Kapiti Observer : October 24th 2011
5 KAPITI OBSERVER, OCTOBER 24, 2011 To order your own copy of photos in this paper, or other CCN titles, check out: pix.ccn.co.nz Happy camper: Sarah Wilson at Base Camp on Mt Everest. ''I could live a safe life, but I have a suspicion I would not be happy.'' Taking risks a part of life A survivor of potentially fatal climbing accidents and cancer, Sarah Wilson tells Tasha Black about her love of mountaineering, overcoming the risks involved, and her plan to follow in the footsteps of Sir Edmund Hillary. ' There was a bunch of stuff that she said but there was only one word I heard -- melanoma. ' Sarah Wilson Sarah Wilson was 10,000 feet up a mountain when things took a turn for the worse. The Waikanae climber's cram- pon had come undone from her boot and she couldn't get her pro- tection gear to secure her into the steep icy slope. The crampon -- a steel attach- ment with spikes to help her walk on ice -- was dangling by a bungy cord from her leg. Ms Wilson's climbing partner below shouted up bomb-proof anchors'', meaning she had secured herself to the mountain. We both knew she was making it up,'' says Ms Wilson, knowing if she fell now she would take her climbing partner tumbling with her. But the support from her friend was reassuring and Ms Wilson managed to balance on one shaky leg for 20 minutes while she reattached her crampon. Despite the close call, she can't get enough adventure and is plan- ning one of her toughest trips yet, which she has called Cook to Cook. With friend Cat Shand, Wilson will climb Mt Cook, cycle 660 kilometres to Picton and paddle over the Cook Strait in a double kayak. Ms Wilson has already climbed Mount Cook twice. She has also bagged the world's sixth highest mountain, Cho Oyu in the Himalayas at 8201 metres, and climbed up to 7000 metres on Mt Everest, among other achievements. She has worked as an adven- ture coach since 2007, and worked as a mountaineering instructor in Alaska and outdoor instructor in Scotland. Ms Wilson, 48, says she is fitter than she has ever been. She trains by walking up Hemi Matenga in Waikanae, going out for a spin on her road bike and paddling out to Kapiti Island. Born in Blenheim, Ms Wilson's stomping ground was the Nelson Lakes, and from a young age she was hooked on mountains. She honed her technical skills at university and went on to work overseas in the field. After the death of a close friend who was climbing in the South Island, Ms Wilson took a break from mountaineering for 10 years. Having lost a best friend there's no pretence -- the rose- tinted spectacles are off.'' Things got hairy again for her when she was caught in a small avalanche cascading down a mountain. While she missed landing in a nearby crevasse, she put a cram- pon through her climbing partner's neck. It was patched up with a few steri-strips and both climbers were safe. Ms Wilson is so tuned into risk she even has a spreadsheet of all the things that could go wrong on her Cook to Cook adventure. But it is not the mountains where Ms Wilson says she had her closest brush with death. In 1999 she was working on a community conservation project in the depths of the rainforest of the Solomon Islands. Standing in the rain, she looked down at her sodden shorts and knew something was wrong. She sat down on a log and inspected the unusual mole just above her knee. Back in New Zealand she remembers talking to her doctor: There was a bunch of stuff that she said but there was only one word I heard -- melanoma.'' Ms Wilson believes if she had waited much longer to go to the doctor and have the mole cut out, she would be dead. Cook to Cook is a fundraiser for the Melanoma Foundation, of which Ms Wilson is a staunch sup- porter. She already has her eyes set on her next challenge, Mt Everest. She plans to climb the South Col route, the same route as Sir Edmund Hillary and has the rare opportunity to do what she calls a hybrid'' climb, which means working with sherpas, but going without guides or a commercial operation. Ms Wilson will be speaking at Southward Theatre this Wednesday from 5.30pm for Women in Business. Follow her adventure at facebook.com/cooktocook.
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