Conquering Everest: Adriana Brownlee

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What was your summit experience?

For me, Everest was never something I feared before. But looking at her steep snow covered face, I had to take off those rose-tinted glasses, put on my Heron Glaciers (of course!), and see that Everest was no joke, this was real and it was deadly. I was so pumped.

This had been a dream for so many years and it was finally here. Approaching the summit, tears streaming down my face, droplets of pure joy, pride and achievement, I realized I was standing on top of the world. The winds were strong, 45km/h, my body was shaking, my Sherpa and I stood together, watching the sunrise, no photo could do justice to the sight.

The challenge of Everest is not physical, but mental. Every step you take hurts but it’s the mind that lets you take one more. 


What was the toughest moment?

The toughest moment was the realization at Camp 2 that our whole expedition may be cancelled. It felt like everything I had worked for was about to be lost in a matter of seconds; it was gut wrenching. Everything seemed to be going wrong, there was a cyclone that left a huge snow dump which buried the ropes as well as giving our Sherpas the huge task of trailblazing to the summit.

We also had the government hot on our tail and the icefall doctors closing the Khumbu icefall earlier than our summit day. It was a few hours of stress and chaos but in the end, and all thanks to our leader, the problems were sorted and we were off to camp 3! 


What surprised you the most?

I think I was slightly underwhelmed to be totally honest!! I trained very hard for this expedition and it really did pay off! The Khumbu icefall was actually a lot more challenging than I thought it would be just because it was so long and mentally draining. But the rest of the climb seemed a lot less daunting than anticipated, I actually found going from camp 3-4 harder than summit day! Who knows, maybe the extra beetroot (and alcohol) at base camp paid off.. 


How was your experience affected by the COVID-19 situation?

What we had to remember was that we left for basecamp before Covid was a big issue in Nepal and so we put all the precautions in place, we kept our distance from other teams and wore masks everywhere!

Then the problems began in Kathmandu about midway through the expedition and the Covid-situation exploded out of control, however at base camp it was very well managed and those that did get Covid where sent down straight away. Many groups did turn back and it was scary knowing that it could happen to us, but we didn’t let that get into our heads.

It’s so devastating to see what’s happening in Nepal at the moment, they just don’t have the supplies and infrastructure to deal with this outbreak and I really hope they can get through this. 


On the importance of reliable equipment:

One thing is for sure, equipment is so vital on Everest, every single piece of gear must be of the highest quality. Snow blindness is incredibly common on 8000m peaks, and so you have to ensure you are protected at all times. One of my team mates was affected by snow blindness at 8500m and I remember seeing him sat down rubbing his eyes. “Adri, it’s getting blurry, I can’t see you”. These words haunted me, you just can’t take risks.

This vital protection was a guarantee with the Herons... Thank you guys, for making me look that little bit cooler up there whilst keeping my eyes safe!


Adriana wore Heron Glacier for her expedition, available here.

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