How I Climbed Mt. Everest

Disclaimer: I haven’t actually climbed Mt. Everest.

I want to. Very badly.

I ended up down a rabbit hole of mountaineering and climbing YouTube videos and after emerging from several hours of bingeing with bleary eyes, I had a new goal; climb Mt. Everest.

Except. Ohhh except.

I’m frightfully unfit, also disabled, and did you know it costs around $85’000 or MORE to climb the mountain?

It’s also not environmentally friendly.

So even though the mountain has been scaled by multiple climbers who are disabled, I unfortunately will not be one of them.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t hyperfixate, right?

Plus it’s incredibly fun to obnoxiously tell my friends “I’m going to climb Mt. Everest” and watch them pierce me with a look that says “Are you actually for real right now?”

Exhibit A: My housemate, Bilv.

rude

Exhibit B: My friend Matt.

spoilsport

Exhibit C: My dad.

not for Zita 😂

(Not pictured: the phone call I had with Patrick, who tried very hard to remain neutral and supportive, but also laughed a lot.)

Whilst they were there to keep me grounded in reality (much needed and appreciated), they were also some who were like “lol do it. I support this entirely.”

Cue the glint in my eyes to sparkle like a goddamn Christmas bauble.

Exhibit D: My boss, Leonie (caveat: whilst they support my hyperfocus on all things Everest, they do not support any activity that involves leaving the house. This is honourable and to be respected).

they do be right: the Everest life chooses you 😌

Exhibit E: My friend, Bec.

In a brilliant moment of creativity, Leonie said “OMG you could design a whole adventure of activities to get to base camp.”

And my mind went wild with possibilities.

I ended up writing down what I wanted to achieve in order to reach each camp on the way to the summit of Everest.

BASE CAMP

My journey to base camp was really enjoyable!

I walked to my sister’s to see her and the family cat, Oscar.

I cooked beef ramen for dinner, my first time making ramen and it was super delicious omg.

Then I watched this video in the evening. I love Matt Posa’s content so dang much. It’s a) relaxing and b) inspiring.

Monty is King

Base camp reached: Tuesday 9th of February, 2021.

CAMP 1:

Now reaching camp 1 was a little trickier, purely because I’ve been struggling with one the tasks.

I went for a 30 minute walk and made a Pinterest board (which I’m constantly adding to over time), but I’ve been putting off the watercolour painting because my arm has been too dang shaky for prolonged fine-motor skills…

“You can’t hold a paintbrush yet you want to climb up a vertical sheet of ice… Sure Jan. Sure.”

The many voices of reason

So I struggled with that until Friday, February 12th, when I realised: “this is supposed to be fun, why am I imposing boring rules on myself that are hindering my progress and enjoyment?”

As Leonie so wisely said: there are many paths up the mountain.

So instead, I looked at the rest of my list, in order to figure out what was doable right now.

  • I ordered Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer from the Library
  • I had a tent, ready to set up in the backyard
  • I bought dehydrated food
  • Started writing this blog post

On Saturday 13th of February, Bilv and I set up the tent:

@zeeberrs

🏕 nothin’ cozier than backyard camping! 🏕 #backyardcamping

♬ camping – Wush
(On a totally unrelated note; follow me on TikTok!)

I then thought, maybe I can try and do the watercolour today?

And I did.

Mt. Everest, watercolour – Zita Norton, Feb 13th 2021

And so, I reached Camp 1 on Saturday afternoon, the 13th of February, 2021.

CAMP 2:

I was feeling empowered.

Bolstered by confidence, I decided that maybe I could skip straight to a summit activity. After all, the tent was already set up.

Backyard camping, yall!

I spent all evening out there; it was, in a word, delightful.

We lit the fire, set up the camp chairs, dragged cushions and pillows and blankies into the tent and had some very nutritious camping snacks (oreos).

Getting cozy!

I think we went out at around 7pm, and at around 10:45pm I made the decision to try and sleep out there.

