This interview with Georgina Miranda is one of an ongoing series I do each season with Everest climbers. Not the famous, look sponsored ones who get plenty of publicity but the regular people, prescription who often have full time jobs, full time families and climb for the love of the climb. This is the last interview for 2013 as the regular seasons starts up. Now here’s Georgina:
She is a consultant by profession. You know, sitting on windowless conference rooms giving and listening to PowerPoint presentations all day long. She helps companies accomplish their objectives. For people, she helps them accomplish their dreams.
Georgina’s story has a similar beginning like many climbers. She took a rock climbing course and was hooked. She went on day hikes, enjoying the down time. But a magazine article on the plight of women in the Congo changed her forever.
She made a big decision to use her newfound passion of climbing to bring awareness and raise money to stop the violence against women in the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo. She started a foundation and campaign, Climb Take Action.
With her sights set on the 7 Summits, Georgina has reached the top of five. Now she is climbing Everest with her mission.
Please meet Georgina Miranda:
Q: Your foundation, Climb Take Action, is focused on helping women in the Congo. This is an enormous issue. Can you tell us why this cause has become so personal for you and how it is going?
What started out in looking for a new hair cut idea, turned into a campaign to raise support and awareness for women in Congo by climbing the world’s 7 summits. Sound a little crazy? Probably. In late 2007 I read an article that changed my life and set me on a mission to empower women in Congo (Glamour” magazine). The article educated me on the fact that thousands of women and girls were being sexually abused, which was unfathomable and unacceptable.
No victim was too young or old ranging from only a few months old to women in their late 70s. Why did no one know this was happening? I immediately decided to create the Climb Take Action~7 Summits Challenge, geared at raising funds and awareness for women in Congo as I attempted to fulfill my dream of climbing the world’s Seven Summits. Having been out to the field and meeting some of these women back in 2009 has made this very personal to me. I cannot forget their stories and their strength in surviving some unimaginable experiences. New statistics show 48 women are raped per hour and that the sexual violence in DRC is some of the worst in the world.
Some very memorable moments over the past few years of Climb Take Action have been when others joined us for our climbs and treks! We had a team of 9 head to Kilimanjaro in 2009 on behalf of the cause and then in 2011 we had a team trek to Everest Base Camp with us. So very grateful for those that joined us on the journey and helped us raise support and awareness!
Q: You say “It only takes one.” What does this mean?
The problem in DRC impacting women is a large one, and my campaign alone will not solve the problem by any means, but it helps to raise awareness and support for two extraordinary non-profits, International Medical Corps and V-DAY, doing life changing work for these women. It is a collective effort that will make the broader difference indeed. Yet, my belief is that if you can have a positive impact in one life, that is all it takes because for that one person they now have hope and the means to keep living. Having an impact is often measured in scale, yet impact on an individual standpoint should not be discredited, as for that one person impacted their world is changed.
Q: You have climbed five of the seven summits. Given you were born and still live in California, where did the love of mountains begin?
I grew up in Los Angeles and as a child got to visit Yosemite, Big Sur, and do local hikes around Griffith Park. My first “serious” hike was Mt. Baldy in 2006 🙂 It was not until I was an adult working full time and going to grad school full time at night that I discovered my real passion for the mountains and the outdoors. The mountains created an incredible escape away from the corporate world and textbooks. They also encouraged me to explore and push new limits I had never thought possible and changed my perspective on life in so many ways. I feel I discover a new part of myself every time I am out in the mountains, a magical experience really.
Q: Your parents are from San Salvador and Nicaragua. What do they think of their mountain climbing daughter?
This is a tough question, because my climbing has caused some tension in the family. My dad has been super supportive and even joined me on some of the climbs- he joined my team for Kilimanjaro and then came to Everest Base Camp last time I was on Everest in 2011. He has become quite the avid hiker now 🙂 He has always had an adventurous spirit and encouraged me to keep going. Others in my family worry about my safety on these climbs and would have preferred for me to choose a less risky sport 🙂
Q: You stopped on Everest in 2011 near the Balcony (27,500 feet) due to altitude related issues. Smart decision to turn back but it must have been gut wrenching. Can you walk us through what happened?
