Raha Moharrak is a force of nature. When she’s not climbing, she’s encouraging other Saudi women to follow their dreams and paving the way by following her own.
by Cory Buhay, Adventure Journal
Many nations plant their flags on top of Mount Everest every season, but few have climbed through greater odds than Raha Moharrak. The first Saudi Arabian woman to summit Everest, 30-year-old Moharrak, comes from a desert country that tops out at roughly 9,000 feet in elevation, where carabiners aren’t sold, women aren’t allowed to drive, and 25 is considered the upper limit of unmarried life.
Raha descends after a successful summit of Mount Everest | Photo: AFP
“When I was 25, my mother was in a corner wailing that I was not married, and when I told my father I wanted to climb a mountain, he said no, flat out,” said Moharrak. She said sending him an email to argue her point, opposing him for the first time in her life, was the biggest obstacle of her climbing career, harder than getting hypothermia on Kilimanjaro, her first climb. Harder than the nine comically miserable days she spent trapped in a tent with a Russian man and an American man in a storm on Denali. Harder than the summit ridge of Everest.
Even with her parents finally on her side, Moharrak faced other hurdles. Acquaintances told her a woman couldn’t possibly climb mountains and looked down upon her parents for supporting her. She wasn’t allowed to train in public. In Antarctica, one of the members of her all-male team stood up at the first meeting and asked the guide, “What the hell is Barbie doing here?” Moharrak snapped, “Don’t be fooled by the Disney princess hair.” (In the end, she was the one who ended up helping him on the descent.)