8000 Meter Peaks

Cho Oyu
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Seven Summits

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 Susan Ershler's Q&A with questions from the readers of EverestNews.com

EverestNews.com believes Phil and Susan Ershler became the first couple to finish the Seven Summits together when they reached the Summit of Everest on May 16th, 2002. Pretty nice! Doing all the climbs together! A nice picture of them coming down the mountain is below. (Picture source: Eric Simonson)

So for those that like to split hairs. Gary Pfisterer and Ginette Harrison did finish the Seven Summits back in 1995, but some of their Summits were not together and some were before they were married.


Question: Congratulations of the big seven. I have no mountain climbing experience whatsoever, but what to ask.  Isn't it twice as hard for the women to climb mountains (as for the men) since the women have to brave the elements more when they go to the bathroom?

Susan: Thank you.

There are good systems available for women while climbing.  Plastic directors work well.  Additionally, Outdoor Research, with their Wild Roses women's outdoor line of clothing make garments with a "pee system".  This includes zippers that can be accessed while wearing a harness.

Question: Dear Phil and Susan, First of all, congratulations finishing the Seven Summits. A remarkable performance.

I have been climbing several summits now, among them peaks in the French Alps, Kilimanjaro and Parchamo (Nepal). For next year I'm planning to climb Aconcagua. Do you have the best strategy to do so, I heard it isn't a very Difficult Mountain to climb. If you have more good advice for climbing high peaks, please let me know. Friendly greetings and hope to hear from you, Martin Versteeg Eibergen Holland

Susan: Thank you.

I felt Aconcagua was a tough climb.  Certainly a high altitude push.  Some find it more difficult than Mt. McKinley.  To prepare for the climb, I concentrated on hiking with a weighted pack, running, and some weight room workouts. 

Question: Do you know if your husband Phil's route to the summit of Mt. Everest in The l980's was close to the route attempted by Norton and Somervelle in 1924?

Susan: Phil's route was very similar to Messner's solo route in early 80's. 

Question: Dear Susan, I have a question for you, given the amount of rubbish, abandoned tents and bodies that have accumulated above 8000 meters, which are unlikely to be brought be brought down by any environmental expedition or a well paid Sherpa, do you think it is reasonable for the Nepalese government to enforce a no supplementary oxygen ban, except for emergency use, thus preventing many people from considering an attempt and reducing pollution on the high mountains, or should it be open to anyone who wishes to try?, best regards and congrats on the seven summits.

Susan: Thank you. 

For the past several years, since there has been so much environmental focus on Everest, the result is the mountain looks very clean.  Sherpas are paid for bringing down empty oxygen bottles.  After a few trips to the South Col at over 26,000' they could no longer find any empty bottles, after thoroughly searching. 

Question: Dear Susan, I was wondering the cost to be guided to the summit of Everest with Sherpa support on oxygen. I have seen the price range from $20,000 U.S. to $70,000. What is the going price and what are the past climbing requirements?  Thanks, Darren Miller

Susan: After speaking with different folks at Everest base camp, it seems that the current price ranges from $50,000 to $65,000 for a fully guided climb.  Regarding past climbing requirements, I would suggest visiting guide services web sites (each service may have different requirements). 

Question: Which Summit did you find most difficult to climb and which had the most spectacular view? I am a 68yr old transplanted flat lander from northern Wisconsin that has enjoyed the Pacific Northwest Mountains since moving here in 1984. Thank you for sharing summit views and thoughts we me. Charlie.

Susan: No question, Everest was the hardest to climb.  The views from Everest, as well as, Mt. McKinley were the best in my opinion.  On both of those summits, we experienced beautiful clear sunny days.  Summit morning on Everest was spectacular as the sun was rising.

Question: As a woman, how it is to climb this mountain with all of the men along, with too much time on their hands?

Susan: Ten years ago when I began climbing it seemed the sport was male dominated.  Now, there are many more women climbing.  On these climbs we have lots of fun together.  Our main activity, on a long expedition, is to play cards.  At times we would play hearts games for most of the day.

Question: Was climbing Everest a spiritual experience for you?

Susan: On the trek into base camp there is an area that has become dedicated to many of the climbers who have lost their lives on Everest.  It contains stone monuments dedicated to each climber.  A very sacred place.  

Question:  Besides the IMG CREW…who was your favorite climber on Everest and why?

Susan: Wow, I met so many great climbers, and people, this year on the mountain.   I really cannot choose one.

Question: You attempted Everest several times, why do you think you were successful this time?

Susan: This year, I believe we were successful for several reasons.  The weather was great, that is certainly a benefit.  I trained even harder in preparation for this climb and stayed single mindedly focused on achieving a successful and safe climb of Everest.  And, we were lucky.

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