Meet The Youngest Aussie To Conquer Everest – From Both Sides
‘The summit is the reward for being able to embrace the suffering’
Alyssa Azar was just seven years old when she first had the idea of one day climbing Mount Everest.
Fourteen years later and the now 21-year-old from Toowoomba is the youngest Australian to have conquered the mighty mountain -- from both sides.
“It’s pretty surreal,” she told ten daily after returning home to Hamilton in Brisbane on Saturday night, having successfully reached the summit from the north side on May 19.
"Throughout the expedition, a lot of things have to line up, so you try to not get ahead of yourself. Throughout the night we were bashed by minus 60 degree winds … I remember starting to think we could summit within the next 12 hours.
“Then the countdown starts.”
Azar points to climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in 2011 as the expedition which sparked her goal to work towards reaching Everest.
Two years ago, she became the youngest Australian to do just that -- from the south side.
It had been her third attempt, with two previous expeditions being quashed by natural disaster.
In April 2015, Azar was at base camp when an earthquake struck Nepal, killing 3218 people.
“It was pretty intense. Base camp is where you relax -- you think the danger is on the mountain. Nobody saw it coming. My time there shifted from focusing on a climb to offering assistance,” she said.
“After the earthquake, I went back the following year. That was my first successful attempt.”
This time around, she climbed with a “small but strong” team of six, including two French men and three Sherpas.
“We spent two months living in Tibet and climbing the mountain, trying for the weather window in May,” she said.
“It was quite a different expedition. I had heard the climbing from the north was a tough side, so of course I wanted to try that.”
But that was not before a year of strength training, pack walks and mental preparation.
“You never know what you’re going to get, and you need to be able to push through anything,” she said.
This time around, the challenges started early.
“As we were climbing the mountain and acclimatising, there were moments in those earlier weeks where I mentally hit the wall,” the 21-year-old said.
“Ultimately, as hard as it was, the summit week ran quite smoothly. I remember getting to that final ridge line as the sun came up, and the view was incredible. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky.”
But the young climber maintains the summit is only a bonus.
“On a two-month expedition, you have so many experiences and you grow so much. It forces you to get the best out of yourself,” she said.
“Climbing mountains of this size is often about your ability to suffer, your ability to deal with the harshness of the environment and still stick with your goal or dream. The summit is the reward for being able to embrace the suffering.”
While Azar said she’ll soon come up with her next goal, her immediate plan is to relax at home with her family.
But she’ll be back at it later this year when she leads climbing groups up Mount Kilimanjaro in August and to Everest Base Camp in November.
“I knew I couldn’t summit Everest unless I truly believed I could do it,” she said.
“Back yourself and put in the preparation. It makes the goal that much more valuable.”