Mountaineer, Vanessa O’Brien attempts an Explorer’s Grand Slam after summiting Mount Kilimanjaro
Vanessa O’Brien has been described as a “force of nature,” a fitting name for a woman who has set her sights on summiting the highest peaks on the planet in record-breaking time.
On March 10, Vanessa summited Mount Kilimanjaro with us, which was the final climb of her Seven Summits challenge (the Seven Summits is a mountaineering challenge to reach the highest peaks of each continent). There have been about 50 women in history to have successfully climbed the Seven Summits and Vanessa is the first woman to have done it in the span of 10 months (she smashed the record which was previously held at 12 months.)
Climbing the Seven Summits is an extraordinary accomplishment but Vanessa is aiming for an even loftier goal – the Explorer’s Grand Slam, which includes the Seven Summits plus the two poles. She has already reached the South Pole and plans on reaching the North Pole next month.
*Vanessa climbed mainland Australia’s highest peak, Mount Kosciusko, which was initially on the list of Seven Summits. The highest point in Oceania, however, is New Guinea’s Carstensz Pyramid; a more difficult climb, which replaced Kosciusko as one the Seven Summits in the 1980s. Vanessa covered all the bases and climbed both.
Training, staying healthy and planning the logistics for one major mountain climb is no small task, much less 7+ in rapid succession. When this British-American mountaineer isn’t training near her home on Boston area beaches, where she pulls truck tires through the sand, she’s bagging another summit with no time to waste – she had to make a rapid descent down Mt. McKinley in order to catch her departing flight!
We are proud to have played a part in Vanessa’s expedition; regarding her trek up Mount Kilimanjaro, she commented, “Kilimanjaro is the 4th highest mountain among the Seven Summits. Although one doesn’t need all the alpine equipment to summit Kilimanjaro, as they do for Denali or Elbrus, one must still deploy the discipline of acclimatization to be successful including climbing high, sleeping low over a number of days, drinking plenty of fluids, and eating proper nutrition. Just like any of the other Seven Summits up until one hits the ice, the paths on Kilimanjaro can be steep, uphill, rocky, slippery, muddy and the weather can vary from sunshine to sleet/snow/rain. A climber is a climber and every mountain must be treated with respect.
“Climbing with the Thomson Safaris guides was an absolute pleasure. Prosper and Simon were both extremely knowledgeable about the routes, the wildlife, flora/fauna, the rock and the history of Kilimanjaro. Our group decided to take local Swahili names for our trek/climb and bonded very well with the whole Thomson Safaris’ team from the cook to the porters to Focus, our medical guide that trekked the entire route to the summit with us. We shared a lot of great stories, shot some great video footage, and took some amazing pictures. I couldn’t have wished for a better support team for my ‘7th’ summit!”
What’s next for Vanessa? She reached the South Pole in December and is only two weeks away from meeting her final challenge on the North Pole, which will complete the Explorer’s Grand Slam. Only 13 days and counting until she embarks on the exciting conclusion to this record-breaking expedition.
UPDATE: Vanessa O’Brien reached the North Pole on April 16th!