Dubai: She braved subzero temperatures, fierce winds and frostbite to become the first Arab woman to reach the summit of the highest mountain in Antarctica, but Suzanne Al Houby is no stranger to adventure.
The Palestinian mother of two, who lives in Dubai, is now the first Arab woman to scale the highest mountains in four continents. Suzanne has also climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, Mount Elbrus in Europe, Mont Blanc in the Alps in western Europe, and Mount Aconcagua in South America.
Suzanne said: "Although this is neither my first nor my biggest mountain, its location was in the harshest and the most isolated continent on Earth. Climbing to the top gave me an overwhelming feeling of pride because only 700 climbers have attempted to reach the top of Mount Vinson."
Suzanne, who holds a day job as the vice-president of the Dubai Bone and Joint Centre, set out on her expedition on January 8 and took 18 days to scale Mount Vinson and return to base.
Vinson is Antarctica's highest mountain at 4,898 metres. It is 20 kilometres long and 13 kilometres wide in the Sentinel Range in the Ellsworth Mountains, and was discovered in 1958 by a US navy aircraft.
"An assuring voice was echoing in my head while I was climbing. It kept telling me that I was strong, that I had to keep going and not doubt myself. I had to constantly remind myself that there was no such thing as quitting."
The day Suzanne reached the summit was memorable, as the temperature was well below minus 37 degrees. One hour before the expedition reached the peak, strong winds brought the temperature further down to minus 50. Yet she continued to climb.
"I could only enjoy the summit for less than five minutes because of the fierce wind. By simply being able to endure the extreme weather conditions without losing any of my fingers and toes due to frost bite is in itself a difficult goal to achieve."
Suzanne's success in scaling towering mountains could be credited to her ability to isolate herself from the worries of the mundane city life, and merely focus her energy on purifying and cleansing her soul. While some people tend to immerse themselves in their jobs, Suzanne always makes time for her adventures no matter how busy she may be.
She achieves this through efficient time management.
"God created the wilderness for us to appreciate His works, and Antarctica is the wildest place on Earth. It does not have any inhabitants and is also one of the most isolated. The endlessly white, bitterly cold, white nights on the continent redefined [my definition of] wilderness," Suzanne said.
In order to endure the harsh weather while climbing, Suzanne had to harness her mental strength, which was as important as her physical strength. Her success was also achieved by keeping her head clear of distractions as well as focusing on her objectives one step at a time.
"The only way you can discover your full potential is by going to a place where you cannot take your comfort zone with you.
It is amazing how much, as humans, we can endure. I hope that other Arab women will get encouraged to do such climbs, because all you need is to believe in yourself and your potential," Suzanne said.