I was settled in my sleeping bag by 10:55pm, and by 11:15pm I had messaged Bilvy on three different apps because I was so scared.

Why? Well I’d been watching spooky docos all evening. That was my first mistake. And secondly, my brain just freaked out at being alone in the dark, in the backyard with only the flimsy walls of a tent to protect me.

At one point I had the thought, “what if a Koala tries to break in?” and that’s when I knew I was done for the night.

So I came back inside, determined that even though my first summit attempt had failed, I would try again soon.

The following week was a quieter one.

I went on a deep dive learning about crevasses (they’re very scary) and learnt they’re caused by glaciers moving. The glacier moves, cracks in the ice appear and bam. Crevasse. I also really did not like learning that snow can cover them.

So what LOOKS like a regular piece of snow covered ground is in fact an absolute death trap.

Hate that. Kinda cool though.

What else?

Ah yes, I poorly greenscreened myself at Camp 2:

World famous explorer Zita Norton; the first person to ascend Mt. Everest in an Oodie.

I also did my meditation, and which was snow/winter themed! I use an app called Loóna and it’s basically meditation crossed with colouring in crossed with storytelling.

Delightful.

The last thing I need to do is read the book I’ve ordered from the Library, but it hasn’t arrived yet. So in the meantime; time to design a flag.

Note the cat.

Canva is truly too good to me.

Look at this beauty. Delightful af.

Camp 3:

It’s been a week since my snow themed meditation and unfortunately my book still hasn’t arrived at the Library, so I’m going to keep climbing up and make that a summit task.

So! Camp 3, time to nail this.

Camp 3 tasks involve:

  • Design a flag
  • Research altitude sickness
  • Watch documentary

First, a confession: I have already watched a LOT of documentaries.

But, what’s one more? Ho ho ho.

A big thing I’ve noticed is that most of the documentaries are about disasters and tragedies that have occurred on the mountain.

And whilst I believe those are important stories to tell, I decided to watch something a bit more positive.

And THEN I had the idea of watching videos about disabled people summiting.

Unfortunately I couldn’t find a film length documentary, so I watched short videos on YouTube!

“I Can, You Can | Arunima Sinha”

“Mt. Everest; The First Disabled Ascent”

“The Blind Mountaineer Who Conquered Everest”

“House Heroes: Climbing Mt. Everest in a Wheelchair”

Having already designed the flag, it was time to learn about altitude sickness.

According to Better Health; “Altitude sickness is caused by ascending too rapidly, which doesn’t allow the body enough time to adjust to reduced oxygen and changes in air pressure. Symptoms include headache, vomiting, insomnia and reduced performance and coordination.”

So I mean, it just sounds delightful and super fun…

But in all seriousness, this explains why you go up and down the mountain several times before summiting. It’s so your body can try and adjust to the low amounts of oxygen.

A mild form of altitude sickness is called “acute mountain sickness” but that can lead into high altitude pulmonary edema and/or high altitude cerebral edema.

So basically either your brain is gonna swell with trapped fluid or lungs are gonna swell trapped fluid. Fuuuuuun.

I also learnt that there is no permanent human settlement above 6000m because it’s just too high.

Everest is over 8000m.

And so with that terrifying knowledge, we reached Camp 4.

CAMP 4:

It’s now March, and I’m realising two things:

  1. My ADHD is kicking my ass with remembering to do these activities
  2. I’m probably going to take longer to fake-ascend Everest than people take to actually summit Everest

Oh well.

I ordered some dehydrated food from Aussie Storm Shop!

I’m actually going to be ordering some survival stuff from them later in the year too! (Bushfire survival kits).

The meal was pretty good! Obviously a freshly cooked meal is always gonna be the tastiest, but this was packed with flavour and super easy to prepare!

I ate it for lunch after work one day, and actually only ended up managing half in one go! Super filling.

Then it was on to learning about the origin of Mt. Everest.

