What is it like to climb Everest?

PlanetSKI reporter Squash Falconer tells us what it is really like to stand on top of the world. She tells it without the hype, hyperbole and exaggeration. It is wonderful and terrifying at the same time. PlanetSKI reports from 29,000 feet.


Standing on top of the world was horrendous.

It was terrible.

Quite simply I thought I might die.

I summited in a severe storm a year ago on May 12th 2011.

Perhaps people who manage it in better weather don’t have the same experience as me.

But this is my story. As it was.

I was pushing myself to my physical, mental and emotional limits and I wasn’t sure if I’d pushed it too far in the final hours to the top.

When I climb I’m always aware that the top is only half way there. It maybe a bit of a cliche, but is is true.

Especally on Everest.

Therefore based on the conditions at any given moment I asked myself, “Can I get back from here?”

The problem on Everest for me was the weather was deteriorating by the minute and so the question “Could I get back?” made an hour before no longer applied. The conditions had got so much worse.

When I stood on the highest point of our small planet I simply wondered what on earth I’d done. 

Would I ever see the people I loved again?

There was no view, we were in cloud, it was -50c below and the winds were up to 50/60kmph. It was truly awful.

I was anxious to descend. Very anxious.

Down was life, staying in the same place might be death. But it was where my dreams were.

I took my outer mitts off and filmed for a few seconds but the cold got to my hands so quickly.

My whole body hurt with cold. Was this hell or heaven? It was both.

I wasn’t really that interested in photos and video I just wanted to keep the little warmth I had left and get down. I wanted to stay alive. I wanted to get back to my friends and family.

The summit area itself wasn’t that big.

It was though the highest point on earth and I was on it.

The snow and rock come to a point and the area is covered in prayer flags and offerings made to the gods.

We stayed on the top for a few minutes, maybe 5 at the most.  Time sort of stopped.

Before the summit on the way up you descend before the final climb and in my mind I knew I still had to climb up those sections and get back over the Hilary step.

I was worried. I just wanted to stay alive. Nothing more, nothing less.

Because the weather was so bad most people had turned back so the queuing that I had feared was never an issue. Did that tell me something about my precarious position?

Perhaps a couple of times I waited a few minutes, but nothing serious.

However looking back on it all summiting in the storm had it’s advantages.

People are often shocked to hear that standing on the top of the world is far from the elating feeling you might expect. 

I was full of single thoughts, mostly about my desire to survive and would I survive?  I could feel the love I had for other people and the love they had for me and that was the most powerful motivation I’ve ever felt in my life to keep moving.

The good feelings do come though.

Like right now, it feels utterly incredible to be here in the warmth, at sea level, knowing that I stood on top of the world.

I feel humble.

What continues to amaze me is how incredible it feels to have done it and be back from the experience.

Everything is different since the top.

There’s a feeling of utter delight that I’m alive and well.

A more heightened sense of appreciation of the wonderful people and things that surround my life.

Everest has become a part of who I am and who I will be for the rest of my life.

I am a different person. And always will be.

Squash at ground level

Squash at ground level











For Squash’s web site see here – she is one amazing lady and a very, very good friend of ours at PlanetSKI.

Here she is on Mount Everest.

Squash Falconer

Squash Falconer













For a video of her expedition see below.

On her way home

On her way home

















For the spirit of the mountains