x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Teen mountaineer bids to climb into record books

An 18-year-old hopes to be the only woman to summit Everest and Lhotse in 24 hours.

Leanna Shuttleworth tackled some of the world’s most dangerous peaks. Above, at Aconcagua in the Andes range in Argentina.
Leanna Shuttleworth tackled some of the world’s most dangerous peaks. Above, at Aconcagua in the Andes range in Argentina.

A Dubai-based teenager is aiming to become one of the youngest women to climb Mount Everest and Lhotse.

If she is successful, she would the only female of her age to climb two 8,000 metre peaks in 24 hours.

Leanna Shuttleworth, 18, has already tackled some of the world's most dangerous peaks and highest mountains on six continents.

She and her father, Mark, will set off for Everest Base Camp today with eight other climbers, four guides and 18 sherpas.

After reaching the summit of the world's highest mountain, the duo will return to Camp IV and attempt Lhotse.

Leanna, a British veterinary student, got hooked on climbing when she was just 14 and her school organised a 21-day hike to Everest Base Camp at 5,380m.

Even after making it to the highest point in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro, she did not expect to ever tackle Everest's summit.

But since that initial challenge, she has managed to convince her friends of how determined she is to conquer Everest and Lhotse.

"Everyone has heard the stories about Everest and they're more nervous for me, unlike the other ones we climbed," she said.

Major challenges will include the infamous Ice Fall, a series of crevices on the edge of a glacier.

"No matter how good a climber you are, you could be walking under an ice pillar at the wrong time," she said. "I always hear stories about these big ice blocks decide to fall and you're in the way. There is nothing you can do."

Her father has been with her on every climb but her mother and younger sister will be involved in this trip, going as far as Base Camp, which will take them about a week.

"It is all about mountaineering in my house at the moment," she said last week before leaving for Nepal.

Most of their time at Base Camp will be spent acclimatising to the altitude, practising skills such as walking across ladders with all of their climbing gear and getting used to the oxygen tanks they will need to summit.

Afterwards, there will be several weeks of back-and-forth. They will climb to Camp II for a night then go back to Base Camp for another night. Then they push to Camp III, which will take a day-and-a-half, with a night spent at Camp II.

Then they do it all over again from Base Camp before they reach Camp III and spend another night there. Then they go below Base Camp.

"It lets your body produce more red blood cells," said Mr Shuttleworth, 48.

The group will wait for the right weather window from Base Camp.

"Then we go all the way up, then straight up Camp I to IV, which is 8,100 metres, and then spend a day there," said Mr Shuttleworth. "We let our bodies recuperate at 8,100 metres and then summit from there at 10pm."

Camp IV is infamously known as the death zone. It is so high, the altitude affects the body, which can begin to shut down after two or three days.

It takes between 13 and 15 hours to reach the summit at 8,848 metres. Then they return to Camp IV and head for Lhotse, the fourth-highest peak in the world at 8,516 metres.

"Everything has to be right and we feel that we come off Everest being successful," said Mr Shuttleworth. "When we get up after a five or six-hour rest, we will attempt Lhotse in one go."

The team can be followed live via leannashuttleworth.com.

eharnan@thenational.ae