Broken ribs, dislocated shoulders, injured body parts – none of these ever stopped Ebrahim AlKhajeh from going on in his adventures and exploring the wonders that this world has to offer. From deep and dark caves to the peaks of hills and mountains, he tells his story to Tempo about planning his trips, the challenges that came along and the bonds that he created with his peers.
So how and when did you first learn about your love for mountaineering?
“In 2012. I just started indoor rock climbing first to try it as an activity. Someone was telling me that since I’m so into sports I should try rock climbing. I said ‘it’s a piece of cake. But the first time I went to try it I was climbing up and down and then my body starting hurting afterwards. And I was confused because with a lot of my other sports it doesn’t. But it was good. And then after six months I started doing outdoor climbing and I said ok I’ll get rid of all the other sports and just do rock climbing on the weekends. Then I started hiking, canyoneering, caving, everything. I started taking a course on caving. Underground. It’s like under the ground there is another world. It’s like 10 kilometers. It’s something amazing. I’m going to Alaska now, at the end of July.
What do you do aside from mountaineering?
Aside mountaineering I have a day job working as an HR manager at an aviation company. But besides that I do lots of activities. Where do you want to start exactly? Because I’ve tried lots of them, I couldn’t decide which ones I liked most. I’ve been to lots of tournaments because I was shifting from sport to sport. Like before I was doing running, billiards, chess tournaments, bowling, boxing, what else…..
How do you plan?
Weekdays I work, then after working time I start planning for the trips. I was planning on doing Snake Gorge in Oman but there’s a very big storm coming so the weekend plans are destroyed. The rain makes so much risk in the canyon. , also, Snake Gorge is one of the biggest and most technical ones in Oman. And you’re propelling 40 meters inside that, so if you’re inside and the storm is coming, you really need to be careful and make sure the storm isn’t too close. Because you can get a big flood coming towards you. It happened to me once and I almost died. My back, shoulders, and knees all broke because of the storm. It was an easy canyon we were in, but the flood started taking us. After I got out I found that I was all broken. That’s why there’s so much risk. You need to check the forecast, always. Especially if you go on a trip with 15, 20 people who aren’t very experienced. Because they can’t handle it. Me, for example, I have a plastic shoulder, I’ve had broken ribs, a broken back, broken knees and ankles and two toes. I’ve had 5 surgeries now. It’s fine though, I’m used to it.
How many peaks or caves have you reached so far?
A lot. I can’t count, but famous international ones I have done Kilamanjaro, the Himalaya Mountains. Himalaya took me 16 days climbing. Kilamanjaro took me 7 days climbing. And now Alaska will take me exactly 30 days. We don’t have a toilet or a shower. Just your backpack and yourself. And that’s our life every weekend
Well… it’s different mountain to mountain. Kilimanjaro was something real. It’s not very technical, but there is a weird energy in the mountain itself. When we were climbing, we started falling asleep, as we got higher and near the summit, at 5,600 m altitude. My friend Haithum, poor guy, he started to fall from the mountain and the last guy had to catch him before he fell off. I even started going off the track three times. People were vomiting. And the negative energy started eating us. So we started talking to each other, screaming like crazy to try and keep the positive energy up. After that we kept hiking for another 12 hours. It was 16 hours of hiking that day. When you change the negative energy to positive energy you can go an extra 20 hours without sleeping. This is so important in the mountains. If you are positive, nothing will affect you. When I dislocated my shoulder, I continued. I broke my knees, I continued. My ribs broke jumping from 25 meters high, and I just held my hands on them and continued. So we have never stopped. But if the negative energy catches me, I will die. Every weekend there is risk. That’s why even when you’re in a dangerous spot you need to be positive so you can continue
How did people react?
Most of them say I am crazy. I hear that a lot. And I just say, ‘This is my life.’ I say adventure is my life and adrenaline keeps me alive. With adventure there is always risk. But if people tell me what I do is dangerous, I remind them how many people die on the road in car accidents every day. It’s like much more dangerous than what I’m doing. But what I’m doing is real. I get to see parts of the world that no one else knows. Finding new caves, new areas that I couldn’t even imagine. You see things, even in Oman, that you never even see in movies. 40, 50 meter waterfalls. It’s real life.
