.
“My wife worked hard to be number one, the first Emirati woman on Everest. It’s a great message for young Emirati women that nothing is impossible,” said the Emirati adventurer who has also scaled K2, the world’s second-highest mountain.
“They will think ‘if she did it, so can we’.”
The Emirati mountaineer set herself a goal to conquer the world’s highest peak only three months ago.
Support from Mr Al Memari gave her the motivation to take on the Himalayan peak.
“Saeed used to tell me ‘Everest is easy’ and he put this idea in my head,” she said.
“Everest was not on my mind at all before. I decided only three months before that I would climb Everest.
“He was really encouraging and it stayed in my mind that Everest is easy, I have to just keep walking.
“And to be honest it was just like that; an uphill walk. You need to be patient and keep walking.”
She climbed with a Nepalese Sherpa guide, taking 10 days from base camp to summit and staying for six days at camp 2, which at 6,400m is a launch pad to the peak.
Modest and down-to-earth about her achievement, Ms Al Baloushi said favourable weather, with sunny skies and low winds, played a part in her success.
She has met several climbers who were forced to turn back in previous years due to storms and high winds that swept across the slopes, often with little warning.
“You have to respect the mountain because you don’t know when the weather will change,” she said.
“For me the weather was perfect, it was a little windy but there were no surprises.
“It can get scary with high winds, you may get frostbite but I did not face any of this.”
Fitness a way of life
Ms Al Baloushi is no stranger to an active lifestyle and she runs and cycles as part of her daily routine, as well as being a qualified free diver.
She began taking on high altitude peaks over the past two years, often climbing with her husband.
Since 2020, Ms Al Baloushi has climbed Greater Ararat in Turkey and Armenia, Mount Cameroon and Mount Hoverla in Ukraine.
“Before you start any sport you have to be fit,” she said. “Exercising is my lifestyle.
“It’s not something I have to do, I enjoy doing it. I’m a dive master and I do free diving.
“I don’t train for climbing. It’s just my life.”
Ms Al Baloushi believes her Everest triumph will inspire women in the country and region to scale new heights, metaphorically speaking.
“They have to hold on to their dreams,” she said, “they have to have faith. You have to be sure that it’s your dream and you will achieve it.”
The adventure is not over for this ambitious Emirati couple, who plan to travel to Djibouti this weekend to tick another mountain, Mousa Ali, off the list of summits reached around the world.