An Interview with British Adventurer Holly Budge
Holly Budge is a British adventurer, mountaineer and public speaker, having just returned from the roof of the world, successfully summiting Everest on May 22nd 2017. She documented her expedition daily on social media, using her hash tag #everesteveryday, giving an intimate insight into the world of big mountain climbing and posted a photo directly from the summit.
Her passion for adventure is evident with two world records under her belt so far, including being the first woman to skydive Everest and on another expedition, racing semi-wild horses 1000 kms across Mongolia in just 9 days. She works as a big mountain expedition leader and last year successfully led an expedition on the technical Ama Dablam (6812m) in Nepal. Other climbing achievements include summiting Cho-Oyu (8201m), Baruntse (7129m) and snowboarding from the summit of Mera Peak (6476m) in Nepal. More recently, she made a successful first ascent in the Mongolian Altai Mountains. Holly has raised over £300k for a diverse range of charities through her adventures, including for her own award-winning charity ‘How Many Elephants’.
Her vision is to empower and motivate others to daydream, meander, run, climb and jump into their own adventures of self-discovery, and in doing so, learn that with self-belief, determination and resilience, even the biggest of challenges can be overcome. Holly is an energetic and engaging motivational speaker who talks passionately about her diverse achievements in the outdoors
Here are Nature Shop we are totally in awe of Holly's achievements and find her extremely inspiring and empowering. When she came to visit us at our warehouse we knew we had to pitch some questions to her to give our customers an insight into Holly's life and the difficulties of being a female adventurer.
What are your best tips for preparing to climb Everest
Train Hard, Fight Hard!
On the first few mountains I climbed in the Himalayas I didn’t train hard enough. I pretty much relied on my base fitness. On reflection, that was pretty arrogant and very ignorant. No mountain is easy but the turning point came when I climbed Ama Dablam (6812m) and it totally kicked me. I hadn’t trained enough for it. Ama Dablam is rock climbing up to 6000 metres and then technical mixed climbing right up to the summit. It was a slow 24-hour summit push and it was tough! When I got back I vowed that wouldn’t happen again. That’s when I joined up to a dedicated training programme with Uphill Athlete. I trained six days a week and with a personal trainer twice a week. My nutrition got much better. Before I was just eating for the sake of eating, then I learnt how to fuel my body and had so much more energy. There’s this expression, ‘train hard, fight easy,’ but what I realise now is, you’ve got to train hard, and regardless of who you are, on any big mountain, you’ve got to fight hard.
The best thing you could do to prepare for big mountain climbing is to go to altitude, go trekking to start with and see how you fair. The only way you can know how you fair at altitude is to go there. Climbing Everest is a great test of strength and endurance but isn’t by any means the hardest of mountains out there, but it’s definitely the highest and that’s what’s really tough. If Everest is your goal, get at least four or five big mountains (6500m+) under your belt first, to see how you go at altitude and build your skills and knowledge.
What equipment was essential for the trip
Life in the mountains is without clutter, every piece of equipment has a role, every object has a place and thoughts have purpose. A lot of us want to simplify our lives. Climbing mountains strips it down to the absolute bare bones of what I need, and as I’ve got to carry that on my back, it’s got to be essential. Everything you need to survive is on you, or in your backpack. This includes a very warm sleeping bag and mat, extra thermal layers, high altitude mittens, beanie, hand warmers, high energy snacks, 2/3L of water and a basic first aid kit. I wore a full down suit, with a layering system of base layers underneath. One of my favourite pieces of equipment is my iPod Shuffle. Listening to my favourite tunes made all the difference to my mental wellbeing!
What was the most challenging part of your expedition
The altitude and the cold is always tough but it was the amount of time it took to acclimatise and summit the mountain that I found really tough at times. Living in a tent for 7 weeks and being the only female on the team was challenging.
How did you get through this?
One Step At A Time. For me, keeping a quiet mind is vital for climbing mountains. As there is a lot of repetition, I try and get into a rhythm and keep doing the same thing over and over, and that’s what it is, it’s a mind game.
I have developed a personal technique, similar to slipstreaming used in other sports, where I will slip in behind my climbing partner and when they move their foot, I’ll move my foot and then we rotate after a period of time. It’s then simply one foot in front of the other. This takes away the mental mind games.
If you start questioning yourself, ‘am I good enough?’, ‘why am I slower than my team?’, ‘why am I here?’, especially at high altitude, it starts eating away at your mind and it’s just exhausting. If you share the workload by shadowing each other, all those thoughts seem to diminish. It’s simplifying it, it’s taking away all that self-doubt. That’s what I did, all the way to the summit of Everest.”
What were the best and most memorable parts of your expedition?
