She’s ready to make history.
With her high-tech gear packed, passport in hand and enough good-luck messages to fill a book, Dr. TA Loeffler sets off on the trip of a lifetime later this week, one that’ll take her to the other side of the world and – hopefully – straight up the South Col route of the world’s highest mountain.
After months of preparation, fundraising and physical and mental training, Dr. Loeffler, a professor in the School of Human Kinetics and Recreation, leaves St. John’s on March 17 bound for Mount Everest, located on the border between Nepal and Tibet. It’ll take her two weeks to make her way to base camp and six to eight weeks to climb Everest. If all goes well, she’ll return to this province in early June.
It’ll be a gruelling and intense trip that only a select few of the world’s best climbers have ever accomplished. If she reaches the top, she’ll likely be the first person from Memorial and this province ever to do so.
“To me it’s a success that I’m going,” she said just days before leaving for her trek. “It’s not about the top – though that’s gravy. It’s about the journey and the learning that comes with every step. As an outdoor educator this climb allows me to have a performance like my colleagues in the School of Music. This is my Carnegie Hall.”
The trip, though, is one of the most dangerous – and expensive – Dr. Loeffler has ever prepared for. Everest, which is 29,028 feet (8,848 metres) above sea level, has a five per cent death rate and is not for the faint of heart. More than a decade ago, 15 people died while trying to reach its summit making that year the deadliest year ever in the mountain’s history.
Add to the equation extreme temperatures which can plunge so low that any body part exposed to the elements is subject to almost immediate frostbite, as well as falling ice, high winds, and the effects of high altitude, this is no ordinary climb for the veteran outdoor educator.
Nonetheless, Dr. Loeffler, who trained 15-20 hours a week for the trip by doing step aerobics with a backpack, weightlifting, pilates, hockey, hypoxic running, yoga and meditation, is taking the journey in stride.
“I have worked hard to develop a high level of fitness and skill that I hope will help keep me safe, but there are no guarantees,” she said. “I have learned to work with my fear and use it to practice good hazard management. All said though, I am both excited and scared.”
The voyage to Everest and back is costing Dr. Loeffler $60,000. Thanks to the generosity of faculty, staff and students at the university, as well as donations from the outside community and a couple of corporations, she has been able to fundraise close to $30,000.
Underscoring her voyage – which she has dubbed Everest 007 – is an important motivational message which Dr. Loeffler has delivered to an amazing 7,500 students from around the province. She wants her journey to inspire people – especially young children – to dream big and meet their goals.
Personally, reaching the top of Everest is part of her aim of climbing the world’s Seven Summits, the highest peaks on each of the seven continents. In the past two years, she has reached the top of Mount Aconcagua – South America’s highest peak – and Mount McKinley – North America’s tallest mountain. She has previously attempted Mount Elbrus, the highest peak in Russia, but fell short of her goal after fierce winds kept her team from reaching the top.
Dr. Loeffler said she’s already making plans for her next voyage.
“I plan to sit on the couch, first,” she said with a laugh. “After some couch time, I’ll see what comes next. At some point, I would like to complete my climbs of Seven Summits. I still need to climb the ‘A’ continents – Antarctica, Africa and Australia. I also want to return to filmmaking and do a post-Everest speaking tour. I suspect Mount Vinson in Antarctica will be my next climb with Kilimanjaro in June of 2008.”
People can follow Dr. Loeffer’s latest expedition on her personal website www.taloeffler.com
. She’ll also post updates to www.myeverest.com. Inspirational messages can be forwarded to firstname.lastname@example.org