The first time I saw Mount Everest was during the approach with Göran Kropp’s expedition in 1996. What an impressive sight! And not long after having reached Base Camp, I started to feel that I wanted to go higher. In some way, reaching Base Camp did not seem to be enough. At this time, I had not yet been climbing a year but had already fallen in love with the sport. The idea that one day I would be standing there, on the top of the world’s highest mountain, took hold and started to grow. 1996 was also a very tragic year on Mount Everest when 13 people died on the mountain. These traumatic accidents were deeply felt by everyone in the climbing world. It was an extremely difficult and shattering time, obviously.
However, today I can still feel grateful to have learned at an early stage what it takes, never to underestimate the mountain or rely too much on sherpas, guides or fellow climbers. I started my training focusing on how to be able to meet the mountain on its own terms and I had a very committed teacher – Göran – setting the bar. He knew what would be required of me. I was a diligent student, and when I accomplished the pre-summit of Shishapangma at 8,006 metres, I realized that Everest was within reach. Two years later I was ready for the attempt.
The team consisted of myself, Göran, Ola Hillberg, Janne Joneaus, Staffan Heimersson and Niklas Lövfeldt. In Nepal, we were met by Wongchu Sherpa and his team.
We flew to Lukla and trekked from there to Base Camp which we reached on xx May and set up our camp. I felt strong and charged with energy. At the same time, I no longer had much hope of becoming the first Swedish woman to reach the top, as another Swedish female climber was already high up on the mountain.
Within a few days we were advancing towards Camp 1 where I spent two nights in order to get acclimatized before returning to Base Camp. The weather conditions seemed stable and I did not hesitate. After less than a week we were already on our way to Camp 2 and then to Camps 3 and 4. Our plan was to make an attempt to reach the top on 4 May, but the weather deteriorated and I had to spend another 24 hours on South Col, at above 8,000 metres, without any oxygen. Around midnight, between 4 and 5 May the winds subsided and we made a new attack. This time I decided to use oxygen.
The last stage, from South Col to the summit, took nearly 12 hours, for the most part in darkness. Then – at 12.05pm – I found myself standing there, on the top of Mount Everest, as the first Swedish woman ever! When I returned to Base Camp about 24 hours later, I was reached by the news that, thanks to my dual nationality, I also was the first Czech woman to reach the summit.
Before I left for Mt Everest I had set my mind – if I succeeded – to make this the start of an even bigger dream – to accomplish the challenge of climbing the Seven Summits. At that time, in 1999, no other Swedish mountaineer had this project. The next year I left for Kilimanjaro.