Everyday on expedition is a personal challenge and a reward. Keeping warm and in good health are up there but it's the little things like feeling constantly grubby, putting grubby clothes back on after you do finally wash, seeing a packet of wet wipes as a luxury item, ridiculously bad hair days, split and broken nails, trying to accurately pee in a bottle in the tent in darkness, eating hairy spam.
A positive mindset and an acceptance that nothing is luxurious, or even comfortable at times, is essential but the rewards are huge. The views, the fresh clean air, the midday sunshine are all spectacular but for me, the reward is knowing you can do it, knowing you can live for long periods of time very simply, without materialistic needs or big comforts and pushing yourself in ways you wouldn't have thought possible before. Learning, growing and experiencing a whole different you is the biggest reward.
Can you describe how you felt when standing on top of Everest
Euphoric! A truly amazing feeling! To quote one of my summit posts on Instagram:
“Sitting on the roof of the world! WOW! Sitting on the highest place on earth is pretty surreal! The fight to get here and realise this dream, emotionally, physically & mentally has been HUGE! That last hour of climbing to the Summit was tough, everything in my body was screaming NO, everything in my mind was screaming YES!!!! The adventure is not over yet. Jangbu and I are stranded at Camp 3 at 8300m. This is not a comfortable altitude to be hanging out at! We spent last night here and if anything, the winds are becoming increasingly more threatening. Will keep you posted…”
I was very fortunate with finding a small but glorious weather window to summit. I experienced beautiful blue skies, with very little wind on the Summit. The view was spectacular! Jangbu and I spent about 30 minutes on the Summit, soaking it all in, as the conditions were near perfect. We were conscious of time though and how quickly things can change up there, as we later experienced!
On our descent, the weather changed very quickly and we got stuck at Camp 3 for a night at 8300m, with ridiculously strong winds!! I thought our tent was going to become airbourne and I was very conscious of still being very high up on the mountain! When we looked outside the following morning, most of the other tents had been destroyed. The next day we descended to Advanced Basecamp which was a long day!
What are your tips for anyone looking to take on new challenges?
Act now. Get out there and give it a go! Put in the time beforehand to get physically prepared so you know you can give it your best shot. Having the mental ability to push yourself and being able to rationalise when your body is saying NO but your mind is screaming YES is half the battle! I describe myself as ‘sort of pretty normal’, with a down-to-earth approach to life. I do not consider myself to have a greater physical advantage than most but what I do have is a very strong self-belief and determination. Live with purpose and confidence, embrace fear to help overcome obstacles and encourage the role of leadership. My message is simple: Think Big, Dream Bigger. Go climb ‘Your’ Everest.
What advice do you have for women and girls
Back Yourself. Some people say you can't or you shouldn't, some say it's impossible 'for someone like you', because you're a woman. Wrong. Recently I met a woman whose dream to climb Everest was not acceptable in her culture because she’s female. Her passion, however, is a powerful driving force against all the odds. Being passionate is key. Women are fantastic endurance athletes because we’ve kind of had that built into us. I think we’re incredibly tough creatures. Being the only women in an all male team of climbers on Everest was, at times, very challenging and feelings of isolation were often present. I feel strongly about the capability, yet lack of women on the mountain. I have found the higher the mountains go, generally the less women are on them. I am only too happy to champion the endurance potential of women.
What adventure have you got planned next?
Aside from adventure, I am passionate about sustainability, design and conservation.
During studying for a MA in Sustainable Design, I founded my multi-award-winning campaign ‘How Many Elephants’ which presents a physical commentary on the devastating impact of the elephant ivory trade.
Few people know that 96 elephants are poached each day in Africa and, at this rate, they will be extinct by 2025. To situate this in a broader context, exotic and rare animal parts have been fetishized by humans as luxurious, highly prized and valued possessions for hundreds of years. This script needs rewriting.
Following the ivory trade ban in 1989, poaching has rocketed as a result of the rising demand in China. A recent survey carried out by the International Fund for Animal Welfare revealed that 70% of China do not know that ivory is predominantly the product of a poached elephant. The Chinese word for ivory literally translates to tooth. This is a stark reminder that greater awareness and education is needed.
‘How Many Elephants’ seeks to unite, educate and inspire global change. Part of the originality of this campaign is in my approach to avoid gruesome and shocking imagery to portray the facts. It is not about scaring people, it’s about sharing the enormity of the poaching crisis. Read more at www.howmanyelephants.com
I am raising funds through my adventures and public speaking for ‘How Many Elephants’ to donate to the Black Mamba Anti-Poaching Unit, the first of its kind in that the majority of the teams are women. They work on the boundaries of Balule and the Greater Kruger Park in South Africa. Their main objective is the protection of wildlife but they also strive to create a strong bond and educate their local communities to the benefits of saving their natural heritage. This charity relies solely on funding and I want to help support the work of these brave and courageous women."