Mountaineer Adriana Brownlee reveals to Annabelle Bond what it takes to be the youngest person to summit Dhaulagiri at 21 (2023)

Adriana Brownlee is not your average 21 year old. She has taken life into her own hands, postponed university and is in the middle of a record-breaking quest to become the youngest woman to climb all the 8,000-metre peaks in the world. These are some of the deadliest mountains on the planet where the odds are a statistic that you don’t want to dwell on. The 8,000-metre peak challenge is not for the faint-hearted as we have all seen on her mentor, mountaineer “Nims” Nirmal Purja’s wildly successful Netflix hit show 14 Peaks: Nothing is Impossible.

Brownlee’s climbing ability caught my eye, as having done a little bit of climbing myself I was so impressed someone of her age has the mental ability and drive to take on such a momentous challenge with such high odds. I for a multitude of reasons did not venture into mountaineering until I was 31 years old and can relay first-hand how hard and what grit it takes to do these climbs. She is clearly in very good hands as she is climbing with Elite Exped which is the company set up by Purja, Mingma Gyabu sherpa and Mingma Tenzi Sherpa all of who accompanied Nims and featured in the 14 Peaks record-breaking film.

Mountaineer Adriana Brownlee reveals to Annabelle Bond what it takes to be the youngest person to summit Dhaulagiri at 21 (1)

Annabelle Bond

I caught up with Brownlee the day before she headed back to Kathmandu to continue the second phase of her challenge and asked her a few questions about her life and how this all came to pass. I will be following this dynamic young woman on every climb not without a hint of nostalgia, of course.

When did your love of climbing begin?
The flame was ignited when my father suggested we try the Three Peaks challenge together at age nine. I guess he saw something inside of me before I even knew my own potential. So did we make it? Hell yeah! It took us 22 hours and landed me in the local newspaper as the youngest ever to complete the Three Peaks in under 24 hours. Following this, I was addicted to the adrenaline rush of achieving huge goals and being unique amongst my peers. I continued to pursue my passion for climbing again from age 15, completing the Welsh 3000s, Kilimanjaro, Elbrus, and Aconcagua alongside my dad. At age 20 I summited Mount Everest, but this time it was a different feeling, I was no longer climbing with my dad and although I felt as though a part of my success and celebration was not whole, it was also the beginning of my thriving independence as a strong young female alpinist.

I’m so impressed that you competed in the three peaks challenge at nine years old. Can you tell us what that entailed and how long it took you?
Initially, we actually climbed the Three peaks beginning with Snowdon and supposedly ending with Ben Nevis. However, things didn’t go quite to plan. Following a crucial rookie error of weeing myself before our last climb, my health slowly deteriorated as we battled Ben Nevis. I got hyperthermia about 200 metres from the summit and with about 50 layers of clothing donated from other climbers. Game Over. But there was a positive light to this story – I managed to make the decision myself to go down and sacrifice our last summit. My dad, to this day, never fails to mention how impressive it was that I made such a mature decision at such a young age. Only now do I appreciate how important these types of life-or-death decisions are on 8000m peaks. About two months later, we came back and this time tackled Ben Nevis first. Twenty-two hours later, I was back in the car, too exhausted to even fathom what I had just achieved!

Mountaineer Adriana Brownlee reveals to Annabelle Bond what it takes to be the youngest person to summit Dhaulagiri at 21 (2)

