Meaghan Furry '25 had never climbed a mountain before. She decided to give climbing a try on the tallest mountain in the world.
The journey is both arduous and exhausting. It takes nearly two days and spans nearly a dozen time zones, and once you finally make it to Nepal, there's still a matter of the most dangerous airport in the world. Lukla, Nepal has a single, uncomfortably short runway, but it's the only entry point to the southeast ridge of Mt. Everest. So Meaghan and her family boarded a plane in Kathmandu and silently cheered when they touched down 30 minutes later. They had finally made it. Now the actual journey could begin.
The Mt. Everest summit is 29,031 feet above sea level. More than 300 people have died climbing the mountain, and only experienced climbers, braving unbearable conditions, have ever stood on the Earth's ceiling. But, you don't need to make a push for the summit to plant your flag on Everest.
The Furry family aren't climbers, but on a trip to Mt. Kilimanjaro a few years ago, Meaghan's mom was entranced by the mountain. For her next adventure, she booked a trip to Mt. Everest and saved a spot for Meaghan's sister as a graduation gift. The trip was scheduled for 2020, and then COVID scrapped their plans. The mountain opened back up this May, but Meaghan's sister wasn't able to go. That's how Meaghan ended up on the harrowing flight into Tenzing-Hillary airport (named for the first two men to summit Everest).
"I decided to go, but before we left, I didn't believe I could do it. A lot of times, you're hiking by yourself and thinking about things and just trying to mentally get in the zone. Climbing is 50 percent mental and 50 percent physical. Believing you can do it gets you halfway up the mountain."
The five members of the Furry family weren't aiming for the summit, but endeavored to climb to Everest Base Camp. They started more than 9,000 feet above sea level, and faced an eight-day climb to reach Base Camp at 17,500 feet (for perspective, the tallest peak in the contiguous United States is 14,500 feet). Because of the terrain, the altitude, and the overall physical toll, one in four climbers doesn't reach Base Camp.
"You're climbing for days, and at times, your view of Everest is entirely obstructed. It's freezing cold and it's snowing. Sometimes you've got to hike up and then retreat so your body can acclimate to the thin air. But it was such a beautiful experience. To say that I climbed Everest, that's an accomplishment I'll have for the rest of my life."
On their eighth day, they made a push for Base Camp and arrived in the snow (above). They celebrated, took pictures, and then remembered they had a two-hour hike back down to their resting point for the night (then another three days' hike back to Lukla). From Base Camp, it's another 12,000 feet up to the summit (and into the death zone), but that was never the goal. Few people stand on Mount Everest. Just getting to the mountain was the thrill of a lifetime. So what's next?
"My mom has already signed me up for Kilimanjaro (the tallest mountain in Africa). I'd like to make it to the summit. It's four days straight up and two days down. Now I've got the confidence to do it."
"I left for Everest right after I finished my freshman year at Siena, and that first year was just amazing. I know my next three years will be amazing as well. I wore my Siena cap the entire climb up the mountain. I just wanted to show off Siena everywhere I went, and I'm sure that Siena will always be part of my adventures."
Meaghan Furry '25