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.

Photogallery from Jessica, with edit from Johanna

Jessica WhatsApp:ed some new photos from their trek. She climbed to 4900 m today and then back down to Dingboche, others (including Johanna) continued to 5000 m and are not yet back at the moment. 

Edit: Johanna is back now, she went to 5200 m and is very happy :)

Her report: 

I just came down from the mountain, a small peak at 5200 m (we are now in 4500). The people hiking upward looked pretty tired but I felt ok. I sent Jessica back after 450 m of ascent so she would not get too tired. She was doing fine and she was very comfortable with the speed of our Everest-group. 

I went a bit faster, because the battery in my camera ran out of juice after we had left the hotel and I decided to run down and get a spare one. I then caught up with the group after about 100 m of climbing and I found it hard to slow down. 

So, I'm doing well, lying down in my down trousers and writing here. Mingma just came by and I ordered a three-course lunch :D 

Resting a bit in Pangboche

Someone in our Snowy Horizon-group got a bit sick and we have decided to rest in the beautiful small village of Pangboche, about 4000 m, which was a stop not included in the original plan. Jessica has also had a bit of flu, or some mild mountain disease, but she is now quite rested and feeling better.

By Moralist (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. A view of the Pangboche village with Ama Dablam behind.

By Moralist (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. A view of the Pangboche village with Ama Dablam behind.

I had a very nice climb of about 600 m up to the Ama Dablam base camp. It's one of the most beautiful spots were I have been. It was totally empty when I came there, because some days earlier there was a bad accident on that mountain.  I'm feeling really good and looking forward to the next days.

Tomorrow we move to Dingboche, back to the plan. 

The most dangerous airport in the world

When going to Mount Everest from the Nepali side you leave from Kathmandu by a small plane to a place called Lukla. The Lukla airport, or the Tenzing-Hillary airport as it was named in 2008 in hounor of the pair who first made it to the top of Everest and back, is a small strip 2800 meters high in the mountains.  It has in various programs and articles been labeled "the most dangerous airport in the world". I don't know if it is that, but I am very happy that they often seem to cancel flights there because of weather issues, so the authorities and pilots are being careful.

The length of the strip is only 460 meters, you can land a small plane because the strip is tilted 12% uphill for landing, for take-off you speed downhill to take a leap into a 700 m ravine.

I had never landed there before this current trip to Everest. The one time we were supposed to do that was last September when attempting to summit Mera Peak, but the difficult weather never let us do that. We took a helicopter to a place, I think it was called Surak, 600 m lower down instead. But here is a little video of us lifting off from Lukla when returning from Mera.

Here is a another video showing traffic in Lukla:

When the window of opportunity to fly in and out of Lukla opens there generally is a lot of backlog and conditions will change quickly. The result is that there is generally a lot of slow waiting at either end, and then suddenly running, really rushing into the plane or helicopter that then immediately takes off.

This time most of our gear was left behind in Kathmandu, three out of our four bags caught up with us two days later in the Namche Bazaar sherpa village.

Hotel Hilten

We are in Namche Bazaar, a big village with several hotels. Ours is called Hilten, it's a green building with a green roof on top of the village, easy to find. Luxurious, toilet and shower in the room.

Namche Bazaar   village located at 3,440 metres (11,286 ft) above the sea level in   Khumbu region  , northeastern   Nepal  . The   Kongde Ri peak b with its 6,187 m (20,299 ft) can be seen in the background. Photo by stevehicks [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Namche Bazaar village located at 3,440 metres (11,286 ft) above the sea level in Khumbu region, northeastern Nepal. The Kongde Ri peakb with its 6,187 m (20,299 ft) can be seen in the background. Photo by stevehicks [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

It was a wonderful day today, Jessica was strong in the 800 m vertical climb to Namche. I was also 100 times stronger than yesterday after the sickness in Kathmandu. Hopefully tomorrow will be even better. It will be a rest day for acclimatization, we will take maybe a 3 hour hike to the Everest view point and back. 

We both got a massage, that was also luxurious. With the massage we got some free internet time, for this blog among other things. I also saw a Finnish sauna, let's see if we can go bathing.

We're on the way!

