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  Everest summiter Zed Al-Refai Finally Conquers the Mighty ‘Matterhorn’


Zed “Zeddy” Al-Refai, the first Arab (Kuwaiti national) to successfully summit Mount Everest recently conquered Europe’s toughest peak, the 4,477 meter high Matterhorn.  Sponsored by the luxury Seiler Hotel Mont Cervin Palace in Zermatt, Southern Switzerland and Swiss International Air Lines (SWISS), the country’s national carrier, the summiting comes after four unsuccessful attempts at the mountain, which remained elusive due to dire weather condition. With this latest success, Al-Refai aims to embark on a region wide campaign to promote the sport of mountain climbing in the Arab World and encourage younger generations to take on such adventures. 

“Today the Matterhorn remains a significant challenge that should never be underestimated by climbers, and after four previous attempts, when the weather beat me each time, I am very proud to announce that this time, I was successful,” commented Al-Refai after his decent from the mountain. “With the completion of this climb, I plan to take this great sport of mountain climbing to the younger generations of Arabs.” 

Al-Refai plans to undertake speaking opportunities at schools and universities around the region to shed light on the ‘lonely’ and treacherous sport. He had already taken his experiences to schools and scientific organizations in his home country, Kuwait, which was met with great enthusiasm and excitement. The medium to long term goal of this campaign is to establish an Arabian mountaineering club. 

Speaking of Al-Refai’s success, Felix Rodel, Area Manager – Middle East, Pakistan and Iran, SWISS, said: “This is an incredible feat and we are incredibly proud to have been able to play our part in Zed’s quest for the summit of the Matterhorn.” 

“The environmental and geographical nature of the Middle East encourages plenty of young people to be interested in the adventurous sport, but due to the lack of high mountains in the region, such interest has been limited to hiking and trekking,” he continued. “I am currently in talks with the Government of Pakistan, represented by the Alpine Club of Pakistan and the Adventure Foundation of Pakistan, to begin climbing circuits, aimed at Arab climbers in the Himalayas.” 

Al-Refai was recently honored by the Alpine Club of Pakistan and the Adventure Foundation of Pakistan with an honorary shield to commemorate his historic summiting of Mount Everest on May 22nd 2003. 

Before his success at the Matterhorn, Al-Refai trained for a period of three months at Zermatt nestled beneath the Matterhorn’s north face, close to the Swiss-Italian border. After spending two days at the mountain’s base camp adjusting his body to the altitude and waiting for an opening in the weather, Zed ascended the mighty Matterhorn in an impressive 5 hours. 

The Matterhorn however is a very dangerous mountain to climb and its death rate remains one of the highest in the world. 

Accompanying Zed on the climb were Paul Morse and Russell Brice, two legendary world renowned climbers. Aside from the Carstensz Pyramid in Oceania, the Matterhorn is amongst the most difficult mountains to climb requiring a high level of technical expertise, physical and mental strength. 

“We used special climbing shoes with 12 millimeter teeth which are used to stick in the rocks and ice while ascending the mountain, as well as 50 meter ropes and waist harnesses,” he said. 

Located in the Pennine Alps in Switzerland and first conquered in 1865 by Edward Whymper, the Matterhorn is a classic peak, a sharp, isolated rock pyramid with steep narrow ridges jutting from surrounding glaciers, making it one of the most recognizable mountains in the world. The unforgettable and unique shape of the Matterhorn has long inspired painters, photographers, climbers and nature lovers, and even marketers who have used the shape to represent business logos. 

The thirty-seven year old Dubai-based Kuwaiti businessman is the first Arab, and among the first 80 people in the world to conquer the 7 highest summits on the seven continents. This historical achievement includes, Kilimanjaro in Africa (5896 meters), Denali - Mount McKinley in North America (6195 meters), Elbrus in Europe (5633 meters), Aconcagua in South America (6962 meters), Carstensz Pyramid in Oceania (4884 meters), Vinson in Antarctica (4897 meters) and Everest in Asia (8,858 meters).

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