Edinburgh climber who scaled Everest relives 'the hardest week of my life'

A CLIMBER who scaled Everest for the second time has described it as the 'hardest week of my life' as pictures emerged of moment she reached the summit.

Thursday, 18th May 2017, 8:30 am
Updated Sunday, 4th June 2017, 9:03 pm
26 year old Mollie Hughes, the youngest British climber and youngest European woman to have successfully climbed Mount Everest from both the north (2017) and south (2012) sides. Contributed

Mollie Hughes, 26, who lives in Newington, reached the 29,000ft-high summit from the north side early on Tuesday morning. She said the incredible feat was full of “unrelenting pain and suffering”.

The adventurer, who has become the youngest British climber to reach the summit of Everest from both sides, admitted the challenge was the toughest seven days of her life.

Ascending the mountain from the north means climbers spend a much longer time in what is known as the “death zone” – an altitude so high that life cannot exist there for long, as there is only 33 per cent of the oxygen available at sea level.

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In an online post after reaching the summit, Mollie said: “If you can keep suffering and keep putting one foot in front of the other, you get to the top and we did!”

Her trek to the peak of the world’s highest mountain, began from basecamp, 17,000ft above sea level.

She said: “We had our eye on a small, and the only possible weather window, on May 16, so we started the long hike up to camp. Although just a hike, it’s so long and so painful.”

Mollie was supported on her expedition by climbing partner Jon Gupta of Mountain Expeditions and sherpas Lhakpa and Lila.

The team refuelled before setting off across a wide snow ridge to the next camp at 25,000ft. Ms Hughes said: “It’s a straightforward route, but it goes on and on and on.

“The next day we were heading to camp 3, seen as more of a stopping place than somewhere for a good night’s rest. Once over 26,000ft our bodies are deteriorating rapidly.

After arriving at 4pm, Mr Gupta made a swift decision to take advantage of the favourable weather and strive for the summit before the winds increased.

“This gave us just four precious hours to refuel and psych ourselves up for what lay ahead,” Ms Hughes said. “Pitch black with nothing to light our way but the thin beams of our head torches, we left camp and up the initial slopes.

“What followed was eight hours of tough, technical climbing. The level and severity was unrelenting. Pulling my body over those sections hurt beyond belief but we kept moving, kept gaining height, slowly, with the encouragement of Jon, Lhakpa and Lila.

“As it began to get light, Jon turned a corner and threw his hands in the air, he could see the summit.”

It was this moment, Ms Hughes felt a sense of “complete relief” as she took the last few painful steps to the top of Mount Everest with sherpa Lhakpa Wongchu. The pair also reached the summit together in 2012. Asked what the hardest part of the challenge was, Ms Hughes admitted it is not the altitude, the weather or the fear, but being away from home for so long.