JEDDAH: Saudi Haya Al-Samari and Kuwaiti Fai Al-Omran are longtime friends who believe their once-in-a-lifetime adventure hiking the Pacific Crest Trail will inspire others and play a critical role in establishing Arab women as a leading powerhouse in the world of adventure.
Well known in the Gulf region for their enthusiasm for activities like running, freediving, surfing, skydiving, hiking and camping, the two women are now taking on the PCT, one of the world’s longest thru-hikes spanning the west coast of the US from the Mexican to Canadian borders.
The hike will take five to six months to complete and will cover 4,265 km, 26 national forests, seven national parks, five state parks and 33 federally mandated wildernesses. They are aiming to finish the PCT by the end of September or in the beginning of October by averaging 32 km per day.
Going from Mexico to Canada through the states of California, Oregon and Washington, the Pacific Crest Trail is regarded as the second-longest of the Triple Crown long trails. In search of a challenge, adventurous hikers travel the high route via the Sierra Nevada and Cascade ranges, passing through some of the most picturesque and diverse landscapes in the US, from scorching deserts to snowy mountains.
Like many others, Al-Samari and Al-Omran began their adventure at the Campo Trail near the US-Mexico border, on the first of April.
Sports and nature are my life, my passion and my form of stress relief ... I’ve been through some rough situations that required extreme mental and physical grit to get through. But what really sets the Pacific Crest Trail apart is that it’s a long-term project that requires a complete mindset shift.
Haya Al-Samari, Saudi adventurer
The duo are documenting their hike on their social media platforms including Instagram, where Al-Samari, @mykindoffridays, has more than 63,000 followers and Al-Omran, @laughwithfai, has over 11,000. They share details of their life on the trail, creating content about everything, from how they sleep to what they eat, and the surprises and beautiful scenes of nature along the way.
The female hikers said that they had received “loads of encouragement” from friends and family before they set off.
While the two are on the adventure of a lifetime, it is not their first trip together as they have undertaken various long journeys over the past seven years.
Speaking about the origins of their PCT quest, Al-Samari said: “Fai is a great travel partner; she’s always up for an adventure. I was dreaming of doing the Pacific Crest Trail for almost 10 years now, but never had a timeline for it. One day Fai and I talked about it and realized we both share this crazy dream.
“So when things got serious from my end, I threw the idea and Fai was more than ready to receive it … travel, for me, means adventure.”
Al-Samari and Al-Omran told Arab News that when they reached Mount Shasta and Mount Etna in California they wanted to go on the next adventure.
Al-Samari, who loves extreme adventures said: “I’ve been hiking for more than 10 years now. I love hiking and trail running. I love challenging my physical body surrounded by nature, feeling the freedom on my skin. Sports and nature are my life, my passion and my form of stress relief.”
Speaking about the trail, she added: “I’ve been through some rough situations that required extreme mental and physical grit to get through. But what really sets the Pacific Crest Trail apart is that it’s a long-term project that requires a complete mindset shift.
“It’s not a quick adventure that lasts a day or two. It’s a journey that lasts weeks and weeks on end. Nothing even comes close to the extreme nature of this adventure.”
Meanwhile, Al-Omran, who calls herself a lover of the sea and a child of the desert, told Arab News that she had many adventures in the past but this is her first thru-hike: “I’ve always had a love for the outdoors, from being in the sea to camping in the desert, to hiking through forests. Each adventure has its charm and connecting with nature has always been a big part of my life.
“Despite all the challenges, the Pacific Crest Trail has always been an adventure that I aspired to go on one day. For me, going on a thru-hike is just taking my hobby to the next level.”
Before setting out on the trail, the two spent countless hours meticulously preparing. They agonized over what gear to bring and pored over route descriptions and reports from other hikers.
On what it took to prepare themselves, Al-Omran said: “Research. Lots of research and listening to others’ experiences. And going into the trip with a sense of surrender to mother nature. Whatever happens, on the physical side, I tried be more active and prepare my body for what is to come.”
The 33-year-old Al-Samari added: “I’m an avid runner. Having a couple of marathons and ultras under my belt gave me the confidence of knowing that my legs could carry me over long distances. Leading up to the hike, I adjusted my strength program to focus on my core and back muscles so that it would be easier for me to handle the weight of my backpack.”
Unfortunately, the UC Berkeley Central Sierra Snow Lab reported that it is the second snowiest season since 1946. Many of the trail’s sections have been closed due to dangerous and hazardous conditions.
The two friends had to wait until the snow melted to continue their hike. “This year, the weather has been a number one challenge. It’s a big snow year and a big part of our journey is managing how to continue on, stay safe and enjoy our trek,” said Al-Omran.
Asked what part of the trail she was most looking forward to, Al-Samari picked the Sierra Nevada section, which spans a little over 628 km and has total elevation gain of 57,888 feet. It is one of the highlights and the most magnificent sections of the trail.
“Some people can’t handle the altitude. I hope that not the case with our bodies. It’s the most remote, the highest altitude, the most snow, the most rivers, bears, etc. I know I’ll be the happiest, most proud and breath-taken after going through the Sierras,” she added.
However, the 28-year-old Al-Omran picked another region: “Every part is exciting to get to because of how diverse the trail is. But if I had to choose, it would be the high desert right before Sierra. Because it’s a terrain that I have never seen and gone through before.”
As they are gearing up to continue their long adventure with more than 1,600 kilometers left, both Arab women believe that their journey is not just about having epic adventures, but also about inspiring others to leave their comfort zones and learn more about themselves and the world.