We flew to Lukla with the first flight in the morning and set off for a short trek to Phakding. The accommodation here in Phakding is really nice, compared to what we experienced in September when attempting to summit Mera Peak.

Most of our group and most of our luggage got bumped off the plane, it was just my main guide Mingma, Jessica and me who got on, and only I got my gear. But we will manage well, the circumstances here are nice. 

Last night I got really sick, for the first time in decades. It was probably from eating something not so good. I did not sleep much and spent most of the night lying on the cool bathroom floor – I thought that would be a nicer place to die than in the bed beside Jessica. Nicer for Jessica I mean. 

So I was weak today, but I'm feeling much better already. Having a yak-steak now :)

On these pages is now also a rough schedule of the planned trek&climb to Everest.

Pull ups, the competition gets bitter

I have trained pull-ups for a few of years now. At home, in the morning when I get up I first do two series of 12 pull-ups and then in the third series I do more, as many as possible. I naturally bragged to people about my records of 16, 17 and 18. This is one of my traits, I make sense of things by talking a lot about everything going on in my life. 

This lead to me and one of our friends, Peter, having a competition in pull-ups during Tommi's 50-years party (that he held when he turned 51, but that's another story). I lost. I hate losing, but I would hate not competing more!

I then learned that the boyfriend of my daughter had a record of 23 pull-ups. So, I was stubborn enough to practice and practice, until I got 24 as a personal record. What a mean old witch I am. Im sure very few young men have this kind of trouble with a possible mother-in-law!

I was very happy with my result for a year. Some time ago when I came back from the Lapland practicing camp and I was about to do my usual morning pull-ups I saw it. That was such a bitter moment. There was a post-it note attached to the pull-up bar:

Sami pulled 29! Janni 5 (new record, watch out!) Greetings!

Sami pulled 29! Janni 5 (new record, watch out!) Greetings!

Jannina, how you can do that to your competitive, old mother? How do I survive this kind of a blow?

Luggage surprise

The trip to Delhi and on to Kathmandu went well, Snowy Horizon met us at the airport. We were taken to a very nice hotel and we settled down. I had previously stayed in a three-star hotel in Kathmandu, for some reason I am more comfortable in one of those. Anyway, when Jessica opened her bag she suddenly screamed "This is not mine!".

The lost and found bag back at the hotel

The lost and found bag back at the hotel

Instead of climbing gear there were some normal ladies clothes. The bags had gotten mixed up in Delhi.

We came to the luggage belt in Delhi pretty much as the last people from our Finnair flight. There was actually no-one there and only my bag was on the belt. We waited for a while and then Jessica's bag arrived. We happily went through customs to the IndiGo terminal for our flight to Kathmandu. Obviously someone had an identical bag to Jessica's and had taken it already before we came to the belt.

Exchanging luggage in the dark streets of Kathmandu

Exchanging luggage in the dark streets of Kathmandu

Luckily we found all the relevant luggage tags and went to Rishi's office at Snowy Horizon to figure out how to exchange the bags with some lady in Delhi. With the help of Tommi, my husband, and several calls to Finnair in Finland and India we finally found out that Jessica's bag had probably also traveled to Kathmandu!  Sweet luck!! We then searched for the lady, found her about 6 km away and took a taxi to meet her halfway (at her insistence, we thought that either one could have traveled the whole way) and exchanged the bags :-)

She was a Nepalese girl who studies in Finland and was obviously really happy to have her stuff back.

We have traveled a lot with the whole family and without. Luggage has often been lost for a shorter or longer time, but nothing like this has ever happened to us before. Yes, yes, always check the tag that it really has your name…

On the other hand, had we noticed the mix-up in Delhi, our student friend would have been without her luggage for a while longer :))

Now 2 more days in Kathmandu and then off to Lukla to start trekking!

Having fun with Bettina & her other guests

Last week Bettina Sågbom interviewed me for her show, it was nice, fun and relaxed. Bettina is very good with her interviews, great ambiance and a good, natural flow. She had read my blog too.