The night of May 12/13 2011 will live with me forever. I had been feeling good throughout the beginning of our summit push from base camp. When we got to high camp on the 11th of May 2011 the wind had kicked up and our team was pretty exhausted. Enough of our team members had turned around early on and so it allowed the 7 of us left to spend an extra night at high camp. So the decision was made to stay and extra night and wait for the better forecast the next night, the 12th.
I was happy to have the extra time to recharge and rest, but looking back I also realize that even on O2 your body is just deteriorating in the death zone. Simple tasks require extraordinary effort up there. We started getting ready to head out about 8 PM on the 12th, earlier than most. I felt great when I left camp, but about 3 hours in I noticed I was walking pretty slow and my stomach was cramping up, I then collapsed the first time. About an hour later I collapsed again. The third time I collapsed, I passed out a few seconds and when I opened my eyes, my jumar was on the rope and head on the ice and I looked into a dark sky that was brilliantly lit with stars. I laid there for what felt like ages and even remember pounding my fist in the snow, knowing the only decision was to turn around.
I wasn’t well, didn’t know why, but collapsing higher up could be fatal and also cause more harm for others coming up the ropes. I was near the Balcony at that time and devastated, but also not willing to make a fatal mistake. I told my Sherpa I had to turn around and he asked if I was sure and with tears I said yes and down we went. It was a sobering moment as I laid there deciding what to do to have over 10 climbers climb over and past me onto their summit- a good wake up call that you are on your own out there and that you are responsible for yourself and your safety. On the decent, my health condition got worse and stomach continued to cramp up and my digestive system completely shut down.
By the time I made it to high camp I was completely dehydrated and out of sorts. I sobbed in my tent over the defeat and wondered what had happened to me up there. I made what I call a couple of “oxygen deprived” calls to my friend Trisha, Crystal from International Medical Corps, and my mom from my sat phone telling them I hadn’t made the summit, but that I was ok. Early the morning of the 13th I headed down to camp 2 feeling pretty wrecked, but happy to be ok.
Q: You are not giving up on your 7 Summits and of course Everest. Why have these climbs become so important to you?
The journey towards the 7 summits for Congo has really changed my life and how I live it. I set a goal back in 2007 and made a personal commitment that I would do my to accomplish this goal within my means. Climbing has changed me in so many ways and helped me grow as a person, it has also given me a voice to raise awareness for a topic I am very passionate about-ending violence against women and overall equality for women. It has been a remarkable journey of self discovery and I feel very blessed to be able to be on it. I am going into Everest with an open heart and mind, knowing that I can only do my and it is up to mother nature how far she will let me go 🙂
Q: Who are you climbing with this year?
I am climbing with Ronnie Muhl, Adventures Global. I met him while I was on Everest last time in 2011. He has been incredibly supportive thus far and I really look forward to climbing with him and the team!
Q: Any other thoughts for us followers?
If you would like to follow me on Everest and also learn more about the cause, please visit: www.climbtakeaction.com. I will be blogging weekly. Followers can also make tax deductible donations here. Also, if people would like to dedicate their next challenge or host a fundraiser for the cause, please let me know! We have had people trek Machu Picchu, Kili and more on behalf of the campaign and we are so grateful!
On a side note, we all have our own “Everest” in our life…whatever that may be. I know for me many life challenges over the past two years seemed much more challenging than the literal “Mt. Everest.” Yet, Everest and other climbs have taught me that one foot in front of the other in the direction you are trying to go, ultimately get you to your goal. If you can just focus and get your head around that one step, you may be surprised how high you can go.
Really grateful for all of the moral support and encouragement so far and for everyone that has contributed to the campaign!
Georgina, we wish you the this year with your climb and cause. Georgina is climbing from the south side with Adventures Global. You read more about her on her site.
Memories are Everything