Showing posts with label extreme sports. Show all posts
Showing posts with label extreme sports. Show all posts

Kosovo Mountaineer Uta Ibrahimi on Climbing, Female Athletes, and the Importance of Community Support

A Q&A with Uta Ibrahimi about her mountaineering life

Uta Ibrahimi after climbing Mount Everest UtaCC BY-SA 4.0
via Wikimedia Commons

This story by Violeta Jonchevska originally appeared on Global Voices on July 28, 2021.

Uta Ibrahimi, an alpinist from Kosovo, is the first ethnic Albanian woman to climb Mount Everest, which she did on 22 May 2017. Afterwards, she climbed ManasluCho-OyuLhotse and Gasherbrum, making her officially the first woman from the Balkans to summit five peaks taller than 8000 meters.

Through her alpinism and media appearances, Uta seeks to raise awareness about nature, the mountains, and human rights, particularly in Kosovo and Albania. Uta is also a Sustainable Development Goals Champion, promoting gender equality, youth empowerment and environmental preservation.

In this interview you will read more about her mountaineering adventures and the challenges she faces.

Global Voices (GV): How did your career in alpinism start? When was your love for mountaineering and climbing born?  

Uta Ibrahimi (UI): I started my hiking activity with professional mountaineers on 22 of May, 2011. Before that I had only practiced short hikes with my family.

Thanks to the guides, who are husband and wife, that was the day I realized that women and girls can be great mountaineers. Later on, I  met many strong and tough women who shared a common passion for the mountains and blew my mind with their power.

Later, in 2015, after climbing Mont Blanc, the love of mountains became my biggest passion. I decided to leave my 12-year career in marketing and a job at one of the most famous agencies in Kosovo, only to get closer to land and sky, and my inner self.

Uta Ibrahimi
Uta Ibrahimi
LiridonCC BY-SA 4.0
via Wikimedia Commons

GV: How did you prepare to climb Mount Everest? How did it feel to be the first person from your country on top of the world?

UI:  My biggest experience in mountaineering was definitely in 2016 in the Himalayas, where I had gone for training in high altitudes.

I met a lot of people, learned a lot about climbing high mountains, and most importantly I realized I was physically and mentally prepared to test myself and realize my dream.

As soon as I came back in Kosovo, I started my project to make it work. Everything was harder from what I expected it to be, be it the physical challenges, psychological preparation and the financial aspect.

In order to climb high dangerous mountains, what you need most is the love and moral support of your community. I didn’t receive that in the very beginning, mainly coming from a deep concern of these people about what could happen to me in these altitudes. I also encountered  lack of faith in the power of women, even though a lot of women had already proven themselves to be equal with men in this sport.

The more one climbs the peaks of the world, the more one needs the love of the people—the moral support.

Reaching the top of the world remains one of the biggest accomplishments in my life, and one of the best feelings in my entire life. To witness the sunrise in 8000+ meters, surrounded by absolute silence is like being born for the second time, but this time fully aware and at peace, filled with positivity and joy.

On the other hand, I am very happy that with all the hard work I achieved something for myself and my country. I made my nation proud by waving the Albanian and Kosovo flags for the first time at the top of the world, becoming the first Albanian woman to summit Mount Everest.

After the summit on Everest, I have started the project on climbing the 14 highest mountains in the world—there are only 4 women in the world that have summited till now. I have now climbed 6 of them, by becoming the only girl from the Balkan with 6 summits on 8000 meters peak, and waving Albanian and Kosovo flag for the first time on each. Now, I am on preparation to climb the 8 remaining peaks, all the time training and working for the funding my expedition.

GV: One of your missions is to raise awareness of nature, mountains and environmental protection; what activities do you undertake in that field?

UI:  To participate in projects that embrace the values of my activism as an SDG champion, supported by both the public and private sector, I have founded an NGO called Utalaya Foundation. Through our foundation we target different audiences, mainly focusing on marginalized groups in Kosovo such as: women, minority communities, children and youth, children with special needs, youth from rural areas etc.

We try to engage this audience as much as possible in projects that raise awareness on environmental protection.

For instance, recently we had a great cooperation with the municipality of Prishtina, engaging children with autism and Down syndrome, their caretakers and their parents with recreational and environmentally educational activities in the Bear Sanctuary in Prishtina-Germia Hill. We combined learning on importance of preserving nature and biodiversity with yoga, meditation, hiking and games that enhance their cognitive, behavioral and motor skills with different experts such as speech therapists, artists, instructors etc.

I very often participate voluntarily in calls from different organizations to be their voice of campaigns regarding women empowerment, environmental protection, human rights, children rights etc.

We are currently starting an awareness campaign with the World Wide Fund for Nature advocating the preservation of the Sharr Mountains National Park in Kosovo.

We are also going to take part in a project supported by the ministry of culture, youth and sports to engage the youth from rural areas to consciously use the natural resources and cherish the natural blessings our country offers us. 

So gender equality is not a strategy, it’s a moral value, it’s a lifestyle and obligation we must all apply.

GV: As an advocate for gender equality, can you describe what kind of strategy you use to implement this important commitment?

UI:  I have always been blessed to be surrounded by wonderful and inspiring women, starting from my mom, sisters, friends, co-workers and work partners, therefore I’ve always found joy in creating something together with women.

