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MAKKAH: A Saudi team of amputees has taken the first steps in establishing the Kingdom’s first hiking and mountaineering group for people with prosthetic limbs.

The group set out to test the efficiency and suitability of artificial limbs for climbing and descending trails on Mount Tuwaiq.

Describing their expedition as nothing short of extraordinary, the Saudi team shared a powerful message with those who have experienced loss of limb — instilling hope and illuminating that it is possible to overcome obstacles and find success.

At the helm of this pioneering endeavor is Salman Al-Buraidi, a scout leader and prominent figure in Saudi Arabia’s hiking community, collaborating with Abdullah Al-Ghunaim and Abdulrahman Al-Juraisi.

Al-Buraidi said the idea for the expedition arose during an autism awareness campaign where he met Mutaib Abu Ardhain, an amputee whose enthusiasm for hiking sparked a pivotal conversation. Witnessing Mutaib’s tenacity and athletic spirit in the face of adversity sparked the idea for a hiking squad dedicated to people with disabilities.

Al-Buraidi emphasized the overarching goal of encouraging people to not only overcome physical problems, but also to rediscover the joy of life, create social bonds, and reintegrate into society.

The essence of hiking, he added, transcends mere mountain climbing; it is about communing with nature. It is a collective sport, devoid of rigid competition and in which arriving first is inconsequential. The real triumph lies in the spirit of unity that permeates the entire team.

The team’s journey commenced with an exploratory hike to the summit of Riyadh’s Manjour mountains, a segment of the formidable Tuwaiq range. This acquainted the team with the intricacies of prosthetic functionality during both ascent and descent.

Mutaib Abu Ardhain, a trailblazer among those with disabilities who is now a weightlifting athlete on Saudi Arabia’s national team, told Arab News that they had held a meeting to determine the potential readiness of prosthetic legs to withstand climbing mountains and rugged areas. Al-Buraidi welcomed the idea and was enthusiastic about supporting it.

“The idea of this remarkable endeavor sprouted from the aspirations of three individuals with limb differences — myself, Muhannad Al-Maliki, and Ali Al-Nasser. United by past injuries that culminated in amputations, our foray into this experiment was nothing short of exhilarating, unveiling itself with an unexpected blend of surprise and awe,” Abu Ardhain said.

Abu Ardhain stressed the need for individuals who have experienced injuries — be it physical, psychological, or social — to overcome their afflictions. He implores them to break free from the clutches of adversity with unwavering strength, casting aside notions of weakness and defeat. In the face of formidable challenges that encircle them, Abu Ardhai urges resilience.

He proposes harnessing challenges as constructive tools and potent instruments to propel individuals toward a brighter future. He champions the dismissal of naysayers and those who seek to dampen spirits, advocating instead to align with kindred spirits driven by ambition and hope. Abu Ardhain also discourages mourning over lost opportunities and emphasizes that life’s relentless course waits for no one.

Volunteering as pioneers in testing prosthetic readiness, the trio aims to extend their experiment to amputees nationwide. During their initial climb they discovered not only their competitive spirit but also their capacity to endure.

In his twenties, Muhannad Al-Maliki, a member of the national surfing team, faced the loss of one leg due to a traffic accident. Characterizing the hiking experience as both thrilling and extraordinary, he said he is looking forward to the next challenge.

Ali Al-Nasser, a national team cyclist reflecting on the initiative, said: “While this marks only the commencement, our unwavering passion and determination have primed us to traverse the intricate paths leading to our ultimate destinations.”
 

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