Mollie Hughes, a 26 year-old British climber has today (Tuesday 16th May) reached the summit of Mount Everest (8,848m) from the north side.
Her feat makes the Edinburgh-based and Devon-born climber the youngest Briton, the youngest European woman and the first English woman to successfully scale the peak from both the north and south sides of the world’s highest mountain.
In temperatures as low as minus 40C, Hughes – originally from Torbay in Devon – reached the summit at 01:14am GMT (05:34am local time in Nepal) with climbing partner Jon Gupta of Mountain Expeditions. 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!
“Huge thanks to Jon, the sherpas, 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.”
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 has been periodically posting video clips during her record-breaking ascent. One clip shows guide, Jon 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.
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.”
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 (Gupta) 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.”
In addition to support from Tiso Group, Hughes is also receiving help from the philanthropist Kae Tinto Murray, from Osprey Backpacks and the engineering firm ch2m.
Hughes started climbing at secondary school and at the age of 17 summited Mount Kenya (Africa’s second highest peak). She was first inspired to climb Mount Everest when as part of her sports psychology degree at UWE Bristol she interviewed seven Everest summiteers and learned of their different psychological experiences on the mountain.
Hughes left the UK for Kathmandu in Nepal in early April before travelling into Tibet. If all goes to plan she hopes to return to the UK in early June. For further information about Mollie Hughes Everest 2017 expedition, visit www.tiso.com/everest or www.molliehughes.co.uk