Danah Al Ali is currently attempting to become the first Emirati woman to climb Mt. Everest.
How and when did you find the passion and determination for mountain climbing?
My passion for mountain climbing started right after my very first expedition on Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa. At the time, it was more of an adventure and a personal challenge. The moment I came back from that trip, mountain climbing became my passion and new dreams and goals were on my list.
Did you always dream of being a mountain climber? What led you to this incredible journey?
If someone had told me 6 years ago that I would be attempting to climb Mt. Everest, the highest mountain in the world, I would’ve probably laughed about it, because I'd never thought of or attempted any mountain climbing in my life - not even the smaller ones. I'd no experience in it whatsoever. It was my passion for travel, the outdoors, adventure and extreme sports that led me to my first mountain climb back in 2013. After trying all kinds of sports from snowboarding to skydiving, I was looking for the next big thrill to get my adrenaline pumping and after some research I came across Mt. Kilimanjaro, which with the right training it could be a mountain I could conquer. And I did. After coming back from Mt. Kilimanjaro, I had a dream to climb Mt. Everest and since then I've been training and climbing mountains. Mt. Elbrus in Russia, Mt. Aconcagua in Argentina and Everest base camp are a few of my accomplishments till date and I'm very proud of what I have achieved.
What is the best part about mountain climbing?
It’s all about the journey! In my opinion there are 3 parts to climbing a mountain; 1- The preparation for the climb which can be months or even years of planning. It's exciting when you are training and have a goal that motivates you. You’d never want to skip a day at the gym knowing you have a mountain waiting for you to conquer. And there’s even a part where you have to shop for gear, which is cool because you need to understand the climbing equipment and clothing you are going to be using on the mountain. I also like to spend time researching about the mountain and the country I’ll be climbing in. 2- The actual climb of the mountain. I've been on expeditions where I've signed up and didn't know anyone on the team until I reached the mountain, which is another great adventure of meeting new people from different places across the globe. I've been with people on the mountain and we’ve only spent days together, but the bond and connection you make on a mountain through the struggles and successes lasts a lifetime. I've also been lucky to visit some interesting places I would never have imagined visiting, but the mountain brought me there, so it's been an amazing cultural experience too. And the most important part of any climb is reaching the summit, raising my flag, coming home with a picture and saying I did it! 3- The stories and lessons you bring back with you after the climb. Everyone you meet has stories to share, whether it's about their climbing experiences or just about life. We learn from one another. It's also a great opportunity to represent my country and tell them about my beautiful home and where I live. Then also coming back and sharing my experience with my family and friends.
How do keep yourself motivated during the climb?
It's about remembering why you started and knowing that you did your very best and gave it all you had when you’ve trained and the goal you have set out to achieve. I have two young children and they are my biggest fans. They each drew me a special drawing that I took up with me to my first mountain and I took a photo of me with their drawing on the summit. I've taken their drawing up every summit since and that is one of my biggest motivations; getting up there to take that special photo, and coming back home safely to see my children.
Are there things that frighten you during the journey? How do you keep your calm?
Doubt and many negative scenarios can often creep in our heads. I always try my best to stay positive and if something does frighten me, I feel it, let it past and keep going. With a sport like mountain climbing you really need to have a strong mind set. It really is mind over matter.
What do you think life will be like after reaching your goal? What will you do next?
I haven't reached my goal yet, however, the journey has not only changed my life, but I've been able to inspire others to follow their dreams and goals. Some of them have goals to climb mountains and it makes me happy to know I was a little part in their journey. Other people have other big goals they want to achieve, and knowing that I am able to achieve mine, it has motivated others to follow theirs. My goal is and has always been to conquer Mt. Everest. Stay tuned, big things are happening!
What would like to say to the youth about accomplishing the impossible?
Nothing is impossible. You have to stay focused on your goals, no matter how long it takes and how much work it takes to get there, because you don't want to look back and wish you had tried, because if you don't, someone else will. If you have an obstacle, find a way around it! Don't stop until you reach your goal! And ask people for advice and support. I have met some amazing women out there who have been a massive inspiration and have guided me on my journey.