Sophie Lavaud, who provides us all with inspiration to overcome incredible challenges, has already reached the summit of Mount Everest, and her dream is to scale all the mountains in the world which reach 8,000 meters (there are 14 of them!) Sophie approaches challenges methodically – she doesn’t view all 14 peaks as one overwhelming ambition. Instead, she breaks each challenge down into manageable, attainable goals and faces and overcomes each, one, step by step.
Sometimes, the challenges that face her present themselves again and again; she often, literally, takes two steps forward and one step back. She faces adversity with patience and perspective; when the weather gets in her way, she waits for clearer skies. When equipment fails her, she finds alternative tools. When her team lacks strength, they regroup.
We can all learn these lessons from Sophie – empowering ourselves to face our daily challenges from work, from our kids, or from physical pain or fatigue is critial to achieving our goals… even if they don’t include climbing mountains.
Here is Sophie’s latest entry in her public journal as she continues to face and overcome her Himalayan challenges.
Words don’t exist to describe the feelings I had, descending from the peak of K2.
Every superlative attributed to this mountain is true!
The difficulty level attached to K2’s reputation is absolutely accurate. The weather in this area, being totally undependable, played on our nerves. But before I tell you about that, allow me to back up a few days in our adventure…
On July 16th, our party began the ascent to C1 in order to start onto C2 the next day. We spotted bad weather on the way and took refuge in our little tent all together: Vibiriana, Nima and me. Then, the morning of the 18th, we dressed in our warmest clothing and headed for C3. I have memories of this route posing a challenge back in 2016, but this year, the conditions on this famous black pyramid were even worse.
Halfway up, the wind was gusting and snow was slowly piling up along our path. Most of the group decided to stop and set up an intermediate camp. With only four Sherpas with us, pushing ahead to C3 at an altitude of 7,350 meters, it took us until 21:30 to overcome all the challenges put before us. We also needed to build platforms, set up our tents, make water and eat something before turning in for the night.
We decided not to continue our climb until the leading team had confirmed that the famous Bottleneck section of the trail had been opened, as without that, forging on would be impossible. Our stay at C3 continued for another 24 hours, allowing the rest of our team to join us. In the afternoon, we received news that the path was impassable due to poor weather. A bit later, the Sherpas reorganized and the climb to C4 was confirmed for the next day!
We set up camp at C4, at an elevation of 7,615 meters, on July 20. We still had a 1,000-meter vertical drop to deal with, so preparation was key. The Sherpas started fixing up our route at about 14:00, allowing us to prepare to leave at 20:30. The earlier portion of the evening was monotonous, climbing large, snowy slopes that were stiffening as the temperature dropped. We moved to more stable territory, but I lost Nima at some point. As I reached the Bottleneck alone, I kept reassuring myself that he would be joining me shortly. Surely all was well.
The entrance to the famous Corridor was in good condition, with big snow steps, but it soon stiffened, and we found ourselves hiking on solid ice. Utilizing every bit of equipment we had – ice axes, crampons, hiking clamps — we kept going, trying not to waste energy doing any thinking. Ice axe, clamps, right crampon, left crampon, ice axe… etc.
Thank God, the fixed rope was there! Lama, Lakpa and Mingma, the Sherpa guides who had preceded us by a few hours before, are the real heroes! My calves were aching, and I was beginning to think that our trek would be endless. Tired and breathless, I finally arrived at the Collar section of the route. The sun began its majestic rise and just then, I saw the summit ridge, waiting imposingly for me in the distance. It was only at that point that I knew I’d make it!
Together with Nima, I reached the summit at 8:15 that morning. We savored our personal victories through photos, videos, tears and hugs.
Our stay at the summit lasted an exhilarating twenty minutes before the weather took a turn for the worse. At the pass, awaiting our decent, we became enveloped in thick fog. The dangerous face of this mountain made an intimidating appearance. Just one day prior, a member of a Japanese expedition fell to his death at the Bottleneck.
At C4, I felt I was beginning to breathe a little easier. At 21:00 and 3,500 meters downhill, Noel, Ali, Pemba and I reached Base Camp. Noel jokingly pointed out that I was walking like a drunk woman. I was certainly exhausted, but I still found the energy to eat a dhal bhat before collapsing in my tent.
I would like to publicize my overwhelming feelings of thanks:
To Nima for his help and attention at every moment.
To Lama, Lakpa and Mingma, the fixing team at the summit. Without their committed work, we wouldn’t have made it.
To Sukra and the whole team of cooks for their delicious food that powered us with all the energy we needed.
To Dawa Sherpa of SST for all the coordination he handled and for his excellent management skills.
To our entire team of Sherpas for every single thing they did.
To Yan for his valuable weather reports.
This was true team work! Thank you all!