No one demonstrates this persistence and its results more vividly than Sophie Lavaud, a cosmetics entrepreneur and event planner turned Himalayan mountaineer.
Sophie is the first woman with French, Swiss and Canadian citizenship to scale seven 8000+ meter high mountain peaks, giving her the name “The 56,000 Lady”! She’s reached the summit of Mount Everest, and she’s not stopping there. Sophie’s dream is to scale all the mountains in the world that reach above 8000 meters. There are 14 of them, all in the Himalayas.
Seven down, seven to go.
Sophie explains that her dream is not to achieve the goal of climbing 14 peaks, but rather to live in a way that embraces adventurous spirit. Her dream is not to chase glory or accomplishment but rather to establish and achieve one goal after another in the quest for a life full of invigorating experiences.
We’re inspired by Sophie’s vision and persistence even in the face of tremendous physical and mental obstacles. That’s why we’re supporting her during her expeditions in 2018.
But Sophie isn’t the only one who requires inspiration to overcome her challenges. Every woman has mountains to climb and obstacles to overcome in life. They may not be as visible as an 8000 meter mountain, but sometimes they’re no less difficult to conquer. Sophie’s approach and strategies can shed light on the path forward, no matter what kind of mountain you’re dealing with.
Sophie Exercises Patience
When we’re faced with an obstacle, our instinct tells us to try and overcome it as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, that’s not how you climb mountains. The higher they are, the more patience, calculation and adjustment time climbers need.
At high altitudes, the percentage of oxygen in the air decreases, making it harder for the body to function. The higher you go, the scarcer the oxygen, and the higher the risk of hypoxia (not enough oxygen in your tissues), resulting in serious damage to organs and even potential death.
Our bodies do relatively well at adapting to lower levels of oxygen, with our blood becoming more efficient at carrying oxygen… if you give them enough time. On the climb to the Aiguille peak in Canada (3001m), all you need is a 6 hour lunch break at a midway point to let your body acclimatize. Then you’ll be able to climb higher and reach the summit.
It doesn’t take a few hours for 8000 meter climbs. It takes weeks. Days at each successively higher camp, often going back down and back up again. Two steps forward, one step back.
Sophie points to patience as the most important quality a Himalayan mountaineer needs. “An Alpinist (a style of climbing involving fast ascents and minimal gear) who wants to go fast in the Himalayas puts his or her life in danger. I am very patient; I believe in stable progression and a step-by-step approach.”
Sophie’s entire mountaineering career reflects that value of patience and measured progress. She deliberately took ten years to go from Mont Blanc (4810m) to Mount Everest (8848m), slowly mastering 4000 meter climbs in the Alps, then 5000 meter climbs in South America, then 6000 and 7000 meter climbs.
She’s not racing anyone or anything. She has her eyes on the goal, and she knows she’s making progress. That’s the only thing that counts.
And that’s the secret of how she’s come as far as she has.
Sophie Appreciates the Present
If Alpine style climbing is defined by going as fast and efficiently as possible in order to reach a goal, Himalayan style climbing is defined by appreciating every aspect of the adventure and the experience.
Sophie makes it very clear – she is a “Himalayanist” before she is an “Alpinist.” Before starting any expedition, she loves arriving in Pakistan or Nepal and immersing completely in the country and the culture. She loves spending time with the local teams.
Our Western world is very goal and result-oriented, making it hard to appreciate the process and the journey. In the Himalayas, it’s all about the journey, and Sophie fully connects to that outlook. “Some days, in the base camp, I did nothing but look at the skies and mountains… I never get bored.”
Can Sophie retain her appreciation of the present back in the hectic Western world? “Whenever I come home, I savor the feeling of being under my duvet, having a hot shower, eating hot food and feeling warm.” She loves dressing up and going out on the town.
Wherever Sophie is, be it a howling gale 7500 meters up a mountain in Nepal or the stage of a business conference in Quebec or an upscale restaurant in Milan – she can be present in that moment and appreciate it for what it is. She has learned this practice through years of patience.
Climb Every Mountain
We salute Sophie Lavaud and her persistence, patience, awareness, values and trust. We’re backing her as she takes on the challenges of three 8000m+ peaks this year, and we’re also standing in awe of her.
We do the same for every woman out there who has the courage to face her mountains, day in and day out.