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Michael : Thank you very much for being with us today – I’m delighted to talk to you and ask you questions about your proposed climb of Everest. Can you kick it off by telling us about yourself?
Ania : Sure. I’m Polish born. I grew up in a medium sized Polish town which is closer to Berlin than it is to Warsaw and I have my first degree from Strtzelin University, which is my town. And in 96 I came to London to study with one bag on the bus – it was a very expensive year for me. It was actually my first experience of raising money for a challenge that I wanted to do, to complete. I graduated from London school of Economics and go t a job in a construction company and I was country manager for Poland for two years – Flying between Warsaw and London all of the time.
And then I was head hunted by GE and I stayed with them for seven years, working in nine different European companies on different projects and initiatives – Six Sigma, Lean, Successful Effectiveness, all sorts roles. And in 2006 I joined UBS in September and came back to London for good. I have my base there now, and I manage change.
Michael : Excellent. And what’s important to you about climbing Everest?
Ania : Climbing Everest is part of a bigger work for me – I’m climbing a peak on every continent – And I have one left so it;s quite a sizeable one. I’m in a culmination state of preparing for the last five years for a challenge like that and I’m raising money for Unicef.
Michael : What sort of dangers are there in climbing Everest?
Ania : Dangers are abundant in this case. It starts with the company that you decide to go with – with your hygiene standards on the mountain, with higher respiratory ways, infections which aren’t very pleasant – almost 80% of people get them, and almost everybody is on antibiotics and there is a hospital set up to deal with those types of problems in base camp.
Crevices, obviously. Khumbu Ice falls, which is the most dangerous part of the mountains, and you have to go through it six times. Then there is living in, and climbing the Death Zone – this is Eight thousand meters where simply your body starts to die because it doesn’t support your bodily functions anymore, so it doesn’t digest food for example – So you really have to survive on muscle mass that you’ve built preparing.
Michael : And how many accidents are there – I hate to ask the direct question.
Ania : The death rate is around 10%.
Michael : That sounds quite a serious –
Ania : Indeed, yes.
Michael : So it’s real. Your life’s in your hands.
Ania : Very real. It’s as real as – people don’t remove bodies necessarily so you actually walk side by side with, or over, dead bodies.
Michael : Moving on form that, is there anything else that you’d like to add about the particular – either the environment of the mountain or the times that you can climb?
Ania : I climb in the easiest possible time, because I think it’s challenging enough. So I’m climbing April-May next year. There are two environments going on when you’re on the mountain. There is what’s outside the tent, mother nature, who you’re in the hands of – The interaction with almighty nature is very profound. And inside the tent you have the people, you have the cooks, you have Shurpas, and you have yourself – so for me there are two environments going on in parallel.
Michael : OK. Moving on from that – Top level – What are some of the behaviors that are essential for you to get to the top and then to get back down again?
Ania : Self discipline. To prepare for the mountain – Doing exercise for twelve months, coming up to the trip. Organizational skills, you have to think through logistics, equipment, packing, food. And mental abilities – Climbing any mountain is really 75% about mental strength and 25% is physical abilities.
Michael : And what sort of preparation do you do? When do you actually start preparation?
Ania : I’ve already started. Fourteen months before the V-Day, so to speak, which for me is the 3rd of April next year. So my physical preparation and exercise I do – I have my personal trainer who helps me achieve the level of fitness I need.
Michael : What sort of things are there in the level of fitness? How do you know how you’re getting on?
Ania : It’s things like how my body is composed between fat and muscle mass. How strong the muscles are. how much they can endure after stress. So my preparation is a little bit of cardiovascular training, a little bit strength training, and a lot of endurance – which involves having a back pack full of water bottles – up to 30 kilos and walking for eight hours over the weekend, for example.
Also, in terms of mental preparation I see myself at the certain stages of the mountain and achieving it. So I do mental forward-imaging, and I can see myself at the base camp – I can see myself at the top of the mountain. I can see myself coming back and hugging people in the airport in the way back.
Michael : Looking at the actual climb itself, looking at getting to the top and getting down again, what are some of the some of the milestones? You’ve talked about how you’ve started preparing a long time in advance, but a little bit more about – take us through the milestones of how to get back.
