Red2Blue ambassador, 21-year-old mountaineer Adriana Brownlee continues her mission to become the youngest person ever to complete all 14 8000m peaks. To date, Adriana has summited 10 of the 14 – Everest, Lhotse, Manaslu, Makalu, Kanchenjunga, Annapurna, Dhaulagiri, K2, Broad Peak and Nanga Parbat, so she’s well on track to achieve her goal of conquering all 14 peaks by the time she’s 23.
Adriana has just returned to Nepal with her climbing partner Kristin Harila, where she’s currently tackling her 11th 8000m peak, Cho Oyu, with a small team of Sherpas led by Gelje Sherpa. Together, these two brilliant women are smashing it!
High altitude mountaineering is one of the deadliest sports in the world, requiring both mental and physical resilience, power and grit. Here, Adriana talks about her amazing journey and how Red2Blue has helped her to keep her focus under life-threatening conditions.
Which of the mountains has been the most challenging so far?
Definitely Annapurna in Nepal. It’s one of the world’s most dangerous mountains because of the avalanches. There’s one section in particular where you get avalanches every five minutes so you have to get across that glacier as quick as you can into the safety zone. It’s a big risk – it has a 30% mortality rate. Thankfully, no-one on our expedition passed away. However, two people were stuck above 7500 metres for two nights. We all thought they were gone but we did a heli recce, saw them moving and got them longline rescued off the mountain.
These were incredibly talented and incredibly experienced people. One of them was a heli recce pilot himself. He knew the dangers, but it just goes to show that it’s all luck, really, on that mountain. I got down safely with help, thanks to Gelje Sherpa.
It’s a tricky mountain but I’m glad to get it off my list. It’s definitely the one I feared the most from the beginning and definitely the one I did the most Red2Blue planning for. There were a lot of ‘what ifs’ going on and a lot of things that I probably couldn’t avoid in the moment but there are ways to train and to prepare for things such as avalanches.
Can you tell us a bit more about how Red2Blue’s helped you to perform under pressure?
I got into Red2Blue pre-Everest, which was my first 8000m expedition. Martin did some sessions with us about Red2Blue and how we could prepare mentally for Everest by planning for every single thing that could go wrong. It was about making sure that in any sort of pressured situation up there, we’d be in the right mindset – in the Blue Head-set – and we’d be ready to go for a summit.
As soon as Martin told me these things, I knew subconsciously that I was already doing this when I was climbing. I think because I’ve been in so many high-pressured situations, the skill has become natural to me – it’s something that I’ve learned over time.
The reason I became so engaged is that I think it’s so crucial and important now, especially for younger kids to learn this skill as soon as possible. I was lucky enough to have parents who taught me these kinds of things growing up. My father also went through the Red2Blue process in his work, so he was teaching me these skills when I was climbing at nine years old. That’s where I learned this from originally, and I knew as soon as Martin was teaching me again that it was all coming back naturally, and I was redoing it.
Now, becoming a Red2Blue coach has given me the vocabulary and the toolset to be able to teach it to other young kids.
Now that you’re a certified Red2Blue coach, what exactly do you plan to do with it?
I’m working with a school in Kathmandu in a secluded village. There are about 40 kids who are all orphans or come from troubled families. They don’t have enough money to support their education, food or accommodation. They come to this community in the village and I’m hoping to teach them Red2Blue and give them the toolkit to go out and be the boss of their own life.
The goal is that they can get out of this village where terrible things are happening – they’ve got natural disasters, along with sex trafficking and huge problems, which along with normal education, is so stressful and so pressured. For them to have access to a simplified Red2Blue toolkit could be amazing and, hopefully, life-changing.
If I can see them put the posters up in their bedroom, that would be amazing, or if I can hear them saying ‘Red’ or saying ‘Blue’, that will make my day!
We’ll continue to track Adriana’s progress on The Gazette and through our social media channels. You can also follow her journey on Instagram @adri.brownlee.