In the Spring of 2019, three Arab women put it all on the line and climbed to the highest point on Earth. “The Dream of Everest” is a feature length documentary that chronicles the story of these inspiring women from Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Oman as they train and prepare to climb to the summit of Mt. Everest.
Child Clinical Psychologist by profession and an adventurer by birth.
WHY CLIMB EVEREST FOR CHANGE?
“If not for my generation, then for the generations to come. Together we will shift perceptions and shatter stereotypes. Here’s to becoming more accepting and tolerant. Let’s move some mountains and make some waves.”
With a Master’s degree in Geography, Nadhirah Alharthy is poised to become her country’s first female to ever summit Mt. Everest.
ON HER HIJAB:
“Growing up in a conservative environment made me want to step outside the box Arab women are put into. It seems crazy to others who wear the Hijab like myself, but I learned to believe in my capabilities and I to show others that their dreams are possible too.”
Founder at MOVE – A females only fitness dance studio based in Riyadh
ON FITNESS AND WOMEN IN SAUDI:
“Sports was my gateway to create a positive impact for people in Saudi Arabia, and beyond. I’ve switched careers, taken my own athletic activities to another level. Movement is essential for life, and regular physical activity does wonders for our physical and mental health. Let’s MOVE the world!
Award Winning Adventure Filmmaker
He’s been on Mt. Everest seven times and is one of the few people on Earth who can consistently film above 8000m. Elia’ssignature Everest imagery has garnered millions of views online been seen on Discovery Channel, BBC, ESPN, HBO, NBC, Outside Television and many more.
Nelly Attar summits Mt. Everest
Nelly Attar became the second Lebanese woman to summit Mt. Everest.
Nadhirah Alharthy summits Mt. Everest
Nadhira Alharthy became the first Omani woman to stand on top of the world.
“Once i reached the summit, my dream turned into reality. At first, I didn’t realize i was making history for my country but when i came back home to Oman and saw how everyone was happy and proud, i got so overwhelmed and i knew that it wasn’t only an individual dream but a national one.”
Mona Shahab summits Mt. Everest
Mona Shahab became the second Saudi Arabian woman to climb Mt. Everest.
Looking up at the Giants
We stare up at these giants from the base of the roof of the world in anticipation of the brief moment when we are graced with the privilege, if fortunate enough, to stand on their crown and look down upon them.
Milky Way at Everest basecamp
And there she is, the Milky Way in all of her magic and glory at Everest Basecamp.
An avalanche woke me up at 2am. Not the first I’ve heard, surely not the last and not quite loud enough to be fully alarming. Business as usual for Everest, yet it felt like a sure sign to wake up and shoot.
I could hear my DSLR clicking away behind my tent and I was dying to see if the timelapse shot I set up was working out. I willed myself out of my warm sleeping bag, stepped outside the tent in the sub-zero temperatures and all of a sudden felt like I was 8-years old. I looked up and was awe-struck by the beauty that was unfolding before my eyes.
I climbed down the glacier in my socks, running shoes and down jacket to gather a few batteries from my editing tent. I snapped several shots next to the Puja before landing with this one. From there, climbed back up the glacier and crossed paths with some of my Sherpa team members who clearly think I’m crazy for walking around at 2am with a huge grin on my face and two arm-loads of camera equipment.
From there, a reset of the main camera, a multi-pano Milky Way shot and before I knew it, 4am had snuck up on me and it was definitely time for bed.
I woke up with what felt like a hang-over, but it was certainly worth it. I’m pretty sure I’ll never sleep through the night again on this expedition. The spark just lit the fire within.
First rotation through the Khumbu Icefall
The team successfully makes their first rotation through the Khumbu Icefall, to camp 2 and back safely.
The team trains in the Icefall
The team heads out in the Khumbu Icefall to the first ladder as a warm up for the first rotation to Camp 1.
Full Moon over Basecamp
It’s 120am on Mt. Everest, the weather is perfect, there is a sea of stars above us, the moon is rising and we’re heading into the Khumbu Icefall.
The goal is the reach camp 2. Two nights at camp 1 and another two at camp 2. I’ll be chasing climbers in the dark with my cameras at headlamp in a few minutes, 8000m boots on, harness done up tight, helmet strapped on and cameras in hand. But to be honest, all I really care about is getting back here to basecamp safely on the 25th.
I’ve heard a few people say: the Icefall is easy. It’s not as bad as I thought it would be. Well here’s the thing: this entire mountain is manageable with the right support until sh*t goes wrong and I’ve seen plenty of it hit the fan.
So this morning, I’ll kneel down at the Puja, toss some rice into the sky and pray to Everest for all of us to return safely.
Training for Everest in the Pinnacles
The team of Arab women work with guides to practice techniques they’ll be using higher on the mountain from rope work, using their ascenders, crossings ladders, abseiling and more.
