Emirati heads to North Pole to blaze a trail

Al Ahbabi attempts to become youngest Arab to go on unassisted trekking expedition in frigid wilderness

18:49 March 11, 2018

Abu Dhabi: Taking the message of the UAE’s leadership of going above and beyond to heart, a young Emirati man will attempt to become the youngest Arab to go on an adventure on the North Pole, trekking over 100 miles unassisted and in weather conditions reaching minus 40 degrees Celsius.

“I’m very excited to be making this journey as I hope to become the youngest Arab and Emirati national to trek across the North Pole for more than 100 miles. It’s going to be a big challenge both physically and mentally, but I am confident that I will make the trek successfully,” said Abdullah Al Ahbabi, 26, who will make the arduous trek in April with a team of four other members from the US, UK, and Hungary, with the trek expected to last over ten days.

“The trek is going to be unassisted as well, and what that basically means is that we’re not going to be using any motorised vehicles like snowmobiles or helicopters. We’re going to be dropped off at our set location and then do everything by foot and towing all of our equipment by sled,” he added, highlighting the physical challenge the team is going to have to deal with.

“The sled contains things like our tents, food, supplies and everything we need for the journey. Altogether the sled with our equipment is going to weigh 45 kilograms, and so it’s going to mean a lot of heavy pulling for 8 to 10 hours a day covering more than 14 kilometres,” he said.

Other challenges, according to Al Ahbabi, will include the weather conditions of the North Pole, with all team members having to ensure they keep warm to avoid getting frostbite.

“The conditions are going to be very fierce, the weather in the North Pole drops to as low as minus 40 degrees Celsius and so you have to make sure that you’re protecting yourself properly at all times to be able to withstand these extreme temperatures. In a matter of seconds, if you take your hand gloves off, you can get struck by frostbite,” he said.

And if those challenges weren’t enough, there’s even the risk of encountering polar bears, according to Al Ahbabi.

“There have been some expeditions in the past that have encountered a polar bear, thankfully nothing serious or bad happened in those incidents, but there is a possibility that we could also come across a polar bear, and so that’s something we are going to have to be ready for if the situation arises.”

Al Ahbabi said that he has been undergoing intense physical training for four months in preparation for the trek.

“I do physical training for five days a week for over four hours, for the other two days I spend them at Ski Dubai training myself to get my body up to speed in terms of what I can expect when it comes to movement on ice.

“What also helps me is that I lived in Minnesota, USA, for five years and the temperature there drops to minus 10 degrees Celsius, so in a way I am accustomed to very harsh and cold weather conditions and so I think I will be able to adapt as quickly as possible,” he added.

Speaking on his motivation for doing the trek, Al Ahbabi said he hopes it will send a positive message to the youth of the Arab world that anything is possible, even the hardest of challenges.

“The leadership of our country have encouraged the youth to always seek to fulfil our potential, and in order to do that you have to step out of your comfort zone and to set the standard bar really high for yourself.

“I’ll be raising the flag of the UAE and the flag for the Year of Zayed at the North Pole, and I hope the message that comes out of this will help to inspire and motivate other young people in our region to believe that they can achieve anything they set their minds on,” he added.

“I do believe our region, which is going through a lot of challenges at the moment needs positivity, especially for young people and maybe this journey that I am going on can make that little difference,” he said.