Ukrainian woman con­quers 7 high­est moun­tains around globe

Kyiv Post - - Lifestyle - BY DARIA SHULZHENKO [email protected]

Hav­ing lost her home in Donetsk in June 2014 be­cause of Rus­sia’s war on Ukraine, Tetyana Yalovchak, now 38, de­cided to change her life.

She has suc­ceeded, by be­com­ing the first Ukrainian woman to con­quer the seven high­est moun­tains on each of the con­ti­nents of the world, called the Seven Sum­mits. The Na­tional Reg­is­ter of Records of Ukraine on Dec. 18 rec­og­nized Yalovchak as the first Ukrainian woman to climb all of the moun­tains.

Her pas­sion for climb­ing ac­tu­ally be­gan years be­fore the war in Don­bas, but the idea of climb­ing all of the seven high­est peaks of the world came to Yalovchak af­ter she went on vacation in 2014.

“I found out that I had no home any­more; my place, lo­cated close to Donetsk air­port, was de­stroyed,” Yalovchak says. “When I lost ev­ery­thing, I felt the need to re­for­mat my life, I wanted to reach a new level. I knew I had to climb higher.”

The bat­tle of Donetsk Air­port was fought be­tween late May 2014 and Jan­uary 2015, and was one of the blood­i­est and most tragic episodes of Rus­sia’s war on Ukraine in the Don­bas, which in over four years has claimed more than 10,000 lives.

Seven Sum­mits

Yalovchak trekked up her first peak — Machu Pic­chu, Peru, back in 2011. Since then, the climber has climbed nearly 50 peaks all around the globe.

“Ukraini­ans usu­ally chose Carpathian Moun­tains for their first hik­ing trips. I my­self chose Machu Pic­chu in Peru. My friends in­vited me to their wed­ding there, but all I re­ally wanted was to spend a night in a sleep­ing bag. This is how it all started,” Yalovchak says.

Yalovchak started her Seven Sum­mits jour­ney in 2012, climb­ing up the Kil­i­man­jaro peak, the high­est moun­tain in Africa, on March 7. A year af­ter con­quer­ing the first of the world’s seven high­est moun­tains, Yalovchak trekked up the high­est moun­tain in Europe, Mount El­brus, at 5,642 me­ters high. The third moun­tain con­quered was Aconcagua, the 6,960-me­ter-high moun­tain in Ar­gentina, in March 2015.

Yalovchak says that Mount Ever­est in Nepal, the world’s tallest moun­tain at 8,848 me­ters, which was the fourth moun­tain of the Seven Sum­mits she con­quered, was one of the tough­est.

“Ever­est is the high­est peak in the world, and it was the most dif­fi­cult jour­ney. We had to live in a base camp at 5,200 me­ters for 40 days, which is quite dan­ger­ous for hu­man health. When every move­ment takes up to 3–4 sec­onds, there is no ap­petite at all, and thus, the higher you go, the more dif­fi­cult it be­comes,” Yalovchak says. “The only thing that helped me was salo, the tra­di­tional Ukrainian pork dish. I try to take it with me when I go hik­ing.”

Reach­ing the peak of Mount Ever­est on March 26, 2016, Yalovchak be­came the sec­ond Ukrainian woman to con­quer the world’s high-

est moun­tain, af­ter Irina Galay, who reached the top of Ever­est on May 20, 2016. Yalovchak then went on to Mount De­nali, Alaska in June, 2017.

“I con­sider De­nali in Alaska to be the most chal­leng­ing of all the peaks I have ever been to. Although it is not the high­est, only 6,190 me­ters, it is very harsh. I had to carry all my equip­ment by my­self, I had to do ev­ery­thing by my­self,” Yalovchak says. “Due to a storm in Alaska, we had to pro­long the ex­pe­di­tion up to 18 days, in­stead of seven.”

Af­ter Alaska, Yalovchak climbed Mount Kosciuszko in Aus­tralia last Oc­to­ber. The moun­taineer reached the top of Pun­cak Jaya in In­done­sia in Novem­ber, and a month later, Yalovchak reached the peak of the Vin­son Mas­sif, lo­cated in Antarc­tica.

“In Antarc­tica, I felt like I was on an­other planet. When the plane landed on ice, I couldn’t see any­thing. Although we landed at 2 a.m. the sun was shin­ing re­ally bright,” Yalovchak says. “I was afraid I might die in Antarc­tica, as we had three most hor­ri­ble days there, when we stayed in tents in the moun­tains, where the wind gusts at up to 60 me­ters per sec­ond.”

Vin­son Mas­sif was the last of the Seven Sum­mits Yalovchak con­quered. How­ever, she doesn’t like to use the word “con­quer” to de­scribe her as­cents of the moun­tains.

“Up in the moun­tains I re­al­ized how pow­er­ful na­ture was. I never say that I con­quered the moun­tain, I come to visit it, to see its beauty. I al­ways ask the moun­tain to ac­cept me, but then to let me go. It might sound strange, but it is my phi­los­o­phy, and it helps,” Yalovchak says. “More­over, I al­ways carry rush­nyk, a tra­di­tional Ukrainian em­broi­dered towel, that my grandmothe­r made many years ago. It pro­tects me and I think it is very sym­bolic, when a girl from Donetsk, who wants peace in her coun­try, takes a Ukrainian rush­nyk to the high­est peaks of the world.”

Life goals

Even af­ter achiev­ing her goal, Yalovchak had no plans to stop. She set her­self the chal­lenge of the Bospho­rus Cross Con­ti­nen­tal Swim, held in Turkey on July 22. The climber was among 2,500 par­tic­i­pants, and she trained for three months to cross the 6.5 kilo­me­ters strait be­tween Europe and Asia. It took her only an hour-and-a-half, in­stead of the two-and-a-half hours al­lowed.

“I thought, if my plan with the moun­tains was suc­cess­ful, why not try wa­ter? So I did, although I al­most gave up, as the last 200 me­ters were the hard­est and I had to swim against the cur­rent. All these months of prepa­ra­tion were needed only to over­come the cur­rent. In my life I’ve never given up, and I never did,” says Yalovchak.

Yalovchak is now in­vited by many com­pa­nies, schools, or­phan­ages in Ukraine to mo­ti­vate peo­ple by telling her own story.

“Moun­tains make peo­ple stronger, they dis­ci­pline them and help them be­come more punc­tual. This is what peo­ple for­get about when they try to achieve goals,” Yalovchak says. “I never call my­self a pro­fes­sional, I’m an or­di­nary per­son, and I don’t teach peo­ple what they should do, I only show them, with my own ex­am­ple, that de­spite their life cir­cum­stances a per­son can achieve any­thing.”

Tetyana Yalovchak holds a rush­nyk, a tra­di­tional Ukrainian em­broi­dered towel, on the peak of the Vin­son Mas­sif, Antarc­tica, in De­cem­ber. (Cour­tesy)

Tetyana Yalovchak talks to the Kyiv Post at Ma­mamia res­tau­rant in Kyiv, on Aug. 14. (Kostyan­tyn Ch­er­nichkin)

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ukraine

© PressReader. All rights reserved.