Abdulla Alahbabi wanted to show his fellow UAE youth that anything was possible. But to do that, he knew he would have to walk the talk.
So, five months before his attempt to reach the North Pole unassisted, he put on skis for the first time.
Over the preceding months, he visited Ski Dubai regularly to train for the task ahead. And on April 21, he did it.
Mr Alahbabi, 26, from Abu Dhabi, is now officially the youngest person from any of the 22 Arab League countries to have reached the North Pole.
“I wanted to do an initiative in the Year of Zayed. And I chose to do this because it was challenging,” he said.
“It’s one of the very toughest expeditions if you compare the North Pole, the South Pole and the seven summits. It is right at the top, under [climbing Mount] Everest. I knew it would add more value to the claim that nothing is impossible,” said Mr Alahbabi, who is studying political science.
His trip started on April 4, when he left the UAE for Oslo, where he took a flight to Longyearbyen, an island off Norway. There, the expedition group of six underwent an intensive training programme to teach them how to set up camp, ski and pull their sleds.
“It was very intense,” he said.
The team left there for the Barneo ice cap, a Russian research centre, which serves as a launch point for expeditions, where they took a one-hour helicopter ride to 89 degrees north. Then the hard work began.
“We skied from 89 degrees north to 90 degrees north, which is where the North Pole is,” said Mr Alahbabi.
“It took us eight days. It was supposed to be 10 days but we did it two days faster.”
That is not to say that it was easy. The 160km trip was gruelling, and often boring.
“We would start from 7am until 5pm or 6pm skiing. We would be in silence because everyone was in one line. The person in front of you is actually paving the way for you.
“So you don’t really have a chance to speak to anyone because it is so loud with the wind. Some people would listen to music. I would listen to audio books sometimes,” he said.
One of the most challenging parts was climbing the pressure ridges created when the ice plates collided.
“You are not just skiing. You are pulling your sled. And your sled is 45kg,” said Mr Mr Alahbabi, who lost four kilogrammes on the trip, despite maintaining a diet of high calorie packet food and chocolate to give him energy.