A Dubai-based graphic designer became the first Saudi woman to climb Mount Everest in May. The 27-year-old Raha Moharrak, originally from Jeddah, began the climb in early April in a fund-raising campaign for education in Nepal. “I really don't care about being the first,” she said. “So long as it inspires someone else to be second.” Also in her expedition group were three other graduates of the American University of Sharjah.
The peak of Everest, at 8,848 metres, is the world’s highest point above sea-level (although, if measured from the centre of the earth, only the fifth highest). Although there are mountains that are more difficult to climb, Everest is treacherous because of the cold, which causes frostbite; the thin air, which requires acclimatisation and makes hiking tough; sheer drops; exposed ridges; and shifting rocks and ice. Mountaineers can only spend a maximum of two or three days at the “death zone,” above 8,000 metres, where there’s not enough oxygen in the air to sustain life.
Although climbing Everest has become increasingly popular, with new records set by teenagers, octogenarians and the blind, many have died in the attempt. Because of the difficulties posed by a rescue attempt, an estimated 150 climbers have died on the route.
Elsewhere in the Himalayas, however, are even tougher challenges. A peak known as Annapurna I, which is prone to avalanches, has seen only 157 successful attempts, making it the most dangerous mountain to climb in the world.
Extreme holidays have become increasingly popular, some commenters say, leading some adventurers to set off on a journey without proper knowledge of the risks. Meanwhile, thrill-seekers compete to find new ways to stand out from the crowd.
On the second-highest mountain in the world – K2, on the border of Pakistan and China – one person has died for every four who made it to the top. It’s more remote, with less predictable weather than Everest, but this hasn’t stopped people trying to climb it, and even to ski back down.
The full feat is yet to be accomplished, but in 2009 an extreme skier called Dave Watson skied from 250 metres below the summit. “I knew it was within my abilities,” he wrote on his blog. “It was incredibly satisfying.”