Some people look for a change of scenery or an escape from the rat race by taking a trip to the cinema or immersing themselves in a good book; while others travel to far off places to experience new things. Adi Al Fardan, 19, on the other hand decided to climb the highest mountain in Africa to get his kicks. Yet even after a gruelling ordeal and a serious bout of altitude sickness, Al Fardan now has his sights set on reaching the Mount Everest base camp.
The finance student at the American University of Sharjah summited Mt Kilimanjaro recently along with friend and fellow student, Khalifa Al Thani.
"Khalifa's brother Mohammad is a mountaineer and last year we climbed Jabal Shams in Oman with him," said Al Fardan. "We heard he was doing Kilimanjaro this year so I asked to do it with him because I needed a change from normal life."
He said anyone can go on a holiday to a new country, but not many people can climb a mountain. Jabal Shams (the mountain of the sun) is approximately 3,000 metres high. It is the highest point in Oman and the whole of Eastern Arabia. Mt Kilimanjaro however, is 5,895 metres and is the highest point in the whole of Africa.
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Used to following a relaxed fitness regime, Al Fardan did not consider himself fit but he committed to three months rigorous training before his climb.
‘Getting in shape'
"Before the challenge I used to go to the gym sometimes to stay in shape but I wouldn't have considered myself fit," he said. "For the climb though, I went to the gym every day with a backpack filled with weights on my back and got on the treadmill to walk at an incline for two hours."
Having told his parents he was on a safari camping trip in Tanzania, Al Fardan's seven-day adventure began. His parents later found out the truth and after the initial shock were quite impressed, he said.
"It's an adventure of a lifetime, the moment you start you begin regretting your decision but then you get back and start thinking about your next climb," he said. "I got sick the most out of all seven of us in the group; I was OK until we reached the camp on the first day then altitude sickness hit me with the worst nausea, fatigue and vomiting."
Al Fardan's sickness continued throughout the six-day climb. On the night of the summit, at around 5,000 metres, his nose began bleeding heavily due to burst capillaries.
"Towards the end my face was bloated, [it] was pale and at one point I fainted while climbing, the guys had to kick me to wake me up," he said. "When we reached the summit at 8am on the last day I couldn't move; but we only had 30 minutes to recover up top because after that you can start hallucinating… the problem is once we summit we have to climb down."
The experience has changed Al Fardan's perspective on life. "Next I'm planning to do base camp Everest, which is 4,900 metres, as mountain climbing has now become a hobby," he said. "Climbing Mt Kilimanjaro was a great achievement, it's changed my views on life and has made me appreciate the simple things more; it's also given me focus and goals because if I could do that, I can do anything."