Kristin Harila is a former cross-country skier from Norway. She’s new to mountaineering but has already broken climbing records. In the spring of 2022, she summited six 8,000+ meter peaks in 29 days, breaking the speed record set three years ago by Nimral “Nims” Purja, a member of the Global Rescue Mountain Advisory Council. We caught up with Harila a few days before her trip to the Himalaya where she will attempt to summit the remaining three peaks by November 3rd to beat another record set by Nims.
Q: Why do you want to break climbing records?
Harila: The records are important to show that women are just as capable as men when it comes to mountaineering. For me personally, not so important.
Q: How do women compare to men when it comes to mountaineering 8,000+ meter mountains?
Harila: I think we are just as capable as men, no difference there. I am faster than most people and I am carrying just as much, if not more, than others. Women have a tendency to let men go first in the tracks, even though some of us are faster and have to queue higher up with the male group who can’t keep up with us. Some expedition companies treat their male customers with more respect than women.
Q: Who are the Sherpas you climb with and what is your relationship with them?
Harila: Pasdawa Sherpa and is uncle Dawa Ongju Sherpa. I climbed with Pasdawa last year when summiting Everest. They are like a family for me.
Q: What have you learned about yourself during your most recent climbs?
Harila: You can always do more, even after ten hours in deep snow, you still can go on for 15 hours.
Q: Have you ever decided to turn back before summiting? What was your decision-making process?
Harila: No, but sometimes, when we were looking for the ropes in total darkness, I began thinking that maybe it is a better idea to return to camp, resting and waiting for daylight to try again.
Q: Will you attempt to repeat your accomplishments without the use of supplemental oxygen?
Harila: No. Some sherpas could probably do all 14 peaks without, but I am never going to try.
Q: What are your next speed climbing goals?
Harila: I am considering to go Everest/Lhotse/Nuptse next year. It is supposed to be very difficult.
Q: What was the biggest challenge you faced on your recent summits?
Harila: Logistics are much harder in Pakistan compared to Nepal. In Nepal, it is much easier to get from basecamp to basecamp with cheaper and easier access to helicopters. We had to be careful because of falling of rocks, even small rock falls can be fatal. I was hit by a rock in my thigh near Nanga Parbat basecamp, crushing my phone, leaving me limping for several days.
Q: What was easier than you thought it would be?
Harila: K2 was easier than expected. Good tracks all the way, we went fast – if I knew it was going to be so easy, I could have tried without oxygen.
Q: Why are you a Global Rescue member? Does the medical emergency evacuation protection give you peace of mind?
Harila: I did choose Global Rescue even before I joined the team. It is the best membership for mountaineers. I know if I should need assistance, I am confident that Global Rescue will give all the help possible.
Q: What mistakes do mountaineers make when attempting to summit 8,000+ meter mountains?
Harila: Many underestimate the physical and mental challenges. It is surprisingly hard and demanding.
Q: Do you believe an authentic summit means returning to base camp without a helicopter evacuation?
Harila: Well, in principle, yes. But you should not hesitate to be evacuated by helicopter if you are in trouble after summiting. It is more important to save your life and limbs.
Q: Do you have a music playlist that inspires you on summit day?
Harila: Yes. Usually Norwegian music, like Halvdan Sivertsen and Sondre Justad. Quiet and easy listening pop music.
Q: Did you have mountaineers who inspired you when you were growing up?
Harila: No, I did not know about any mountaineers when I grew up, maybe Cecilie Skog when I was a little older, she is well-known in Norway.
Q: You’re an inspiration to kids, and especially girls, worldwide. What would you say to that little girl who’s with her parents struggling up the trail of a mountain that’s maybe a little bit too big for her?
Harila: Keep climbing, you will do it!
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