Edurne Pasaban is the first woman to have climbed all 14 of the world’s highest summits. Now she designs a collection for women getting on top of it all, defying both the odds and the elements. Discover gear that fits the everyday explorer, from innovative soft shells to protective insulation layers and QuadFusion™ technology. The urban adventure starts here.
If googling Edurne Pasaban it’s quite tempting to just begin with the question “Why?!” Her achievements above 8000 meters are extremely impressive and ground-breaking, but also very intimidating in many ways. The ratio between fatalities and successful summit attempts on K2 is around one to four, on Annapurna even higher. And then there are twelve other peaks above 8000 meters you need to become friends with if you want to be the first women in the world to climb them all. So: Why?!
- Ha ha. Why… It just came natural. When I started climbing 8000 meter peaks, I never thought about that. I started to climb them because I wanted to. Because my character is like that. Because my body and mind are made for high altitudes. But when I climbed Broad Peak in 2007, my ninth 8000 meter peak, I decided that I would give it a go on them all. It was never that important to me that I might be the first woman to accomplish this. The “competition” was more of a tool to get financial support to do what I love. Before 2007, I got supported for my expeditions, but the rest nine to ten months every year I worked as a waitress to pay my bills. But the most important goal was in my own mind, for myself.
Edurne started climbing at age 14. Not because she was drawn to the sport, but because she and her friend were interested in a boy in the local climbing club. One year later, Edurne’s focus had changed from cute boys to bigger mountains, and she made her first trip to the Alps, climbing Mt Blanc together with five friends. At 18, she made her first trip to the Andes, climbing 6000 meter peaks, and in 1998 she sat foot in the Himalayas for the first time.
In Basque country, we are very competitive, and since one person from the neighbouring village had climbed an 8000 meter peak, but no one from our village, we had to go. On our first attempt we reached 7500 meters, and a couple of years later we stood at the top of Mt Everest.
When talking to Edurne, it’s obvious that she’s always been driven by a natural force, not any motives to make a career as a climber or become rich and famous. It’s clear when she talks about her idols or her own responsibility as a role model.
- I didn’t really have any idols, but have been lucky to be surrounded by good people. Not famous, but very skilled climbers. They were my heroes. And it still feels strange that I’m mentioned in school books, and that people write to me and ask for advice. I think it’s hard for me to tell anyone else what to do. I have just followed my heart, and my heart told me to climb high mountains. So I guess that’s the best advice I can give young people who want to start climbing – don’t think so much. Just go.
After just going for ten years, Edurne became the first women to climb all 8000 meter peaks in the world. And at the same time was filled with a big emptiness.
After working towards a big personal goal for that long, it’s hard to re-charge you batteries immediately. And not easy to come up with new goals. There are no 9000 meter peaks. But slowly I found other things, both inside and outside my mountaineering, that started interesting me. I’ve founded Kabi Travels, which gives me the opportunity to show my home mountains to a bigger crowd. Spain might be more known for their beaches, so I really love how surprised people get when they discover how dramatic and beautiful the surroundings in this area are.
But Edurne still has ties to the Himalayas, not only as plans for future expeditions, but also as her non-profit organization Edurne Pasaban Mountaineers for the Himalayas are working to give back to the areas that has given her so much. Financing schools and hostels, the organization’s most important work is “...to join forces to confront one of the most basic and urgent needs of the populations of the Himalayas: the right to education.” But soon Edurne will have to care for Spanish children too, or at least one, as she’s about to become a mother. So how will that affect her life?
- I’ve always been worried that having children would affect my life and climbing in a negative way. But now I call my baby the 15th 8000 meter peak, as it’s a new adventure. I will raise it in a happy way, and we will spend a lot of time together in the mountains. If my child wants to be a climber, that’s all good. If not, that’s all good too. But I think that… since it has the same blood as me, it will be a mountain person.
Many parents are finding it hard to continue their old lives after becoming parents, but with the right mindset it doesn’t have to be that way.
- If you look for problems, you will find them. But if you look for solutions, they are there. Obviously I don’t want to travel in the same way as when I did my 14 peaks, but there are small adventures you can do every day. And my mind haven’t left the Himalayas completely – there are still valleys and mountains where very few or no persons have ever been. It’s hard not to make any plans when you know that…
What the future holds for Edurne we will soon discover, but with “a body and mind made for high altitude” it’s probably hard to stay away from the mountains when they are calling.