First up I learnt that the Nepali name for Everest is Sagarmāthā, which means “the Head in the Great Blue Sky” according to Wikipedia! In Tibet, the mountain is known as Qomolangma which translates to “Holy Mother”.

In fact, the naming history of the mountain is SUPER interesting.

There are then multiple local names and the man whom Everest was named after A) did not support the idea and B) his last name is actually pronounced “eev-rist”.

However, from what I could see it seems like everyone (even the Sherpa) calls the mountain Everest now.

White colonialism at it again.

Both Tibetan and Nepali cultures revere the mountain as a God-like figure and it has incredible cultural and spiritual significance.

Going back even further, I wanted to know how the mountain formed. How does something get that tall?

The answer was: earthquakes, tectonic plates and our planet’s ever-moving crust.

Seriously, watch the video. Short but super educational!

My 30 minute walk for this camp was actually an hour walk! I walked to the Library to pick up my book on Mt Everest. It finally arrived!

Into Thin Air, by Jon Krakauer – Grounded Curiosity

I really enjoyed it, although it was a tragic read. The book is written by a journalist who survived the 1996 disaster. I think I cried four or five times.

It really opened my eyes to the very real and genuine danger Mt. Everest poses to climbers, no matter their expertise or preparedness.

An extremely sobering read.

And with that done, we had finally made it to camp 4.

SUMMIT

Having reached camp 4 successfully at the very end of March/beginning of April, I realised it had nearly been 2 months since I started.

In the time between I purchased a house, started renovations, said goodbye to my mum (she moved to Melbourne) and watched my family home sell. All whilst working, keeping up with pain management and trying to maintain some form of a social life.

To get philosophical for a bit; life is an Everest all on its own.

Anyway this is my long-winded way of saying I took so long that Autumn arrived and now it’s too cold for my weary bones to camp outside.

It would be so incredibly unpleasant, would probably set off a pain flare up and I would most likely then get sick.

So. No.

My attempt back in February will have to do.

(I am aware of the irony. Please do not send me messages saying “you want to climb Everest but can’t spend one night outside in April…” I get it. Just let me have my fun, dammit).

So! In order to reach the summit let’s switch things up a bit!

  • Learn how to tie an advanced knot
  • Make a cake in the shape of Everest
  • Write blog post about experience

My baking skills are subpar and my ability to tie a knot is hampered by the fact that one of my arms/hands doesn’t really work…

But hey! I can write words that make people do the funny haha, so at least the blog post is somewhat covered…

Good grief.

Okay well first up, tying a knot! I did a basic sailing course with my dad when I was like… 12? Maybe a bit older. So I know like, some basic knots at a push.

I’ve also done macrame. I’m sure that will come in handy when I’m 8000m up a big hill…

Anyway.

After a bit of research, I decided to learn how to tie the “Trucker’s Hitch”.

Disclaimer: one blog post said this was “an advanced knot for beginners.” I have no idea if this means it’s actually an advanced knot or if I just found it tricky because I’m a beginner.

I’m assuming the latter, because oh man this was tricky, especially with one hand that acted like it had the strength of wet spaghetti (thanks CRPS).

Here are the instructions I followed:

We hit a slight snag, dear reader, when I realised that in order to tie a knot in rope you need, well, rope.

I couldn’t justify buying a length of cord (what else would I use it for?), so I pulled out the cord from an old pair of PJ pants.

I might be the first person to climb Everest using ropes made from the cotton cord that stops your PJs from falling down.

Are you embarrassed by me yet? It gets so much wooooorse.

I tried to take photographs of each stage, but at no angle did it look like anything other than a rope with a double knot.

I also don’t have a carabiner so I ended up using a big hoop earring I found in my jewellery box.

The end result? A knot that somewhat resembled the diagram but mainly just looked like pyjama cord tied to a brassy earring.

You’ll just have to trust that I did it. I could not, in good conscience, take a photo of it.

