Sunday, June 07, 2009

Lessons from the First Swedish Woman to Climb Everest

It's a rare privilege to talk to some who's summited Everest, rarer still to meet someone that has some superlative attached to their feats on the mountain.

Renata Chlumska, a renowned 36-year-old Swedish adventurer, became the first woman from her country ever to reach the roof of the world in 1999. She was slated to come speak in Georgia two weeks after my Sweden trip, and I was going to interview her in Malmo.

She was headed to Hungary the next day and couldn't make it to meet me, so we spoke by phone instead.

Though Everest is her claim to fame, I found out that her speech was actually going to cover her Around America Adventure in 2005-06, when she kayaked and biked around the perimeter of the lower 48 states. This year is the 10th anniversary of her initial Everest summit, and it's now "old news," she joked.

Adventurers have to tout their accomplishments. It's how they make their living, whether they're motivational speakers whose value is in their unique perspective or expedition leaders who need to brand themselves as trusted guides for extreme outdoor trips. (Chlumska is both.)

What struck me as I talked to her is how she believes that challenges on the mountain are similar to those we face in life, without the blistering cold, physical exhaustion, struggle for oxygen and altitude sickness, of course.

"For me, being tired, going through hardship, when it's painful, your body hurts and you're drained mentally and physically, that's not the reason to turn back. That's just part of the challenge," she told me.

That was so refreshing for my American ears to hear. Our culture worships comfort and ease and values convenience, not discipline.

For Chlumska, overcoming hardship - valuing the destination over the discomfort in getting there - is part of gaining a new perspective that sets you above the crowd.

"You just get a different view when you climb a mountain or hill or tree," she said. " You just get to see a different angle."

It's the same way in faith.

If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. -Jesus, Luke 9:23.

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