Each participant takes home these medals | Photo Credit: RC
Jebal Shams is the highest peak in the Arabian Gulf reaching a harrowing 3,028 meters. The mountain boasts some of the safest trekking trails in the area making it ideal for Husaak’s Jebal Shams Challenge.
The challenge to hike up the mountain’s summit wins cash prizes – the first man and the first woman will each receive 1,000 Omani Rials (USD $2,725 / AED 10,000)! But, if you’re not in it to win it, the challenge is a fun day hike up and down the mountain for even beginners; simply go at your own pace, hydrate, and make sure you bring your camera along because there are spectacular views!
Tents were sprawled throughout the Sama Heights Resort provided with a certain class of ticket. Some opted to bring their own tents or splurge for the cabins with attached bathrooms. Speaking of facilities, there were spacious washrooms available with warm water | Photo Credit: RC
Entering the campsite, this detailed map shows you (left) the hiking trail for the race and (right) how the camp is laid out | Photo Credit: RC
View of the campsite | Image Source: Husaak
Wondering if you’ll be cooking your own food? Think again!
Enjoy buffet dining in the comfort of a warm hall. The warmth of this space was much welcomed during the cold nights and mornings | Photo Credit: RC
On their 3rd year, this challenge saw more people head up to the mountains for the 3-day weekend event: April 19th-21st.
The iconic stage at the peak that makes for phenomenal photos is where everyone wants to reach. Posing carefree is para-triathlete, Shaikha Al Shaiba, who flew in from Bahrain | Image Source: Shaikha Al Shaiba
This was my first time to Jebal Shams and I had to stop to admire the view | Photo Credit: Michael Chu
The massive Wadi Nakhr, also knowsn as the “Grand Canyon of Arabia,” reveals itself when you reach Station 3. They call this spot the “IMAX View” – a fitting name for a spectacular spot! | Photo Credit: RC
With the sun low on the horizon and a cool chill in the air, at 6:30 am the race began and off they ran! Participants were given 3 litres of water each and a lunch bag containing a sandwich, apple, orange, and some snacks. You’re encouraged to bring your own snacks as well.
The schedule for Day 2 – Race Day | Photo Credit: Adam Al Rashdi
Every kilometer was marked by a station attended by Husaak staff. Your bib number as noted as you passed by to ensure everyone was accounted for so no one would be left on the mountain after dark. There were two stations that offered refreshments and a medic to attend to injuries.
The Husaak team kindly offering coffee and tea to everyone | Photo Credit: RC
Senior consultant trauma surgeon and intensivist, Dr Abdullah Al-Harthy, was on site as the ‘medic on the mountain’ who helped participants (like myself!) complete the challenge | Photo Credit: Anas Balushi
Looking back from around 4.5km into the hike, the campsite is way off in the distance. If you’re not racing, then the fun is meeting people from all over the world. Everyone helped one another sharing their food, water, and hiking poles | Photo Credit: RC
The full list of results can be found at: http://www.events.provision.com/event/getResult/151
[Interview transcribed from Arabic to English]
Saleh: Yes, I do – on a daily basis. I also cycle a lot around 70k twice a week.
Saleh: I trained a lot – for about one month because it was my goal to win the challenge. I was hiking on a daily basis under the sun in the hot weather to win. In total, I tried to summit Jebal Shams three times but only reached the summit twice.
The winner seen here enjoying refreshments at the campsite with a medal hanging round his neck | Image Source: Saleh Ali Abdullah Al Saidi
Saleh: Absolutely. I will come back to defend my title; the money is definitely a great incentive. I entered on the budget pass so I brought my own tent and food. I am proud because I achieved my goal to win; and, also, I beat the UK competitor, Flash Gordon, who came in second place and who runs marathons, hikes, etc.
Saleh: Hiking, running, and cycling.
Saleh: It is a very good event because it makes you challenge yourself before challenging other competitors. It makes you improve your patience and skills. I would recommend this challenge to friends because it is not as difficult as I imaged it to be. It was normal hiking and not running; so, essentially, anyone can participate to enjoy if they do not want to race.