Adriana Brownlee

How did you connect with mountaineer Nims and end up climbing Everest with him? Did he inspire you to switch from the seven summits to climbing all the 8,000-metre peaks?
The first day I met him, I was shaking in awe. What a legend. Following my summits of MountKilimanjaro, Elbrus and Aconcagua, my original plan was to climb Everest with my father with a British company. However, Covid struck, and our expedition got cancelled. I remember receiving the call that Nepal had banned all travel, and I bawled out crying for the remainder of the day. My boyfriend at the time, bless him, tried to console me, but it wasn’t going to happen. I pulled myself together eventually and decided to call Nimsdai. I had been in contact with him just through social media at the time, so it was a long shot, but he answered. Still sobbing, I asked him what his plan was for Everest and whether he would be going in the Autumn season. Now autumn is no joke, It's not the usual climbing season, but I knew I was fit and mentally there. He said 100%. I was already envisaging myself there. However, Covid was relentless, and that also got cancelled. I eventually met up with Nims in Reading slap bang in the middle of my fresher’s week at uni – I had lost at least ¾ of my brain cells at this point! But the biggest part I remember of that meeting was the crazy similarity in our mindset. I think it was for that reason he offered me the opportunity to join him and his Nepali team on K2 Winter. Honestly, at first, I thought it was a joke. But a few months later, I was in Pakistan with Nims and his team. Unbelievable. During that expedition, Nims told me I had to go for the 14 8000-ers. It was in my blood. And so here I am today! Three down, 11 to go.\

What is it like climbing with Nims? How much of a role has he played in your 8,000-metre peak challenge?
Nims has played a huge part in getting me to where I am today. He was essentially my climbing mentor for that whole year. He taught me everything about 8000m peaks, and honestly, I can’t thank him enough for that. His style of leading is definitely military-style– he’s brutal, and if you don’t follow his command, you may as well go home! But it works, and his success rate shows that. This year I won’t be climbing with his expedition company just because they are doing different expeditions to the ones I want. Still, the Elite Exped team will always be my family, especially Gelje Sherpa, who guided me up Everest and Manaslu and has become my best friend and my climbing partner!

When I climbed Everest, I was one of 12 women climbing from both north and south. Can you tell us how many women climbers there are nowadays?
You know this question puts a smile on my face. The female climbing community is growing at such an incredible rate, and it's so awesome to see. When I was on Everest, our team alone had more women than men! And you know what, we absolutely smashed it. Stronger than every guy there, mentally and physically. Of course, there are still more men overall; however, I am so optimistic about how the future looks in female mountaineering. I wouldn’t say that in any way we are seen any differently up there, though. If you think about it, you’re covered head to toe, no one knows really who a guy is and who is a girl, and that’s when you really see that there are 0 differences. It's so cool to see. I think we are also very lucky to be from open and accepting countries; however, I guess there is still some work to do in other parts of the world, but we are getting there!

Mountaineer Adriana Brownlee reveals to Annabelle Bond what it takes to be the youngest person to summit Dhaulagiri at 21 (3)

Adriana Brownlee

What intrigues me is how you had the focus, drive, and determination to be a mountaineer at a young age. It has to be one of the toughest sports. Can you tell us about your teenage mindset and how you combined your passion for climbing and teenage life? Did it keep you on the straight and narrow?
Teenage years where interesting. Once I seriously got back into climbing, I suddenly saw the world in a different light. I was laser-focused on my training and lifestyle that friends and social life became secondary. It wasn’t until my gap year that I realised how much I had ostracised myself, but in a way, I don’t regret it. If I didn’t have that focus back then, I wouldn’t be here today. Friends at the age either understand or don’t, and I soon realised that the few friends that stayed were the real ones. At school, I was certainly motivated to get good grades. However, I was not motivated to study! I think I am blessed with having a photographic memory that serves me wonders an hour before my A Levels exams! Originally my goal was to study medicine; I got the grades, and I had the extracurriculars and work experience to go down that path. But my stubborn minded self knew it wasn’t right. I had an inkling I was destined to do something different, and now I know what that was. I plan to go back to medicine once I climb the 14 peaks. This mindset gets me up and down those mountains and gets me up every morning at 6 am to train 3 hours without fail, or to sit down interview after interview, email after email, to secure sponsorships. Once I have a goal in mind, I make it my absolute life to conquer it.

