A 16-member Bahrain Royal Guard team is on a 79-day expedition to scale Mt Everest, the world’s highest peak this season. The team completed the first summit of 8,163m-Manaslu peak in 2020. They are all military and work under the Royal Guard. The team has undergone strict isolation in the run-up to the expedition. Bahrain’s Prince Sheikh Mohamed Hamad Mohamad al-Khalifa, a member of the expedition team talked to Khabarhub in Kathmandu prior to their departure to the basecamp. Excerpts:
How do you feel to be in Nepal once again?
The team and I are very happy to be back in Nepal. It is a very beautiful country. Our last visit was amazing. We are so excited to be back here.
Your interest in mountaineering seems intense since you have already climbed Mt Manaslu in 2020. What makes you so enthusiastic, and what fascinated you to come back to Nepal?
Since it is a military team, we have been given a mission by National Security Advisor, Royal Guard Commander to raise the Bahrain and Royal guard flag on the summits of Mt Everest. We, therefore, need to accomplish the mission.
All preparations and planning have been done. We just added to the experience because the people of Nepal in general, not only in Nepal but the 35 thousand that we have in Bahrain, have been quite supportive. It is such a delight to work with the Nepali people because they are so friendly and happy.
Let me cite an instance of how cooperative the Nepalis are. Last year when we were here in Kathmandu during the pandemic, we entered a local coffee shop. The family served us coffee and when we paid the bill at the end, they denied accepting our money even in the middle of the pandemic, when businesses were hit hard. They just wanted to listen to us. This was one of the nicest things and an amazing experience here in Nepal.
How do you feel at the moment since you are going to climb the world’s highest peak?
In the beginning, we had two years of training, and then we started the Mt Lobuche and Mt Manaslu peaks as well. I am extremely enthusiastic that the team and I are going to successfully accomplish this mission. We are, in fact, very excited about this expedition.
What inspired you to climb Mt Everest? Or is it just for the sake of keeping a record?
Mt Everest, being the highest peak in the world, is one of the most challenging tasks due to some technical stretches, altitude and extreme cold, and adverse weather at times. And to come here and be the first Bahraini — coming from a sea-level — to stand on the top of Mt Everest is really a lifetime experience.
This is like coming from an extreme low to extreme high. This is a massive way to push people from Bahrain to strive to make a record.
Could you share some of your good and bad experiences while climbing Mt Manaslu?
Mt Manaslu was the hardest thing that I have ever done. It was something different not just for me but the entire team, especially on the summit push.
The high altitude and the 27 hours to push to the summit and get back at the base camp were just something different and challenging. That was something really stimulating that gave us the image of how to climb Mt Everest.
Nepal was all set to observe Visit Nepal 2020. Did you have plans to visit Nepal and climb Mt Everest in 2020?
Yes, our original plan was to come to Nepal and climb Mt Everest in 2020. We had a conversation with the team and the Nepali Ambassador to Bahrain. But coincidentally, we happened to come to Nepal during Visit Nepal Year 2020. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, all plans were pushed back.
As a Prince of Bahrain, your interest to climb Mt Everest has given a positive message to not only the Nepalis but to the world. Do you think Nepal is a safe destination for mountaineering?
Nepal is historically a safe destination not only in terms of Mt Everest but other mountains as well. Besides, it is also all about the Sherpas, and selecting the right company, and safeguards to mitigate any type of risk.
And, we are lucky enough to have with us one of the Sherpas who have set a record on Mt Everest. The success of our mission is the success of the entire team.
Moreover, we all know that without the Sherpas, climbing Mt Everest is almost impossible. Nepal is absolutely an amazing and safe destination for mountaineering. And it is a pleasure for us to be here and it is safe of you to put the right person in the overall planning.
What are your future plans? Do you have any plans to come back to Nepal as a tourist or as a climber?
I would love to visit a lot of other places in Nepal that I did not have a chance to visit this time. For instance, the tourist spots, temples, and typical villages in the mountains, among other areas.
Any specific spot or place you have in your mind?
Definitely, last year we could not travel due to the pandemic. This year, since we have undergone strict isolation, we are looking to go to Pokhara, Chitwan, Swayambhunath temple, among other places.
However, the main focus is Mt Everest. Hopefully, we will be able to experience more of the greatness of Nepali culture, and the friendly people.
Do you think that this visit will help further strengthen Nepal-Bahrain relations?
The bilateral cooperation and friendship between the two countries have always been a priority. The Embassy of Nepal in Bahrain has been extremely cooperative.
Any Bahraini visiting Nepal or a Nepali visiting Bahrain will be treated with hospitality. We have currently 35 thousand Nepalis in Bahrain. We have 1,000 Nepali soldiers in the Royal Guard.
What should Nepal do to attract more tourists from Bahrain?
There is a huge amount of tourism opportunities between Nepal and Bahrain.
Do you have any messages for the people of Nepal?
It’s been a great honor for us to be here as Nepali people are so welcoming. Hopefully, I will visit this place again.