She leaves this week in quest to climb Everest
Published: In the Washburn County Journal
Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Barbara Brown

 

BAYFIELD — Mountain climber, Lori Schneider, is on a mission. She has climbed six of the “Seven Summits” on six of the seven continents in the world from Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa, to Australia's Mt. Kosciusko and most recently Mt. Vinson Massif in Antarctica. She leaves this week for Nepal to begin her ascent of summit number seven, Mt. Everest, which reigns as the highest mountain on Earth, rising 29,035 feet above sea level.

Schneider will be making her seventh summit attempt with 14 other climbers from around the world, including two other women. Only 25 women have ever conquered Mt. Everest. “There will be five professional guides and many, many Sherpas (Tibetan people of Nepal known for their mountain climbing abilities), helping our team,” Schneider said.

The team of climbers have been organized by Alpine Ascents International, generally considered the world’s premier Everest guide service. They will make their attempt via the South Col route. This was the first successfully climbed route on Mt. Everest when Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay accomplished the feat in 1953. Since then, the South Col has seen over 2,000 ascents, making it the most successfully climbed route on the mountain.

Joining the ranks of the 25 women who have successfully climbed Mt. Everest is a grand and admirable goal. But to be a woman climber that reaches the summmit of Mt. Everest who also has Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is even grander. Schneider was diagnosed with MS in 1999 when she was only 43 years old. She is now 52. After working through the trauma of hearing she had a debilitating disease that attacks the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord her dream of climbing the “Seven Summits” intensified. She has been on a mission ever since.

“I had to get over the fear of having MS, I had to get to the point of realizing it (the disabling autoimmune disease) does not define who I am. In realizing that our limitations and barriers are self imposed, we are able to move beyond them and they no longer define who we are,” Schneider said.

Her physical condition is stable and her symptoms have abated in recent years, but constant training is essential to keep her body in tip-top shape in order to maximize the probability of her success.

Since returning from Antarctica Schneider has been rigorously training for Mt. Everest. A portion of her workout regimen has been hiking up and down the ski runs at Mt. Ashwabay Ski Area, three times a week, carrying a 50-pound backpack.

She has been accompanied by her friends Janel Ryan and Dee Johnson and Kim West before she left for her winter vacation. Other “cheerleaders” include Cynthia Donovan, Nancy Gardner, Bridgett Weber and Jim Ramsdell.

Dee Johnson has the greatest admiration for her friend’s discipline and determination.

“We’ve been at Mt. Ashwabay with Lori when it’s been snowing, freezing cold winds, or below zero temperatures. She always made us go. We never missed. We thought we were suffering. I can’t imagine what she goes through. I don’t think we can ever get a full idea of what it might be like to climb Mt. Everest,” Johnson said.

Ryan said she feels their friend has taken all the necessary steps to make her climb on Mt. Everest a success: extensive physical training and workouts, previous experience, being accepted by the world’s premier Everest guide service due to her resume, organization skills, and the spirit and will to overcome any obstacles.

“Lori’s determination isn’t mule-like or stubborn. She just says to herself, ‘What are the obstacles and how can I get around them and take that next step forward.’ She’s told us many times, ‘I don’t have the quitter gene,’” Ryan said.

Johnson said Schneider’s stamina and determination is fueled by the desire to inspire and help others with MS become stronger.

“Lori wants to help people move beyond their limitations and the labels that prevent them from living their dreams. She’s carrying more than a backpack up that mountain; she’s carrying dreams and aspirations.”

The Mt. Everest ascent will take two months to complete. The ascent begins with a 10-day climb up to Base Camp at 17,600 feet where they will stay for one month acclimatizing. “The way to the summit is done in increments. You carry high and sleep low,” Schneider explained. The last 30 days are spent doing the final ascent.

The climbers will have to rely upon oxygen by the time they get to 23,000 feet. At 25,000 feet, they will enter the “Death Zone,” a point where your body is more in a shut-down death mode than a living mode, Schneider said.

Schneider describes Mt. Everest as a “mountain of many moods,” and a mountain that has a very short window for summit attempts from mid to late May. This May is her window of opportunity.

“I hope to stand on top of Mt. Everest, but that mountain has its own set of rules. I plan on giving 100 percent of me. In that regard, I will reach my personal summit,” she said.

To follow Lori’s journey to the top of Mt. Everest, log on to her Web site at ETAdventure.com and click on the Everest link on the home page.