He pulled his jacket closer as the air has gotten even more cold. From the height of 4,167 metres, he can see the 360-degree view of Southern Morocco. They were located almost 63 km from the city of Marrakesh on top of the highest peak in the Arab world. His breathing was slow but seeing the snow-covered mountains, he felt victorious. He has scaled the highest peak of Mount Toubkal and it was worth every hardship he encountered.
Khalid al Ankoudi, a young Omani national working for the Ministry of Municipalities, always had passion for mountaineering. His love for it eventually led to him making it a routine and a means to keep his livelihood.
He wasn’t alone in his quest. With his friends Musallam al Khalbani and Roya al Lamki, climbing the rocky and challenging terrains and accomplishing the goal was another feather on their cap.
“Mountaineering has been ingrained in me since childhood. I didn’t chose to become a conqueror of heights but I feel every Omani must have that love for mountains,” he said.
Oman is popular for its mountains. The Al Hajar mountain range alone is a welcoming site for many travellers to the Sultanate.
The area where Khalid spent his childhood was very close to the heights of Yiti from Ruwi and at evenings, it was the children’s duty to goad the herds back home from the mountains. Even at a young age, Khalid has been prodded to conquer challenging heights.
“Those days, cattle were a major source of livelihood and making sure all our goats and sheep returned home before sun set was a compulsory task. We, the children, used to run onto the mountains and chase them back home,” he shared.
Among the other successful climbers, Khalid pulled the Omani flag from his bag. It has become a tradition for any mountaineer but for Khalid, it has a special meaning.
He doesn’t know how many other Omanis have conquered Mount Toubkal but raising the Omani flag, making it dance with the cold wind in the summit, felt like giving even the greatest meaning to his achievement.
He is a proud mountaineer from Oman and it was his way of telling the world that an Omani also dominated this summit.
It took the trio five days to complete their quest, a much longer time compared to others we completed in in 2 or 3 days.
“We didn’t just climb but we mingle with the villagers and those who live in the mountains and learn their ways and lifestyles. Mountaineering is a good tool to study the culture and tradition of those people living in harmony with the nature,” Khalid said.
His team began their journey from the road-end village of Imlil. From there, there next stop was at Azadan which already has a freezing 35-degree Celsius temperature. As they went up, the mercury started dipping and it went colder by the night.
“It is an awesome experience when you live with nature. People should do it more often. To follow the stars overhead and watch them move,” he said.
Mount Toubkal is just one of the many summits Khalid conquered. He started pursuing mountaineering in 2006, conquered the mountains in the Philippines in 2015, Kilimanjaro in 2013, and Mount Fuji in 2016. This year was dedicated to Mount Toubkal.
Khalid documents his experience of conquering heights in different countries and publishes in the form of books and articles. He has a steady stream of fans on all social media accounts who constantly encourage him to scale greater heights.
“One thing I love to do is to spend time with the villagers and live in the local environment against life in star hotels and enjoying the finest cuisines. If you are mountaineering, do as the people around the mountain do and eat what they eat and live like they live. The idea is very simple,” Khalid said.