The unseasonably cold weather in Lebanon during the month of March may have discouraged many hikers, but not the new ambassador of the Lebanon Mountain Trail (LMT), Joyce Azzam, who did not hesitate to trek across the country's highest trails in the middle of the snow from March 6 to 25.
In line with the LMT association's objective to promote the conservation of cultural and natural heritage, during her journey, Azzam made a point of highlighting the beauty of the trail and its various attractions as an outdoor destination during the winter season.
The polar cold did not bother her. Azzam is, in fact, preparing for an expedition to the South Pole scheduled for November, not to mention that this was not her first time venturing in the cold weather.
She is the first Lebanese woman to take on the Seven Summits challenge, braving the freezing temperatures and killer oxygen levels, and succeeding in climbing the highest mountain on every continent, making her one of the first three woman in the Arab world and one of only 75 women in the world to accomplish such a feat.
Azzam has also climbed more than 28 of the world’s most challenging summits, including Mount Everest, Mount Kilimanjaro, Denali, the highest mountain peak in Alaska, and Vinson Massif in Antarctica.
Azzam’s winter journey in Lebanon began in Andaqit, in Akkar in the far north, and ended in Marjayoun in the South.
Her determination and commitment to reach the finish line surmounted the difficult weather conditions. The snowy and exquisite panoramic views were also worth the trip.
“Every day I get more and more attached to the remarkable natural landscapes of Lebanon and each section of the LMT has its own magic and history,” Azzam said in one of her recent posts on social media.
Throughout her trek, the hiker also rediscovered Lebanese culture with a fresh perspective, stopping overnight at guesthouses and getting to know the locals who welcomed her with open arms and hot seasonal dishes prepared by each host along the route.
Along her journey, she was able to rely on local guides who gladly passed on their knowledge of the terrain and their passion for their respective areas.
Not only did they play a role in making this experience unique, but they also enjoyed the trek during a season when there are usually fewer hikers. Yet the experience was just as — if not more — enjoyable than in warmer weather.
“It was a great experience to meet Joyce on the trail and guide her through my home area of Akkar. Even though the weather was not favorable to us, we managed to not only continue our journey, but also enjoy the day to the fullest,” said Khaled Taleb, local LMT guide.
As she trekked across the mountains, Azzam made sure to document every step of the way and share her experience on social media, helping raise awareness of the LMT’s cause. She provided a detailed account of the various aspects of the train: cultural and heritage sites, nature reserves, biodiversity, etc.
Together with the members of the LMT board of directors, she met with Culture Minister Mohammad Mortada at section 18 of the trail, in Barouk (in the Chouf Cedar Nature Reserve), in a bid to strengthen the association's commitment to supporting and enhancing the cultural dimensions of the trail.
Mortada stressed, “the importance of this activity and the need to spread cultural awareness and shed light on our natural and archaeological wealth.”
The new LMT ambassador is also an ambassador for the Lebanese Ice Hockey Federation (women's team), which allows her to support women in sports.
She volunteers with the NGO Himaya for the protection of children. Azzam is also a motivational speaker for youth groups, entrepreneurs, athletes, international NGOs and foundations in various countries.
This article was originally published in French in L'Orient-Le Jour.
The unseasonably cold weather in Lebanon during the month of March may have discouraged many hikers, but not the new ambassador of the Lebanon Mountain Trail (LMT), Joyce Azzam, who did not hesitate to trek across the country's highest trails in the middle of the snow from March 6 to 25.In line with the LMT association's objective to promote the conservation of cultural and natural heritage,...