“It really came out of nowhere, this idea, literally out of a shower”.

I was drying his hair after having an idea rush into my head about an expedition, said Jo. I texted Qarl about it and here we are, a year later talking about it to “The Mountains Magazine Lebanon”.

“We are Jo Abi Rizk and Qarl E. Helou, both in the photography and filmmaking field, leading heavily loaded lives full of work and sleepless nights but most importantly two young amateur mountaineers who are just always looking for an adventure. Its therapy.
We’ve looked up summits from all around the world where we could just pack up and head for an expedition, at that point we were eager to just get on some kind of adventure, but it’s not always that easy”.

Lebanon was (and still is) going through surreal survival turmoil in all terrains whether politically or economically and for the past year a healthcare disaster accompanied by severe political conflict and corruption, which made it extremely difficult to simply book a flight, accommodations and explore a good hike or have an adventure, and that’s when Jo came up with this absurd idea: “Why not do it here?” And that’s literally how it started.

Jo Abi RIzk
Jo Abi RIzk

It took us only ten days of preparations and scouting to understand what we had in hand and what was needed, very little planning and a lot more packing, because we were way too excited for the journey we cooked up that we just couldn’t wait to just head on. The whole plan was hiking from the lowest point which was sea level (0 meters) in Jounieh to the highest point in Keserwan district which was the Kfardebian Summit at 2450m, and that was exactly what we did. The trail kicked off on its first day on March 2nd 2020, we packed our camping equipment, hiking gear, a lot of good vibes and headed towards the starting point.

“No, it needs more than 30 minutes from Sea to Mountain in Lebanon”, said Jo.

Day One starting point was at Jounieh Bay, Maameltein: The trail started off very urban and too city friendly, but eventually turned to the beautiful green forest hike and quick detours between houses and small bushes. We had already prepared well for that day because we knew it was set out to be very challenging. The goal that day was to reach our first camping point in Feitroun, which was a total of 1350 m elevation with a total distance of 21.6 km covered on the first day. That elevation estimates a little more than half the elevation we were supposed to cover throughout the whole expedition. But we made it to Joolmood a little before sunset to set up camp for our first night. That was quite an experience.

a well deserved hot coffee
a well deserved hot coffee

Day Two kicked off with a freezing Tuesday morning: it had just stopped snowing and raining that week, a thin layer of snow was enough to make us feel the chill. But it took a few hours before we saw the first clear sun of the season, and we knew we were going to have a beautiful day on our journey to the second destination.
We had planned for Day Two to be slightly easier than the day before anticipating the big day we were expecting to have on Day Three. So we left Joolmood, thanked Shady for his beautiful hospitality, and headed up to our next stop: Faraya. We traveled a distance of 11.2 km with an elevation of almost 450 m gain and reached our second stop which was a friend’s parking lot in Faraya (That’s another story for another article).

Day Three, “we couldn’t locate our muscles”, exclaimed Qarl. with 25kg of weight on our backs and 33km later were starting to show on all our muscles. We stretched, coffee’d, packed up and hit the road for the third and last day of the “Sea 2 Mountain” expedition, ready to pin our first achievement of the year. But it wasn’t really easy at this point, we had to kick off the day with snowshoes, weight on our backs and muscles burning.
Qarl has a nasal deviation, which made it pretty hard for him to breathe properly, and with the elevation reaching 2000m and the exhaustion kicking in, movement and progress became somewhat slower. the terrain became a lot steeper and the sun was so strong it made the snow pretty hard to even look at. Nothing about that day was easy, but we made it anyway.
We had done so much for so long not to just give up meters before: The last few steps before the summit were just too glorious when you start to rethink every step you took for three days to reach that summit.

Qarl Helou - Kfardebian
Qarl Helou – Kfardebian

“A bigger piece of the puzzle”

That whole experience was just exhilarating, we had learned so much about ourselves, about each other, and believe it if you may, but we learned a whole lot about life. Because what we haven’t talked about was the people we met along the way, friends that showed up for support on the road, the love we got from our families, and just the fact of being able to do what you love minutes away from the place where you were born is just somewhat fulfilling, and what we gained on that trail was far more important than the start of a mountaineer’s summit collection, but a true reflection on what really matters.

And luckily, we had the chance to document our journey through the most of what we were able to capture with the lenses of our cameras: We shot a short documentary that we will be sharing with everyone about this trip, and launched a new instagram page to keep people updated about future trails and expeditions that we will be adding to our lives.

You can follow us on Instagram: @sea_2_mountain

And we would like to thank Mountains Magazine Lebanon for their support and this great opportunity in sharing our story with fellow professional, amateur or beginners in the mountaineering community in Lebanon.

We would also like to thank Shady from Joolmood who so openly welcomed us to crash at his awesome campsite for our first night of the expedition.

Qarl E. Helou
Jo Abi Rizk