The winner celebrating at the peak! | Image Source: Saleh Ali Abdullah Al Saidi
Oksana: The whole sole of my very old hiking boots came off and this happened just after station 5 (5km) – so there was still 5 more stations to go. The inner sole kept holding up for about 500 m but then only my thick sock helped me out. The terrain in Jebel Shams is quite rough and where there are no rocks there is some gravel and thorns. I had to stop few times to remove some of them as they kept sticking in my sock.
“Once I reached the summit, I applied some first aid to my boot using an elastic band kindly provided by the Hussak team; albeit unstable, it managed to hold up the sole (more or less – with a few repairs along the way) until I got back!”
Here is the boot, held together by mere first-aid material, on which Oksana won the race! Incredible! | Photo Credit: Medina Ilyassova
Oksana: I was lucky enough not to cut my foot although it was quite sore when I returned to the camp.
Oksana: I have been in Oman for just over a year and I left Venezuela in 2005. My job has taken me to amazing and interesting places. Prior to Oman, I worked in Angola and Azerbaijan.
Oksana: I used to hike and I must confess that I have not hiked much at all since many years ago; but, Jebel Shams has ignited that again for sure. I was so amazed by the beauty of that place and I can see that I will be exploring the area on the way forward. Since I have not hiked in a while, I have been doing some strength and conditioning training in the UFC Gym in Muscat and that has helped greatly in my overall fitness!!
Thrilled with her win, Oksana poses at Station 5 on her way back down for me to snap a photo of her | Photo Credit: RC
Oksana: I enjoy kitesurfing and running the most. Swimming and biking are part of my outdoor activities too.
Oksana: Definitely! However, I should prepare better… (new boots to be acquired shortly too).
Oksana: It was a fascinating experience. It was my first time at Jebel Shams and I could not stop admiring the beauty of the place when I was driving up to the camp. The challenge was very well organized and the staff were so friendly and helpful. I truly loved the experience. Plus, all the fellow hikers were so enthusiastic and they kept cheering me up when I was meeting them either on the way up or the way back.
“I would certainly recommend the Jebal Shams Challenge. It has it all: stunning landscape, great ambiance, and a great challenge.”
Oksana at the iconic view point standing proud! | Image Source: Oksana Barraez
ub-cool founder, Medina Ilyassova (right) with Gertjan Verdickt (left) and Manal Rostom (middle) in Muscat before heading to the mountains for the challenge | Image Source: Medina Ilyassova
This Finance PhD candidate gave an engaging talk about how he runs marathons to raise money for Multiple Sclerosis. He described how incredibly difficult it was to run and come in 3rd place at the Antarctica Ice Marathon last year.
“I did meet amazing people. I was unable to attend the inspirational talks of the others, but this idea was something I liked as well. It was very well organized. The surroundings are beautiful, so the (short) hike was really worth it.”
After his TALK on the 2nd night, Gertjan rushed to the airport to get back to Belgium in time to run a marathon + 16km! Anticipating his upcoming races in Europe, Gertjan decided to do a short hike of 4km on Jebal Shams to reserve his energy.
Gertjan hosting his ub-cool TALK at the campsite to intrigued listeners on Day 2 after the challenge | Photo Credit: RC
This Bahrani para-triathlete and businesswoman competes in the toughest challenges showing the world that even with one arm she can achieve greatness. She hiked up Jebal Shams in only 4 hrs 55 min!
“I will try to come back again next year. I definitely recommend people try this challenge in 2019 it is a different kind of challenge compared to the races I am used to doing. You get to chill and meet people people from all over and spend some quality time with everyone.”
This smiling pair is Shaikha Al Shaiba and Ali Husain, founder of Husaak Adventures | Image Source: Shaikha Al Shaiba
Waving the Bahraini flag with pride, Shaikha smiles high up on Jebal Shams | Images Source: Shaikha Al Shaiba
Based in Muscat, Oman, this British World Record holder for cycling from Muscat to Salalah in under 48 hours gave an inspirational talk to the participants about his experience as an endurance athlete and cycling around the world.
Jonathan Shubert proudly holding a gift he received after his ub-cool TALK from Oman’s Minister of Environment | Photo Credit: RC
“The Jebel Shams challenge showcases Oman’s premier mountain in all its glory. The Husaak team does a tremendous job of marking and marshalling the route so that all you have to worry about is enjoying the views and getting to the top!”
