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‘One night, over shots of tequila, a friend suggested I climb Mount Everest. It was the start of an epic journey’

The first woman to reach the Earth’s highest and lowest points, Vanessa O’Brien explains why she undertakes such expeditions, what they have taught her, and how climbing equipped her to cope with the coronavirus pandemic

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Vanessa O'Brien in the South Pole. Photo: Scott Woolums

Vanessa O'Brien in the South Pole. Photo: Scott Woolums

Mount Everest

Mount Everest

Vanessa O'Brien during 'Challenge Deep'

Vanessa O'Brien during 'Challenge Deep'

The Challenge Deep submersive

The Challenge Deep submersive

Vanessa Summit

Vanessa Summit

The Greatest Heights

The Greatest Heights

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Vanessa O'Brien in the South Pole. Photo: Scott Woolums

Do you ever have a good voice and a bad voice whispering in your ear?

If so, in tough situations, you can probably guess which one is going to start reminding you how miserable you are. But mountaineering has taught me something. Something that has come in very useful during this pandemic: your good voice must be stronger.


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