Which mountaineers inspire you?
“I attended a presentation by Adrian Hayes – the one who climbed K2. His friend died in front of his eyes. That was lots of motivation. People say when you see an accident, you learn from it and it gives you more motivation. It was the same with Adrian. He said that in 2013 he started climbing K2, and he reached base camp 3 before the summit and his friends went to base camp 2 and he couldn’t contact them. After one day, he gave more money to the guide to find his friends. The guide went to their basecamp and found that a huge avalanche had come and killed them all. And there’s a rule in mountaineering that says you have to go back down when that happens, in case of another avalanche. So he went back down, he trained for a year and then he climbed K2 again. And when he reached base camp 2 he saw the tent of his friends, the ones who had died. And that was very emotional. Then he started climbing and he found the summit. At the top he saw a big piece of ice that was broken, which could have started another avalanche. But they kept hiking under that even though in any second it could fall on their heads. It was very scary but they reached the summit. It’s always extreme. You feel good, you feel everything. When you reach the summit, it’s a different story. When I reached the summit of Kilimanjaro, after all that suffering and pain and almost dying I started having tears like….tears of joy. And I saw Fadhi and I was like “why are you crying?” and he said, “why are you crying?”. Then we saw Haithum and he was crying too. It’s different. When you reach the summit, it’s something amazing. People don’t know until they try it. People in the city, they don’t know what’s going on. I want people to see that part of life. When they see it, some of them get addicted to it. It’s like cocaine to them. And some people get scared.
When are you going to Alaska?
I’m going the 29th of July, and coming back 3rd of September. I’m going to start climbing on the 1st of August and on the 30th of August, enshallah, I will be back from the mountain and then we will have three days of resting.
How can people get in touch with you?
Facebook. Eby Orange. (Orange is my favorite color). This is my page. The group we have is ‘Adventure ____. Most of the time we post things about the trips on the facebook page.
All in all, what would be your message to those people who want to try mountaineering?
I want to motivate everyone to do mountaineering. Because mountaineering teaches you. It teaches you leadership that you use everywhere. On the mountain and also in your everyday life. It teaches you how to trust your friends, how to delegate authority, how to face your fears. It gives you more self-confidence. In mountaineering, if you don’t communicate with your friends, you’re going to die. You need to trust them because it’s your life in their hands. Communication is very important. If you don’t have good leadership, you will lead them to hell. You must gain leadership with mountaineering, it’s not a choice. The relationship you have with your team is different in mountaineering than in any other sport. After just one trip mountaineering, with people I had never met, you find that you are at a level of closeness where you are hugging and being so close. One day mountaineering is different than if you are on a football team for two, three years. It’s not the same relationship. People learn this on the first time. If you are scared of heights…usually when there is a waterfall that’s 8 or 9 meters and some people don’t want to jump, I have two techniques. I have a push technique with my hands or with my legs. If they are scared and I see that the water is directly underneath them, I push them with my hands. But if there is a rock anywhere near the bottom for one meter, I will kick them instead, so they fall in safe. And usually after they come up from the water, they say “Thanks for pushing me!” I hear that a lot. Because they’re stuck, they’re standing for 15, 20 minutes and they’re scared to jump. Now I say,“ok guys don’t make me come!” They know me now, and they don’t want to see me coming up because I’ll push them a hundred percent” And that’s the thing, after I push you, the second time you will go up and jump alone. You learn something new and you face your fear. If you are scared of something, you can kill that fear. Like, of course its scary when you jump from 25 meters high. One time I fell and I could hear my ribs cracking. Two of them kind of came out. That was different, but it was awesome! (Neil: Awesome??)
You need to be positive! I don’t want to mention the pain because if I were to say it was painful than I would feel more pain. When I’m in pain I say pain makes me feel alive. So that makes it positive instead of negative.