Climbing Seven Summits aka seven highest mountains on each continent have been on my mind for a while now. Ever since I heard of the youngest Australian Alyssa Azar summiting Mount Everest in 2016 to be exact. I still remember that day as clear as it was yesterday.
I was in Stanthorpe, Queensland only a two hour drive from Toowoomba where Alyssa was raised. I was working on my 88 days of farm work requirement for my second year visa by picking and packing apples. The monotonous job went quick when conversation was flowing. Paula-my employer asked me if I had heard the news. Alyssa-only 19 at the time was on top of the highest mountain in the world after two life threatening attempts.
I had not heard about Alyssa, in fact all I could think of was the dramatic Everest movie me and my friends watched after getting pleasantly stoned. Everest had always fascinated me, but I never allowed myself to dream to be standing on top of it. After all, people die in the mountains all the time.
Paula went on to say how after watching a documentary, she believes the local sherpas have been exploited for westerners pursuit of the summits and what a selfish person you must be to climb with such high stakes. She as many others do not understand what it is that draws people to the mountains. My partner Michael agrees with Paula, constantly reminding me of the dangers and never letting me forget the possibility of death.
Realising My Passion
The pull to the mountains grabbed me unexpectedly after I looked into Alyssa’s story. Notorious Kokoda track at the tender age of 8, followed by summits in Africa and Nepal before culminating with three attempts on Everest, all before turning 20. I had never climbed a mountain when I first started looking into true accounts of mountaineering tragedies and success stories. In Estonia, the highest “mountain” is solely 318 metres above sea level, making it the highest point in all of the three Baltic states. This does not even officially classify as a mountain. The bigger the surprise for everyone, myself included, when I started dealing of being on top of Everest.
Right there in that shed, packing my 150th box of apples, I though if Alyssa can climb Everest, surely I should be able to hike to Everest Base Camp. Secretly, all I wanted was an attempt on the summit itself. However, in fear of straight forward dismissal, I kept the big dreams to myself. My loudest critic and also my biggest supporter Michael was not yet ready for the revelation. Honestly, I don’t think he still is. What if you die? You have never climbed a mountain before! How will you afford it? These are just a few of his grounding and justified questions that get brought up again and again when I go on about the mountains.
Hiking To Everest Base Camp
Book after book, movie after movie following famous mountaineers on their climbing adventures, I had officially gained the status of an armchair mountaineer. The thing is, I never wanted to just be an armchair mountaineer. All the while a plan to hike to the Everest Base Camp came together. Thankfully, Michael had always wanted to travel through Asia and getting him to come with me on a two week hike into high altitude required a lot less effort than I anticipated. I believe he was a little too confident in this decision as he ended up hating hiking altogether.
Nepal had a totally different effect on me. I was more sure than ever before that mountains are where I belong. The unexplainable draw culminated with an overwhelming feeling of being electrified as I stood in front of the giants of Himalaya. With every passing second a flow of energy made my blood tingle (although this may very well have been the effect of Diamox in my system) and I simply couldn’t look away. As I looked up to Ama Dablam, I knew I had just seen the most magnificent mountain in the whole world. Ama Dablam is far more beautiful than Everest itself. It was calling me so loud, I promised to return just for her.
I was determined to hike to Everest Base Camp with all my gear on my back. I had to know I could do this if I ever hoped to step foot on the mighty Himalayan mountains. It was something I could not explain to Michael when he wanted to hire porters to carry our loads. The 16 kg bag, blisters, sore back and no showers for two weeks was not a match to my determination. It did little to change my mind about being in the wild. I was determined to return no matter what.
Seven Summits Dreaming
After Everest Base Camp, I knew mountaineering could really be a possibility for me. Without knowing how I was getting there, I was certain I had to try. I stopped focusing so much on Everest and allowed myself to consider other summits.
I do not wish to be one of these inexperienced climbers you hear getting themselves and others killed. I do not want to climb mountains for the bragging rights around dinner tables. I do not want to be one of those people that put others at risk for selfish pursuits. The game changes in high altitude, it’s not just you anymore. It is your team, your guides and sherpas that put their lives at risk as well. My goal is to climb the Seven Summits by building up experience on lower mountains. I will undertake a mountaineering course and wish to fundraise for a cause close to my heart before every attempt on a mountain.
As many of you know, climbing Kilimanjaro in Africa was to be my first of the Seven Summits. During Easter long weekend, Mount Koscioczko became the first of the seven instead. It was a perfect introduction to my training regimen for my African climb late August. More on that in the next article. I am very excited to say I will be hiking Kilimanjaro alongside Alyssa, the girl who inspired me to go to the mountains.
Why Do You Climb?
I know I still haven’t answered the single most popular question every mountaineer gets asked. That is: “Why do you climb?”. All I can say is it’s a combination of several little things coming together. It is the preparation, the organisation, the training, the mindset, the climb itself, the feeling yo get when you have accomplished something you have dreamt and the lasting memories it leaves. The journey is as important as the destination and as soon it’s over, you can’t wait to do it all over again.
I know now not to let others opinions and restrictions they set on themselves to be projected on me. Shit, I am not scared to say I want to climb the highest peaks on each continent anymore. I don’t listen when people think my dreams are too big. You will never get to where you want to be without dreaming it first. The bigger your dreams, the harder you work for them. I don’t know yet how I’ll be able to afford my dreams, but as long as I focus on the goal I have set, I know I’ll be able to do it.
Just as I will never understand the passion that goes to knowing everything about footy and watching every game, Michael may never understand what it is that I so love about the mountains. And neither will those who don’t feel the pull of the mountains. And thats OK, as long as we are happy doing what we love.
Pin this for later: