I did it. I climbed the highest mountain in South America, one of the world’s seven summits and the biggest peak outside the Himalayas. This is not a picture of me at the top – note to self, iphone cameras don’t work on seven thousand metre mountains – this is a picture of me signing my name on the ‘Aconcagua Wall of Fame’ back in Mendoza.
Boy, it was tough – one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. And I’m not just talking the final summit day, which was twelve gruelling hours up, followed by three further excruciating hours down. I’m talking two weeks in a tent. I’m talking the hot, the cold, the dust, the wind. I’m talking all the acclimatization climbs needed beforehand to get used to surviving without a lot of air.
I shared my time on the mountain with Sir Ranulph Fiennes who apparently tried to summit on the same day as me and sadly didn’t make it to the top. I kiss that man’s feet for attempting to climb it, aged 72, because this is undoubtedly a mountain made for male machines in their 20s and 30s. If I wasn’t so stiff, I might kiss my feet too because although I’m significantly younger than Sir R, I was still one of the only and oldest women up there. I’ve decided to think of it as my own small contribution to the marches that took place around the world yesterday – I’d like to see you take on Argentina’s Aconcagua Mr President.
Having said that, I did think many times, what am I doing here? How did my pursuit of motherhood reach this wild and windy place? This is hard. It’s even harder than IVF. Yet, when I finally got to the top, and the Andes were stretched out below me, I knelt down and wept. I do it because this is life in Technicolor and if you can’t have the family photo you always dreamed of, then you’ve got to create other memories and hope that there will be someone around who’s got a proper camera to take a picture. On the 16th January 2017, I did and luckily there was. My true summit photo will be with you soon and, until then, you’ll find me drinking Malbec in Mendoza!