I recently heard that Mollie Hughes was set to break yet another mountaineering world record. I had to sit down with her to find out what was motivating her to take on the highest mountain on Earth, for a second time.
How and when did you become interested in mountain climbing, and what made you decide to climb Mount Everest the first time?
At the age of 17, I took part in a school expedition to climb Mount Kenya in East Africa. I quickly became hooked on mountaineering and knew from then that this was going to be something I would do for the rest of my life.
Throughout the remainder of school and university I would save up as much money as possible in the term time by working part time jobs along side my studies. Then, during the summer months, I would head off on an expedition to far-flung mountain ranges across the world. I have been lucky enough to climb in the Himalayas of India and Nepal, the Andes of South America, the Atlas mountains of North Africa and closer to home in the European Alps and the mountains of the UK.
My Everest ambitions materialised when I was in my final year at university. I wrote my dissertation on 'the Psychological experience of climbing Mount Everest'. For this project I interviewed seven climbers who had all successfully summited Mount Everest. I looked at their motivation, their ability to control fear, their self-belief and the psychological pressure they faced. It must have only been half way through the first interview that I decided that I didn't want to just write about this mountain, I wanted to climb it for myself. I spent the next 12 months sponsorship hunting, climbing and training. I eventually reached the summit of Mount Everest at 8am on the 19th May 2012, becoming the Youngest British Woman to do so.
Since writing my dissertation on Everest, climbing it in 2012 and spending so much of my time now presenting about the experience, Everest has become such a huge part of my life. However, I feel like I have only experienced half of the mountain. In 2012 I climbed from the South side of the mountain via Nepal. But there is this whole other side of the mountain, I haven't seen or stepped on. I would love to explore this side of Everest, which is steeped in so much history. If I’m lucky enough, I’ll reach the summit once again and look down on the south side of the mountain where I spent those two months in 2012.
No British woman has yet to climb Mount Everest from both of these routes. Therefore, if I’m successful in 2016 I will become the First British Woman to climb Everest from both sides and also the youngest non-Sherpa at the age of just 25.
Women are still so greatly underrepresented in adventure and outdoor sports. Completing this challenge will enable me to inspire women across the UK, and hopefully the world, that they too can achieve their wildest ambitions.
What are you doing now to prepare for your second Everest climb?
Training-wise, I live in Scotland so it is easy to get out and into the mountains for a long days hiking or rock climbing. As soon as winter comes I will be up there as much as possible. I think training works best when it’s as specific as possible. So you can't beat long days out in the mountains with crampons and ice axes.
Alongside this I am training in the gym, strengthening the muscles I will be using on Everest.
I’m guessing that climbing Everest isn’t free. Is there a fee involved?
Yes, absolutely! Mount Everest is a very expensive mountain to climb. I need to raise £30,000 ($48,000) to enable me to climb Everest in Spring 2016. This is to pay for the permits from the Chinese government and all the logistics on the mountain; the food, the tents, the oxygen and the support of our Sherpa team.
I’m currently CrowdFunding to attempt to raise the funds. I need to find 3,000 generous people to believe in my project and each donate £10 ($16). If I manage that, then I will reach the target! On my CrowdFunding page I’ve made a campaign film and outlined some great rewards for anyone pledging their support. You can check out my page here- http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/everest-from-both-sides-first-british-woman
I’m also on the search for businesses to partner with on this expedition. I’m aiming for companies who would like to use this unique marketing opportunity to publicise their business, through my expedition to become the ‘First British Woman to summit Everest from both Sides’. There are many exciting and exclusive opportunities highlighted on my CrowdFunding page and website, here- www.molliehughes.co.uk.
You work closely with charities in Nepal. What charity will be benefitting from this next expedition?
Through my expedition I will be raising awareness and publicity for the charity ‘Supporting Nepal's Children’. The charity was founded in 2012, by some friends of mine. It aims to bring quality education to remote Nepali villages, so that their children can flourish, learn new skills and create opportunities for themselves. The charity provides a 'hand-up', not a 'handout'. You can check out their website here- http://www.supportingnepalschildren.org.uk
What was the scariest part of the first climb, and what are you most nervous about with the second climb?
One of the scariest parts of the route on the Southside is as soon as you step out of Basecamp, the Khumbu Icefall. This is a section of the glacier with huge towering blocks of ice the size of houses, monster crevasses 4 or 5 meters wide and unstable searches looming above you. I’m glad I don't have to climb through there again on this attempt.
However, summiting Everest from the North will present me with many different challenges. The North route is significantly colder and windier than the south side of the mountain, and when climbing from the north I will have to spend more time above 8,000m in what is known as the 'death zone', an altitude so high, (third less oxygen than sea level) life cannot survive for long.
Anything and Everything. During such a long two-month expedition you have a LOT of thinking time. Life is simple and you don't worry about the everyday things we spend so much time doing at home; like checking emails, doing work or surfing social media. It’s a great way to put life into perspective.
Of course there are some risks that come along with mountaineering. Do you take that into consideration, and if so, what makes you want to pursue the challenge?
As a mountaineer you understand the risks of climbing these big mountains, and there are plenty of risks- from avalanches, to storms or altitude sickness. But you aim to control them as much as you can with your experience as a mountaineer. Though sometimes even the best climbers in the world get unlucky; that’s just part of it. The amazing things I experienced on Everest the first time, completely outweighed the risk; from the sunsets and the sunrises, to the shadow of mount Everest you see etched onto the stratosphere as you approach the summit, first thing in the morning.
What's it like at the summit?
It’s an incredible place. At 8,848m you are just below the cruising altitude of a jumbo jet. The views are breathtaking, on your right-hand-side you see the whole of Tibet sprawled out, and on your left-hand-side you see the whole of Nepal There are mountains as far as the eye can see, and you are higher than every single one of them. Don't get me wrong, you feel completely mentally and physically exhausted. It’s not somewhere to hang around for long, being the most exposed place on the mountain. But it is definitely a very special place.
You can also follow Mollie’s record-breaking progress by following her Facebook Page
Written by friend, teacher, and fellow traveler, Tommas A. Coldrick