EDMOND — Reaching the summit of Mount Everest is probably the most irresistible and monumental dare known to climbers, and an Edmond woman will soon be one of the few adventurers to take that dare.
Valari Wedel will venture in March to Asia and the Himalayan mountain range. The quest is dangerous, expensive and one that Wedel anxiously awaits.
“I had decided it was time for me to pursue this dream,” she said.
On the surface, Wedel doesn't appear to be the run of the mill international mountain tamer. At 52, she's on the upper age limit of people who attempt to scale the world's tallest mountain of 29,029 feet.
And the married mother of three adult daughters didn't even take up climbing until 10 years ago.
She'll be setting out on the trek with International Mountain Guides, a professional guide company that handles expeditions including Mount Everest.
“I only made the decision to do this about six months ago,” she said. “This was the right time.”
Climbers need weeks to acclimate to the conditions. There are climbs between various camps and elevations below the summit as climbers get used to the thinner air before making the final push.
Her husband, Greg, will accompany her to the base camp. From there, they will part and she'll be finishing the trek with the group, which likely will number between 12 and 20 people. Among those will be the Sherpas, the famed ethnic group of Nepal, who are acclimated to the Everest's high altitudes and routinely accompany mountain expeditions.
If all goes right, Wedel will get her chance to climb Everest the first or second week of May, in what is the small window of weather opportunity given to summit seekers.
The last few hundred feet are probably the most dangerous, with climbers needing oxygen and pushing their bodies to the maximum. Sometimes the sheer numbers of other mountaineers can be dangerous. A human logjam going up Everest leads to delays that can exhaust the energy and oxygen of those waiting.
It's estimated dozens of bodies line the route, would-be Everest tamers who died along the way. Retrieving the bodies isn't possible. How will the Edmond Memorial graduate react to seeing the fallen climbers?
“I'd like to think I can handle it, but then again I won't really know until I get up there,” she said.
“You don't even attempt something like this thinking the worst.”
She's climbed other peaks, including Cho Oyu in the Himalayas in 2010, and in 2005 Mount McKinley or Denali in Alaska with an altitude of just over 20,000 feet.
“I do a lot of running, biking, lifting and yoga,” she said.
She burns a lot of calories and will burn even more on the trail up Everest. While most people use the new year to lose weight, Wedel needs to put on pounds. She'll need the extra weight for the push on Everest.
“I'd like to gain another 15-20 pounds, but have only added six so far,” she said.
Her 4,000 calorie a day regimen includes three 850-calorie shakes a day. If she still hasn't gained weight closer to her March 23 departure, she has a plan B.
“I'll be going to the fast-food restaurants quite a bit,” she said.
Conquering the famous peak isn't going to be an annual event. This will be a one-time shot for Wedel. Oklahomans achieving the feat are rare.
In 2007, Dr. Douglas Beall, of Oklahoma City, who worked in Edmond at the time, completed the quest. He said he was the first registered Oklahoman to climb Everest. Another reason for the rarity of the climb could be the cost. Guide companies can charge $40,000 and more for the various expertise and permits required.
Women routinely make the climb, although the first woman to scale Everest didn't accomplish the feat until just 20 years after Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay became the first to reach the summit in May 1953.
“I think women can have the same stamina and mental toughness to do it,” she said.
If all goes to plan, May 30 will be the return date to Oklahoma. She'll go back to studying nursing at the University of Central Oklahoma, where she's taking the semester off. She'll also always be mom to Colby, 25; Jessie, 24; and Abigail, 20 — a junior at Oklahoma State University.
Wedel places no limits on herself.
“If I could say one thing, it would be that it's never too late to go after your dreams or whatever you want to do,” she said. “I'm going to be a nurse and I'm going to climb Mount Everest and I'm in my 50s.”