Johanna Gustafsson had been dreaming about climbing Mount Everest since she was a child. Many people dream about this adventure but for Johanna, it ended up being more than a dream.– I need challenges in my life. Anything I can climb up will do and therefore hills, slopes and mountains interest me. I want to do something that is not easy and not everyone can do. The fact that Everest is the highest mountain in the world gives a little extra spice to the project, Gustafsson notes.
The great dream was about to become a reality after thirty years, when Johanna, a mother of seven, decided to travel to Himalayas in order to reach the summit of Mount Everest. It took Johanna 18 months to prepare herself for the trip. The great unknown ahead required lots of preparations, getting the equipment together and intense training. Johanna is used to exercising a lot but this time she trained even more. She for example went to Nepal to practice climbing and to Lapland to do ski tours, alone in the extremely challenging conditions. Simultaneously she took care of the kids and went to work.
– The mental preparation was the hardest part. Almost every night I dreamed about being in the fourth camp and being dragged out from the tent to the cold and dark night. I have to admit that I was worried if I will return alive.
The Mountains of Dreams and the Accident
Johanna has always had a strong intuition. She was wondering before the trip why there seemed to be a dark side during the preparation: Why did she suffer from nightmares during the night when she was excited and happy during the daytime? Johanna never actually believed that the dreams could mean something.
Before the planned ascent to Mount Everest, Johanna spent a week in base camp (5346 m) acclimatizing. Johanna had her daughter with her since she wanted also her to be able to reach the summit of a mountain. They climbed the Island Peak (6189 m) together.
When returning to base camp and planning on climbing Mount Everest next they heard rumors about a serious accident. The rumors were proven half an hour later, when just before the base camp they saw a helicopter flying with dead bodies hanging from it.It was April 18th 2014. That morning the worst climbing accident in the history of Mount Everest had taken place. At the Khumbu glacier, at the altitude of nearly 6000 m, an avalanche had killed sixteen Nepalese mountain guides. Without the ascent to Island Peak also Johanna could have been at Mount Everest with her two guides.
The mountains had exceptionally high levels of snowfall during that spring and Johanna had been aware that it is a huge risk factor, since she could hear the avalanches every night.
– The moment when I saw the helicopter and the hanging bodies, I knew I would not climb.
Johanna decided not to start the ascent on Mount Everest but spent two more nights at the base camp. The final day before heading back down to Lukla, she climbed the Kala Pathar mountain (5643 m).
It was Johanna’s last night at the base camp, farewell with her friends and returning to Lukla. The results surprised Johanna since she had not understood how hard it was to say goodbye and leave the camp.
The other climbers at the base camp were trying to convince Johanna not to leave but Johanna knew she had a husband and seven kids waiting for her back home. If she stayed, she might climb. Johanna’s Sherpa’s uncle had just been killed by the avalanche and seven kids had become orphans. In addition she did not want anyone else to die because of her.
– Later when I looked at the report, I understood how I felt back then, saying goodbyes to Sherpas and friends at the mountains. When I was leaving, I was only thinking about what to say but afterwards, when I look at the reports, I understand what I went through.
When she left the base camp she was not feeling disappointment but delight: How happy she was to be alive! After Johanna had left there was another avalanche at the same place where there had been about a hundred people only an hour earlier.
Johanna has not decided whether she will return to Mount Everest. Due to the accident her climbing permission is still valid for five years.
– The next time would be easier anyway, since I already have the equipment and the knowledge. I would not be surprised if I went back but I cannot promise anything.
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