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Al-Houby: 1st Arab Woman to Conquer Vinson Summit

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ANTARCTICA, January 31, 2010 (WAFA)- Suzanne Al Houby reached the summit of Vinson at  4898 meters and became the first Arab Woman to climb and reach the summit of the highest mountain in Antarctica.

“This is one of the seven summits of which I have finished 4. ( seven summits are the highest mountains in all seven continents),” Al-Houby wrote, “I could only enjoy the summit for less than 5 minutes due to fierce winds blowing!”

“Although this is not my first nor my biggest mountain, but the location of this mountain in the harshest and most isolated continent on earth gave me an overwhelming feeling of pride. It is estimated that around 700 climbers only attempted Vinson from all over the world since it was first climbed in 1966,” she added.

“I am now one of them and the first Arab Woman to do so, Al-Houby emphasized, “I mean by simply being able to endure the extremist weather conditions without losing any of my 10 fingers and 10 toes due to frost bite is in itself a difficult goal to achieve!”

 On the details of her journey, she elaborates: “It is January 18th. We have been in Antarctica climbing Vinson for 6 days and today was our summit push. The day started with high winds and we decided to wait for a while. After two more hours, we decided to give it a try. It is below 20 degrees, I have put all my layers of clothes with my minus 40 down suit  made especially for these extreme weather conditions…we roped together and started the climb.  Once we passed the ridge behind the high camp, winds were blowing like nothing I have experienced before. We pushed harder. One hour below the summit, temperature reached minus 37 with winds that brought it down to minus 50. An assuring voice was echoing in my head: You are strong, keep going, don’t doubt yourself, keep going, you are almost there, don’t even think about quitting! One hour later, I was standing on the Top of the Bottom of the World!”

She concludes: The vast, endlessly white, bitterly cold, white nights continent redefined wilderness for me! These conditions can drive men to insanity and to easily accept defeat! In order to endure, mental strength is as important and vital to one’s survival as physical strength. I had to keep my head clear of distractions, forget about all what exists outside this mountain and focus hard on one step at a time. And as a fellow climber told me: every step is your new summit Suzanne!

Suzanne is a Palestinian Arab Climber, residing in Dubai,  who is the first Palestinian Arab Woman who reached the summits of Kilimanjaro; highest in Africa, Elbrus;  Highest in Europe, Mont Blanc; Highest in the Alps in Western Europe, Aconcagua; highest in South America in addition to Toubkal highest in the Atlas mountains in North Africa.

Vinson is Antarctica’s highest mountain at 4,898 meters. The mountain is 20 km long by 13 km wide in the Sentinel Range in the Ellsworth Mountains and was discovered in 1958 by US navy aircraft.

 

Antarctica is a geographical unit distinguished by the most extraordinary features existing on earth, the best definition of which is extreme. In effect its extreme circumpolar position governs its environmental dynamics, which are different even from those of its opposite, the Arctic, an ocean covered by floating marine ice.

Antarctica is a continent almost completely submerged beneath ice, which not only conceals its topography, but has also influenced its evolution. It is difficult to apply the term 'continent' to what at first glance appears to be a huge mass of ice, with no forests, no rivers, no lakes and only limited forms of life; nonetheless Antarctica is one of the most ancient continents and has undergone complex geological processes which determined its geographical location in the southern extreme of the globe.

Extreme features of Antarctica have determined its isolation in human and historical terms, and prevented the settlement of any native population. Antarctica is the only continent which remained unknown to man for such a long period of time; less than 200 years ago, the spirit of adventure and scientific curiosity attracted explorers in search of the legendary land, believed only to exist in ancient myths. Even after its existence was confirmed, this unique environment restricted access for most human purposes. This situation has remained unchanged in spite of recent technological progress which has eased man's occupation of the continent and his related political, economic and scientific activities.

 

The isolation of Antarctica is further emphasized by the climatic features of the Antarctic Ocean. Antarctica is one of the coldest, driest and stormiest which, during the winter, is surrounded by a wide layer of marine ice, making access to the continent almost impossible. Antarctic covers an area of 14,000,000 sq km (8,694,000nm). This is one tenth of all the land surface on Earth, or about one and a half times the size of the U.S. Ten percent of the area consists of floating ice shelves, generally seaward extensions of land glaciers. Antarctica is buried beneath a vast ice sheet; bare rock represents only about 1% of the whole area.

 

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