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Elia Saikaly

June 5, 2019 by Speakers' Spotlight

Elia Saikaly: “Death. Carnage. Chaos” on Mt. Everest

When global adventurer Elia Saikaly recently climbed Mt. Everest for the third time, he was shocked at what he saw, describing it as “Death. Carnage. Chaos” on his Instagram account.

An award-winning adventure filmmaker, Elia embarked on this journey to film the expedition of four Arab Women as they attempted to climb to the highest point on Earth. “The Dream of Everest” will be a feature-length documentary that chronicles the story of these inspiring women from Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and Oman. They hope that their story will help break negative stereotypes and spread tolerance and inclusiveness.

Their journey, however, was met with chaos as the mountain was overcrowded with climbers, leaving a wake of devastation behind them. In an article with the Ottawa Citizen, Elia said:

“People are stepping over a body. You look around and see how people are dealing with that and you realize that people are not dealing with reality because they can’t. It’s just so confusing. So they just carry on. It’s when you get back down that you start asking yourself the question: Is it worth it? What is this whole industry about?”

When Elia last climbed the mountain, he and his team were the sole climbers on the summit. This time, Elia climbed with hundreds of people and had to wait in a 50-person line to actually reach the summit. Elia told the Ottawa Citizen that it was a “real s–t show.”

“Within 20 minutes we saw a climber being brought down in a stretcher. Within 60 minutes, we see a climber being brought down by a couple of sherpas completely delirious. You don’t know really what’s going on but it seems the person has a serious case of acute mountain sickness. But you keep going up, in a huge lineup. And within 2 1/2 hours there’s a deceased climber attached to an anchor. Every single person had to climb over that body. It’s quite disturbing.

“A couple of the women pulled their masks off and said to me, ‘Where’s the summit?’ and I had to say, ‘Do you not see the 50 people ahead of us standing there? There were so many people and everyone’s competing for that same spot. I didn’t even bother stepping up there this time.

Elia and his group were all fit and well-prepared for the journey. They safely made it to the summit and returned to basecamp alive and well. Elia hopes to release his film this fall.

“It’s not to brag, but I wish that people could see what I do up there,” he said. “You can’t stop anybody. You can’t ask anybody to go backward to do a shot again. You’re 8,500 metres above sea level, you’ve got an oxygen mask on. You’re risking your fingers every time you touch the camera. You’re pulling the battery out after every shot. You’re jumping up on the knife edge ridge to get the shot … But that’s my jam. That’s what excites me. The story excites me and motivates me and gives me the strength to carry on.”

Hear more from Elia and his harrowing climb in the interview below with CNN.

With over 16 high-altitude expeditions under his belt, Elia Saikaly has proven time and time again that he has the determination, stamina, skill, resourcefulness, and vision required to meet the greatest of challenges. Through his extraordinary presentations, he shows others how to find the courage and strength to live out their dreams, embrace the unknown and contribute to a better world in the process.

Interested in learning more about Elia and what he can bring to your next event? Email us at info@speakers.ca.