Atte Miettinen and his wife Delanii Kerai at the summit of Mount Elbrus in Europe. Image Credit: Courtesy: Atte Miettinen

Dubai: It is a double victory for Atte Miettinen as the first resident of Dubai and the first national of Finland to have conquered the Seven Summits, the highest mountains of each continent.

The Seven Summits is a mountaineering challenge of climbing the highest mountains - Cerro Aconcagua (South America), Denali (North America), Vinson Massif (Antarctica), Elbrus (Europe), Kilimanjaro (Africa), Mount Everest (Asia) and either Carstensz Pyramid or Mount Kosciuszko (Australia).

There are two official lists for the Seven Summits - the Bass List, which includes Mount Kosciuszko in Australia and the Messner List which includes Carstensz Pyramid in Australia.

Miettinen has scaled both.

He told Gulf News, “So there is no dispute when I say I have completed the Seven Summits challenge.”

At 16:25 on June 22, 2012, he planted the UAE flag on Denali, also known as Mount McKinley, the highest mountain in North America, thus completing his five-year Seven Summits challenge with four mountains scaled in the last year alone. He said, “It felt special as the UAE is my adopted home.”

In the past, the Dubai-based telecoms executive has climbed Mont Blanc (4810m) in France, Mount Elbrus (5642m) in Russia, and Mount Ararat (5137m) in Turkey, among others.

After 10 years of mountaineering passion, he felt he had to take up the challenge despite the risks. He said each mountain is fraught with danger. “Every climb has different physical and mental demands in terms of altitude, terrain, level of difficulty and technicality of the climb. Sometimes you need to walk through more than 100km of jungle,” he said.

He recalled his climb to Mt Everest in May. “It was the deadliest day and the second most deadly climbing season with four people dead on the day of my climb. It was due to a combination of factors including bad weather. Climbers came across dead bodies,” he said.

The challenge forced Miettinen to think of the worst scenarios, starting with the filling out the ‘body recovery option’ in one of the mandatory permission forms. He knew that recovering a body from a high mountain with extremes of altitude and location could be extremely difficult and that some families wish it returned.

He said, you are compelled to think of various situations. “You have to deal with extremes – falling rocks, avalanches, etc. One has to be ready to operate in emergency situations where you are cold, tired and wet. So when I had to tick the box on the form, I called my father and wife who preferred body recovery.”

To prepare, Miettinen would train for two to five hours every day. “I also had to simulate emergences so I would carry 50 kg of water weight in my backpack and climb my 55 storey building for five hours,” he said.

Mentally too he said it required preparation. Reading experiences by other successful mountaineers, watching documentaries, and recreating difficult situations in his mind helped him cope.

Of mountaineering movies, he said, “These have too much of a Hollywood spin and are far from realistic. I stuck to reading real-life stories of climbers.”

Post the Seven Summits challenge, he admits that the “fire is still burning. Perhaps skiing on the North and South Poles is next.”