Two Greek women who have set out to “conquer” the world’s highest mountains will on April 5 embark on their toughest challenge yet, during which they will try to scale the highest peak of Mount Everest, fully 8,848 meters above sea level, and plant a Greek flag on the “Roof of the World.”
Mother-of-two Vanessa Archontidou and her team mate Christina Flambouri have so far reached the summit of the highest mountains on five continents and ultimately aim to complete the Seven Summits challenge, scaling the highest peaks of all seven continents of the world.
Talking to the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA), shortly after announcing the attempt at a press conference, Archontidou said the expedition had faced some of its greatest difficulties before it had even begun, since finding sponsors to finance their attempt had been a major hurdle.
“In Greece, even Olympic champions have difficulty finding support; this is even more true of us, who are not professional athletes but two ordinary women with an unusual dream,” she said. Talking about what motivates them to take on the highest mountains, the two women replied: “We climb mountains because this is what makes us happy and inspires us and gives us a reason to get out of bed in the morning with excitement. Each person must search and find this reason for themselves because only then can they feel complete,” they said.
The task was far from easy, however, and its success demanded a high degree of organization, patience and persistence, as well as money, they added.
Their journey will start in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, where after the necessary red tape, they will fly to Lukla airport at 2,860 meters, described as the most dangerous in the world. From there, the two women will make a journey of a few days to the Everest basecamp at 5,500 meters, where they will stay for at least a month as their bodies adjust to the high altitude, and their expedition to scale the mountain will start in mid-May.
“Apart from good physical fitness, it will require great mental fortitude since we will be far from home and our loved ones for roughly two months. As regards the danger, a high mountain certainly demands respect… the weather, a good assessment of our strength at any given time, care to avoid accidents are factors that require especial attention,” they noted.
“At higher altitudes, our body needs more energy, the air has less oxygen and breathing is hard, so every step is a minor feat. Above a certain point, of course, our body is truly suffering and for this reason the zone above 8000 meters is called the ‘death zone,'” the two mountain climbers said. In their case, they intend to enlist the aid of an oxygen tank to assist them in making it to the top, they added.
The entire expedition, including their 7summits goal, is supported by the non-profit organization “A woman can be,” but the two women stressed that the 7summits goal also had a greater symbolic significance: “We all live on a beautiful planet, there is nothing to divide us and we all have hopes and dreams for a better future.”
The message they hope to send to all people, they said, was to not give up personal dreams and hopes under the pressure of professional or family obligations, to love nature and life-long exercise and to work with solidarity to fulfill not just needs and also “the dreams that inspire us.”
In pursuit of this goal, they were also the first Greek women to set foot on Mt. Denali, also known as Mt. McKinley (its former official name), the highest peak in Alaska. “For us it is important to promote Greece and take it higher, even in this way,” they said.
So far, Archontidou and Flambouri have managed to reach the peak of Aconcagua in Argentina, the highest mountain of South America at 6,962 meters, Elbrus in Europe (5,642 meters), Mt. Denali in North America (6,190 meters), the Carstensz Pyramid (4,884 meters), the highest mountain of Oceania in Papua New Guinea, and Tanzania’s Kilimanjaro (5,895 meters) in Africa.
Their aim was to climb one of the seven summits each year, which also served as training for their current attempt. If they succeed in scaling Mount Everest this year, the last remaining peak to complete the 7summits challenge will be the Vinson Massif in Antarctica, which stands 4,892 meters above sea level.
The two athletes pointed out that they have a great responsibility, especially toward the people and the companies that have sponsored their efforts. “Cardlink, Edenred, KPMG, Vichy, and Samsung Hellas are our heroes, without them we could not have taken a single step. When these companies consented to support us, this was the start for us of fulfilling a seemingly impossible dream and a source of unspeakable joy and hope,” they noted.