Edurne Pasaban: What I’ve Learned

42, Basque, first woman to summit all 14 8,000-meter peaks, author of Tilting at Mountains, owner of Kabi Adventure Travel

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Edurne Pasaban. Photo: Joachim Stark.

It is not easy to describe my life, the sensation, after I finished all 14 8,000-meter peaks. I was scared of falling into a black hole. What was I going to do after climbing all those mountains for so many years? It hasn’t been easy. It is very difficult to find things that motivate you as much as climbing did for me. I have been able to keep enjoying the mountains these last few years, and my goal is to turn the thing that one day became my job back into just being a hobby.


[On initially conceding the 8,000-meter quest to the Korean climber Oh Eun-Sun] It was a difficult moment, and it wasn’t good for me or Miss Oh and especially not for the world of female climbers. Finishing something this big with so much dispute is a horrible way to finish a dream.


[On winning the distinction following an official inquiry] Yes, if we are all being honest, who doesn’t want to be the first in something. … I was very excited, especially because one day in my life I decided that I wanted to climb mountains, and because of this I have had to give up many things along the road.


Dhaulagiri took me three times. After K2 [in 2004], I had frostbite and lost two toes. I needed to start again with training to walk, start again with my life. My life changed after K2.


Sometimes we ask ourselves if everything we are doing is worth it. For me, the most difficult thing was leaving my friends and family behind. I was also very much aware that if I wanted to climb all 14 8,000-meter peaks I could not have my own family. Those questions put me into a depression [in 2005-2006], and I doubted if climbing mountains was the way to go for me, and if it was what I wanted to do. My biggest and most difficult 8,000-meter was getting out of this depression. I spent four months in the hospital.


You need to understand that you are ill and also to ask for help. You accept that you are sick, and you realize … what gives you meaning in life enough though it might be very different than that of the people around you.


If somebody asks if I would want to change my life, I say no. Maybe after 2006, yes. But now now. I feel free in the mountains.


I don’t regret any moment. If i was reborn, I would like to do everything the same.


We started a foundation [Edurne Pasaban Mountaineers for the Himalayas, a branch of Mountaineers for the Himalayas]10 years ago, and we dedicate ourselves to education for children. … We have 113 children that are being sponsored and have the possibility to go to school and later on to university. Afterthe [April 25] earthquake, the foundation has also been very active in providing food to many small towns that are difficult to access. We also have to rebuild five schools in five different villages.


I would love to find a balance between what I am passionate about, the mountains and my work. But most of all I want to be happy. Sometimes I think that it is very difficult to be happy, or we make it very difficult to be happy, but in the end we only have one life, and I realize we should enjoy every day of it.

This article appeared in Rock and Ice issue 229 (October 2015).

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