Meet Dolores Al Shelleh: The Fearless, First Arab Woman To Scale Mt. Everest.

There really “ain’t no mountain high enough” when it comes to climber Dolores Al Shelleh! If you haven’t heard of this history-making badass woman, it’s time to get familiar, as she has conquered literal and figurative mountains throughout her life so far. And judging by her achievements, we have no doubt there will be more summits she will be standing on top of.

On May 23rd, 2019 at the age of 28 years old, Dolores became the first Arab woman to scale Mt. Everest from Northeast ridge (Tibet). She is also the first Jordanian woman and the second Serbian woman to accomplish the feat. Dolores was also the first Arab to summit Mount Manaslu, the eighth highest mountain in the world at 8,156 meters above the sea level, located in the Himalayas, and regarded as the fourth most dangerous for climbers due to the risk of avalanches.

She had also summited the Mera Peak in Nepal at 6,476 m; Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak at 5,895 m; and Mt. Elbrus, the highest mountain in Europe, towering at 5,642 m, and completed a technical winter mountaineering course in the Alps. Spending so much time outdoors and in the most incredible of nature’s landscapes has made Dolores passionate about the environment and sustainability.

Dolores works closely with The Sustainable City to raise awareness for the United Nation Sustainable Development Goals including climate change, sustainable cities and communities, as well as gender equality. Given her desire to reach new heights with every climbs, she recognizes that there are many women and girls around the world, especially coming from the Arab world like her, who don’t have access to the same opportunity. She is rising to the occasion and using her platform to be an advocate for those less fortunate, especially given the increased knowledge that climate change can disproportionately affect women and girls in the developing world.

We had a chance to interview Dolores about her incredible climbing achievements and why sustainability and caring for the environment is non-negotiable for her.

How did you first become interested in Mt. Everest and mountain climbing in general?

I have always wanted to go into the remote areas specifically the mountains to explore how it feels to be away from the city life, I am also a seeker who wants to see and live in different cultures, as the world to me is the most important book and I believe we all need to travel more often to read it.

In 2016 I decided to take this step into trying a new challenge and something I dreamt of doing, my first adventure was with a team from Jordan climbing Mount Mera Peak on 6,476 M, in the Himalayas. My family and close friends couldn’t believe I am actually making this move coming from Jordan “desert” to the highest mountains in the Himalayas. I instantly fell in love with the whole experience, which I unconsciously knew it was my other world.

During my first climb there was a Jordanian team who also had in plan to climb Mount Everest but they had some obstacles faced with sponsors and unfortunately I was eliminated from the team, because I was not being able to join of the teams preparations du to my independency and work commitment, although there were other options and I could still prepare on a different time schedule! that didn’t stop me but pushed me forward to continue my own journey, so I worked really hard towards getting the support to be able to keep climbing and to prepare for my biggest goal to climb Mount Everest.

What cultural barriers did you face on the road to becoming the first Arab woman to scale Mt. Everest?

I did face some challenges on getting the needed support financially especially since climbing is an expensive sport with all of its preparations, time line and gear needed. But I believed in myself and found my true support in people who believe in supporting women and youth to achieve their goals and that was The Sustainable City, Dubai. 

As for my family they were certainly afraid from the high risks in this journey and in denial in the beginning, so I had to gain their trust through succeeding in my other climbs and showing my commitment. My close friends were very supportive, while I did have some friends doubting my success, but that didn’t bother me it encouraged me even more.

Tell us about the UN Sustainable Development goals, which ones you are passionate about, and how these fit into your climbing ambitions?

I am passionate about them all, but I would say that climate action, gender equality and sustainable cities and communities are my focus.

It is very important to adapt sustainable practices in our daily life, using less plastic, reducing energy and water consumption, and carpooling, it all effects the environment and mountains are the most sensitive eco-system to climate change. I have personally seen the difference on the mountains I climbed comparing photos 10 years ago till this day, and how the snow and glacier has melted and left many mountain areas dry.

For gender equality being supported as a woman who climbed Everest at the age of 28. It is extremely important to support youth and women in their goals and to achieve new heights, also the support in education in under privileged/ underdeveloped countries.

I became a resident in The Sustainable City, Dubai. And that helped me adapt a healthier lifestyle as myself and the management share the same values in caring about the environment and finding solutions through renewable energy, and using sustainable ways in the life style, and being able to do my workouts in a safe community with the perfect running track around the greenery area in the city!

Can you tell us about your goal to foster female empowerment through your achievements?

Of course! I mean I have never been really involved in mountaineering and I recently started it which means its never too late to find your passion and become a champion. I believe sports and such achievements can show women’s capabilities in the best healthiest way. I mean really if you look at it nothing is impossible to achieve unless you are choosing to make excuses yourself. Every achievement requires, commitment, dedication, passion and compromise, and it won’t just come to you and there will definitely be a lot of denials and frustrations but that is part of the journey until getting to the best view.

What is the most compelling thing about nature and the outdoors that you love to be a part of? 

the scenery and breathtaking views of the mountains, the fresh air, reconnecting with the simplicity, being in quite places where there is only the sound of the wind, trees and the breathe of fresh air. “even in high altitude”.

How do you physically prepare for such a big climb like Everest?

By climbing mountains as much as possible, I have climbed 5 mountains before Everest starting with Mera Peak 6,576M in the Himalayas, Mount Kilimanjaro Africa’s highest point, Elbrus Europe’s highest point and 1 of worlds 7 summits, I completed a certified winter mountaineering course in the Alps, and my final and most important preparation of them all was climbing mount Manaslu on 8,156 m worlds 8th highest mountain and 4th most dangerous since I got to test myself being 45 days on the mountain. That was 6 months before scaling the magical mount Everest from the NorthEast ridge – Tibet, on May 23rd 2019 at 10:15AM.

I also worked out twice a day everyday months before Everest, and made sure to surround myself with positive supportive mindsets. Climbing a high-altitude mountain is very mental not only physical and on Everest I believe 80% if not more mind over body.

Who are your personal role models and heroes in the extreme sports world, and why?

Alex Abramov, he is an experienced mountaineer with high level of leadership expertise, he summited Everest 10 times while I was there standing with him on the summit in the 10th time this year! And I would say everyone who achieved records is a role model!

What is going to be the next big adventure for you?

Hmm, nothing mountain related planned yet. But I think everything in life is a new adventure. I also started horse riding recently something I always wanted to do!

What makes you a powerful woman?

 Being myself.

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