A leap of faith atop the highest mountains

 

 

Outside of their corporate life, a group of adventurists paved their way through some of the world’s highest mountains, not only to explore the beauty of nature and embark on new adventures, but mainly to help those in need.

 

Besides the adventurous spirit the young team members share, they have one remarkable cause in common: climbing for cancer! As striking as it sounds, the mountaineers teamed up with a Dubai-based charitable initiative called Climb For Cancer (CFC) and decided to turn their hobby into a life experience reaping its benefits with unfortunate kids who suffer from cancer.

 

Climbing was never an easy activity for them, however both the children and peaks have their heart. The team’s determination to move outside of their comfort zone outstrips the tiredness they feel along the path and the risk they put themselves in. This is where the purpose and the ray of hope and faith they have for these pediatric cancer patients has shone through.

 

 

 

One on one with Ali Abbas, Member, Climb for Cancer

 

Capital Business sat with Ali Abbas, Member, Climb for Cancer, who climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, Mont Blanc and is getting ready for his third adventure in Mount Elbrus. Ali talked us through his exciting journey and shared with us details about the upcoming trip.

 

 

How did you get started with climbing?

My journey started when I first moved to Dubai in 2012 and met Mustapha Mroueh, a colleague who became a close friend. We both share a passion for outdoors activities and had the same target in mind, which was climbing Mount Kilimanjaro - the highest mountain in Africa- for a cause. We were both fortunate to meet Nizar Fakhoury, the founder of Climb for Cancer (CFC), a charitable initiative based in Dubai with a mission to climb high mountains in order to raise money and help pediatric cancer patients.

Soon, we gathered a team of 8 volunteers, who were set off for their journey. The team liaised with a local cancer center and identified a young girl suffering from brain tumor. On November 5th 2013, the team led by Mustapha summited Mount Kilimanjaro successfully and managed to raise the full amount needed for the child’s treatment.

 

 

What motivated you to start climbing for cancer?

When a child is fighting cancer, they need to know that they’re not alone. They need to know they have a team fighting with them and for them

 

In a nutshell, how would you define your engagement with Climb for Cancer?

I have been climbing for CFC since 2013. As a team, we try to organize similar trips as often as we can.

Thus far, after Kilimanjaro, CFC team climbed Mont Blanc in 2014, the highest summit in the European Union. This year, we will be climbing Mount Elbrus, the highest peak in Europe.

 

As a team, how do you approach patients with cancer?

CFC has partnered with different organizations across the Middle East including The Friends of Cancer Patients in the UAE, King Hussein Cancer Center in Jordan and The Children's Cancer Center of Lebanon.  

As a team, we usually ask our partners about patients in need of fundraising, and they share with us the details of a patient who requires funds with the amount of money needed. We commit to fund and support the full amount.

 

What are the challenges that you encounter when preparing for your trip and while you are climbing?

In order to climb high mountains, one has to tick all the right boxes - mainly, being fit as well as physically and mentally prepared before the climb itself. The process consists of gathering a team, partnering with a cancer center, identifying a patient and launching the fundraising campaign.

The climb itself is a combination of pleasure and hardship, as we are set outside of our comfort zone, sleeping in tents or barrels (huts are our 5 stars hotel), eating camping food for a week and spending multiple days without a shower, isolated from any medium of communication

Nevertheless, this is certainly part of the pleasure, and undoubtedly we all share the same passion for mountaineering. At the end of the day, besides summiting the mountain, our utmost purpose is raising funds and meeting our targets as we are committed to fund the treatment.

 

How do you overcome those challenges?

With regards to fundraising, we usually get corporate sponsorships as well as online donations from friends and family or even random people who believe in our cause. So far, CFC has contributed to the treatment of nine pediatric cancer patients raising more than 600,000 US dollars. All donations are made through direct transfer to the cancer center’s account or through an online donation platform of theirs.

As for the physical challenges, we always prepare ourselves ahead of time. We do individual and team workouts and follow a proper diet. We usually train by hiking in nearby mountains (Jebel Jais in Ras al Khaimah, Jebel Shams in Oman) and some mountains whenever we are in Lebanon. We are also fortunate to train at Ski Dubai, where we can test our equipment and outfits in the freezing temperatures.

 

How do you fund your own trips?

We do fund the trips ourselves entirely. We believe that this is our obligation and contribution to the cause besides climbing.

 

How many times have you considered giving up and what kept you going?

Giving up is an idea that hits my mind quite often while summiting. The hardest part is usually the summit push as it happens overnight in extreme cold weather reaching -15 to -20 degrees Celsius. This is where the struggle begins, but it is right there where you test your limits and discover your strength; the struggle is as much mental as physical. Uphill trails only leave two choices: reach the top or turn around. Reaching the top only requires the perseverance to keep putting one foot in front of the other. When life gets tough, I try to remember all we can do is put one foot in front of the other and just keep going. Reaching the top of a mountain is an impressive physical, mental, and emotional accomplishment; and it is motivating. It reminds me that I can accomplish important things with my life if I dream big and put in the work.

 

What is the most memorable moment you have ever had while climbing?

The sunrise I watched from the top of Mont Blanc Summit.

 

Can you share with us details of your upcoming trip to Elbrus?

I will be joined by three other climbers who are based in Dubai: Mustapha Mroueh, who’s leading the team, Oscar Asly, Karam Barnaba, as well as Joanne Hayek who will be joining us from Beirut. This time, we have partnered with CCCL, to raise funds for a 9-year old boy called Issa, who is suffering from Leukemia.

The trip will start on the 17th of July and will last for 12 days. We will be climbing Mount Elbrus, which is located in the northern part of the Caucasus mountain range at a height of 5642m. Elbrus will be the team’s second mountain after Kilimanjaro out of the Seven Summits, which are the highest mountains of each of the seven continents.

 

What is the message you’d like to convey in order to encourage people to participate with you and donate to this charitable cause?

I would encourage everyone who is interested in climbing for a cause to contact us. We can inform them ahead of time about the forthcoming trips and brief them about the preparations and requirements needed to participate.

I encourage every person to step out of their comfort zone and do something they have never done before, like myself when I first started. Eventually, that might change their life and might make them more aware of the things around them. We are not only dealing with high mountains, but with pediatric cancer patients. We might fail to the summits, but we can’t fail in raising funds.

 

 

For your donation, please visit:

www.cccl.org.lb/donate-n8.php#.VaS4TfmqpBd

 

 

Follow Climb for Cancer on:

Instagram: Climbforcancer

Facebook: Climb for Cancer

Twitter: @CancerClimb

 

About Ali Abbas

Ali Abbas is an avid traveler and sports enthusiast. He is a Lebanese-Moroccan living in Dubai and working as a Supply Chain Analyst at PepsiCo.

 

 

*Interview conducted by Jenny Kassis

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