Jonathan giving his ub-cool TALK at the campsite at the end of Day 1 | Photo Credit: RC
“Pit yourself against the local mountain boys and see if you’ve got what it takes to keep up with real mountain goats. What ever your level of fitness, you’ll find a challenge on Jebel Shams”
Hooked by Jonathan’s speech, participants relaxed around the fire | Photo Credit: RC
The first Nike Hijabi feature athlete & Run Coach, as well as the founder of the “Surviving Hijab” Facebook group, attended the event and really enjoyed the hike.
“I really liked the event because it was a cozy, fun getaway that is friendly to all ages. You don’t need to be super fit; you just need to watch for time because I almost ran out of the time to reach the top. I would definitely recommend to everyone – it is very easy to be by anyone of a basic fitness level. And, I love that there were many moms who brought their kids as well.”
At the IMAX Viewpoint, Manal stands between ub-cool’s Adam Al Rashdi (left) and Medina Ilyassova (right) | Manal Rostom
Manal added Jebal Shams to her list of mountains that she has conquered! | Image Source: Manal Rostom
Ali: The Challenge is a continuation of Husaak Adventures’ efforts to brand Oman, and Jebal Shams in particular, as THE adventure destination, while also establishing Jebal Shams as the premier mountain challenge in the entire region. And, I think we’ve achieved that this year.
Ali: I was at the summit for most of the afternoon seeing everyone push themselves to reach the top. Watching the Husaak team and the other participants encourage them and push them to get there was probably my favorite part of the whole weekend.
Ali Husain making his way up to the peak | Image Source: Husaak
Khalid: I was lucky enough to be at basecamp to greet a lot of the adventurers when they came back down. To see the looks on their faces as they received their medals and hearing each of their stories was so gratifying.
“We always aim to give people an experience that’s as much about exploring themselves as it is about exploring nature; and, seeing the effect of that first hand is always such a treat!”
Khalid Jaffar seen here in his favourite place: the outdoors | Image Source: Husaak
Ali and Khalid: It’s still early, but we’re always exploring ways to add more and more to each of our events and to our trips. Next year will definitely be bigger and even better!
Ali and Khalid: The Husaak Team was about 55 strong, including guides, medics and volunteers.
Ali and Khalid: Our core team now stands at 27 members, with another 20+ volunteers.
Ali and Khalid: The team was on the trail every day in the week leading up to the Challenge.
Ali and Khalid: Our team is made up entirely of people from the GCC. We all come from different professional backgrounds, brought together by our love for the outdoors and a deep desire to share that with the people joining our adventures. And, having guides who are from the region give all our adventures a local insight that’s unique. There are 7 of us that are full-time Husaak right now, while the rest of the team maintain their “other” careers and guide trips on weekends and days off.
The Dream Team!
This crew kept everyone safe and happy at this amazing event.
Husaak Adventures received tremendous support from their sponsors to execute yet another amazing mountain challenge.
The event’s list of sponsors | Photo Credit: RC
And, many thanks to Oman Air for supporting ub-cool and being our official airline sponsor transporting our inspirational speakers to Oman for the event. Also, thanks to the Park Inn Muscat for their continued support in hosting our guests at their hotel.
