He has been keen on fitness almost all his life, but mountaineer Yousef Al Refaie (Kuwait) has now taken it to the next level by achieving the record title for youngest person to climb the Seven Volcanic Summits at 24 years and 119 days.
Al Refaie is not only 24 years old, but coincidently is also the 24th person globally to climb each continent’s tallest volcano.
Ascending the seven calderas is a very rare achievement, so becoming the youngest person to complete the circuit is an even rarer feat.
أصغر رجل يقوم بتسلق القمم البركانية السبعة 🌋 24 عاماً و119 يوماً من قبل المغامر الكويتي يوسف الرفاعي♬ original sound - Guinness World Records Arabic
During a tourist trip to Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Al Refaie was told that since he was born in the Middle East, it is nearly impossible for someone like him to complete such feat of climbing the world highest volcanic peaks, due to the vastly different climates. That comment was his main driver to go for it and try to achieve this record.
The Volcanic Seven Summits is a relatively young mountaineering circuit, however, the multicontinental project is not easy, especially for a person who was born in 1997. The volcanoes were climbed in the following order:
- Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania – December 30, 2015
- Mount Elbrus, Russia – July 18, 2017
- Mount Giluwe, Papua New Guinea – July 21, 2018
- Pico de Orizaba, Mexico – January 6, 2019
- Mount Damavand, Iran – August 11, 2019
- Ojos del Salado, Argentina/Chile – January 15, 2020
- Mount Sidley, Marie Byrd Land – December 22, 2021
"When I first asked my mom for the Guinness World Records Book as a kid, she told me she would only buy it if I had something amazing to make my way into it. I really don’t know if she meant it that time, but here we are living the dream."
According to Al Refaie, on of the main difficulties of ascending these mountains is the amount of gear you need to take with you, which can be extremely heavy.
When climbing Mount Sidley at 4,285m (a dormant volcano in Antarctica’s Marie Byrd Land) he had to carry a huge backpack as well as pull a packed sledge along behind him.
Marie Byrd Land is one of the largest uninhabited areas in the world, and does not have bases or camps, so reaching the summit of the highest volcano in such area was the toughest among all other summits. It costed Al Refaie and his friends around $60,000 USD to reach the summit.
"With a cost of around $60,000, and eight other people on my side, I was able to complete the Sidley mount. We were able to see sunlight, but the temperature was around -35˚C," he added.
Each team member was carrying their own food, and eating at least three times a day, yet still constantly losing weight.
"We carried 27 meals each for this trip. Food alone was about 10kg in total. It was mainly dehydrated meals that are high in calories," Al Refaie said.
It took the team seven hours to push from their camp at 3,000 m to the crest of the caldera. Of course, not all the ascending missions costs the same, and the range is never consistent.
For instance, reaching Mount Damavand in Iran costed no more than $1,000 USD, while the others costed almost everything between $2,000 and $10,000 USD.
"Planning is a key. Everyone one was assigned a mission, some are dedicated for digging, while others for tasks like cooking and camping. You need very disciplined people around you to complete this trip."
Al Refaie previously attempted the world record of the fastest time to climb the highest points in all Arabian Peninsula countries, but similar to many other applicants, he was not allowed into Yemen to complete the feat.
Inspired by Mohammed Burbayea, the Guinness World Records title holder for the most IJSBA World Championship wins (male), Youssef wants to embark on a new challenge in November; crossing the largest deserts in the world, starting with the Empty Quarter in the region.
"I am thinking of crossing The Empty Quarter through a new route".
Two other summiters have reportedly completed the relatively young Seven Volcanic Summits circuit in January 2022 following Al Refaie’s achievement, bringing the total to 26 mountaineers, yet the Kuwaiti national is still youngest to do it.
"My message to those who try and fail, get inspired by people who did it before and never give up. Amazing will find its way to you one way or another."