When we think of mountains, we imagine mighty summits and unreachable heights.

But for the three mountaineers of Lebanese origins, Nizar Fakhoury, Alee Abbas, and Karam Barnaba, reaching to the summits has become a yearly goal, and a lifetime inspiration.

After climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, and the Mont Blanc peak to count a few, Alee, and Karam, who currently reside in Dubai, are preparing to climb the highest peak in Europe, Mount Elbrus in Russia next month (17 -28 July 2015) along with three other mountaineers. The peak, at 5,642 meters, is one of the ‘Seven Summits‘, or the highest mountains of each of the seven continents.

Climbing for Cancer

Although the experience alone sounds extremely thrilling, the team is not merely venturing for the sake of adventure, but also to help raise funds for the treatment of 9-year old Issa, a Lebanese boy who has been battling Leukemia since 2014, and receiving treatment from the Children’s Cancer Center Lebanon (CCCL) . Their initiative is championed by Climb for Cancer, A Dubai-based charitable initiative that was founded by Fakhoury to help volunteers climb mountain peaks to raise funds for children suffering from cancer.

Climb for Issa campaign - 2015

The preparations are intense to say the least. Given the landscape and climate of the Emirate of Dubai, the team, frequently waking up at 4 a.m., has to train at the indoors snow resort Ski Dubai inside the Mall of the Emirates, to allow their bodies to adapt to the same harsh conditions awaiting them.

Mountaineering Their Lives To The Top

Of Lebanese-Argentinian-Moroccan origins, and with a burning desire to explore the world, Alee started his mountaineering journey in 2013, when he decided to climb Mount Kilimanjaro with his colleague from Pepsico back then, Mustapha Mroueh. It was at that time that he convened with Nizar and Karam, two avid mountaineers also residing in the UAE, towards a ‘life changing adventure’.

For Karam, the passion for nature started at the age of 16, when he used to go on hiking trips as a young boy scout back in Lebanon.

“Hiking has helped me find an exceptional inner peace. The inner silence that accompanies the journey allows you to disconnect from a noisy modernized world… I fell in love with the experience very quickly, and started exploring the Lebanese mountains every Sunday, discovering the beauty of my country one hike at a time.”

As he moved to Dubai, Karam thought that this shouldn’t change. He had learnt as a red cross volunteer and courageous scout that passions shall be pursued, and for a cause, no matter what.

Karam trekking Mount Kilimanjaro, a dormant volcanic mountain in Tanzania. It is the highest mountain in Africa and the highest free-standing mountain  in the world at 5,895 metres.

Karam trekking Mount Kilimanjaro, a dormant volcanic mountain in Tanzania. It is the highest mountain in Africa and the highest free-standing mountain in the world at 5,895 metres.

In mountaineering, just like in life, giving up is not an option.

“Mountaineering is a great way to explore your limits.”, says Alee. “I recall the time when I was climbing Mont Blanc, and figured out that I wasn’t trained enough, caught a flu, and was in a desperate state. I pulled myself together and decided to do my best; and eventually made it. The summit surely has its own pleasure.”

It might as well be the ultimate teamwork exercise.

“In most of the times, we climb roped to each other”, he adds“The success of one person depends on the success of the other”.

'You only live once, but if you work it right, once is enough

‘You only live once, but if you work it right, once is enough”, Alee’s inspirational motto.

The Life Changing Lessons 

On their graceful way to the summit, they learned patience vis-à-vis the time needed to reach to the top; humbleness for being surrounded by mightier heights; focus for the need to persevere in order to make it to the end; prudence for what the wild may be hiding for them; the art of preserving the nature for knowing that it is the only way for her to welcome them back; an openness to the opinions of others in the group for their perspective is needed to build a more informed picture of the route ahead; and most importantly a readiness to be often defeated by unforeseen events, and never give up despite such defeats.

Could You Be Next?

If you reside in the UAE and would like to try the experience, Oman is a neighboring country that provides an amazing scenery. Jebel Shams (or Mountain of Sun) at 3,028 meters  is known for its beautiful hike. Within the UAE, you can also aim at mountains like Jabal Al Jais in Ras Al Khaimah (RAK), UAE’s highest mountain.

Training to get fit, having the right equipment and apparel, and drinking lots of water remain essential for a fun and healthy experience. Be ready though for the 4am wake ups.

For more resources, you can start here: UAE Mountain Club,  Adventure HQ, Explorer Tours, UAE Trekkers.

A final shout-out to you from the team:

“Leave your corporate life for a while, because twenty years from now, you won’t remember the time spent working in the office or mowing the lawn. Throw off the bowlines and sail away from the safe harbor.

Explore. Dream. Discover. There is just no limit!”


Nizar Fakhoury

*Climb for Cancer is a charitable initiative that  was founded to help raise funds for the treatment of paediatric cancer patients through completing the extreme challenges of climbing mountains. 

Achieved milestones: 
– Seven trips since 2010 including the highest mountain in Africa Mt. Kilimanjaro, Everest Base Camp & Island Peak in Nepal, the highest mountain in Europe Mt. Elbrus, Mont Blanc, and Mount Ararat.
– USD600,000 raised towards treating kids with cancer.
– Nine paediatric cancer patients treated.

**You can help them achieve their new goal by donating here, with any amount. All proceeds will go directly to Issa’s cancer treatment via the Children’s Cancer Center of Lebanon.

This year’s Climb for Cancer full team includes: Alee Abbas, Oscar Asly, Karam Barnaba, Joanne Hayek, and Moustapha Mroueh.

Climb for cancer