Berkeley’s Roxanne Vogel shatters Mount Everest climbing record

Lydia Bradey/Courtesy

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Berkeley resident Roxanne Vogel became the first person to summit Mount Everest and return home in only two weeks on Friday, completing a normally two-month expedition in a fraction of the time.

Vogel left May 10 for the trip she had been planning for the last few years: complete her sixth summit climb out of the world’s seven highest mountains. An experienced climber of seven years, Vogel spent four months training with coaches and three months training for the changes in altitude.

“It was all pretty exciting and so jampacked,” Vogel said. “Normally a climb would take two months, so everything was kind of heightened.”

According to professor Dennis Baldocchi, of the department of environmental science, policy and management, Mount Everest has a height of about 8,850 meters with about a third of the oxygen at summit as opposed to sea level. In order for Vogel to complete her mission in only two weeks, she spent 12 hours a day for months in simulated conditions reflecting the higher altitude. In specialized chambers over her bed and at GU Energy Labs, where she works as a nutrition and performance research manager, Vogel allowed her body to adjust to the decreased oxygen levels.

According to Vogel, she completed her expedition with her private guide Lydia Bradey, the first woman to summit Everest without supplemental oxygen, and sherpas Mingma Tshering and Pasang Tendi. According to Vogel, the 2019 summit climbing season was even shorter than the usual seven to 10 days. Climbers only had a few days of safe weather, which Vogel said contributed to a traffic backup. Several climbers died in the backup on the south side of the summit during Vogel’s climb.

“It was really exciting to see this narrow weather window unfold,” Vogel said. “We didn’t even know if we would make it back on time even as we were climbing.”

Vogel avoided the hazardous long lines at the summit by traveling through Tibet on the north side of Everest and had a “much different experience,” describing it as “amazing.” Vogel, however, still faced a bump in the road while attempting to reach her time-sensitive goal. According to Vogel, because of the bad weather, the climbing ropes had not been repaired before they began their journey. Vogel said it “was a really big gamble” to begin her climb knowing this and was grateful to find the ropes fixed just 30 minutes before she reached the summit.

Vogel reached the summit May 22 and arrived back in the Bay Area at 11 p.m. Friday with one hour to spare until her two weeks were up. Her next adventure is in Antarctica, where she will endeavor to complete her seven-summit goal by December.

Emily Hom is an assistant news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @hom_emily.