On the 19th May 2012, Mollie Hughes became one of the youngest British climbers to summit Mount Everest at the age of 21. We have sat down with Mollie to ask our burning questions about what it is like to climb the highest mountain in the world.
When did you start climbing?
The first mountain I ever climbed was Mount Kenya on a school trip when I was 17, from that moment of standing on top of that beautiful mountain I was hooked. Throughout the rest of school and university I would save up as much money as I could in the year and then spend it all on an expedition over the summer. I climbed in the Indian Himalayas, Volcanos of Ecuador, North and East Africa. Then after I decided I wanted to climb Everest I spent some time in the French Alps and had an expedition on Ama Dablam in Nov 2011.
What made you want to attempt to climb Everest?
At university I studied Psychology with Sports Biology, in my final year I wrote my dissertation project on the Psychological experience of climbing Mount Everest. For this project I interview seven climbers who had all summited Mount Everest, I looked at their motivation, their ability to control fear, their self-belief and the pressure they felt to succeed. Listening to their descriptions of walking through the Western Cwm, of scaling the Lhotse face and standing on top of the world, I knew that I didn’t want to just write about this mountain, I wanted to have a go at climbing it myself.
What training advice would you give to someone thinking about climbing Everest?
To train hard, it’s tough up there! But also not to lose focus, nobody really likes getting up in the morning to train when it’s cold or wet outside….maintaining motivation by focusing on the end result is important and trust me it’s so, so worth it!
Which pieces of kit did you appreciate the most on Everest?
All of my down clothing. RAB were kind enough to supply a lot of the expedition kit I needed in 2012. I had a huge, bright yellow, RAB expedition suit, it looked very bulky but is was actually super lightweight and incredibly warm. It kept me toasty in temperatures close to -35c! During the expedition I also really appreciated my ipod and my Kindle, when you plug in to your ipod and read a good book it makes it easy to forget you’re freezing in a tent halfway up Everest….
What was the most challenging stage of climbing Everest in 2012?
Climbing Everest from the South side is a challenge as soon as you leave basecamp. Straight away you enter into the Khumbu Icefall, it’s a weird place. The thought that you could be killed at any moment always plays on your mind, if an ice tower were to collapse or a serac to fall onto the route; there are not many places to escape. With the instability of the west shoulder in 2012 there was a section that took about 25 minutes to get through near the top of the icefall, covered in avalanche debris and the route often destroyed, we just had to power through and get out as quickly as possible. The icefall is scary don’t get me wrong, but it is also really beautiful, and a real honour when it allows you to safely negotiate your way through its unstable maze.
During your climb was there any moment that you were scared for your life?
Ha…. constantly!? The Khumbu icefall, rockfall on the Lhotse face, summit day, all produce a lot of fear but you just have to control it in order to succeed on the climb. The only time I seriously thought it was game over was in the Western Cwm, when an avalanche came off Nuptse and was heading straight for us, causing me and my team mate Becky to drop our rucksacks and run for our lives. Luckily it wasn’t as big as we first thought and didn’t reach us but it definitely got the heart pumping- sprinting at 6,500m!
Was climbing Mount Everest everything you thought it would be?
Climbing Everest was so, so much harder than I thought it would be. I guess I thought I knew a lot about the psychology of climbing Everest after I wrote my dissertation about it…but I was pushed close to the limit, it took so much metal perseverance to get up there and even more to get back down again.
However, climbing Everest was also so much more enchanting than I expected… seeing the millions of stars at night from basecamp, watching the sun set from half way up the Lhotse face or witnessing the shadow that Everest throws onto the stratosphere when the sun rises behind it on summit day, were all totally magical experiences.
In Spring 2017, Tiso is returning to Everest with Mollie as she attempts to climb the north side. If successful, Mollie will become the youngest British person to climb Mount Everest from both sides. As the outdoor adventure specialist, Tiso we are supporting Mollie every step of the way. You can find out more about our return to Everest here. here.