ub-cool’s official sponsor, Oman Air, flew in Gertjan Verdickt (featured above) from Belgium for this event | Photo Credit: Heather Duncan
Gertjan and Manal with the wonderful staff from Park Inn Muscat, who hosted the ub-cool TALKS speakers while in Muscat | Image Source: Park Inn Muscat
Along the hike, we came across these types of motivational plaques! Thanks Husaak for the energy boost! | Image Source: ub-cool
ub-cool’s Adventure Girl, Heather Duncan, making new friends | Photo Credit: Heather Duncan
The fun of this Challenge is that you stop for fun moments and great shots! ub-cool’s Medina Ilyassova and Adam Al-Rashdi stop for yet another shot | Image Source: Adam Al Rashdi
Shaikha Al Shaiba and a participant stop for a photo | Image Source: Shaikha Al Shaiba
The ledge was calling my name! | Photo Credit: Michael Chu
Usama Barwani enjoying the views | Photo Credit: Anas Balushi
American Alex Abel, based in Saudi, flew in for this challenge and left a happy camper! | Photo Credit: Anas Balushi
Shaikha Al Shaiba and the Husaak team | Image Source: Shaikha Al Shaiba
ub-cool friend, Michael Chu (facing his fear of heights) mustered his strength and came as close as he could to the ledge | Photo Credit: RC
Definitely not afraid of heights, the female winner of the race, Oksana, poses at the summit of Jebal Shams! | Image Source: Oksana Barraez
Dear Explorer, The world is your oyster! You’ve heard that one before, eh? Well, it definitely is our motto at ub-cool. We are conquering the world one country at a time with our flag! The world is truly a small place now that we have the ease of air transport. Long gone are the days of sailing weeks across the rough-gut-wrenching seas, watching your suitcases (or, trunks!) slide across the room and almost squash your legs, just to get from one continent to another. Now, you can do that in 12 hours or less. Where in the World is the ub-cool Flag? Come along with us on our journey as the ub-cool team and friends carry our flag across the globe. We will update this page with new additions from the coolest places on Earth! If you want to be part of the journey, email us for a copy of our flag and then submit your photo and we will add it here! Spread the word and check back to see all the new cool places we have been! Turkey September 2018: Balloons in Cappadocia! Exploring the “fairy chimney” rock formations in Turkey, brought along the ub-cool flag for the stunning sights! Ukraine August 2018: Cycling through the Carpathian Mountains Cycling enthusiasts, Kate Pakhomov and Fimm, carried the ub-cool flag through Ukraine! South Africa July 2018: Fun at Lion & Safari Park Devan Kupferman and Laura Symmonds watching lion cubs playing with the ub-cool flag! Arctic Circle June 2018: The Ultimate North! The ub-cool flag reached the Arctic Circle in our founder Medina Ilyassova’s backpack! Kenya June 2018: Hiking in Kwale County! Zarian Sohrab hiked with the ub-cool flag to find some spectacular views! Oman May 2018: Waters around Muscat 10 meters deep in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Muscat, Oman, these passionate freedivers pose with the ub-cool flag! From left to right: Yousuf Al Mukaini, Sele Al Mabsali, and Omar Al Ghailani. Scotland May 2018: Dunottar Castle The ub-cool flag made its way to North East Scotland with our Adventure Girl, Heather Duncan! Ireland May 2018: Southern Irish Coast Our Adventure Girl, Heather Duncan, high above the beautiful cliffs of Ballycotton in County Cork. Nepal April 2018: Mount Everest Base Camp After 7 days of hiking, our Adventure Girl, Heather Duncan, reached Everest Base Camp! Along for the journey was her friend and Jonathan Shubert, ub-cool Explorer and world-record endurance cyclist. Read more about Heather’s journey to Mount Everest Base camp here. Peru April 2018: Machu Picchu The iconic peak of Peru’s famous mountains rise behind ub-cool friend, Hussein Sajwani. He made the gruelling journey to the peak by the most difficult route… Then he made his way to Vinicuna, the Rainbow Mountain, to handstand in the Andes Mountain range. Georgia April 2018: Caucasus Mountains Enjoying her first visit to the beautiful country of Georgia, Medina Ilyassova returned with memories of paragliding over the stunning scenery, exploring castles, and dining on delicious cuisine. If you’re planning a trip to Georgia, discover awesome Georgia tours here. Hawaii April 2018: Koko Crater After a steep climb ub-cool friend, Anshul Bhatnagar, enjoys the view of a cloudy Honolulu! Kazakhstan September 2017 ub-cool’s Medina Ilyassova hangs out in the mountains with family and friends. There is nothing better than fresh mountain air! Bulgaria September 2017 ub-cool friend, Hussein Sajwani, making his way through Bulgaria with the our flag in tow! Tanzania May 2017: Ol Doinyo Lengai Volcano – “Mountain of God” Perched at the top of this active volcano, seen as the “Mountain of God” by the Maasai community, our ub-cool founder, Medina Ilyassova, waves our flag with exciting at her accomplishment. The climb was intense to say the least. Imagine climbing at an incline of more than 70 degrees! Not to mention, starting earlier in the dark with headlights to avoid roasting under the African sun! Read about Medina’s climb up Ol Doniyo Lengai Volcano here. Last Updated: 21st May 2018 Watch this space for regular updates! Email us for a copy of our flag and we’ll add your submission to this post!
Dear Explorer, We have searched the web looking for the best photos of the web from the month of April 2018 to inspire you to say ‘WOW‘, get outdoors & lead an active life! 10 Best Photos of the Web Here are our Top 10 pics for this month’s photo competition: Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah | Instagram: @alexgoldman The mysteries of Hawaii | Instagram: @kelsealoha The iconic Golden Gate bridge, San Francisco | Instagram: @shangerdanger Turkey is now on our bucket list! Oludeniz Beach | Instagram: @buraktuzer The feeling of freedom! Los Glaciaras, Andes | Instagram: @vagabondhearts Everybody stay calm | @jferrara_photo Travelling in style in Guam, West Pacific | Instagram: @matecasar Serenity at sunset. Inle Lake, Myanmar | Instagram: @vincelimphoto White Sands Monument in New Mexico | Instagram: @everchanginghorizon And happily ever after! | Instagram @nois7 Did you miss the best photos from March’s photo competition? It’s not too late to check them out. Do you want to submit your photos for May’s photo competition? You can email us or tag us on Facebook or Instagram and remember to use the hashtag #ubcoolphotocomp Liked what you read? Subscribe below and receive more great stories right in your Inbox!
Dear Explorer, Counting down the days till your vacation but haven’t settled on a destination? Why don’t you set your eyes on Georgia? (The country in Europe, not the State in the United States!). This country has captured the hearts of many with its warm welcoming nature and generous people. It definitely has the ub-cool team completely in love! Some of our team really enjoy adrenaline-filled adventures like paragliding and white-water rafting, which Georgia has so much of to offer! But, others on the team prefer staying close to the ground – in fact, they prefer their feet firmly fixed to Mother Earth! So, we figured some of you – our lovely readers – may also feel the same and want to check out awesome adventures that keep you as close to the ground as possible. Below are a list of Georgia tours we love that allow you to explore this beautiful country from the comfort of a vehicle. Oh, and don’t forget these Georgia tours are also perfect to enjoy with the family! Related: 4 Best Sky-and-Water Adventures in Georgia 4 Best Georgia Tours on Wheels Recently emerging from decades of Soviet rule, Georgia re-opened its doors to the world in 1991. Since then, there has been a massive building project of hotels and resorts not to mention the increase in the number of flights to this small country. The Caucasus mountains are a sight to be seen – they stand tall with snow-capped peaks against gorgeous rolling-green valleys dotted with small towns. If you’re keen to explore the beautiful countryside and views from the hills all the while keeping your feet close to the ground, we have 4 different options for you from quad bikes to NASCAR-style cars! #1 – Experience the Caucasus Mountains and Castles on this Fun Jeep Tour Jump in for this fantastic jeep tour! The local experts will take you through the Dzama gorge, which is hidden between the valleys of the Borjomi forests and Kartli. Georgians consider this a sacred place as you’ll see by the many old-and-new monasteries in the area. You’ll also visit the gorgeous Bateti lake which sits on a mountain plateau surrounded by forest and a beautiful swamp. Whatever season it is when you visit, make sure you bring your camera because the scenic views will blow your mind! Oh, and we shouldn’t forget to mention the delicious barbeque picnic and red wine tasting you’ll enjoy! Learn more about this Fun Jeep Tour in Georgia > #2 – Explore Georgia on an Amazing Quad Bike Tour Want to explore the rolling green Georgian hills with your friends? Then hop on your very own quad bike and speed away! Imagine spending 2 hours exploring Mitarbi mountain, Bakuriani traditional villages, and rice fields! Then, after lunch, you’ll get the chance to taste the famous Borjomi mineral water in the national park! For those wondering – yes, the quad bike is really easy to handle making for a truly enjoyable journey. And, if you’re looking for fresh air, then this is the trip for you! Learn more about this quad bike tour in Georgia > #3 – An Exciting NASCAR-Style Car Ride in Georgia Do you love watching car races? Well, when in Gerogia, why don’t you give it a try! Strap on your seat belt and take this first-generation NASCAR car, The Legends, down the track for a spin! This modern vehicle is in the retro style fitted with a Yamaha 1300cc, 145 horsepower engine. What does this mean? Yes – You’ll go from 0 to 100km in 4.2 seconds! Fact: before NASCAR, this vehicle was a popular get-away car for the mafia! Learn more about racing NASCAR-style cars in Georgia > #4 – Adrenaline-Packed Off-Roading Drive Through Georgia Calling adrenaline seekers, this rafting trip in Georgia is perfect for you! Hang on tight for an exhilarating rafting trip down fast-moving waters! If you’re new to rafting, learn to raft from local experts and set off on an adventure of a life time. The waters in Georgia’s rivers are ideal for white-water rafting enthusiasts. Do you live for adrenaline-filled adventures? Then this off-roading tour is for you! Race through Georgia’s rugged terrain in the best off-roading vehicle, Polaris RZR. This high-quality AT vehicle will have you perched atop hills in no time! Learn more about off-roading drives in Georgia > Looking for other adventures? Visit ub-cool for more exciting adventures from all around the world! Working with local experts, the ub-cool team seeks out the best adventures for you to try! Liked what you read? Subscribe below to get more adventure tips right in your inbox!