You are in a position to inspire other teenagers to get out of their comfort zones and go and live their dreams. Will you be speaking at schools and universities between climbs?
Oh definitely! I already do a fair bit here and there, mostly online, but honestly, it’s the most rewarding part of this career. Lighting even the smallest spark inside the youngsters that I talk to is so amazing. I have spoken to kids from age 5 to 18, and every single time, the questions I get are so thought-provoking and pure. My dream of climbing Everest began at age 9; I even wrote it down in one of my homework assignments in year 2, which is now hanging on my wall! This is the age where dreams begin, so being a part of that makes my world!

What made you decide to get your paragliding license?
I decided to go for my paragliding course in Nepal following the K2 winter expedition! Nimsdai told me to enrol and go for it, so I didn’t think twice! I loved the idea of pushing my comfort zone and trying something new, and so now I am a certified paragliding pilot in both Nepal and the UK – pretty insane.

Will you be releasing your version of Nims very successful Netflix hit show14 Peaks: Nothing is Impossible?
Oh, I wish! It would be my dream to be able to release a documentary not necessarily just about the mission, but a story of how I got to this point and my very personal story in Nepal. It’s an idea that’s been rolling around in my thoughts for ages; however, these things don’t come cheap! And so, financing the climbs themselves is a priority. If miraculously I receive aid for filming, consider it a future Grammy-winning documentary. In the meantime, though, my thoughts are being transferred to my I phone notes section, ready for a book.

Mountaineer Adriana Brownlee reveals to Annabelle Bond what it takes to be the youngest person to summit Dhaulagiri at 21 (4)

Adriana Brownlee

Have you had any death-defying moments in any of your climbs?
Dhaulagiri was definitely the closest I’ve been to serious complications. We encountered a storm on our climb from camp 2 to camp 3. Although we knew something was brewing, we didn’t know it would get this bad. Winds of up to 120 kph and a temperature of around -40 degrees Celsius. To call it frightening would be a huge understatement. It felt as though every god from the mountains had collectively struck down their weapons and created a wave of destruction to get us off that mountain. My hands froze solid onto my jumar. I thought I had frostbite on both hands. Nimsdai turned around and investigated my glazed over eyes and screamed at the top of his lungs, still barely able to penetrate the howling wind between us, “if you don’t f****ng move now, you’re going to die” That definitely woke me up. I stupidly left my warm, dry gloves in my backpack instead of in my down suit where I could easily reach them. The storm was too bad. We couldn’t even move enough to get my backpack off. I had to resort to putting my hands in Nimsdai’s armpits, where I suddenly got the most excruciating pain where my nerves were regaining sensation. It felt like a million needles were injecting into my fingers constantly. We made it down to camp 2, white faces in the tent, reminiscing on the events that had just unfolded. There were certainly a few lessons learned there and a lot of frostnips.

You climbed Everest, Manaslu and Dhaulagiri all in one year by the age of 21!! That is quite a feat in itself! What’s the next phase?
Next up is Kanchenjunga, Lhotse and Makalu in spring, followed hopefully by K2 and Broad peak in summer and possibly a winter ascent of Cho Oyu from the Nepali side.

How do your parents cope when sending off their 21-year old daughter on potentially life-threatening expeditions?
My parents are my number one supporter, and without them, I would never have been able to take this leap into the unknown and pursue a far from a normal career in climbing. They believed in me from day dot, but also, of course, they feared my every move. They certainly didn’t sleep whenever I had a summit push approaching, but I think they know deep down that I will be safe if I make the right decisions.

I found sponsorship one of the hardest aspects of my seven summit challenge. How has it been for you?
The chances of finding a company that believes in what you do enough to put a hefty amount of cash in your account are slim to none. However, I did manage to land a sponsorship deal with The North Face, the absolute dream! I am super grateful for this huge opportunity to network with some of the biggest names in mountaineering and wear their pretty snazzy clothing! Sponsorships are all about personal connections and having a story that ignites an interest in the public. These are two things that are difficult but, of course, manageable with hard work and determination.