The Summit Team
We’ve all heard the saying: getting to the summit is optional, returning to the bottom safely is mandatory. But how do you actually achieve the highest levels of safety and success?
No one reaches the summit alone. It takes a highly orchestrated and talented team of Sherpas and Western guides all working together for the benefit of the overall success of all individuals. Everyone contributes from the porters to the cooking staff, the Chef and the climbing Sherpas, the guides and the assistants and many other team members you don’t see on the front lines or in this photograph.
This is my 8th expedition to Everest and I have to say that I’ve never felt more confident in the logistics team’s ability to make us all feel as safe and as comfortable as possible in such an unpredictable environment. The leadership exudes the utmost confidence and you can already feel the synergy amongst the team, the calculated science of summiting Everest coming into play and all of the organization playing out seamlessly. The most beautiful part is that along with the professionalism, there is a constant flow of laughter, entertainment and fun - all in preparation for the climb to the top of the world.
Hats off to Garrett Madison and the entire team at Madison Mountaineering, looking forward to stepping foot on the mountain in a few days with all of you.
Puja ceremony at basecamp
This morning we had our Puja ceremony, the spiritual blessing performed by a Lama, a ritual that all who attempt Everest partake in before stepping foot into the Khumbu Icefall. It was a beautiful scene under a dramatic sky where climbers of varying cultures and religions stood together in solidarity, in honour of the mountain, all asking for safe passage and safe return.
From Dingboche to Lobuche
The team trek's from the village of Dingboche and experiences one of the most beautiful areas in the entire Khumbu Valley.
High above the clouds on the trail to Mt. Everest basecamp is the Memorial Site known as Chukpa Lare. Chortens dressed in ceremonial prayer flags are scattered across the plateau, built in honour of fallen climbers.
The backdrop of the memorialized monuments couldn’t be more beautiful and yet they’re contrasted by the sobering reality of how fragile life is while climbing high above the clouds.
Walking amongst the fallen, from the common person to the most legendary Western and Sherpa mountaineer, leaves you humbled and introspective, thinking of those you love and all you’ve left behind.
Most were driven by a dream, inspired by a mission and tragically their lives were cut short in pursuit of the crown of the tallest mountain on Earth.
We walk humbly and quietly, paying our respects as we look upwards to the journey ahead carrying those we love with us.
The trek to Gorakshep
The team left Lobuche village and are now on their way to the village of GorakShep. One more day and we'll arrive to Everest basecamp where the preparations for the climb to the top of the world begin.
Finding flow at 4300m
Finding flow at 4300m above sea level. A week ago I boarded a flight from Ottawa, Canada and mentally prepared for the sufferfest that was in store.
I was sick at home for most of March, hospitalized twice, under a fair bit of stress of not knowing how I was going to make this happen, under immense pressure of letting people down after a year of effort and then landed into a full blown expedition with less than 24 hours in Kathmandu.
Stack the 10 hour time-zone shift, altitude and trekking for 4-7 hours a day, 3 hours sleep a night and the rigamarole of pack, unpack, load up, shoot, run, fall behind, catch up, delegate to the amazing Sherpa film crew, deal with the rain and moisture and everything else the Himalayas was throwing at us and it’s fair to say it was rather overwhelming. My main goal was to just not get sick. It’s in these moments where you trust your experience and your abilities, the team you’ve put in place, the partners you’re working with and the people who believe in the big picture and suddenly the unknown quickly coverts to energy, positivity, creativity and pure flow.
I knew the first 7 days would be tough and I’ve come out on the other side. I feel great and I’m acclimatizing well despite all the running around on the trails with cameras. My Sherpa film crew are in sync, the guides and @garrettmadison1 are a dream to collaborate with and the women climbing from the Arab world are nothing short of inspiring.
Big thank you to PK Sherpa for having my back and being such an amazing support system. All is right in the world in this moment as we make the approach to Everest basecamp where the climb to the top of the world begins.
The Trek to Dingboche
The teams treks onwards from the lowland forested village of Deboche across the majestic Khumbu Valley to Dingboche at 4300m above sea level.
The Puja Ceremony in Pangboche
The Puja ceremony is a spiritual blessing that is performed by a Lama. Prayers and offerings are made to the various Gods and Godesses of the mountains and safe passage is requested for all climbers.
Local life in the Khumbu Valley
A little moment with Nelly Attar from Lebanon and a local Sherpa girl. It's not uncommon to see children playing in the valley in the lowlands on the way to Everest basecamp. As the team climbs higher, there is less culture as living above 4000m is incredibly difficult.
Mona in Namche Bazaar
After spending two nights in Namche, the team is off to the village Deboche en route to Mt. Everest basecamp. Mona Shahab is seen here just outside Hotel Panorama getting ready to make the 6-7 hour trek through the Himalayas.
The trek from Lukla to Namche
A series of images of our team from Lukla to Namche on the way to Mt. Everest basecamp.
