Picture: Grace McDonald on Spantik in Pakistan (Credit: Brad Jackson)
These days I’m known as Mountain Climb Grace – a Canadian woman who has had great success climbing the worlds 8000m mountains – the highest mountains on earth. Follow along on Instagram @mountainclimbgrace or on Facebook at fb.me/mountainclimbgrace.
I wasn’t born a mountaineer and I didn’t grow up climbing; but I did get National Geographic magazines and I was fascinated by the mountains. I knew one day I would have to go and just see Mount Everest for myself. In 2010, I left the my job as a corporate finance lawyer in the rear-view mirror and went to the mountains of Nepal to take a basic mountaineering course and then hike to Everest base camp. Somewhere along the way I found a passion that would thrust my life in a completely different direction. Change is all about the first step and that first trip to the mountains changed everything. I’m so glad I didn’t wait longer to go experience something I had wanted to do my entire life and I’m so glad I pushed myself out of my comfort zone to learn a new skill.
Over the years that followed I would travel throughout Nepal, Pakistan and Tibet numerous times, climbing higher and higher on many different mountains including many of the world’s tallest – Cho Oyu, Shishapangma, Lhotse, Broad Peak, the Gasherbrums, Manaslu, Everest. For a long time, I just climbed. Quietly. Becoming one of Canada’s most successful female 8000m climbers didn’t happen overnight, but it happened. I started small, committed myself to learning new skills and layered up experiences that prepared me for bigger adventures.
Picture: K2 in Pakistan (Credit Brad Jackson)
This summer, I will return to Pakistan to climb one of the toughest 8000m mountains – K2. I have never attempted this mountain. The first time I saw K2 face to face I could barely make eye contact. I climbed a mountain right next to it but no matter how high I got, K2 always seems just as big as it did from the ground. The second time I visited Pakistan and headed up the Baltoro Glacier to climb in the Gasherbrum group of peaks, I stopped in Concordia and took a long look at K2. I wasn’t ready yet. I still didn’t think I would ever climb it. At least I could look at it with climbing eyes.
It’s been four years since I last visited Pakistan and it’s been too long. My first visit there shattered every misconception I had about the country – even as an open-minded Canadian. I look forward to returning to the north, to experience the genuine hospitality of the people and to finally take that first step up K2. My chances of reaching the summit are very low – statistics say 30-40% – most likely due to weather and weather related events. However; this climb has me setting out with a feeling of success already – I started out just wanting to see the worlds biggest mountains and then I climbed some of them. Now I’m climbing one I never dreamed of – which means I’m entering the land beyond my wildest dreams.
– Grace McDonald