Saudi woman Sondos Jaan set to climb the highest peak in the Arab world

DAHRAN: On June 20, Sondos Jaan embarked on a journey to the highest peak in the Arab world.

It’s the latest episode in Jaana’s love of mountain adventures, but to understand the fascination, it’s important to look back at her childhood.

She told Arab News: “I am from Medina. I was born in a city where I could see a mountain from my bedroom window, and as I walked the streets I saw mountains.”


Picture of Sondos Jaan about 5 years old on top of a mountain with her father. (delivered)

Those peaks were an important part of her early childhood. There are pictures of Jaan about 5 years old on top of a mountain. She said: “I call these paintings ‘Sondos between two mountains’, a real mountain carved out of nature, and my father.

During family camping trips, she would sneak out when her family wasn’t paying attention to climb the mountain.

HIGHLIGHTS

• For his latest adventure, Sondos Jaan climbs Morocco’s Toubkal mountain, which is 4,167 meters high.

• Climbing has two routes: the first requires three days of climbing and the second two days, but is more challenging.

She added: “I would hear my father calling me, telling me to stay put and wait for him.” My dear father would come to me and then we would climb together, step by step, telling me where to put my feet until we reached the top, and then we would descend together, just the two of us.”


Sondos Jaan of Medina hopes that young Saudi girls who read about her adventures will feel encouraged to pursue sports and hobbies they are passionate about. (delivered)

Her father was the first adventurer she knew. He was always prepared, she says, and “his car was always ready to go.”

She said: “He would tell me stories when he came back from hunting, either on land or at sea. I would imagine the stories as if he were the hero in one of the animated movies I watched. Sometimes he would take me with him and I felt like I was part of the story.


Sondos Jaan of Medina hopes that young Saudi girls who read about her adventures will feel encouraged to pursue sports and hobbies they are passionate about. (delivered)

Her father instilled a love of adventure in her from an early age. And climbing seems to be in her DNA.

Jaan said: “My father is my main climbing coach and I certainly inherited my spirit of adventure and love of travel, experience and camping from him.


Sondos Jaan of Medina hopes that young Saudi girls who read about her adventures will feel encouraged to pursue sports and hobbies they are passionate about. (delivered)

“He taught me how to swim, ride, hunt, fish and the basics of camping.

For her latest adventure, Jaan and a friend climb Mount Toubkal in Morocco, which is 4,167 meters high. The ascent has two routes: the first requires three days of climbing, and the second two days, but is more demanding.


Photo of Sondos Jaan when she was about five years old. (delivered)

They started the ascent early, continuing for about nine to 11 hours, followed by an overnight stay at an altitude of 3,200 meters.

She believes that elements of nature are embedded in each of us and it is our duty – and privilege – to find and channel those elements.

She said that the climb to Everest Base Camp was the most difficult route she had attempted so far. The trip lasted two weeks and she added that she was unable to sleep, eat or breathe properly due to lack of oxygen in the two days leading up to base camp. However, these were not the main factors of her most difficult climb.

She said: “The (main) reason is simply managing expectations. I was emotional after walking all that time and reaching what was supposed to be the summit for the trip, only to realize it wasn’t even the summit.

“It was the main camp where climbers camped for two months each year before trying to reach the summit of Everest, allowing their bodies to acclimatize to the lack of oxygen, train and wait for the right time to climb the summit.”

The experience taught her a valuable lesson, and she added: “I remember coming down and as soon as we got settled in one of the teahouses, I cried.”

“They asked me why.” I said I wanted a pizza, crying real tears. The owners of the house went out of their way to make a pizza for me. I ate one slice and gave the rest to their dog. I thought about my feelings and asked myself, ‘Why did I act like that?’ And the simple answer was, we didn’t get to the top, we just saw it up close.

She believes that it is the thrill of the journey, not the destination itself, that is worth embracing. She now believes that the feeling of near giving up happens during every climb; she sees it as a healthy sign.

She added: “It’s a reminder that I’m human.” It is also a reminder that I am capable of doing things that may seem impossible, not because I have superhuman strength, but because I am human capable of overcoming challenges. This gives me the motivation to finish the climb.”

She believes her latest adventure also serves a greater purpose. Seeing Saudi women participating in various fields, especially in sports, helps to encourage her to continue to strive for the highest heights.

She hopes that young girls who read about her adventures will be encouraged to take up sports and hobbies they are passionate about, and that her experiences will help push them to their limits to break down stereotypes and barriers along the way.

She needs to continue her ascent, whether it’s a mountain to conquer, or toward the goals of her gender.

For those starting out, she advised, “(You have to) start with small, achievable goals and gradually increase the level of difficulty. Make sure you have the right equipment and training: It’s important to be physically and mentally fit.

“Join a climbing community or group for support and motivation. Most importantly, believe in yourself and enjoy the journey.”

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