Mountaineer Adriana Brownlee reveals to Annabelle Bond what it takes to be the youngest person to summit Dhaulagiri at 21? ›

Hell yeah! It took us 22 hours and landed me in the local newspaper as the youngest ever to complete the Three Peaks in under 24 hours. Following this, I was addicted to the adrenaline rush of achieving huge goals and being unique amongst my peers.

Who is the youngest to summit dhaulagiri? ›

Dhaulagiri. The 28-year-old was recently awarded by Guinness World Records for becoming the youngest person to climb two higher 8000ers (Mt. Everest in 2010 and summit Lhotse in May 2011).

Who is the youngest woman to summit Annapurna? ›

KOLHAPUR: 21-year-old Kolhapuri girl Kasturi Savekar has successfully scaled the 10th most difficult eight-thousander, Mt. Annapurna-l (26,545 feets or 8,091mtrs) to become world's youngest women mountaineer to summit Mt. Annapurna-l which is well known for its difficulty and danger involved in its ascent.

How difficult is it to climb Dhaulagiri? ›

Although there are multiple routes up it, Dhaulagiri is a difficult mountain and a technical climb regardless of the route requiring a high level of skill. The standard route for climbing Dhaulagiri is via the North East Ridge and is climbed with 3 camps above basecamp.

Who is the youngest girl to climb mountain? ›

Malavath Poorna (born 10 June 2000) is an Indian mountaineer. On 25 May 2014, Poorna climbed Mount Everest, aged 13 years and 11 months, the youngest Indian and the youngest female to have reached the summit. Purna climbed Mount Elbrus, the highest peak in Russia and Europe on 27 July 2017.

Who is the youngest girl to climb K2? ›

The youngest person to climb Everest and K2 is Adriana Brownlee (UK, b. 8 Jan 2001), who was aged 21 years 202 days when they reached the top of the world's two highest mountains.

Who is the youngest person to climb MT? ›

Jordan Romero

Who is the youngest woman to climb the Seven Summits? ›

They began the Seven Summits by climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in February 2001, when she was 12.
Samantha Larson
Known forMountaineering
Titleyoungest person to have climbed the Seven Summits with both Carstensz and Kosciuszko
6 more rows

What is the most difficult part of climbing Everest? ›

While the summit push may be the hardest day on the mountain, it's far from the scariest part of the route. Most people agree that's the Khumbu Icefall. The Khumbu Icefall consists of layers of gigantic ice blocks that are constantly shifting, creating massive crevasses between them.

What is the most difficult mountain climbing in the world? ›

Read on to learn about—and then maybe dream about—some of the hardest mountains to climb on earth!
  • (1) K2 (28,251 feet)—Pakistan/China. ...
  • (2) Kangchenjunga (28,169 feet)—Nepal/India. ...
  • (3) Nanga Parbat (26,660 feet)—Pakistan. ...
  • (4) Annapurna (26,545 feet)—Nepal. ...
  • (5) Masherbrum (25,660 feet)—Pakistan.
Mar 28, 2022

Where is the hardest climb in the world? ›


What is the hardest female climbs? ›

Redpointed by women. 9b (5.15b): La Planta de Shiva – Villanueva del Rosario (ESP) – October 22, 2017 – First-ever female ascent of a 9b route, by Angela Eiter. Eagle–4 – Saint-Léger-du-Ventoux (FRA) – November 7, 2020 – Second-ever female ascent of a 9b, by Julia Chanourdie.

How many girls climb Everest? ›

As of January 2023: 741 different women have reached the summit of Mount Everest. Where a climber has reached the summit more than once, only her first summit date is listed; her total number of summits is listed after her name in brackets.

What is the hardest climb climbed by a woman? ›

Laura Rogora Sends 'Erebor' 5.15b/c (9b/+) in Italy. On October 2, Laura Rogora redpointed “Erebor” 5.15b/c (9b/+) in Arco, Italy. It could be the most difficult sport climbing route ever climbed by a woman, and it's the hardest one Italy has on offer.

