HOLY HIGH ADVENTURES!! - Hendersonville woman summits Mt. Everest!
On May 21st, 36 year old Mirjam Beaudoin, stood on top of the world and thought “this one’s dedicated to you grandma!”
Mirjam checked a huge item off her bucket list when she reached the summit of 29,029 ft, Mt. Everest, The tallest mountain on earth. I am not sure how many TN residences can claim this feat, but as a German born woman, she is only the 4th one to ever bag this peak! How cool is that?
Mirjam lives in Hendersonville, TN with her husband, Jay Beaudoin, Administrator at National HealthCare Corporation. Having grown up in the Alps, Mirjam introduced Jay to mountain climbing. They got engaged on Colorado’s 14,115 ft. Pike’s Peak, married on top of 20,320 ft. Mt. McKinley (Denali) in Alaska and to celebrate their 5 year anniversary, climbed Mt. Everest.
I asked Mirjam to give HerAdventure the good, bad and the ugly on climbing Mt. Everest. What was it like spending 2 months on a mountain acclimating to altitude, going through endless cycles of being cold, tired, hungry and sick? How did she handle those fun female issues?
Good, Bad & Ugly
Mirjam said she “wanted to climb Mt. Everest to see if I could. You have to push yourself in life and when you do, you will find out that your body is capable of doing more than you think. Even when your mind says no, you can go further. “
It took 2 month and staying in 4 different camps to adjust to the altitude. As altitude increases, the oxygen content of the air decreases. By the time Mirjam reached the summit of Mt. Everest at 29,029 ft. there is only 33% oxygen content in the air compared to what is at sea level. It is like running a marathon uphill with a clothes pin on your nose and breathing through a straw. That is why Mirjam, and 90% of those who climb above 26,000 feet (aka, ‘The Death Zone’), use supplemental oxygen.
Of the 13 climbers in their group, 5 did not reach the summit, including Jay who had fallen ill. Several team members experienced frozen corneas, causing temporary blindness, lost fingers and toes from frostbite and one man collapsed and died right before making Camp 3.
Mirjam experienced terrible stomach pains which thankfully went away after 5 days. Altitude effects people differently and it doesn’t matter how fit you are or how much you train, it is indiscriminative. “I was lucky,” she says.
Since the highest point in the Smoky Mountains is Clingmans Dome at 6,643 feet, a mere ‘speed bump,’ Mirijam wasn’t going to get any altitude training in TN. Instead she focused on cardio endurance and strength-training, loading her backpack with 50lbs of weight and climbing the Stairmaster at her local YMCA for 2 hours at a time. She also went on a 10 day trip to Utah to practice ice climbing and winter camping.
Fun Female Stuff
Before leaving for Nepal, she consulted with her doctor about a way to stop her period so she wouldn’t get it while on the mountain. He prescribed Necon 1/35 and advised her to take it with a baby aspirin each day to avoid blood clots. In addition, she would also take Diamox, an anti-altitude sickness medication.
There are no porta potties on a snow covered mountain. It is common for women rock climbers, backpackers and mountaineer to use a funnel type device placed against them, which allows one to pee standing up and doesn’t require you to drop your drawers. Mirijam laughed when I asked her about this and said she couldn’t mentally get past the ‘standing-up’ thing. She would use a wide mouth bottle. However, on summit day she said, “almost everyone just went in their suits. There was no other choice. You are so physically and mentally drained to make that last push. Every ounce of energy is required to keep moving forward.”
It is what it is folks…
At the end of the day, I asked our TN Everest climber what food she craved on the mountain. “Hands down, “Nutella” (a chocolate spread).
How does Mirjam feel now that she has summit the highest mountain in the world? “The sense of accomplishment and achievement is overwhelming.”