Training in the desert for 8000m
With Everest season just around the corner, Nelly Attar prepares by breaking in her 8000m boots in the desert in Saudi Arabia.
Winter ascent on Lobuche East
Nelly and Mona summited Lobuche East in Nepal, their 2nd winter ascent in the Himalayas.
Island Peak Winter Ascent
Mona Shahab raises the Saudi Arabia flag on the summit of Island Peak in Nepal.
Mona training for Everest in the Himalayas
To prepare for Everest, Mona set her sights on two Himalayan peaking during the winter season in Nepal.
Training on Ama Dablam
Nadhirah Alharthy traveled from Oman to Nepal and set her sights on Ama Dablam to train for her summit bid on the world's tallest mountain.
Meet Nelly Attar
Nelly was born and raised in Saudi Arabia. She completed her academic studies in Psychology, and was awarded a BSc from the American University of Beirut (Lebanon) and an MRes from Kingston University (United Kingdom).
Nelly recently made a shift from a full-time psychology and life coaching profession, to pursue her passion in fitness and sports. She is now a recognized fitness ambassador, trainer and healthy living advocate, contributing significantly to the transformation of the sporting landscape across the Middle East.
In 2017, Nelly founded a females-only fitness and dance boutique studio named MOVE in Riyadh. MOVE is the first studio in Saudi Arabia with a focus on dance, outdoor training, and adventure trips.
For Nelly, her professional endeavours are not just a means to an end, but a lifestyle. When she is not working in sports, you will find her engaging in sports herself - training for a race, mountain expedition, or dance-related workshop. In recent years, she has completed twelve climbing expeditions, three global marathons, one ultra-trail marathon, and two half Ironman races (triathlons).
ON FITNESS AND WOMEN IN SAUDI
“Sports was my gateway to create a positive impact for people in Saudi Arabia, and beyond. I’ve switched careers, taken my own athletic activities to another level, and regularly work on numerous initiatives to promote and enable more and more people to get active across the Middle East. Movement is essential for life, and regular physical activity does wonders for our physical and mental health. Let’s MOVE the world!
Meet Mona Shahab
Child Clinical Psychologist by profession and an adventurer by birth, if not on a mountain or running a race, Mona is probably planning and training for one, buried in a book, or analyzing data behind her computer screen as she attempts her highest peak thus far - a doctorate degree (PhD) in Clinical Psychology in the Netherlands.
Born and raised between the sand dunes of the Arabian Peninsula to a Lebanese mother and Saudi father, whose love for road trips and the outdoors, trickled down to their youngest of four (Mona), infused with an extra zest of “living on the edge for a cause.”
She co-founded ‘The Empowerment Hub,’ a grass root initiative that focuses on fitness and health for youth and women in the Kingdom back in 2014. Each event/campaign was for a cause related to well being be it physical or mental.
Driven by change, ‘The Hub’ was the unheard voice that echoed a basic right. Physical Education for females in the public system has come a long way. The Hub’s mission was to revolutionize what females and youth feed their minds, bodies and souls. To strengthen the awareness of fitness and health in the Kingdom by hosting active social and educational events and working hand in hand with the government and private sector for a fitter KSA. However, the backbone that kept it all together was paying it forward and giving back to the community.
WHY CLIMB EVEREST FOR CHANGE?
“If not for my generation, then for the generations to come. Together we will shift perceptions and shatter stereotypes. Here’s to becoming more accepting and tolerant. To quenching thirsty minds who have been been forced to flee for safety. Let’s move some mountains and make some waves.”
Meet Nadhirah Alharthy
In a country where mountaineering falls far outside the traditional gender purview of women, Oman's Nadhirah Alharthy is poised to become her country’s first female to ever summit Mt. Everest.
The world’s tallest mountain is an environ as opposite from hot, arid Oman as imaginable. But Nadhirah is enlivened by the gnawing cold and high-consequence terrain of the Himalayas. In 2018, the Omani woman was on Nepal’s Ama Dablam, a 6,812-meter precipice with a reputation as a training ground for Everest hopefuls.
Whether training on choosy mountain trails, desert dunes, or on the paved roads of Muscat’s oven-like 33°C heat, Alharthy is bound by Islamic Sharia law to wear the hijab. Proponents maintain that the headpiece allows wearers to retain their modesty or celebrate their religious or cultural identity.
When Alharthy broke the news of her aspiration, some of her co-workers were skeptical, but most were encouraging. Full disclosure with her family, however, was more emotional; after training in secret for two entire years, Alharthy had to address the concern of her parents. But they’re unnerved by the danger of the ascent, not their daughter’s gender-defying pursuit.
ON HER HIJAB
“Growing up in a conservative environment made me want to break the mold and box Arab women are put into. After a difficult divorce and almost losing myself to the cultural pressures, I found strength amongst the world’s tallest peaks. It seems crazy to others who wear the Hijab like myself, but I learned to believe in my capabilities and I to show others that their dreams are possible too.”