“I was looking up and it just looked so, like the mountain just looked so enormous, and I was like, I’m like ‘yeah, I don’t know, I don’t know if I can do this.’ But I just had to put one foot in front of the other you know. Just up and up and – don’t look at the whole thing. Looking at the whole thing’s a little scary. Just look at like small parts. It makes it a lot better,” said Lucy Westlake.
The 18-year-old faced Mount Everest like she does other challenges in life, and in this case, climbed away with a record. On May 12 she became the youngest American female to reach the summit of Everest.
“I’m just like in disbelief. It feels like a dream, it really does,” said Westlake.
Timeline of Adventure
Her expedition began on April 18. A first attempt at a summit failed, but once favorable weather hit the night of May 11, she and her Sherpa set out.
“We were hiking through the dark most of the night, we started at 9 p.m. and then hiked until…we summited at 5:30 (a.m.) but it got light around like 4:30 (a.m.). So like an hour before the summit, it was like the sun rising, and it was an amazing moment,” said Westlake.
Years Of Climbing
The climbing bug hit Lucy at the age of 7, starting with the Black Mountain in Kentucky, and then eventually moving on to bigger peaks. She became a record setter, last year becoming the youngest female to climb the high points of all 50 states. Through it all, her dad was her climbing buddy. But at Everest, she instead had a Sherpa on her side.
“It did get lonely,” said Westlake. “So going from like trekking up with everyone to that, just being like me and my Sherpa, it was really tough. And I like thought about home a lot. But I also knew, like I knew everyone back here was cheering me on and that motivated me. I was like I’m doing this for them too.”
Reaching The Top
Once at the top, Westlake got about 20 minutes to savor the moment.
“It was so surreal, because you’re hiking for so long, you know, just like up and up and up for 25 days, and then suddenly there’s nowhere more up to go,” said Westlake.
And then began the climb back down.
“It’s more dangerous going down. Because like you’re more exhausted, you’ve already had to climb up, and also it’s like just kind of that mentality of like ‘oh I did it,’” Westlake said. “Like you get more, you relax a little bit more, and then that can, that can cause some issues. That can cause you to like not be focused. And then it’s just, it’s harder it is more technical on the way down.”
Westlake is looking up again though, with her sights set on becoming the youngest person to accomplish the Explorers Grand Slam: climbing the highest peaks on all seven continents and reaching both poles. She’s already checked five continents off her list. But before that, she has a new adventure to begin: heading to USC in the fall to start college, and continue her cross-country career.
She hopes her story will inspire others – no matter what they hope to tackle.
“Don’t be afraid to dream big you know. If you have a passion for something you gotta follow it. You have to. Even if it’s really tough at times, it will, it will all be worth it, it will. Every step will pay off and, yeah no matter, no matter what your mountains are, you gotta climb them, you gotta face them,” said Westlake.
Naperville News 17’s Patrick Codo and Kim Pirc report.
All photos and video courtesy of Lucy Westlake
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