Yasmin Gahtani emerges as the first Saudi rock-climbing instructor with grit and discipline

A passion that took her to teaching


Saudi Gazette

SAUDI national Yasmin Gahtani brought about a change and discipline in her life five years ago when she conquered her innermost fear of heights to rise into a brave new world of rock and mountain climbing. What started out as an exploration of new sports has now turned into her passion.

“I wanted to start something new in my life, I explored various extreme sports. But a chance assist from a friend, a rock climber — who took me to Briman area in Jeddah, changed my life completely,” Gahtani said.

“I had fear of heights at that time, but my friend asked me to climb rocks that were not high, and I instantly fell in love with the sport on my first attempt,” she said, adding, “I knew this was my sport after my first climb.”

Gahtani’s love turned into a passion for climbing. Today she feels that climbing gives her freedom, empowerment, independence and self-esteem. That is why she turned to this sport with vigor and encourages others to take up climbing.

Knowing that when she started rock climbing, it changed her life forever and took her to a better place, Gahtani seeks to extend a helping hand to others in finding themselves through this extreme sport.

Gahtani, who adores climbing now, took the extra effort to become a certified instructor to induce others to the sport. Today she is the first certified Saudi climbing wall instructor by the American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA).

The reasons for enjoying this sport are many, Gahtani said. “Throughout rock climbing, women can gain self-respect, commitment, happiness and positivity, and once they attain these characteristics, women can achieve many things,” she said.

Gahtani added: “As a woman if I can beat rocky obstacles, then I can beat any obstacles in life”.

Now Gahtani is spreading the culture of rock climbing in Saudi Arabia, especially among women. “Every time I am at the rocks I feel in full control of my life. It is a way of releasing stress,” Gahtani said.

“Rock climbing makes me more focused in my life, because climbing needs a lot of focus and mental strength. Eventually it will increase my mental and body strength. I think rock climbing is a beautiful sport for everyone; you can start it at any age.”

Once getting started in climbing, Gahtani pursued the sport in Italy and other destinations around the globe during her vacations. She went to the United States to take courses on rock climbing, and got certified as a climbing wall instructor (CWI) by AMGA.

Today Gahtani teaches courses on rock climbing to Saudi women and children. She also teaches the sport to her two sons Laith and Faris in order to improve their fitness, while wanting them to be connected with nature, instead of spending long hours before the TV and in unhealthy activities.

She recently took them with her on a hiking trip to Wahba Crater in northern Taif organized by the Qimmam Club, of which Gahtani is a member. Qimmam Club is a group of talented and enthusiastic Saudi hikers and rock climbers.

When Gahtani, a member of the Saudi Climbing Association, started rock climbing many Saudi women sought her out to inquire about the sport, and also to benefit from the sport like her.

“A lot of people kept asking me how could they take part in this sport in Saudi Arabia?” she said.

In response to the repeated questions and feeling a huge responsibility toward the community as the first certified Saudi wall climbing instructor, Gahtani made a key decision: to teach rock climbing.

“Today, I live my passion and teach others to be passionate and healthy through this extreme sport,” she said.