Ania : As I say, I started preparing seriously at least twelve months before and I had to look at logistics, food, physical/mental preparation, equipment, selection of the company and guide that I will be going with is very important. And then the whole trip, how I’ll be getting to Kathmandu in 2010 and we will all meet. We won’t spend any time in Kathmandu because it’s very dangerous, because that’s where you pick up your stomach bugs or your respiratory infections and stuff – so you want to head off as soon as possible.
First phase is getting to base camp. And base camp is a place on the mountains where there will be two thousand tents up, and it will be home for us for two months. We will have to make sure that we are very comfortable at this level of altitude. It will be 5300 meters approximately.
And then you have four camps on the mountain and then the submit – so some very natural milestones that you have to pass going up. And then the philosophy on the mountain is Walk High, Sleep Low to enable your body to adjust to the altitude, getting as many red blood cells ready as possible to feed your body with as there’s a diminished amount of oxygen on the higher parts of the mountain.
So you get to base camp and then you go to camp one and come back, then go to camp two and come back, then camp three and come back. And then to camp four you only go once – on the summit, on the final day. There are people I remember waiting for two weeks of weather window when the monsoon has changed and their is this clearance of high winds at eight thousand meters, and everybody will be panicking during those two weeks, so it will get a little crowded.
And then on the last day you start on base camp and go straight to camp three, you sleep for two hours and then you go to camp four and sleep another two hours – and then you go to the top. The kind of milestones on the summit day are that you have to get -by sunrise- to the south summit to the very technically difficult bits, which is Knife Edge and the Hillary Step. And when you’re on the top of Hillary Step you know you’ve made it. A half an hour plod to the summit and you can see the summit and people are already there celebrating.
Michael : What do you anticipate that it’s going to be like at the summit? What can you see?
Ania : sunrise at the summit is very short, so you don’t have much time to settle down and appreciate – And obviously because you’re so deprived of sleep, energy and oxygen you don’t want to spend a lot of time there. So you take your pictures in panorama, and an old cry, probably, from emotions and having achieved what you have achieved – and then you have to turn around and go down. Because 70% of accidents happen on the way down, because the adrenaline is gone, the motivation of getting to the summit is gone and you’re so tired that the smallest mistake may be fatal.
And because everybody is on there own there is no ropes. People are not roped together. You are really responsible, fully, for every step on the way.
Michael : And the reason people aren’t roped?
Ania : It’s such a demanding climb that if you have a weaker person and a stronger person, the weaker person would endanger the life of the stronger person. So it’s absolutely an individual trip for everybody. And then obviously – My plan is to come down form the summit to Camp Two, which is quite a comfortable camp – have a good rest and then come back down to the base camp, and only then can I celebrate.
Michael : In NLP we talk quite a bit about states – states of mind, states of body – what are some of the useful states that will help you, and that are useful for you to access?
Ania : Definitely now is the perseverance of sticking to the routine that I have defined for myself in preparation for the climb. And then 35% of the struggle on the mountain is your mind and it’s tricking you that it can’t go any more and that it’s too difficult – and you need to tell your mind ‘No it’s not, I can do this.’ So determination will be very useful.
Also, being at peace with potential failure. Meaning that because this trip is very expensive, and it needs a long time to prepare for- Even if I don’t achieve the goal, IE the summit, I need to be at peace with myself to make wise decisions in dangerous situations. So I will take as much from the experience as I will possibly be able to and it will be fine not to get to the summit.
Michael : What do you believe about yourself, your team, and the mountain?
Ania : I will start with the mountain. I believe that every mountain has a spirit which either looks after the climbers if they look after and handle themselves enough – and are able to communicate with it – or it will push you a little bit and test you if you’re not. So as I said, I’m very humbled by nature and I try to live in harmony with it, so I will have a safe passage so to speak. And I like the company that I’m going with, Mountain Trip from America because they have a lot of respect for mountains, and they’re very passionate about getting people up mountains. And we do it in a very pristine way, in a very respectful manner to the way of the mountains, nature and the environment.
