Three months ago, I fulfilled a dream. At 4:45am on the 16th May I returned to the summit of Mount Everest. I was standing 8,848m above sea level watching the sun brining in a new day with the best possible team I could have hoped for. It was an honour to share my guide Jon Gupta’s, 2nd summit, Lhakpa Wongchu Sherpa’s 11th summit and Lila Bahadur Tamang’s 6th Summit.
This year, I reached the roof of the world by ascending the notoriously cold and windy side of the mountain from Tibet. In 2012, at the age of 21, I had ascended the mountain from the south side via Nepal. Now, aged 26 I was the youngest woman in the world to successfully ascend the world’s highest peak from both the North and South routes.
Climbing the world’s highest peak is as much a mental challenge as an exhausting physical challenge. In the ‘Death Zone’ above 8,000m, the reduced availability of oxygen makes every sinew in your body scream for you to stop. Every step upwards takes a huge effort, but mentally I had to constantly retain focus. To slip isn’t an option – and somehow I had to forget I was afraid of heights!
It is always at the back of my mind that big expedition climbing is an inherently selfish thing. I am really the only one that benefits from it, I get to see the incredible sun rises, the views from high in the Himalayas and experience the achievement. Whereas I leave loved ones at home worrying about me every step of the way. I therefore attempt to off-set this by raising money and awareness for a charity through my expeditions.
For Everest 2017, my chosen charity was the world’s leading Cancer charity, Cancer Research UK. This charity holds great importance for many people across the country. Through dedication, fundraising and research the survival rates for cancer have doubled over the last 40 years to 1 in 2 people surviving their Cancer. My aim was to raise £1 for every metre of Mount Everest, I wanted to raise £8,848! It was a tall order, I had never raised this much money for charity before and wasn’t certain I could. But in the toughest parts of my climb up Mount Everest the knowledge of raising this money inspired me to keep placing one foot in front of the other.
I was extremely fortunate to have the benefit of the support of Tiso the outdoor adventure specialist as my principal sponsor. In its 50 year history Tiso has a proud heritage of supporting Everest expeditions. It supported climbs in the 1970’s and in 2000 when Chris Tiso (CEO, Tiso Group) was on the mountain with Polly Murray when she became the first Scottish woman to reach the summit. I also had the generous support of others, including friend and philanthropist Kae Tinto Murray, The Kristen Scott Memorial trust and Ch2m.
It was also not long after my return to Scotland that I gave my first post Everest public talk, hosted by Tiso, at Napier University to raise further funds for Cancer Research UK. It was great to share my experiences on the mountain with the audience and at the end of my presentation it was fantastic to receive a cheque from Chris Tiso, on behalf of the JD Foundation. The cheque for £8,848 generously donated to Cancer Research UK! This cheque along with other fundraising gave me a grand total of £13,557.17 raised for CRUK, we smashed the target!
Raising this amount of money for such an important charity made all the pain and suffering of climbing Mount Everest worthwhile! The JD Foundation, Tiso Group and Kae Tinto Murray ensured my aim of raising as much money as possible for Cancer Research UK was fulfilled.
As I write, it’s three months since I stood atop the summit of Mount Everest. With my feet firmly back at sea level, I hope my achievement serves to inspire young people and especially young women to achieve their own dreams. For me, my climb to the top of the world has shown me that with hard work and determination, anything is possible!