Had a good time with  Anders Tengner,  Mia Hafrén,  Håkan Hemlin   & Bettina Sågbom in the studio,

Had a good time with Anders Tengner, Mia Hafrén, Håkan Hemlin  & Bettina Sågbom in the studio,

The program will be shown today, Monday 31.3 on Yle Fem at 21.00 local time, I guess that is called EEST now that we changed the clocks yesterday. The other interviews were about music, I got everyone singing their favorite ABBA-tunes backstage before the show :)

It can also be seen over the internet on YLE Arenan, also abroad. The languages in the show are Finnish with me and Swedish with the other guests.

Leaving Now

We are at the airport, the flight to Delhi leaves 20.10 tonight and in the morning we take the next flight to Kathmandu. There was lots to do before leaving, but we managed with everything.

Me and Jessica accompanied by Jennifer, our youngest daughter, and Madhu, Jessica's boyfriend.

Me and Jessica accompanied by Jennifer, our youngest daughter, and Madhu, Jessica's boyfriend.

Jessica will follow me to the Everest base-camp. We will also attempt to summit Island Peak at 6189 meters, part of the acclimatization for me and a great adventure for Jessica if she makes it. She has not been to the high mountains but she has great balance and is good with heights. She also accompanied me to the Paratroopers training some weeks ago and did quite well with all the technical stuff. Our guides have told us that Island Peak is a bit more technical than Everest, but it should be ok.

Checking gear, packing

Sunday morning I lifted all my gear onto the table and started getting rid of anything I don't really need with me. Seems that I will make it to a 23 kg bag for the flights to Delhi and on to Kathmandu. Actually the flight from Delhi to Kathmandu is probably limited to 20 kg. 

Good thing I left some gear earlier in Kathmandu & Lukla.

Off to the airport in a couple of hours!

Last training, skiing in Lapland

When writing this it's 8 days to go before the trip to Everest. Instead of a training journey to the Alps I decided to take it easy and spend a week skiing in Lapland. No stress, no hurry and with access to the internet in the evenings to do some last-minute work. And there is quite a lot on the to-do list concerning my work and the family, all that will be needed to be prepared for the next two months, or forever if I never come back. But I will.

Log cabin life suits me well

Log cabin life suits me well

With the Everest trip itself there's also still some work; interviews with a couple of newspapers, one on TV with Bettina S., some stuff to buy like extra warm mittens for the summit. I can't risk getting the gloves from Kathmandu, I have such freezing hands. Luckily V-P Mölsä from Greendoor found good ones for me, the Marmot 8000 Mitt M, I just need to find time to pick them up this week.

Here in Lapland it is cool.  I keep the cottage at 10 degrees. I don't want to get used to too convenient a temperature. Every evening after skiing I go to sauna and take a roll in the snow. The shower is as cold as I can get it from the pipeline. In the beginning of the week we had really cold nights, -30-35 degrees. During the day it got up to a nice -5 degrees.

I had some efficient training. On Wednesday I skied 55 kilometers, including climbing up to Pirunkuru. I have decided to climb Pirunkuru every evening while here. It is my favorite place, or maybe not favorite, but a place where I often end up. It's a steep climb up and then a long downhill to our cottage, so it's a good end for the day outdoors.

On Thursday I wanted to have some climbing training, so I climbed up to the fells,Kukas, Lainio and Kesänki (1700 meters of climbing on the skis said my GPS). Skiing is good here in Äkäslompolo. The season is starting to be at it's best. Maybe in 2 weeks here will be in the mornings the snowcrust hard enough for you to go where ever you want, not needing to follow the tracks. That is my best life, skiing freely around. But this year I will be in Nepal when those conditions are here.

Altogether I managed to ski maybe 250 km during the week, I'll have to check the GPS. Not too much, but I focused more on the climbing than the distance. 

Silly car, should have stayed in the South of France… Or silly man to drive it in the Finnish winter?

Silly car, should have stayed in the South of France… Or silly man to drive it in the Finnish winter?

P.S. Coming back from Lapland my husband took the small car to get me from the airport. My skibag was really thick and didn't fit through the small hole in the backseat so we had to take the roof down. In addition to swimming in open waters we have also opened the cabriolet season, literally very cool :)

First fresh water swimming this year, "talviturkki vintille" :D

The winter has been really warm this year in Finland. No snow, not too much ice on the lakes or rivers. A week ago we had our company Innotiimi learning days in Heinola and the Kymi river was mostly open, there was only a little bit of ice near the edges of the river.

