Rawan Dakik: Youngest African conquers Mt Everest

Friday June 18 2021
Rawan Dakik on her way up Mt Everest from the Base Camp in May 2021.

Rawan Dakik on her way up Mt Everest from the Base Camp in May 2021. She has now climbed all but one of the world's Seven Summits. PHOTO | COURTESY


After experiencing what she calls ''warm-up’’ climbing rocks, slopes and ice on mounts Everest, Kilimanjaro, Kenya and others, she wants to keep going. She is determined and has confidence that she will manage all accomplished mountaineers’ greatest challenge: The Seven Summit project.

Mount Everest is just the beginning for this young mountain climber.

“Since I had a plan on climbing the Seven Summits and have completed six out of seven already, I have only Denali remaining. In June 2022 I plan on heading to Alaska to concur my last mountain and complete my project,” she said.

At 6.15am on May 25, 2021, Rawan Dakik, 20, made history when she summited Mount Everest, the highest summit in the world at 8,848.86 metres (29,031.7 feet) above sea level.

Rawan Dakik.

Rawan Dakik, 20, the first Tanzanian woman and youngest African to summit Mount Everest. PHOTO | COURTESY

Dakik became the second Tanzanian but first Tanzanian woman and the youngest African to reach the summit of Everest. And like all passionate climbers worldwide, this was part of her target to complete the Seven Summits — Kilimanjaro, Aconcagua, Elbrus, Denali, Mont Blanc, Vinson and Kosciuszko. She has only Denali to go.


It was no mean feat. Mt Everest, the highest of the world’s so called Seven Summits is also one of the deadliest and in the 2021 season 11 climbers have died, among them a Sherpa who fell into a crevice. Nepal issued 408 climbing permits for Everest for the April-May 2021 climbing season.

An analysis of the death rate on Mount Everest between 1980 and 2002 found it had not changed over the years, with about one death for every 10 successful ascents. A sobering statistic for anyone who reaches the summit is that you have approximately a 1 in 20 chance of not making it down.

Dakik set off on March 22, 2021 with a group of 22 other climbers from South Africa, Sweden, the United States and Canada among hundreds of others.

Starting with day one of arrival in Nepal, it took Dakik 64 days to reach the peak.

She said; “This was a long trip but definitely worthwhile. Being on the mountain for a long period of time allowed me to experience a wide range of events from storms, to the icefall, enduring cold temperatures, soaking in the stunning views, pushing my adrenaline rush and so much more,” she told The EastAfrican in a WhatsApp interview a few days before her arrival back in Tanzania.

It’s been Dakik’s long-time childhood dream to climb Mt Everest and she said that the fact that she has always had a passion for the outdoors and physical sports helped her along. Everest may have been her first major climb but is certainly not the last.

“My passion for outdoor activities started at a very young age and by the time I climbed Mt Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa and one of the world's highest seven summits as a student, I was hooked.”

Dakik has climbed several mountains in East Africa, where Kilimanjaro is in good company with the snowcapped mounts Kenya and Rwenzori; and mounts Ngaliema, Meru, Ol Doinyo Lengai, Elgon, Nyiragongo, Sabyinyo, Longida, Nyamuragira, Virunga, Satima, Mikeno, Karisimbi, Biseko and many others.

Although she has climbed Mt Kilimanjaro multiple times, with the first attempt at only 13-years old, Dakik says it’s mounts Meru, Rwenzori and Kenya that impressed her the most and she describes them as being ‘’beyond perfect’’ for her. “Climbing mountains in the region have never felt better. I felt like I connected with these mountains like no other. I enjoyed connecting to my part of the world by climbing its mountains and meeting people that come from the same place as me.”

Rawan Dakik takes an oxygen break on the Mount Everest expedition.

Rawan Dakik takes an oxygen break on the Mount Everest expedition. It took her four days to summit. PHOTO | COURTESY

Dakik was born in 2001 in Arusha, Tanzania, and studied at the International School of Moshi up to Grade 10 before moving to Lebanon for further studies.

Her passion for outdoor activities has seen Dakik studying Sports Management in Spain to build her knowledge of the sports industry.

“I was eager to pursue my passion of the outdoors and continue mountaineering around the world with a long-term dream of climbing all the world’s highest seven summits and become the first Tanzanian and hopefully the youngest African to achieve this record,” she happily said, after fulfilling part of her dream at Everest.

Despite her young age, Dakik pushed herself both physically and mentally for something she is passionate about. She said what stood out throughout the climb was the fact that she challenged her limits.

“Being able to push myself and discover how far my body can go physically and mentally was one of the highlights of my Everest trip,” she said, adding that, “I found it amazing because no one truly knows until they put their bodies to the test.”

Dakik said she was happy meeting many people from different parts of the world; “That was very interesting, meeting Sherpas, climbers, guides and other staff members, and we all became one big family at the end of the trip.”

Nepal had limited the number of climbers to 408 this year as measures against the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. An outbreak was reported at the Base Camp in May, but the government said it was not shutting down the season. Several companies abandoned their expeditions but some of their clients remained behind to go ahead with the ascent. On Sunday May 23, about 180 foreign climbers and their Sherpa guides had reached the peak.

But for Dakik “being in such a remote part of the world is astonishing. Having my body adapt to such environments and seeing how beautiful and peaceful the mountain is brought peace to my mind and heart,” she said.

And it was a journey that took specific and meticulous preparation. She trained both indoors and outdoors for almost two years to get her body ready for the long trek and climb.

“Training consisted of both indoor and outdoor sessions of cardio and strengthening. During the climb, the best way to prepare is to keep eating efficiently because your body burns a lot of calories and you need to try recovering as much as possible,” was her advice to would be climbers.

She also recommends careful planning, training, organising and letting the body recover. “After the expedition is over, the best way to recover is to allow your body to rest enough but also continue doing strengthening workouts but not intensive, just enough to keep the muscles and blood moving.”

For Dakik, climbing mountains sets her heart free, saying that despite being involved in other sports in school and in the city where she lives, she still feels most comfortably and happiest when in the mountains.