This interview was originally featured on the Outdoor Women's Alliance.
Though Baibanou may seem like an everyday lady – mother, wife, middle–aged woman who works full time — she has tremendous focus, drive and tenacity. I recently talked with Baibanou, discussing her becoming Morocco’s first female mountaineer and leading adventure woman.
How did you get started with mountaineering and your project to climb all 7 Summits?
My husband and I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro a few years ago. I fell in love with climbing big mountains and decided to start training to climb all 7 Summits. I have summited Mt. Kilimanjaro, Mt. Elbrus, Aconcagua, Mt. Blanc, Mt. Kosciuszko, and Mt. McKinley (Denali). This year I plan to complete Puncak Jaya in Indonesia. Next year, I will finish the 7 Summits, climbing Mount Vinson in Antarctica and Mount Everest [in the Himalayas].
Why do you feel it is important for you to share your 7 Summits journey?
Many schools invite me to speak about my experience to their students, and I love [the opportunity] to show young people they can accomplish anything they put their mind to. They see that I am a woman; I am married, I am a mother, and I have a full-time job. Even with all of that I can do something different and challenging. [The students] want to get inspired by my experience and what I’ve accomplished.
You have a young daughter. What does she think of her mom climbing mountains? She must be proud of you!
I hope she is. I want her, and all girls, to know [they can reach their goals]. You just have to set your mind to it and believe in yourself.
Are Moroccans accepting of women participating in adventure sports?
Yes, people accept women doing adventure sports. It’s not like before. Women can do everything now. I feel lucky to be a Moroccan woman.
What has been your biggest challenge in climbing the 7 Summits?
The biggest challenge is funding my climbs. I work and save as much as I can. I also have a few sponsors. But mostly I fund the climbs myself. This is why it has taken me many years to climb the 7 Summits. At first, I thought, “Climbing the 7 Summits is a big dream; I can’t do it. It costs a lot of money.” But I trusted in my dream. I started one of the smaller, easier mountains: Mt. Kilimanjaro. This built more confidence in myself. After that I did more and more difficult mountains. And now I believe I can climb the hardest of the 7 Summits: Mt. Everest. The most important thing is to live your dream. Money is just a means to accomplish this. I am not rich, but I have a dream and I will do anything to complete it.
How did you train for mountaineering?
To train for pulling a sled on Denali, I pulled car tires on the beach in Rabat. I also climbed Jebel Toubkal many times a year. It is the tallest mountain in North Africa at 4,167 m. I do strength training at the gym and rock climbing around Rabat. I [also] trained in the mountains around Seattle because I wanted to climb Denali and I needed to train on glaciers. The mountains around Seattle were a perfect place to do that.
How would you describe climbing Denali?
It was not easy. I was afraid…I knew it would be difficult and a challenge. [There was] a lot of snow and a lot of wind. But once I started climbing, I knew I could do it. Yes, it was difficult, especially the last section. Once we summited, it took 14 hours to come down from camp 3 to base camp. As I climbed, I gained confidence and knew I was well-prepared for climbing the route. How did your family respond to you becoming a mountaineer? My family worries when I climb — I can’t call them and they don’t know what is going on, so they worry. [But] the guiding services are good at sending updates to families. Even with the dangers, my family has always been very supportive of my dream.
Do you think more women will follow in your footsteps and participate in adventure sports?
Yes, they are doing it now. Morocco is changing. Women don’t want to stay just at home or only travel to hotels. They want to do something different. Many young women want to do things outside and participate in adventure sports. Many Moroccans, both women and men, are becoming adventurers and professional athletes.
I want to ski the North and South Pole. It’s the biggest challenge; in the entire world, [only a] few women do it, and I would be the first Arab woman. After that, I would like to coach people who want to climb the 7 Summits or [take on] other difficult challenges.