Yousef Al Refaie shows courage and patriotic pride.
Gulf today, Staff reporter
He’s taken exercise seriously most of his life, but mountaineer Yousef Al Refaie has taken it to the next level, setting a Guinness World Records title for being the youngest person to climb all seven volcanic peaks at 24 years and 119 days. .
Al Refaie is not only 24 years old, he is also the 24th in the world to have climbed the highest volcano on each continent. Notoriety isn’t the key here as climbing all seven calderas is a very rare achievement, so becoming the youngest person to complete the circuit is an even rarer feat.
“You are from the desert, I don’t think you will be able to climb the highest mountains” is what drove him towards his goal which began as a normal tourist trip on December 30, 2015 at Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
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The Volcanic Seven Summits is a relatively young circuit, however, the multicontinental project is still not easy, especially for someone born in 1997. The volcanoes were climbed in the following order – Kilimanjaro, Tanzania (December 30, 2015); Elbrus, Russia (July 18, 2017); Giluwe, Papua New Guinea (July 21, 2018); Pico de Orizaba, Mexico (January 6, 2019); Damavand, Iran (August 11, 2019); Ojos Del Salado, above the Argentina-Chile border in the Andes (January 15, 2020); Sidley, Antarctica (December 22, 2021).
Speaking to Guinness World Records, Al Refaie described the difficulty of climbing 4,285m Mount Sidley, a dormant volcano in Marie Byrd Land in Antarctica, mainly due to the 15,000 weights on his backpack and of the other 25,000 pulling down a toboggan.
Al Refaie had previously attempted the world record for the fastest time to climb the highest points of any country on the Arabian Peninsula, but like many other contestants he was barred from entering Yemen to finish the feat.
Marie Byrd Land is one of the largest uninhabited areas in the world, and it has no base or camps, so reaching the highest volcano in such an area was the most difficult among all other peaks. It cost Al Refaie and his friends around $60,000 to climb this peak.
“With a cost of around $60,000 and eight other people by my side, I was able to complete the Sidley mount. We could see sunlight, but the temperature was around -35˚C,” he added.
Each member of the team carried their own food and ate at least three times a day, while constantly losing weight. “We carried 27 meals each for this trip. The food alone was around 10kg in total. These were mostly high calorie dehydrated meals.
It took the team seven hours to push from their camp at 3,000m to the crest of the caldera. Of course, not all ascending missions cost the same, and the range is never constant. For example, reaching Mount Damavand in Iran costs no more than $1,000, while the others cost almost everything between $2,000 and $10,000.
“Planning is the key. Each has been assigned a mission, some are dedicated to digging, while others to tasks like cooking and camping. You need very disciplined people around you to complete this journey.
Inspired by Mohammed Burbayea, holder of the Guinness World Records title for most IJSBA World Championship wins (men), Youssef is ready to take on the next challenge in November as he crosses the world’s greatest deserts, starting with the empty quarter of the region. “I’m thinking of crossing The Empty Quarter by a new route.”
Two more summits would have completed the relatively young circuit in January 2022 following Al Refaie’s achievement, bringing the total to 26 climbers, but the Kuwaiti national is still the youngest to do so.
“When I first asked my mom for the Guinness Book of World Records when I was a kid, she told me she would only buy it if I had something amazing to do. I really don’t know if she meant it that time, but here we are living the dream. My message to those who try and fail, be inspired by people who have done it before and never give up. Amazing will find its way to you one way or another.