The first Moroccan to scale the seven summits of the world's continents, Bouchra Baibanou wants to inspire a new generation of women who “dare to believe in themselves.” “With will power and perseverance, you can get there,” said the 49-year-old, weeks after reaching the summit of Antarctica's Mount Vinson.
Conquering the 4,897 metre (16,066 ft) peak capped an eight-year journey, during which Baibanou travelled the globe to climb each continent's highest mountain. “I am proud, as a Moroccan and as a woman," she said from her home in Sale, neighbouring town to the capital city Rabat, where trophies adorn her living room.
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That pride was evident atop Vinson, where Baibanou clutched her country's flag—and a banner with a campaign message—at temperatures of -40⁰ Celsius.
“From the summit of Vinson, Baibanou continues to support the fight combatting violence against women and girls,” UN Women office of Maghreb wrote on Twitter on January 1, 2019 after her ascent.
Wearing a beige headscarf and black shirt, Baibanou
described the mountain as “a great school” as she reeled off the attributes
needed to scale a peak. “Courage, optimism, perseverance, determination and
But her passion has required a financial slog. Baibanou is a
government engineer and climbed the seven peaks with a budget of two million dirhams
(185,000 euros, $210,000). Sponsorship raised 60,000 euros for the Vinson
expedition and 80,000 for Mount Everest. “It's not very rewarding to be a
mountaineering adventurer in Morocco,” she said.
As well as doing community work, Baibanou gives talks in
schools and universities around the country. She is also campaigning to develop
mountain tourism in Morocco, especially improving the Toubkal National Park and
In December 2018, Morocco was shaken by the murder of two Scandinavian women hiking in the mountains. “This terrorism act does not represent my country -- one of peace and tolerance,” said Baibanou, who was outraged by the killings.
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Overcoming FearsDespite her mountaineering success, Baibanou only discovered
hiking aged 15 during a summer camp. Her father, a mechanic, and her
stay-at-home mother were not very interested in nature or sport.
It was not until she was 26 that Baibanou climbed her first
peak in Morocco—Toubkal. It was an exhilarating experience, spurring her on to
take up mountaineering in France's Chamonix region and climb Mont Blanc.
She still hikes close to home and last year took a group of
around 30 teenagers up Toubkal, the country's highest peak at 4,167 metres. “I
hope to be a role model, above all for young women—for those who dare to
believe in themselves,” said Baibanou.
While she travelled the world mountaineering, her 14-year-old daughter was looked after by family, including her husband, who supported her ambitions.
For Baibanou, there's nothing better than an extreme sport
to “overcome ones’ fears” and learn to “not give up at the first hurdle”. She
has seen young women who were hesitant at the start of their first climb
transformed by the experience. They face "a lot of discrimination" in
Morocco, said Baibanou. “A lot of girls don't continue their studies but, if we
give them the power, they will achieve.”
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