Dear Explorer, “If at first you don’t succeed try, try again” – this is definitely the case for 69-year-old mountain climber Xia Boyu who successfully reached the summit of Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak, this week. Xia Boyu On Monday, the 14th of May, Xia Boyu achieved his goal on his fifth attempt of conquering the iconic mountain spanning over 4 decades of attempts. You’ll be shocked to learn that it is not his mature age of 69 that sets Xia apart from the other 500 climbers attempting Everest this year… but also that he is a double amputee! Photo Credit: Prakash Mathema/AFP/Getty Images First Attempt Led to Double Amputation Xia, now 69 years old, first tried to scale the 8,848m peak back in 1975. Only a tantalising 200m from the peak of the world, the climbers were heart broken as they were forced to turn back due to high-altitude storms. They were descending in treacherous conditions when Xia, then aged 26, gave up his sleeping bag to a fellow climber who was struggling, according to Chinese media. The severe weather took its toll on him and he discovered the next morning that he had frostbite in his feet, requiring both to be amputated. “It’s not been easy for me to reach the peak of Mount Everest which I’ve dreamed of,” he was quoted by the Peoples Daily. Related: Learn how Shaikha Al Shaiba takes on triathlons with only one arm! Time Line of Xia’s Climbing Dream 1975 – At age 26, Xiya made his initial attempt at Mount Everest but suffered frostbitten feet which required amputation. 1996 – Using prosthetic limbs he climbed mountains around Beijing but tragedy struck when he learnt he had contracted lymphoma and would need both legs amputated beneath the knee. 2014 – Xia was ready to tackle Everest again, but his attempt was not possible due to ice avalanches. 2015 – Having reached Base Camp, his next attempt was delayed due to the disastrous Nepal earthquake of 2015. 2016 – He attempted the climb again; but, within 100m of the peak, he had to turn back due to poor weather. 2017 – His planned attempt for 2018 was nearly derailed by the Nepal government, which in December banned double amputees and blind people from climbing Everest. It was claimed that it would make the mountain safer. 2018 – The Nepal Supreme Court finally ruled that the ban was discriminatory and it was dropped in March 2018. 2018, May – SUCCESS! Photo Credit: Navesh Chitrakar / Reuters In April 2018, a month before his fifth attempt, Xia told Agence France-Presse that climbing Everest was his dream. “I have to realise it,” he said. “It also represents a personal challenge, a challenge of fate.” On Monday 14th May, Xia finally reached the peak of Mount Everest. “Boyu finally won his 40-year-long battle for Mount Everest,” Mingma Gyalje Sherpa, the managing director at Imagine Treks, who accompanied the Chinese climber, told the Himalayan Times. Other Aamputees who have climbed Everest? Xia is the second double amputee to climb the summit after the New Zealander, Mark Inglis, who reached the peak from the Tibetan side in 2006. Santiago Quintero, who had half of each foot amputated during a climb in south America, also reached the peak in 2013. Congratulations Xia Boyu! Your determination and perseverance are an inspiration to us all! Feature photo: rockandice.com / courtesy of Xia Boyu Do you have a cool story to share with us? Get in touch at email@example.com