TOP OF THE WORLD: YOUNG BRIT ENTERS EVEREST RECORD BOOKS
Mollie Hughes, a 26 year-old British climber has today (Tuesday 16 May) reached the summit of Mount Everest (8,848m) from the north side guided by Montane mountaineer Jon Gupta.
Mollie and Jon at 6,835m
Mollie’s ascent makes the Edinburgh-based and Devon-born climber the youngest Briton, the first British woman to successfully scale the peak from both the north and south sides of the world’s highest mountain, having already summited Everest from the south side in 2012.
To continue the string of firsts, this ascent makes Bristol-based Jon the youngest British man to successfully summit from the mountain’s north and south sides (he previously ascended Everest in 2013 from the south side).
Gupta has drawn from a wealth of experience both guiding through his own company, Mountain Expeditions, and personally via many successful mountain summits to lead this expedition. Previous ascents include Island Peak (6,189m), Denali (6,196m), Ama Dablam (6,182m), Peak Korzhenevskaya (7,134m), Peak Communism (7,495m) and Khan Tengri (7,010,) to name but a few. Added to this, he successfully completed the 430 mile Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra earlier in 2017, has participated in a series of 7,000m ski-descents and has also presented BBC documentary India: Nature’s Wonderland alongside Freida Pinto and Liz Bonnin.
In temperatures as low as minus 40C, Hughes and Gupta reached the summit at 1.14am GMT (5.34am local time in Nepal).
With a £1 donation for every metre climbed, Hughes hopes to raise more than £8,000 funds for Cancer Research UK. She is being supported throughout the expedition by Tiso, the outdoor adventure specialist where she is an employee in Edinburgh and has been supporting British expeditions to Mount Everest since the 1970’s.
Relaying a brief message shortly after reaching the summit, Hughes commented: “I am elated, exhausted and know I still have the hardest part to do – the long and difficult descent to base camp. Jon (Gupta) and I have already spent more than four weeks acclimatising on the mountain. Thanks to a weather window, yesterday evening we left Camp 3 (8,300m) and we’ve finally reached the top. The climbing has been really, really hard but our mental and physical strength got us up here. I can confirm that the north side is definitely more difficult than the south side!
Mollie at 7,350m
“Huge thanks to Jon, the Sherpas [Lhakpa Wongchu Sherpa and Lila Bahadur Tamang Sherpa], family, friends and to Tiso as my principle sponsor on this expedition. I am really proud to be the youngest Briton to have scaled Everest from both sides – and to have raised funds to support the work of Cancer Research UK. Now, we’ll focus on achieving a safe descent from the top of the world.”
Gupta described their summit attempt on Facebook from Base Camp at 8,300m: “After much umming & aahhing & studying of complex weather charts we [have decided] to ‘give it a go’ on the very early morning of 16th May. This isn’t a rash decision & we could well turn back & return to Base Camp empty handed […] Either side of us are some strong winds & a little precipitation. But, as a small strong team, we might just be able to work with it & push through.”
Hughes, who in 2012 summited Mount Everest from its south side at the age of 21, is 28 years younger than Lynne Hannah (Northern Ireland) who in 2016 and at the age of 54 became the first British woman to achieve ascents from both the north and south. In 1975, Junko Tabei (Japan) became the first female climber to summit the mountain that in 1953 was first officially climbed by Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary.
Hughes and Gupta have been periodically posting video clips during the record-breaking ascent. One clip shows Gupta talking to camera as they camp at 7,069m on the north-west shoulder of Everest and as part of their essential acclimatisation process.
A soundtrack by Britney Spears plays in the tent as Gupta reveals that a Rubik’s cube is among the items carried by the pair to test their mental alertness at altitude and to keep occupied during rest periods.
L-R: Lila Bahadur Tamang Sherpa and Lhakpa Wongchu Sherpa
While many climbers choose to ascend from the south, the north route from base camp in Tibet, China is considered to expose the mountaineers to colder and windier conditions. The route includes an arduous and psychologically testing final day ascent over three prominent rocky steps on the northeast ridge. All are negotiated at an altitude of over 8,500 metres (28,000ft) in the so-called ‘death zone.’
Prior to her record-breaking climb, Hughes had commented: “To climb Mount Everest is an incredible experience; one that is also the ultimate test of your psychological resolve and ability to cope with physical suffering. The spectacular north side of the mountain will push us to the limit.
“I love climbing and adventurous activities. Hopefully, my second expedition to Mount Everest will inspire other young women to realise that with careful planning and determination, challenges can be overcome and dreams achieved.”
In an article for Trek & Mountain magazine following his 2013 Everest summit, Gupta remarked: “Like many folk, Everest has a special draw for me – I’ve been intrigued by its legends, history and myths and have read countless articles and books on the mountain and trawled over maps since a young age […] Perhaps the biggest reason I wanted to go to Everest, though, was that I am a full-time expedition and mountain leader and my life and love is about climbing mountains – so of course I wanted to climb the highest mountain in the world.”
Chris Tiso, CEO of Tiso Group and who was part of the 2000 Tiso expedition on which Polly Murray became the first Scottish woman to summit Mount Everest, commented: “Mollie Hughes is an inspirational young woman. All at Tiso Group are very proud that she has reached the summit after a long and difficult climb and entered her name in the Everest record books. It is a phenomenal achievement.
“Of course, Mollie and Jon now face an equally daunting descent. All involved with the Tiso Return to Mount Everest 2017 Expedition wish them a safe return to base camp and look forward to welcoming Mollie home in early June.”
Terry Stephenson, Montane’s Marketing Manager said of the summit news: “We are thrilled that Mollie and Jon have successfully and safely summited Mt Everest. Montane has supported Jon since 2012 and has seen his mountaineering career blossom, not just as an expedition leader, but as a stellar athlete in his own right, inspiring others through his expeditions, talks and sheer passion for his discipline. Jon’s energy, determination and mountaineering aptitude has seen him go from strength to strength! We are very proud to be associated with him and to have supported both Mollie and Jon with clothing and equipment for this expedition. All that remains is for the pair to complete an equally safe descent of Everest.”
We at Montane would like to congratulate Mollie and Jon on their epic achievement! #FurtherFaster.