“Passion, perspective and purpose of my climb”- A story by Carina Ahlqvist

Mountains always fascinated me. It is such another world, stretching far above the clouds where heaven and the earth touch. Many religions view mountains as Gods and Goddesses, also as early as in the Greek Mythology, among native population in America and among Buddhists. The mountains touch my soul. They are my temple.

Today I am a mountain climber with a passion to climb 8000 meter mountains with five expeditions in my backpack of experiences. That was not the case in the beginning. As I climbed my first mountain, Mount Kenya Point Lenana in Africa, solo at the age of 20, I started off without any equipment just renting a down jacket for some pennies. It got really cold but luckily I found a German guy who had a tent where I could squeeze in, without any sleeping bag. The summit in the sunrise at about 5000 meter blew my mind off and I knew that climbing was making my heart sing. Ever since I learned many lessons, got better equipment and glacier skills.

The year after I went to the Himalayas for the first time and hiked up solo in the rhododendron valleys up to Machapuchare base camp at 4130 meters, sleeping in small villages. That was when I started to consider the Himalayas as the home of my soul.

In 2011 I wished to climb my first high altitude trekking peak and decided to go with Hi On Life Adventures. I met Christina Sandström who welcomed the team in Kathmandu, with endless colours, sounds, chicken, noise and organised chaos where I learnt to say “Namaste” and eat my first “Dal Bath”. Saran Subba was the guide to Island Peak 6189 m where we were surrounded by 8000 m peaks. The climb with Hi On Life Adventures was so overwhelming and made my climbing path take off to higher altitudes, becoming a “Hi On Life” citizen!

My first 8000 m mountain expedition was Cho Oyu 8201 m in Tibet. It was the hardest endeavour by that time, but it is when you are completely exhausted, that you get filled with happiness. It is in life threatening environment where the lack of oxygen cannibalise my body, that I feel 200 percent alive!

To climb on high altitude, you need to be comfortable being uncomfortable. There is no luxury up there, but when life is basic I profoundly appreciate what I have. The Himalayas changed me to become even less obsessed by things and instead hungry for experiences and breathing passion in life. There are no 5 stars Grand Hotel up there, but you have the whole Milky Way with millions of stars if you open up the frozen tent zip and stick your head outside your tent at night.

People don’t get why I climb mountains, saying “you can die”. To me spending days with routine work inside an office is dying mentally. There are many challenges and dangers too, and you need to learn to navigate with caution and care to avoid crevasses and altitude sickness.

Spring 2018 I attempted to climb Mount Makalu 8481 m, the world’s 5th highest mountain, 20 km SouthEast of Everest, harder than Everest to climb. Me and the climbing Sherpa reached 8150 m where we had to turn down as snow ended our attempt. At 7600 m I got snow blind and had to spend 3 days on the mountain descending blind in ropes over blue ice, rocks and snow over 1000 altitude meters, falling into a crevasse but managing to get up blind, before a helicopter could rescue me down.

However, I am greatful for all learnings from these experiences. I learnt how I react in a life threatening situations, getting completely focused to survive. Being blind I was filled with a feeling of inner trust, as a kind of compensation. When I could no longer see, I perceived being stronger by connecting mentally to the mountain. Maybe the reason for climbing is to find the corresponding strength and stability within you. It was when I couldn’t see, that I learnt to see with different eyes once as I got back to normal status. Now I really wish to stay considerate and grateful for my life and focus to do things that have a purpose.

To me, the purpose has always been higher than the summit. On every expedition to an 8000 m mountain I wish to be part of a larger context, not only climbing for my own personal satisfaction. I collect samples to contribute to research in climate change. My collaboration partners are NASA and the European Space Agency, contributing with samples from the ground to complement their satellite photos of the Earth.

I have also collected samples for research in micro plastics, finding traces of micro plastics on 6000 m altitude at Mount Shishapangma 8013 m in Tibet. Finding human trash, which got there by precipitation, in this pristine extremely remote environment, gives thoughts and perspectives.

The purpose of my climbing the highest and at times hardest mountains in the world is to inspire people to care about the planet. If everyone consider consuming less things, less plastic, throwing less trash, we will all contribute to make the Earth a wonderful home for future generations. The Earth doesn’t belong to us, we belong to the Earth.


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