I first heard of Wendy Booker on May 5, 2008, when Charles Osgood's "Sunday Morning" show ran an extensive feature on her. Took a few notes and added two of her web sites to my "Ideas for future posts" folder, which I checked back with every couple of weeks or so to see what was happening.
Lately, I've been checking much more often because she's supposed to either be in Nepal or on her way there right now to gather all of her Sherpas* together, register her climbing expedition party, and begin the acclimatization and rigorous training necessary to make a successful ascent of Mount Everest, #7 and the last in her quest to reach the summit of the highest mountain on every continent.
This will be her third visit to Nepal. The first was last spring, when her party traveled there to train for and then climb Mount Cho Oyu in a sort of 'practice run' for Everest. Cho Oyu (26,900') is located in Tibet, approximately 18 miles west of Mount Everest in the Himalayas. That trip was cut short when Wendy succumbed to some sort of illness, which at first was thought to be appendicitis, was helicoptered off of the mountain and then returned to the States.
Wendy and her party returned to Nepal last August - after the Olympics, only to discover that they would not now be given the necessary official permits to climb Cho Oyu. She writes in this post (8/31/08) of her frustration and uncertainty as to which mountain - or indeed, even in which country their expedition would be allowed to proceed.
The very next day, however, she optimistically writes here about their arrival in Kathmandu and registering their climbing expedition party. On September 4th, she reported on her blog site that they received news the Chinese would allow Brooke (her climbing partner) and her into Tibet but not their Sherpas.
Wendy decided they didn't want to try and climb in the Himalayas without their beloved Sherpas, and so another mountain was designated - Baruntse (23,389') in Nepal.
The only real drawback with this site, as I understand it, is that training with oxygen masks is not required - as it would be for Mount Everest @ 29,029'.
So, what has she been doing since ascending Mount Koscuiszko (Australia) in November? Well, in January she was in Oregon, training for the Khumbu ice of Everest. You can read about that training here.
In February, she was (supposedly) at Mt. Ixta in Mexico, although she didn't post anything on her blog site about her training or experiences there.
Why am I so interested in and intrigued by Wendy Booker?? Good question. Three reasons ... 1) She's a woman. 2) She's in her 50's. 3) She has multiple sclerosis.
She has successfully scaled six of the seven highest mountains on each continent ... only Mount Everest remains, the highest ... ... ...
In 2004, Wendy managed to reach the summit of 20,320' Mt. McKinley - also known as Denali - on her second attempt, thus going on record as the only woman living with MS to conquer McKinley.
Since then, she has successfully ascended Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa (2005), Mt. Elbrus in Russia (2006), Mt. Aconcagua in Argentina (2007), and Mts. Vinson Massif in Antarctica and Koscuiszko in Australia (2008).
What in the world might have inspired Wendy to aspire to such a thing?? Another very good question! In March of 2008, in this post, she talks a bit about her 87-year old mother who purchased a computer for the very first time and says she has to look no further than her own mother for inspiration. She writes, "How wonderful to still have an adventure around the next corner even well into your eighties. I hope I too never stop learning because if we stop learning we stop growing. I want to grow forever just like my mother."
I am somewhat uneasily awaiting news. There could have been airport delays and whatnot - things beyond our (or Wendy's) control. But still, I'm a touch anxious to see another post soon from Wendy telling us all what is currently going on.
*Would you like more information about Sherpas? Wiki has a bunch of good info for you, and Wendy's post in October, where she wrote extensively about Sherpas here should be helpful, as well -- particularly as she tells us all from her own perspective how much each one contributes to the success (or failure) of each mission.