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She did it! Margaret Watroba – a post climb interview with the 1st Australian lady to summit Everest from the North and South

In March 2013 I did an interview with Polish/Australian high altitude mountaineer, cyclist, engineer, wife, mother and grandmother Margaret Watroba, just before she left on her 4th Everest expedition.  (Read that interview here).  This is a follow-up interview with Margaret after her successful return from Everest in April and May 2013.  Margaret became the 1st Australian woman to summit Everest from both the North and the South Sides.

Margaret you did it! Congratulations, how was the climb over those last 200m which you missed out on last year?

The whole summit push & specially summit day went really well for me. I was climbing relatively fast without exhaustion. However, when I reached the point at which I had to turn back last year I couldn’t believe I reached that point last year being so sick. The 3rd step was not as easy as you promised Axe !!-:) It is high and we went through it in complete darkness.  As it is a huge pile/mountain on its own , of big stones/boulders it is quite a task to go through it…

Then we faced the beautiful surprisingly steep triangle face full of fresh snow in which we were sinking up to our knees, the sun was now rising on the horizon to my left and it was so beautiful ; but then I had to face the traverse.  Phil  [Ed’s note: Phil Crampton is the expedition leader and owner of Altitude Junkies] was talking about it and I was dreading this.  Narrow path with a steep fall to my right.

All I was thinking was “I hope I don’t have to pass a person on my way down!” Than at the end of the traverse, another surprise. Sharp turn to the left and I was facing a steep up climb of another wall of stones barely covered with snow making crampons totally ineffective. However at the end of that climb I found myself on the huge snowy field (this is the snowy part which can be seen on the photographs of the summit taken from the ABC) in the distance to my right I could almost see the prayer flags , so I know I made it.  We arrived at the top at 6:30 am Nepal time. The view was stunning but we had the wind of about 70 km/hr.

Margaret Watroba victorious on the summit of Everest for the second time after climbing the North Ridge/North Col route.

Margaret Watroba victorious on the summit of Everest in April 2013.  Her second Everest summit, this time climbed by the North Col/North Ridge route.

How did the rest of the team get on this year?

As you know only 3 people from the group plus Phil summited.  From the beginning when we started to climb  I thought the group was very strong so I was surprised how they started to drop on the summit push. Some went down from C2 and some arrived at C3 too late to start summit climb at 8:30 pm or even 10:00 pm.

What was your feeling when you got back down to safety at BC?  How tired were you?

I was very very tired, but so happy. The north side is more dangerous , more technical than south and I had to concentrate very hard on the way down on safety.

Did the mountain feel crowded this year from the North side?

Not at all. AngGelu [Ed’s note: AngGelu was the climbing Sherpa which Margaret paired up with to climb on summit day] and I were the first on the mountain and we could see through the night the stream of headlamps behind us, beautiful and  surreal view.

Tell us your feelings on the summit? Were you there alone? How long did you get to spend there?

We would have been first and alone if not for the valve in my oxygen mask which had to be defrosted just before we started to climb/ walk the last meters towards the prayer flags. As we stopped to deal with the valve some people overtook us !-:)))

Thinking about last year sickness and the fact that I had to turn back so close to the summit I was just soooooo happy -:)

Because of the strong wind we didn’t stay long , we took just few pictures , the batteries in my camera ‘died’ because of cold so I only have few pictures from the summit top.

 You have climbed Everest from the North side and South side now, can you compare the two routes for us and tell me which side is more difficult?

Phil was always saying the North is more technical more difficult …but I was wondering if that is so since South has Ice Fall regarded by climbers as most dangerous part of any 8000m mountain. But overall I agree with Phil and many other Mountaineers ( ie Lincoln Hall) who stated that North,  starting from the end of the snow line when you leave C1/bottom rocks of Camps 2 is more difficult and definitely more dangerous than South.

North Face is very similar to Lhotse Face , South has dangerous Hilary Step but North has 3 steps all dangerous specially second and third!

Margaret climbing higher on the North Ridge in April 2012

Margaret climbing high on the North Ridge in April 2012

Many people are holding you as in inspiration especially to older people in life – what do you think is the key to doing amazing things like you are doing at your age?

No it’s not the older people who call me their inspiration , it’s the young people because they can do what they have dreamed of but thinking it’s not possible! They look at me and think , hay maybe it is not a silly dream I have, maybe I  can do it . I always tell them it does not have to be physical, sport event it can be education etc. Education was actually the first ‘inspirational’ success I had with young women when I arrived to Australia and realized how few female engineers use to be here and that the girls were often not encourage to study , especially the subjects regarded as ‘ for boys’ I.e. engineering. The older people are very happy and enjoy my success. Unless you call ‘older’

people the ones in their 50 ?! You better not !!!-:)

I have been doing ‘things’ people thought are impossible all my life because so it is difficult for me  to define it, but it is important to have a dream, have target , trust yourself, do not put your dream, assessment of you into other people’s hands don’t listen to those who say “what makes you think you can do it ? ‘   and that often includes (unfortunately) the family people who make such statements know nothing about you & your dreams they not your friends even when they say  ‘ I’m only saying this because I worry about you because I don’t want you to be disappointed etc”.  Share your dreams carefully only with those who really care and want you to succeed .

Oscar Wilde said: “Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live.”

And very important – do not be afraid to fail ! You can always try again !!!! Failure or not succeeding in a first go is = experience !

Ok I could go on and on on this subject -:)

Was there any point this year when you thought you would not make it?

I was very very nervous especially on the summit push when we started summit push from ABC.  I’m always very careful not to be cocky but reasonably confident. I was concentrating to stay healthy  and  don’t get exhausted walking from camp to camp etc and I was praying to Chomolungma to let me summit -:) I was also very lucky to had a great companion to walk around BC and to talk to – Edita Nichols, what a fantastic person and now friend !

How important were the Sherpa’s in your climb this year

Sherpas are always important , as you know, nothing happens on the mountain  without Sherpas ! I have a tremendous respect for Sherpas and I’m very grateful for their work support etc

The question on everybody’s lips Margaret is what’s next?

I’m not revealing it – yet , but already planning -:)

If interested readers would like to hear your story in person do you give talks and how can they contact you?

Yes I do presentations all the time and because I work full-time I have to restrict them to no more than 2 per month.  They can contact me on my mobile or email

Thanks again Margaret for taking the time to answer these questions and another huge congratulations again on an amazing effort and becoming the first Australian woman to summit Everest from both the North and the South sides!

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