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MOUNTAIN HIGH

Catching up with PAMELA PAPPAS

BY DAVID JAKIELO, A05, GA10 mountains included in the debate of


Pamela Pappas, P93, has been on top of the world. She recently climbed Mount Everest, the highest point on earth with an elevation of 29,035 feet. What makes Pappas journey even more remarkable is that Everest was just one stop on her ultimate goalto climb the highest mountain on each continent. I went on a climb in Mexico and I got addicted to it, she explains. It contains all the elements I like about hiking, with the additional mental and physical challenges of making the summit. I wasnt planning on climbing Everest, but it was the next logical step in all of the climbs I had been doing. Due to political and geographical arguments as to how borders are

the highest mountains on the seven continents. Thus far, Pappas, who plans to climb all nine, has conquered Denali in Alaska, Aconcagua in South America, Vinson in Antarctica, Kilimanjaro in Africa, Elbrus in Europe and Everest in Asia. Before the end of the year she will complete the list by climbing Carstensz Pyramid and Kosciuszko, both in Australia, and Mont Blanc in Western Europe. The most challenging of all Pappas climbs so far was Everest. A record keeper in Kathmandu estimates Pappas is only the 132nd female and 20th American female to ever summit. It was a 10-week journey, but the physical and mental training started long before the climb began. You have to be prepared to suffer on a mountain like that, says

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DUQUESNE UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE

Spring 12

Pappas, a nuclear pharmacist who lives in Tampa, Fla. As long as you have your mind set that its not going to be a vacation on a cruise ship and embrace the suffering, its pretty straightforward from there. Each climb requires a unique training regimen to prepare the body Pappas had to drag a sled up Denali and was able to do so because her training consisted of pulling a wooden crate loaded with 150 pounds of lead through sand. That crate was attached to an additional 80-pound pack on her back. With the high altitude of Everest, she had to focus her training towards anaerobic exercises so her body could function on limited oxygen. To help simulate the lack of oxygen, she would jump rope while breathing through a straw in her mouth. Pappas intense workouts, which last two to three hours a day, give her the physical ability to take on the mountains, but the mind can be the climbers biggest adversary. Your brain will convince you that everything youre doing is outrageous, she explains. The brain is there to protect you. Your brain says to get down the mountain because youre freezing. But your body is extremely resilient. You have to learn in training that the body is a machine or else you will feel weaker and weaker going up a mountain when you should actually feel stronger and stronger. While there is a mental struggle to block out negative voices, sometimes the fatal dangers of a climb are inescapable. At Everest, which has a 5 percent death rate, according to Pappas, she had to walk over a fellow climber who passed away and had to be left behind. She had met

him earlier in the ascent. The awakening of those survival instincts brings the biggest adrenaline rush for her. Real life is pretty predictable, says Pappas. Youre getting up and going to work or going to school, youre pretty protected from things. But, up there, there is no room for error. You drop a glove, you lose a hand. If you dont eat the right foods, youre probably going to collapse. If you get dehydrated, youre probably going to die. Pappas, who recently attended a Duquesne alumni event in Sarasota, Fla., credits the University with providing her and fellow alumni with the foundation to stay productive and vital. Duquesne is an environment that encourages you to accomplish things throughout your whole life, she says. Its so inspirational to see people accomplishing things in every phase of their life and not thinking, I have to accomplish everything by the time Im 30 or by the time Im 40. There were alumni at the event in their 60s still owning businesses and writing books. From Academic Walk to the top of Mount Everest, her journey will continue as she climbs new mountains and learns more life lessons along the way. The most important thing I learned is that there is nothing holding you back from accomplishing your goals except for you, says Pappas. I think we waste a lot of energy in our lives worrying about the outcome and worrying about whats going to happen, but if you have the drive to do something and the willpowerjust focus and do it.

Your brain will convince you that everything youre doing is outrageous.

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