It’s not like I use a strategy; gender advocacy has become an unshakable part of my character since a very young age, and I try to do everything I can to empower women, such as hiring them in my hiking company, or foundation. In different projects I always engage women in activities that empower them and remove all stigma or prejudice created from our society.

Vulnerable groups are the main target and value of our foundation, and clearly women and girls do not exercise all their rights in Kosovo. Yet, hopefully with engagement, empowerment and advocacy this will change, and it has already started to change. So gender equality is not a strategy, it’s a moral value, it’s a lifestyle and obligation we must all apply.

GV: Finally, do you have any recommendations for young climbers and mountaineers, things they should pay special attention to, so they can be safe on the mountain?

UI:  Youngsters, but also other age groups, should realize that it is never too late to start practicing outdoor sports and activities such as mountaineering or alpinism. The most important thing and message from me to my fellow alpinists is to stay safe in the mountains and not damage nature. A good mountaineer and alpinist is someone who protects and preserves nature at all cost. The fulfilment we take from mother earth has to be repaid with deep care and compassion.


This article is republished from Global Voices under a Creative Commons license.
Global Voices is an international community of writers, translators, academics, and human rights activists leveraging the power of the internet to build understanding across borders.

Kami Rita Sherpa Breaks Record as He Climbs Mount Everest for the 24th Time

Image courtesy of Seven Summit Treks Pvt. Ltd. Used with permission.
Broke his own record for most summits on Mount Everest

Written by Sanjib Chaudhary - May 28, 2019
Original story first published at Global Voices

Climbing Mount Everest is on every adrenaline junkie’s wishlist, but Everest summiteer Kami Rita Sherpa has checked this off his list a record amount of times. Defying all odds, he climbed the world’s highest peak twice in a week this year – earlier on 15 May and again on 21 May 2019 – making his number of Everest ascents 24.
Seven Summit Treks, the company he works with, announced on Facebook:
21 May 2019 !
24th Ascents of Mt Everest 8848m by Kami Rita Sherpa, HUGE CONGRATULATIONS TO OUR SENIOR GUIDE.
This morning 6:30 AM Kami Rita climbed the Mt Everest for 24 times (2nd Ascents of this season) and broke his own record of 23rd Ascents! […]
According to the Tashi Lakpa Sherpa, MD at Seven Summit Treks, this morning at 6:30 AM Kami Rita climbed the highest peak via South Side with A TEAM OF INDIAN POLICE. “Guiding a team of Indian Police Mt Everest Expedition 2019 this morning Kami Rita Sherpa climbed Mt Everest for 24 times; he made the entire country proud, this is a golden mark in the history of mountaineering🇳🇵 ” Sherpa added.
Kami Rita belongs to the Sherpa ethnic group native to the most mountainous regions of Nepal and the Himalayas. Many Sherpas are good mountaineers and experts in their local area and they have long been serving as professional guides to foreign mountaineers who want to brave the extreme altitudes.

Kami Rita hails from Thame village in Nepal’s Solukhumbu District, known for its famous climbers. Thame has produced famous climbers including Apa Sherpa (aka Super Sherpa) who held the previous record of most Mount Everest summits and Ang Rita Sherpa who has climbed Everest 10 times without supplemental oxygen that has earned him the sobriquet ‘The Snow Leopard’.

Kami Rita climbed Everest on 13 May 1994 for the first time and has also climbed K2 and Lhotse one time each, Manaslu twice and Cho Oyu eight times, totalling 36 ascents of peaks over 8,000m according to Seven Summit Treks.

After climbing Everest so many times, Kami Rita has seen the visible effects of climate change on Everest. Speaking to BBC Nepali earlier this year, Kami Rita said:
पहिले १२/१३ वटा भर्याङ चढ्नुपर्थ्यो भने अहिले तीन-चारवटाले पुग्छ। […]
पहिले क्याम्प टूमै कति धेरै हिउँ हुन्थ्यो। अहिले हिमनदी मात्र छ। […] बाल्कोनीभन्दा माथि कम्मरसम्म हिउँ हुन्थ्यो अहिले ढुङ्गामात्र देखिन्छ।
Earlier we had to climb 12-13 ladders [at Kumbu Icefall] but we can do with 3-4 these days. […]
In earlier days Camp 2 used to see a lot of snow. Now there’s only a glacier. […] Above Balcony there used to be snow up to hips, now you see only rocks.
Around 300 climbers have died on Everest and only a few dead bodies have been brought down. Now, the melting of ice in Everest is exposing the dead bodies buried in the snow.

A recent report by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development states that the Himalayas will lose more than one-third of their ice by the end of the century. In addition, many climbers leave tents, climbing equipment, gas canisters and human poop, making Everest a literal dumping site. However, climbing Everest is a big business with hundreds of aspirants seeking the help of Sherpa guides to reach the summit.

Like every other year, new records have already been made with South Africa’s Saray N’ Kusi Khumalo becoming the first black African woman to successfully climb Everest. And some climbers have died and have gone missing on Mount Everest this year too. But the craze of climbing Everest, it seems, will never subside.

 Originally published, here, by Sanjib Chaudhary under the terms of a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0) license.

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