Sarah Al Ali holds the UAE flag on Mount Kilimanjaro Image Credit: Supplied

ABU DHABI: When young Emirati Sarah Al Ali visited Germany three years ago, she never thought it would be a turning point in her life. As a friend introduced her to the trekking trails in the nearby forests around Frankfurt, she found herself lapping up the great outdoors and discovered the trekker in her. There has been no looking back since.

Today she has trekked in as many as 45 countries, including Kazakhstan, South Africa, Vietnam, Cambodia, Japan, Korea, India etc.

In 2016, Sarah conquered her first mountain summit: Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

Now she has set her sights on the six highest summits in six continents to be scaled over a period of six years.

Top peaks

Sarah aims to hoist the UAE flag atop the Mount Elbrus (Europe), Mount Vinson (Antarctica), Denali (US), Aconcagua (South America), Carstenz Pyramid (Australia plate) and Mount Everest (Asia).

“I think Denali and Everest are the toughest on the list. I would need to acquire extensive technical climbing experience which I am planning this year to acquire through several hikes and courses,” says Sarah. Sarah has enrolled at the UAE Trekkers, a company that trains trekkers and organises treks in the Gulf region. The company helped her sign up for the trip to Kilimanjaro and also trained her for the trek. The training included practice sessions at Ski Dubai and trekking, including a 12-hour day hike, in Jebel Shamma in Oman.

The ascent

“I loved every moment of my Kilimanjaro trip,” says Sarah, a procurement specialist for Nawah Nuclear Energy Company in Abu Dhabi.

“UAE Trekkers were well organised and took very good care of us. It was tough but I was used to sleeping in tents and not having showers thanks to my previous travels,” she recalls.

“The most difficult part was the summit night. We had to have our last meal before 5pm, sleep by 6pm and wake up by 11pm to start the summit. The weather was extremely cold, I had almost five layers of clothing.

“We took tea, biscuits, water and energy snacks in a thermal bag to ensure they didn’t freeze during the ascent. It took us more than 15 hours to ascend and descend to the base camp, which was lower than from the night before. On reaching back, complete and utter exhaustion hit me and I could barely hold a spoon to eat,” she recalls. “But planting the UAE flag on Kilimanjaro has been the most memorable moment in my life.”

She now looks ahead to doing the same on six of the highest peaks in the world.

The writer is an Abu Dhabi-based freelancer