Adventures of a mother of 7 – Johanna Gustafsson

Because it's there!

When 8 years old I learned about Mount Everest, and ever since I have dreamed about climbing up there. When I became middle-aged and sensible I thought that it's impossible.

2012 when I turned 50 I suddenly got this crazy idea to fulfill my childhood dream. Now, almost 2 years later, after studying, training, researching & finding solutions, it seems possible!

If things go well I will summit in May 2014, if things don't go well I will hopefully do it another year. If you want to follow me vie e-mail updates you can subscribe to them.

Q&A, Security

A guest blog post from Tommi. I will normally not write here, I just upload, edit & put some flesh onto what Johanna reports or what I get from other sources about what's going on up there. I'll write this in the format of a Q&A compiling discussions I have had with friends, colleagues and other people, maybe my perspective has some value for someone.

So, some frequently asked questions.

Are you afraid / worried that something is going to happen?

Not afraid but yes, worried. I can't help worrying a bit, the dangers of being high up in the mountains are real, Johanna has never been above 6400 m and it's probable that some incidents with different levels of difficulties will happen. But I'm not afraid because Johanna's preparation has been really good.

Why do you let her go?

First of all, she would not be easy to stop. Well, actually we spoke about the issue and she told me that if I asked her not to go she definitely wouldn't. So I really could have stopped the project.

But the real reason I want her to attempt summiting Everest is that if you get her talking about the time she climbed Kilimanjaro, leaving everyone else in the dust and being at Uhuru Peak at 6 AM before anyone else, you will see her eyes light up and her voice go a bit dreamy. She sort of moves to a different level of existence and she is genuinely very happy. Forget about getting married or having the kids, those may also be important moments, but for her some essential passion seems to be connected to the high mountains.

I would not want to kill that passion, I want to see it live. 

Before the Kilimanjaro trek I was actually much more worried, because I did not know if she could give up the goal of summiting while having some form of acute mountain disease. Back then I told her that I was looking for a new mother for the kids in case she did not return alive. Now I believe she knows how to move the goal of summiting forward in life and turn back in time.

How has she prepared?

You can check out the old blogs and her training program, but I'll give a short overview:

  • She has always been an athlete doing several outdoor sports and thus in fine physical shape for something like this. From this she also has a lot of experience of the forces of nature.
  • She has hiked a lot in low altitudes in the French mountains, and in snow & freezing cold in Lapland. She has occasionally also hiked in at least 50 other different kinds of places around the world.
  • She has attempted some higher mountains (Kili, Mera, Aco) and has always dealt well with the altitude and the thin air.
  • She has participated in several of courses on climbing, arctic conditions, medical aspects of mountaineering and other essentials for survival.
  • She has been to diving and firefighting courses where she has been able to get work done with very low oxygen consumption from the bottles.
  • She has bought good gear for the above 7000 m part of the climb.
  • She has had advice from all people she knows have experience and are willing to talk with her about it. She has spoken with many who have Everest experience.

Will someone help her?

Last september we went to Mera Peak partially to check out the Nepalese service provider that Johanna had found for her expedition. Johanna wanted to have a local organizer, to make sure a maximum amount of the money spends stays in the poor country of Nepal. We found that Rishi, who's running the office, is meticulous and exact. He felt reliable and trustworthy. We met Johanna's personal main guide Mingma, who's been to the Everest summit 4 times, a calm & very friendly man. We spent more than 2 weeks with Mingma's brother Ritemba trekking to and from Mera, he was very good on the mountain. He also promised to prepare Mingma for the talkative Johanna, a main idea was to put an oxygen mask with an empty bottle on her already in base camp :)

Johanna with Mingma in Khumjung, on a day-hike for acclimatization. Pasang was already at base-camp, organizing.

Johanna with Mingma in Khumjung, on a day-hike for acclimatization. Pasang was already at base-camp, organizing.

With us we had then also Pasang, a young, strong guide who had his heart in the work and who was always very helpful with any issue. Once we were in a hurry and came to a cold river. Pasang quickly threw his boots off and carried all four of us, one at a time (with our back-packs on!) across the stony river on his bare feet. On the way back he built a stone-path across the river by turning the boulders in the water! We asked for Pasang to be a second guide for Johanna at Everest. At first Rishi declined, because of Pasang's lack of experience at extreme heights, but in the beginning of 2014 he has been somewhere very high and done well there so he will now accompany Johanna for additional security. 

So, Johanna has two professional sherpa-guides helping her, the three of them will figure most things out and they will be able to deal with issues. The other 6 people in the group also have their guides. They work as a group, but also as individuals.

What will she do next, will she go again?

If she does not reach the summit this time, I'm sure she will return. If she does; I don't know. I don't think she knows either. It depends on the experience and the shine in her eyes afterwards, I guess. 

She will focus on work and a project for helping African children get vaccinations. 

A question I never get, but I will answer anyway: How good is she with security?

This is something very few seem to know/realize about Johanna, because they only know the active, outgoing, talkative, quick, brash, fun-loving, bossy (that's now a banned word in the business-feminist part of of the world, but it does really describe her well) and sometimes silly side of her.

She is extremely responsible and security-conscious. 

I would have many hilarious examples, mainly concerning how to do difficult things with little kids, but let's save them for if there is a dry spell in the mountain info. Johanna does not necessarily avoid risks, but she is very conscious of them. She will, if possible, plan & practice for any contingency. She is also very resourceful in a tight situation. She definitely adds to the safety of any group I have seen so far, rather than reducing it.

Not all people see this, because she is for instance not always good at following instructions that don't make sense to her or she's not good at doing things slowly and she may seem a rebel. She is therefore sometimes in conflict with people who want to control her for the ease of managing a group. But mostly she is so quick and thorough in her thinking that she is aware of dangers and solutions much before the others around her.

The subscription-button I set up yesterday seems to work, my Yahoo-account got today the blog published yesterday, so if you want to get updates that is one possible way. Another is to check Johanna's Facebook page regularly.  

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Johanna Gustafsson – the Everest project