Who is the youngest person to summit Island Peak? ›

The oldest person to reach the summit of Everest is Yuichiro Miura (80 yrs old) of Japan in 2013 and the youngest person is Jordan Romero (13 yrs old) of The USA in 2014.

Who is the youngest person to summit? ›

Jordan Romero is the youngest person to climb Mount Everest!

The U.S. native had a successful summit on May 22, 2010, at 13-years-old.

Is Dhaulagiri harder than Everest? ›

K2, Kanchenjunga, Lhotse, Makalu, Dhaulagiri, Nanga Parbat, and Gasherbrum I are all harder than Everest. K2 and Annapurna are generally considered to be the hardest, while Kanchenjunga and Nanga Parbat are not far behind. Gasherbrum I would probably be next hardest.

Who is the youngest Arab to climb Mount Everest? ›

Raha Moharrak (Arabic: رها محرق) (born c. 1986) is the youngest Arab and the first Saudi woman to climb Mount Everest.

Who is the youngest 7 Peaks? ›

At the age of sixteen he became the youngest ever person to complete the Seven Summits Challenge by climbing to the summit of the highest mountain on each of seven continents.
George Atkinson (climber)
George Atkinson
Known forYoungest Briton to climb the Seven Summits
3 more rows

Who is the youngest boy to reach Everest? ›

Jordan Romero (born July 12, 1996) is an American mountain climber who was 13 years old when he reached the summit of Mount Everest.

How difficult is Island Peak? ›

Climbing Island Peak is not easy, but you can make it easier by spending more days on the trek in and on the mountain. You need to acclimatize to the lower levels of oxygen lower down on the trail. The summit statistics show that the majority of people attempting the climb are not reaching the summit of Island Peak.

What is the number 1 cause of death on Mount Everest? ›

One of the biggest risk factors at 26,000 feet is hypoxia, a lack of adequate oxygen circulation to organs like your brain. If the brain doesn't get enough oxygen, it can start to swell, causing a condition called high altitude cerebral edema (HACE). Essentially, it's HAPE for the brain.

What is the number one cause of death on Everest? ›

Since 1953, when the first men reached the summit, more than 300 climbers have died on their way to the top of the world's tallest mountain. A third of these succumbed to the deadly lack of oxygen.

Have any bodies been recovered from Everest? ›

Two Nepalese climbers died on October 24, 1984, while trying to recover the body of Hannelore Schmatz. In 1999, searchers for George Mallory's body found his and other bodies in the snow in a catchment basin near the peak. Melting glaciers are revealing bodies on Everest.

What mountain kills the most climbers? ›

Annapurna I (Nepal)

The deadliest mountain in the world is a specific ascent of Annapurna, another peak in the Himalayas. The route is so deadly because of an extremely steep face. Astonishingly, 58 people have died from just 158 attempts. It has the greatest fatality rate of any ascent in the world.

What is the easiest trek Everest? ›

Easy Trek
  • Shivapuri Nagarkot Trek.
  • Nagarkot Dhulikhel Namobuddha Trek.
  • Pokhara Sarangkot Trek.
  • Hiking and Meditation trip in Nepal.
  • Annapurna Skyline Trek.
  • Langtang Easy Trek.

Who is the oldest body on Mount Everest? ›

How George Mallory Became The First Dead Body On Mount Everest. In 1999, the oldest known body to ever fall on Mount Everest was found. George Mallory's body was found 75 years after his 1924 death after an unusually warm spring.

Who climbed Everest without sherpas? ›

Climbing Everest without Sherpas

On May 23, 1996, Lars Olof Goran Kropp achieved a solo ascent of Mount Everest without the use of bottled oxygen or Sherpa backup.

Who is the only person to climb Mount Everest? ›

Edmund Hillary (left) and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay reached the 29,035-foot summit of Everest on May 29, 1953, becoming the first people to stand atop the world's highest mountain.

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