In the world of climbers, there is a long tradition of trying to be the first person to create a new route, for example, and hunting for new records. Imagine what it would feel like to be the first, fastest, largest group, youngest, oldest…
As early as 1953 when Hillary and Tenzing climbed Mount Everest, this was about who would become the first person to succeed in doing something that had never before been done. In 1975, Junko Tabei became the first woman to climb the world’s highest mountain, and three years later, in 1978, Reinhold Messner and Peter Habeler were the first to show that it was possible to climb Everest without using any oxygen. Messner then took these records to a whole new level when, in 1986, he became the first person in the world to have climbed all the 14 peaks which are higher than 8,000 metres.
A year earlier, the American Richard Bass had become the first person to accomplish the Seven Summits, i.e. to climb the highest mountain on each of the continents. Seven continents – seven summits.
The Bass list includes Australia’s highest mountain, Mt Kosciuszko, which is 2,228 metres. However, Bass did not have a background in climbing and was questioned by Messner, among others, who thought that the highest mountain in Oceania (of which Australia is a part) is the more difficult Carstensz Pyramid, which is 4,884 metres high, and that this mountain should have been included instead. In 1986, Patrick Morrow was the first person who accomplished the Seven Summits on Messner’s list.
My dream of once standing on the top of Mt Everest was born in 1996, and at this time, I also had the idea of perhaps being able to accomplish the Seven Summits. In 1998, when I and Göran were rock climbing in Australia, we also went up to the top of Mt Kosciuszko. And I agree, Carstensz Pyramid is a bigger challenge. It all started when, in 1999, I became the first Swedish woman to stand on the top of Mount Everest. For me, Everest was the first of the seven summits and, at this time, no other Swedish climber had the ambition to accomplish the Seven Summits. What I did not know was that it would take me 15 years to realize my dream.
The altitude may not be the biggest challenge, but Carstensz was one of the mountains that I felt most worried about. From a climbing point of view, Carstensz can offer a great deal of resistance, even if these days there are fixed ropes all the way up to the top.
Elbrus is very easy to get to. On 7 August, after some four hours on scenic, winding roads through the Baksan valley from Mineralny Vody, I arrived at Tereskol, a village at the foot of the mountain, and the starting point of my expedition.
Many are attracted and inspired by Kilimanjaro. For example, in the short story by Ernest Hemingway, The snows on Kilimanjaro, at the foot of the mountain, the main character, Harry, reflects on his life as he realizes that he is going to die of gangrene.
Which is the more correct, Denali or Mount McKinley? Well, it depends on whom you ask. The official US name is Mount McKinley, but in Alaska, it is Mount Denali, which is the name preferred by most climbers. Denali means ”The Great One” in the Athabaskan languages of the Alaskan natives.
I became the first expedition to register in the season. Following a two-day tour of acclimatization to St Elena at 4,500 meters, we left for Plaza Confluensia and on to Base Camp at Plaza de Mulas.
The first time I saw Mount Everest was during the approach with Göran Kropp’s expedition in 1996. What an impressive sight! And not long after having reached Base Camp, I started to feel that I wanted to go higher.