Report from: John Theo Jr. – March 24, 2009 – Recently found… an athlete who puts Michael Phelps and Tiger Woods accomplishments both to shame, Wendy Booker. In less than a week Wendy will attempt to climb Mt. Everest. If she summits Everest, she will have climbed the highest mountains on each of the seven continents (called “the seven summits”). Fifty-four year old Wendy will then join a select group of women (less than thirty) in the world who have accomplished this feat. Still not impressed? Wendy will also be the first person in history to climb the seven summits with Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
Diagnosed with MS in June 1998, Wendy went through a short period of reflection before she decided to, “laugh in the face of this disease”. Her first self-imposed goal was to raise money for MS research by running the Boston Marathon. Upon completing the marathon in 2000, she was told about an “opportunity” from a climber in Boulder, CO who was looking to put the first team of unguided MS climbers on Denali.
“I never climbed much more than Mt. Monadnock in New Hampshire,” Wendy says, “and that was when I was ten years old. I began learning how to climb in 2001 and in 2004 became the first woman, and possibly the first person with MS, to summit Denali.”
Wendy was found training at Manchester Athletic Club in Manchester-by-the-Sea, easily picked out of the busy gym crowd, the only person on a steeply inclined treadmill in hiking boots wearing a full backpack. All of which was to simulate real climbing conditions. After an hour on the treadmill, I followed her outside to find a ladder propped up over the ground. She stepped onto the ladder and said, “After I leave base camp at Everest I have to cross the Khamba Ice Falls six separate times using a ladder like this.” Pointing to the ground a foot below her I asked how deep these ice crevices were compared to her ladder. She shook her head and said calmly, “Probably a thousand foot drop.”
Part of Wendy’s four hour-a-day, six day-a-week workout is with Manchester Athletic Club Personal Trainer Rob Gagnon doing sport specific exercises such as Plyometrics. In conjuncture with her daily workout Wendy also takes an injection of Copaxone to manage her multiple sclerosis. She “stands firmly behind this drug” and claims it has changed the face of MS.
On reminiscing about her previous six summits, Wendy experienced what she referred to as “two close calls”. The first was during a river crossing in Aconcagua. A normally waste-deep river turned into a fierce battle due to a glacier melting. “The water was rushing up over our heads along with rocks tumbling along the river bed hitting our feet. Using our poles we had to keep three points of contact with the ground at all times and inch our way across.” Her second harrowing experience was during the Vinson Massif climb in Antarctica where her group was lost in a white out. “I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face,” she says, “and we couldn’t stop because we would have frozen to death.” Time had no bearing out in the sub-zero snowstorm. What Wendy thought was an hour of being lost, was really six hours before another crew finally found them. Both times she praised her guide, Brook Barnes, for keeping her calm and saving her life.
Not one to sit idle, Wendy is also on the road 200 days a year as a motivational speaker. She has a very, “If I can do this you can do this”, approach to her speeches. She also started a foundation “The Other Side of Everest”, which helps families who lost Sherpa’s on climbs in Everest. If that wasn’t enough, she is authoring an autobiographical book, “Sand in My Shoes”, which she hopes will be picked up for a 2010 publication.
The Seven Summits include:
1. Denali in North America
2. Kilimanjaro in Africa
3. Elbrus in Europe
4. Aconcagua South America
5. Vinson Massif in Antarctica
6. Kosciuszko in Australia
7. Everest in Asia
For more information about Wendy Booker and her adventures, please visit: www.wendybooker.net