Fanshawe Student Summits Mount Everest
Fanshawe student Laura Mallory is the youngest Canadian female to summit Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world. Mallory, a Fanshawe Collaborative Nursing program student, is 20 years old.
Laura Mallory displays Fanshawe's flag with Mount Everest in the background
Laura's achievement is part of the latest adventure for a family that has spent the past five years traveling the world to climb its highest peaks. It's a hobby they enjoy together: in 2001, Mallory's father and brother flew to Argentina to scale Mount Aconcagua - at 6,962 metres, it's the highest mountain in South America. A family quest was thus launched to climb the Seven Summits and reach the highest peak of every continent. To date, various members of the family have reached six of the seven peaks, including Mount McKinley in Alaska and Mount Kosciuszko in Australia. Mallory climbed Russia's Mount Elbrus and Tanzania's Mount Kilimanjaro, both in 2006.
The Everest trek began on April 5, 2008. Mallory and her parents, Dan and Barbara, and two brothers, Adam and Alan, flew to Kathmandu, Nepal, to begin a series of pre-climbs in preparation for the ultimate scale to the top. Preparing their bodies for the altitude, allowing for acclimatization, is significant considering Everest's peak sits at 8,848 metres. Also significant is the fact that of the 11,000 attempts to reach the summit, only 3,000 have been successful. "It's tough physically," Mallory explains, "but there is an incredible rush when you reach the summit. It's the greatest feeling in the world."
Sadly, Mallory's mother suffered an Achilles tendon injury on one of the acclimatization climbs and had to return to Canada.
Following three pre-climbs from base camp to Camp I, II and III respectively, the family embarked on their final summit attempt. Due to illness, Mallory opted for an extra day of rest at Camp IV while her father and two brothers began their final ascent at 8:30 p.m., May 25, traveling through the night to reach the summit at 8:15 the following morning. Mallory left at 7:00 p.m. the same day her family reached the summit, similarly traveling through the night and reaching the peak at 9:30 the following morning, May 27.
Late that day, thoughts turned to Laura, as her father and brothers had expected to hear from her and her accompanying Sherpa guide: "We tried to reach [Laura] all day by radio and [there was] no word," says Mallory's father. "We were quite worried - Many at base camp were praying and lighting incense and burning juniper for their safe return." Fortunately, it turned out to be the radio: "It was a big relief when we heard from [Laura] mid-afternoon and learned of their inability to communicate. We didn't realize that the batteries weren't functioning."
As her father recalls, there were several daunting moments this trip: "Laura and I watching as boulders whipped by - the safety rope breaking at Camp III where a slip would send you off." But the worst was not hearing from his daughter: "If there had been a fall or some other injury or incident, a rescue attempt would have been almost impossible. We could not have gone back up to look for her - no planes or helicopters would have been able to make the rescue ... Even if we had the strength, we needed to find oxygen and it was not readily available."
Laura Mallory with her father, Dan Mallory, and brothers Adam (left) and Alan (right)
Team Mallory reunited at base camp to finish their descent together. "We descended in 3 days, it normally takes 9 or 10 to ascend," explains Mallory's father. "We were completely exhausted."
Over 200 climbers have died in their attempt to reach Mount Everest's summit, and 54 who successfully made it up did not make it down again.
So how does one train for an endeavour of this magnitude? Mallory explains it as more of a lifestyle than a workout: "We have a cottage up north where we hunt and go canoeing together. I love running, biking, snowmobiling, skiing - snowboarding." However in the months leading up to the trip , Laura admits to "... training in the gym every second [she] had."
The family returned from their adventure to their home in Barrie on June 9. They have only Antarctica's Mount Vinson left to conquer.
As for future aspirations, Mallory is contemplating one day conquering the Seven Summits herself, to support charity and medical research. In the meantime, she has two more years of school, where she's working towards her ultimate objective: "As a nurse, I think I would be able to achieve my lifelong goal ... helping people live happier, healthier lives."
On motivation, Mallory speaks to the sense of accomplishment that comes from pushing limits, inspiring others to challenge themselves despite preconceived notions. "It's important for people to know they can accomplish things at any age. It doesn't matter what you look like or how old you are - nothing is impossible."