Dispatch 42 from Everest / May 29, 2012

Q&A: Emily Harrington on Reaching the Summit of Everest

Two Ascents, Both Seek Summit — Southeast Ridge Team to Focus on Education and Science; West Ridge Team of Anker and Cory Richards to Retrace Route of First American Ascent on West Ridge.

Climb to Be Covered Online Starting March 16 at natgeo.com/oneverest and www.thenorthface.com/everest. Real-time Updates from West Ridge Team to Start April 16 on National Geographic Magazine App for iPad

Emily Harrington has a new notch to add to her belt this week: reaching the summit of Mount Everest.

On Friday, May 25, Harrington reached the top of the world. After firing off a now widely-circulated self-portrait from the top of Everest she made her way back down past Camps 4, 3 and 2, through the Khumbu Ice Fall for one last time, and then she perched herself atop a rock to rest, and fill us in on the details of what this journey was like for her.


TNF: How do you feel? You just summited Mount Everest!

EH: I feel really, really tired, actually. I just sat down. I’m not even to camp yet at Base Camp. And I just sat down to rest as I’m struggling to get back.

It was a marathon of climbing and it was a lot mentally and physically. I don’t think I’ve slept in three days.

TNF: Would you say that this was one of the more challenging things that you’ve done?

EH: Yeah. It was one of the more challenging things I have done. Not necessarily physically, even though it was super physically challenging. But more than anything it was really mentally challenging. It was just hard not knowing what to expect, being here for so long, trying to stay motivated and having all kinds of things happen. There were accidents up there and that can be disheartening and worrisome. It’s just a lot.

I went from 9:30 last night to 6:30 this morning to the summit and then back down, which is another four hours, and then I went all the way down to Camp 2 yesterday. And then I came down to Base Camp today. It’s been a lot. Climbing an 8,000-meter peak is not easy, no matter what anyone says.

TNF: What was it like on the summit?

EH: It was a little frustrating for me because I got stuck behind a group of people that were slower than me and I couldn’t do anything about it. So Kris and Hilaree summited before me and I saw them on the way down. I ended up summiting by myself. The reason they were coming down is that it was brutally cold and windy up there. If you took anything off you’d get frostbite.

But it was awesome. I mean, there is a 360 degree view of the Himalaya and you could see over into Tibet, all of Nepal and the mountains. It was amazing just being able to stand up there and experience that made the whole thing worth it.

TNF: So, you made it to top and achieved some goals that some who set out to summit Everest never achieve. What is that like to know that?

EH: It’s been a really long journey mentally and emotionally just being here and experiencing what it’s like to be within this realm of climbing, which is something different than even the mountaineering world. It’s Everest, which is a whole different animal in itself. The whole experience has been eye opening. There are a lot of negative aspects of it, but there’s also a lot of positive things about it and I am just really grateful that Conrad thought of me for this trip and thought that I was strong enough to be on it. It’s the experience of a lifetime. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it and I’m super thankful that I was able to be here and do this.

TNF: Now that you’ve accomplished what Conrad thought you could, do you see in yourself what he initially saw?

EH: Yes, totally. I started out this trip and I was super sick and I didn’t have a lot of confidence and towards the end of the trip it was like gaining altitude. I felt stronger, better and more confident in my abilities. I utilized a lot of my experience from climbing while I was in the mountains and I feel like I’ve been able to really open my mind and be open, accepting and listening to those who have more experience than myself, like Kris, Hilaree and Conrad. I’ve learned a lot and I think that maybe what Conrad saw in me hadn’t yet manifested itself, but now it has.

TNF: You really did have the A Team, so to speak, of mountaineers to learn from and be mentored by up there. How was the process?

EH: I learned a ton from them. They climbed with us all the time. They were the people that I looked to whenever I had a question or any sort of concern. I trust them more than I trusted anyone on the trip. It turned out great. They advised me and they gave us guidance, but they didn’t hold our hands in any way, shape or form. I think they had enough trust and confidence in our abilities as climbers to just let us trial and error it and experience it in our way, but with safety and guidance in mind. It was super cool. They were just there and it was comforting.

TNF: Well, that begs the question: Will you ever go back, or could you see yourself having the desire to?

EH: Um… I think I would maybe come back. I don’t know. I might need a little more time on that. I just came down from the ice fall a half hour ago and it’s kind of sketchy because it’s getting hot up here. I just thought, “Oh thank God I never have to do that again,” so, I don’t know… Lhotse looks like a really cool mountain to do.  I would like to experience more mountaineering and alpine climbing on different, smaller, more technical peaks, I think. Just cut my teeth and experience that aspect of climbing, because climbing Mount Everest is, like I said, totally different than anything.

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