Lots of ice still on the lake 200 m away, but the streaming river was clear for a dip

Lots of ice still on the lake 200 m away, but the streaming river was clear for a dip

So, it was like a huge ice wake! The word means a hole in the ice, but few people, not even many of the native English speakers I've met, recognize the word (avanto in Finnish). It is one of my favorite words, because I have an obsession to swim, no matter what the temperature of the water is. 

Do you know when water is too cold for swimming? It is easy to notice, the surface is hard, solid and thick, it's ice. But if you can make a wake, a hole in the ice, then it is good again and you can dip in! 

Back to the sauna!

Back to the sauna!

A few years ago we lived in France and had a pool in the yard. Our neighbours complained to my husband when I did just that, broke the ice that had formed on the pool (the circulation had cut off by accident and the nights there could be seriously cold) and took a morning swim. They claimed it was not "prudent" (as they say) for a pregnant woman to do that!

On Lake Tuusula

We live by Lake Tuusula, famous for having been a favorite place for a collective of artists in the beginning of the previous century. Some of our great writers, painters and composers used to live here, on the other side of the lake from us.

Some neighbours live closer to the lake than we do, and some of them don't make it too easy for others to reach the shore, but there are some paths that you can use to approach the lake without conflicts. Besides, conflicts like that are not difficult for me to deal with.

Lake Tuusula is weirdly a lake I seldom swim in (I always swim everywhere), but I have sailed on it altogether for years and kayaked on it a lot. In the wintertime skiing and ice-skating are also great options. The non-swimming relationship was established in my childhood, when the water in the lake was polluted and swimming there was not good for you.

The poles help a lot when going against the wind. 

The poles help a lot when going against the wind. 

The weather-people on TV have already for weeks warned that there is practically no secure ice in southern Finland, but our lake seems still to be going strong in that area. I have several times skated 40-50 km on the lake and it is a blast to do it! The Ice has lately been even better than earlier in the winter and the kinds of skates we have, long blades attached to your normal x-c ski-boots, allow you to glide quickly in long strides.

These were the conditions Friday, March 7th

These were the conditions Friday, March 7th

Skating is one of those sports you can do when you don't want to run too much. I suspect my joints (both the knees and hips) have worn out from hiking a lot in the French mountains while pregnant and carrying bigger children on my back.

When skating is no more possible in the spring I switch to biking and rollerblades. Again I can use the lake, there's a nice 20 km track around it. 

Medals, especially olympic ones, always impress me

When training in Italy we arrived to our destination Sunday night, with no food in the fridge of the apartment and with everyone really hungry since the airline food has never been much to celebrate and even less so nowadays. In the end we had some great pizza in a small cozy restaurant in the village we stayed in, Gressoney St. Jean.


On the wall they had a picture of a very sporty looking lady with a man hanging on to her. A more thorough investigation revealed that there were also some medals on the wall. One of them happened the be an olympic one, from Torino. Wow! Who had earned these?

My other big goal in life, in addition to climbing Everest, has been to get one of these. I tried sailing and that's probably where I would still have the best chance, if match-racing returns as a womens class into the olympics.

My other big goal in life, in addition to climbing Everest, has been to get one of these. I tried sailing and that's probably where I would still have the best chance, if match-racing returns as a womens class into the olympics.

I went to the kitchen to ask. She was Arianna Follis! It was so nice to meet her. I googled her later. What an impressive cross-country skiing career! I envy her a lot, especially her medals, eminently the olympic one.

Impressed and jealous…

Impressed and jealous…

The name of the restaurant was gold, silver & bronze (in Italian something like Oro, Argento e Bronzo) and the whole village of Gressoney St. Jean was practically covered with pictures of Arianna Follis, we just hadn't seen them in the dark evening the first night we were there.


The kids loved the pizzas so much that we visited the place a second time at the end of the week. It is warmly recommended by us, the pizzas are really great!

Arianna also sent a lot of greetings to Virpi Kuitunen whom we now know as Sarasvuo, I'll try to forward them as well as I can.

Johanna Gustafsson – the Everest project