It's not very often that you meet an 8th grader with a mountaineering resume like Elliot Singer's. She's bagged Adams, Rainier, Long's Peak and Whitney. She's trekked to Everest Basecamp, skied in Greenland and passed her AIARE 2 certification. And just a few weeks ago, she ventured back to the Himalayas for a true, high-mountain expedition: six weeks climbing 7,000 meter peaks (Lobuche, Island, and Kyajo Ri). But it's not Elliot's resume that impressed us most and made us want to get to know her better. It's her ability to express herself, her beautiful, descriptive writing (which requires virtually NO editing!), and her calm courage in the face of the unknown. That writing is showcased in this piece she wrote for us prior to her departure, as well as the blog she's keeping throughout her trip: elliotataltitude.com. Give her a read, and be prepared to be inspired.
When people think of a high altitude mountaineer, they might think of bulked up, grizzly men with beards and a grim stare, eking it out in all the most tortuous conditions imaginable. Or, they see the sleek alpinist, tall and lean, decked out in sponsor gear overflowing with logos. Or, if they are especially creative, the side-of-the road vagabond with a cigarette hanging out of the side of their mouth and a frayed rope on their back will come to mind. But whatever they are picturing, it is almost definitely not me. I weigh in at around 100 pounds, and haven't reached five feet yet. I still can't reach the top shelf without standing on a chair, and it's only been about 10 years since I was in diapers.
Let me introduce myself. My name is Elliot Singer and I am a 13-year old girl from San Francisco. As you read this, I will be traveling through the Khumbu region of Nepal with professional athlete Melissa Arnot for my first legitimate expedition. Melissa has been mentoring me for about a year now, starting last August when we traveled to her home-field of Washington for my first glacier experience. After a fantastic trip including a 20-hour ascent of Mt. Rainier, we began to plan an ambitious adventure for this coming spring.
One of our goals is to summit multiple 7,000 meter peaks over the course of the trip, but the primary purpose is for me to experience life, expedition-style. Beyond being an unbelievable athlete, Melissa is also a fantastic role model for young people, and the relationship we have forged in less than a year has taught me measures about perseverance, clarity, and humility.
The high Himalaya is a rough place, no doubt. So starting in late November, I underwent a 16-week training program to prepare myself. Squats, box jumps, core, sprinting, lifting, I did it all. Multiple times a week I would get up at 5 in the morning to complete a workout before school, because I had soccer later that night. The other thing I had to prepare for before leaving was my school work. Although my teachers thought I was a bit crazy at first, they quickly came around and helped me organize the work I would take on my trip, as well as tutoring so that I could get ahead on the schoolwork before I left.
I am beyond psyched, but also a bit terrified. The Khumbu is a dangerous place, no getting around it. I will be leaving most of my friends and family behind for two months to follow my passion of mountaineering. Thoughts often pass through my head at night, fearing the worst. But I try to put that aside. I am going with a team I fully trust, and have prepared myself for the trip the best I know how. Now all there is left to do is climb.
Follow Elliot’s journey on her blog: www.elliotataltitude.com