Preparing for Everest: Interview with Lucy Rivers Bulkeley
When Dylan Thomas wrote “Do not go gentle into that good night”, he wrote it with Lucy Rivers Bulkeley in mind. This is one girl that simply does not know the meaning of taking it easy. And thank goodness for that – the world would be a whole lot more boring if she did.
Lucy accomplishes in one week what most of us would aim to do in a decade… or a couple of lifetimes. Since I’ve gotten to know Lucy, I can honestly say that my life has been blessed with more and more adventure, inspiration, hilarity and hangovers than ever before. I’ve never known anyone to strike a better balance between sports, fun and work than Lucy – I just can’t figure out when she has time to sleep. Lucy is the kind of girl you want around when you need a kick in the pants, a laugh in the midst of tragedy, a reality check, or an excuse not to take yourself too seriously. I’m privileged to know her and incredibly proud of what she is about to take on in a few weeks: a little mountain called Everest.
There’s no doubt that Lucy has the guts to make it to the top. As the 1st European woman to complete the 4 Desert Grand Slam (250km across Atacama, Gobi, Sahara & Antarctica), she is no stranger to challenges. She has also already summited Aconcagua, Elbrus, Mont Blanc and Kilimanjaro in preparation for her Everest climb. But we’re still talking about the highest and most challenging mountain on earth. If she makes her goal of completing all seven summits – which, let’s be honest, she will – then she will become the first woman to have completed the 4 Deserts Grand Slam and the Seven Summits Challenge. Not too shabby there, Lucy.
Ultra Runner Girl: When did you decide to take on the Seven Summits? Was it a particular moment of inspiration or an idea that sat in the back of your mind for a while?
Lucy: I’d always loved the mountains and after completing the 4 Desert Grand Slam in 2010, I needed another challenge. It was an idea at the back of my mind until I met a couple of people who’d successfully climbed Everest….That was the start of the domino effect.
Ultra Runner Girl: Yes, but many people have heard and read about Everest – not everyone decides to do it! What is it that attracts you to climbing?
Lucy: I love the adrenaline buzz you get from climbing. You move at a much more sedate pace when climbing as compared to ultra running – far more “me”! Also, the feeling when you wake up in your tent above the clouds is pretty incredible.
Ultra Runner Girl: I bet! So how did you train for this? Have you had any scary moments so far?
Lucy: I’ve been concentrating on strength training along with Hydrofit (spinning in waist deep water) and running in an altitude chamber. We [me and the other climbers] had a team weekend in Chamonix, which was good for technical training. I’ve just come back from a weekend in Snowdonia where I was improving my rock climbing skills. Yeah, there were some pretty scary moments… but they were good practice for the Hillary Step.
[For the Everest virgins out there, Hillary Step is a 40 foot wall of rock and ice on the mountain where a dangerous bottleneck usually occurs on summit day, often causing the difference between success and failure, or even life and death].
Ultra Runner Girl: Hmm, will need to quiz you about this later! What do you think will be your biggest
challenges on the mountain (other than the obvious)?
Lucy: It will be a challenge to stay fit and healthy in the weeks before the summit push. It will also be difficult trying to keep the mind occupied during the endless hours spent at base camp. High up, I just hope my body copes with the extreme altitude and that we get a “weather window” long enough to make a summit attempt.
[Winds can blow up to 200 mph on the top of Everest with temperatures plummeting to -80F. However, in mid-May, the jet stream that sits on the top of Everest all year starts to move north, which calms the winds and warms the temperature. This brief period of time is called the “summit window”].
Ultra Runner Girl: Tell us about some of your kit. You must be using some pretty technical gear!
Lucy: Rab have kindly sent me one of their prototype down suits to test. My double boots, crampons and ice axe are already en route to Nepal. I’m not renowned for packing lightly and have already sent a 20kg bag ahead which will be waiting for me at base camp…hopefully!
Ultra Runner Girl: Take us through your route and the schedule.
Lucy: We are flying to Kathmandu on April 5th and then on to Lukla on the 8th. From there it is a nine-day walk into base camp via Namache Bazaar, Pangboche, Pheriche and Lobuche. If all goes to plan, we’ll then have the Puja (blessing of all our technical gear) at base camp on the 17th.
Ultra Runner Girl: What is going to keep you going during the tough moments?
Lucy: I do all my challenges to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support in memory of my father who died in 2007 from cancer. He lived life to the full and he will be with me the whole way.
Ultra Runner Girl: What will be the first thing you will do once you’re back down in lower altitude? (Other than celebrate)
Lucy: Have a very large Vodka and tonic and a long hot bath….in that order!
Ultra Runner Girl: How do you top this one? What is next after climbing the highest mountain on earth?
Lucy: I think it’ll be pretty hard to top, but worryingly there are already plans being hatched for another challenge afterwards.
Ultra Runner Girl: [Note to self: follow up with Lucy on her post-Everest adventure] When do you expect to finish the seven summits?
Lucy: I haven’t set a timeframe, but I would love to finish in the next couple of years. All fingers crossed I will be standing on the summit of Everest sometime in May, along with the rest of my climbing team. I’m very lucky that we’re a small team who all knew each other before the trip. When we were in Chamonix together, we had to strip and change in the lift car park as we were running late. I think that was rather a good ‘team bonding’ moment!
If you think Lucy is as awesome as she sounds, believe me, she is even better. Please consider lending your support and making a donation to Macmillan Cancer Support through her online fundraising page. To follow Lucy’s trip, please click here.
Good luck, Lucy! We’ll be with you the whole way. Just please come back safe – we need you here to keep us on our toes, laughing the whole way. Thank you for inspiring us all to keep on not walking.