Cos you just know that’s how the SEO would work for me, right? Google “Zita Norton” and all that pops up is photo of… that.

No thank you.

This entire sorry situation DID inspire me to try my best with the final task; baking a cake.

I decided immediately not to let my “too much” gene take over. I have limited energy because of chronic pain, and an even small amount of attention span.

Therefore, the base cake was a box mix from Woolworths. Baking a cake from scratch was a sure-fire way to use/kill off all the motivation I had built up.

(Plus I baked a lot of banana bread during the lockdown last year so I’ve done my share of making things from scratch).

Speaking of banana bread, I baked the cake in my bread loaf tin to create a nice rectangular base.

Once it had cooled (full transparency: once it had cooled a couple days later. I kinda forgot… that I baked it… so it stayed in the fridge for 2 days before my brain perceived it on the shelf and was like “oh yeah, better ice that now” 🤦🏼‍♀️) I rolled the pre-made icing super flat and covered it.

I had my snowy base – AKA Nepal + Tibet!

I then rolled up a ball of the icing and shaped it using the flat edge of a knife into a rough pyramid shape –

M O U N T A I N.

I then made teeny tiny pyramids and put them at the base of the mountain –

B A S E C A M P.

A tiny sliver of icing dyed blue became the rocky peak of my mountain, with an edible star as the flag and little decorations to spruce it up a bit.

Are you ready to see it?

Okay, but before you look, I need you to remember that I had to do this mostly one handed and that my best ≠ objectively good.

Okay. Deep breaths. Here we go.

hmm

Look I know. If you ordered a “Mt Everest” cake at the bakery and got this, you would probably try to shut the bakery down. You would at LEAST write a strongly worded, zero star review on Yelp.

And before you ask; no I haven’t tried it. I don’t fancy eating two day old fridge cake.

I know it looks very basic. But even then, it took me like 45 minutes just to do the decorations.

The little colourful balls wouldn’t stick to the icing, I couldn’t think of anything else to add other than the tents, and my poor left hand was getting very tired of doing all the work.

But as I was looking at the finished cake, judging myself very harshly for not having the skills of a baking professional (even though I made banana bread four times during the pandemic), I realised something.

I made that. I made that.

Suuure it might look a little bit shit, but I MADE it.

I tried something new; I had a vision and I made it a reality.

Is it perfect? Nothing ever is.

Is it what I wanted it to look like? Not really.

Is it edible? Lord no.

But I still tried. I didn’t give up. It is recognisable as a mountain. My housemate saw it and said “aww are those the little tents at basecamp?” and he’s a professional artist.

Has a professional artist ever complimented something you baked? Didn’t think so. 💁🏼‍♀️

Sorry, I’m being sassy.

The point is, I then realised the cake is kinda the perfect allegory for this entire blog post.

I want to climb Mt Everest. I have this vision of a fitter, healthier version of me standing at the peak of the tallest mountain in the world, triumphantly waving her flag and trying to FaceTime her cat in celebration.

But that won’t happen (in part due to my allergy to exercise and refusal to give up carbs), so instead I created an alternative.

How else can I summit Everest, if not in person?

Like this, apparently.

Am I standing on top of the mountain right now? No, I’m lying on the couch in my Oodie gazing lovingly at the cake on the kitchen bench.

But I feel like I’ve accomplished something. I’ve done loads of different activities. I’ve tried new things, learnt a lot of fun facts (that I will never get to use unless it’s a trivia question) and stepped outside my comfort zone.

Setting yourself mini activities to reach a big goal is unbelievably enjoyable, and it tapped in to my big kid energy. I just got to play and have fun. It didn’t matter if it was productive or if the end result was any good.

The whole entire point was to have a good time.

And I nailed that.

So there you have it.

I climbed Mt Everest in just under 4 months.

Summit reached: 9th of May, 2021

From the peak of the world to you,

💜

P.S. If you want more outlandish and ridiculous posts like this, I invite you to join my mailing list!

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