ABU DHABI: British expat Julie Lewis, 56, knows what it is to scale heights – quite literally. Having set up an adventure company Mountain High in the capital 15 years ago, she has led more than 60 group expeditions in 20 countries. She has made international headlines with her milestone treks to the Everest Base Camp, the Svaalbard Arctic Challenge and a Journey to the End of the World (Antarctica). But no mountain is high enough, no road too far for her to venture out again.
As Mountain High completes 15 years, she is ready for her next expedition: the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trial in Japan and the Northern Lights in Iceland.
Recalling how the company was formed, Lewis said it all began with a flashing thought on her 40th birthday in 2002. “I was at the Kota Kinabalu Mountain in Borneo, Malaysia. At that moment, I felt I had to create opportunities for other people as well to experience the transformation of spending more time in the great outdoors.”
First for the UAE
By the next year, Mountain High was formed and Lewis took her inaugural batch, consisting of 18 women, to the Everest Base Camp. “We were the first team of women to undertake the trek from the UAE and we raised $80,000 for a mobile breast screening unit in Al Ain in the process,” she said.
Those who have been on Lewis’ trips can’t stop talking about their experiences. Reem Ghannoum, who has been on three expeditions, said, “You get to do things that are totally outside your comfort zone, while knowing that you are well taken care off. It was the perfect opportunity for my whole family to push ourselves to higher limits and believe in our capabilities.”
Dr Grace Edwards, who formerly worked with an Abu Dhabi hospital, first travelled with Mountain High as a breast cancer survivor. She said, “My husband and I completed the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage (in Spain) and it was as magical as we had hoped. As was Svaalbard which we did as a family.”
Lewis said Dr Edwards joined the group in 2012 for a Jewels of Antarctica trip organised by Mountain High for breast cancer survivors.
Source of inspiration
Lewis, who has been a great motivator and source of inspiration, said, “If you consider age or ailments as a barrier in doing things, it will take over your life. But if you train your mind to think, eat, move and sleep like a champion, life can be very fulfilling. It’s never too late to enjoy the benefits of travelling, learning new skills and making new friends.”
For more info visit www.mountainhighme.com
The writer is an Abu Dhabi-based freelance journalist