About the team – You always have two parts to the team. There are guides, Sherpas, who can save your life, so you have to make sure you’ve made the right choice of who to go with and the whole interaction of them. You have to trust the captain, who is the lead guy so to speak – He has been there, in our case, four times and he has climbed four times times to the top. And he will be the ultimate person to decide, even if you’re not fit to keep going, so he will tell you to turn around to save your life.
And then the teammates, the other climbers – I’m very excited about next year because partially, I’ve climbed with both people already. So I know how strong they are, what are the weakest points and we’ll have so much fun. Because you’ll be spending two months with them it’s very important that you know who you’re going with.
Michael : And yourself, what do you believe about yourself?
Ania : I’ve been readying myself for this challenge for four years now – it has never been my ambition to climb everest, it had never been on the list until 2004 when it formulated as an idea. So it’s quite recent in my life. I believe my job is to make myself ready. If it’s all about fate you can do it. It’s a mind game. In Antarctica I met an Australian who is now a friend of mine, Greg, and for him Everest was always climbable because his uncle did it. For me Everest was never climbable because in Poland only five people have ever done it.
Michael : Does that mean that you’re going to be the sixth?
Ania : Yes. Weather permitting. So this difference between Greg and me with how you face a challenge – for him it was always doable, for me it was never doable. So I’m going to a transition of ‘Yes it is doable for me’ and I’m doing everything I can, climbing other mountains before and preparing for it – So it is climbable.
Yes, I believe that I have to make myself ready for it – mentally as well as physically. And keep that faith.
Michael : Moving on from that. Do you have a mission or vision? Who are you when you’re climbing that mountain?
Ania : I think that I am at most myself when I am on expeditions and climbing mountains. It gives me an enormous sense of fulfillment and ability to meditate about myself. Because you are free from the distractions of your world, IE your work, your parents, family problems, anything. You are with yourself, so you have the ability and chance to look deeply in yourself, and develop yourself as a person. So I take those expeditions as a chance to work on my character – To really analyze how I was, who I am, and who I want to be, and work on that. In terms of personal life as well as professional life. I develop my leadership skills, I believe, being on the mountain, being with other people and helping them succeed.
Michael : Maybe a strange question, but I’m fascinated by your answer – If you were to describe your relationship with Everest as a metaphor, how would you describe it.
Ania : Every mountain to date, it’s a power. It’s a magnificently energetic place on earth. And I can feel it, about four thousand meters I can feel it, with cosmic energy or something, and it’s very powerful. I do have enormous respect for the mountain. And people call Kilimanjaro ‘Kili’, and I only call it ‘Kili’ went I got safely back down. The same with Mont McKinley and Denali – I’ve never called it Denali before I actually got safely back from it. So in way I see it a little bit like a teacher and mentor relationship.
Michael : The mountain is the mentor?
Ania : I’m not that got yet – to mentor Everest. Because it gives me chances to reflect on myself. And you get instant feedback, by the way. Nature is ruthless. An it will wobble. If you tune into preceding signals, it will wobble you somewhere, if your personal integrity isnt there.
Michael : Thanks for sharing that. As we come to the end of this discussion, is there anything that you would like to add because it’s important and we haven’t covered it, or emphasize because you think that it’s important and worth reemphasizing?
Ania : It cost me a lot of effort and preparation to do these expeditions, and what’s in it for others, so to speak – I’m raising money for Unicef and a Polish home orphanage, which is going quite well. I’m preparing other people ot climb their own mountains – physical, and also not physical. So I coach other people to achieve their goals in life. And I share my experience in public speaking events and I tune them to the audience or a topic. It’s all about sharing the experiences, and taking other people on the journey, so to speak.
Michael : Thank for describing what you’re about. As we come to the end, is there anything that you’d like to plug, or that you’d like our listeners to at least be aware of.
Ania : Yes please. This trip is very expensive. It will cost me Sixty Two thousand dollars to go and have a chance to climb. And obviously I’m raising money for it – so if anyone is interested in supporting me personally, either by sponsoring me for equipment or a flight ticket or paying little amounts of money, please contact me at my email address which is [email protected] Ania’s website is: http://www.ania-lichota.info/
Michael : OK. Thank you very much indeed.
Ania : Thanks a lot.
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