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How climbing Everest has left Mollie Hughes feeling on top of the world


Most of us will never get close to summiting Everest, but that doesn’t mean we can’t borrow from the wisdom and insights of somebody who has, writes Abi Jackson.

At 21 - an age where most of us are navigating the rocky routes of job applications and trying to clamber out of the treacherous ravines of student overdrafts - Mollie Hughes became one of the youngest ever Brits to summit Mount Everest.

A keen climber, she'd written her university dissertation on the psychology of climbing Everest, the world's highest mountain (a staggering 8,848m), and then set her mind to conquering it herself, via the south side.

Now, she's making a second attempt, this time from the north side.

If successful, Devon-born Mollie, who's now 26 and lives in Edinburgh, will become the youngest Brit in history - as well as the youngest European woman and first English woman - to scale both the south and north sides of Everest.

After six weeks on the mountain, if all goes to plan, Mollie hopes to hit the summit on May 19 and return to base camp by May 22, to be home early June.

We caught up with Mollie before she set off. Here, she shares five things she's learned from conquering Everest that could apply in all aspects of life...

From her own experience she has learned that you don't have to start off confident to have self-belief

Mollie says: "Self-belief is a different thing to self-confidence. Self-belief is this deep-down feeling that you can do something and achieve something in your life - but it doesn't necessarily mean that you feel confident in different kinds of social settings, or whatever.

"Growing up, at school I was super-shy. I never put my hand up in class, and even at university, presentations or any public speaking was really hard.

"But I always had this deep-down belief that I could do something with my life, and over the years, with the expeditions I've been on, it's all increased my self-belief. It's made me realise I can achieve anything if I put my mind to it. Confidence is something that grows with time.

"Since summiting Everest the first time, I've done a lot of public speaking, and now it's something I really enjoy doing."

She also believes stepping out of your everyday routine helps you appreciate things more.

"Getting outside for anything, whether it's going for a hike in the mountains or hills nearby, that removal, and being in nature and escaping the city for just a few hours or a couple of days, everyone can learn a lot from that," she says.

"When climbing Everest, you're away from home for two months.

"You're not thinking about things like phones and computers, work or whatever.

"You're just focused on getting through the day; your climbing, making sure you're safe, well hydrated, eating enough, so you really have to take it back to basics. It makes you appreciate things when you get back to your normal routine."

The key to climbing Everest or doing anything is preparation and focus.

"We've been preparing for this expedition for over two years. A lot of that has been raising the sponsorship because it's costing around £45,000, so it's taken a lot of effort and time to get all of that together. And I've been training for over a year. None of it would be possible without doing all the groundwork first. Everest has been such a big part of my life for the last six years now; you get this huge focus on reaching the top. When I'm not actually there, I try to picture the mountain, and imagine it, imagine myself being there..."

And, Mollie says, you have to really want something to make it happen

"I think the main thing you need to summit Everest is a really strong desire. On one of the first days on Everest back in 2012, one of the guides said to me, 'Climbing Everest is all about the extent to which you can suffer'. You're suffering every day, every hour, every minute for weeks on end; it's basically just two months of suffering! If you don't have that desire, that real deep-down need to get to the top, then all that suffering will take over and you'll give up.

"On Everest, the area above 8,000m is called the 'Death Zone', because there's so little oxygen up there. The altitude zaps everything out of you, all your energy, all of your health, you have to take it really, really slow - and it's hard.

"Last time, when I got towards the summit, all training went out the window and my body was screaming at me to stop. My mind had to be stronger than my body, to kept me moving forwards. In the end, it all comes down to that clarity, that perseverance."

And ultimately, it's important to accept when things are out of your control

Mollie explains: "There have been other mountains that I've not been able to summit on. Sometimes other factors come into it that are out of your control. Knowing that I can achieve something is a good confidence boost, but on the mountain, you have to pay attention to other things going on around you too.

"When it is possible to do something and it is just a mind thing, I always try to keep going."

Mollie Hughes is also fundraising for Cancer Research UK. To read more about Mollie and her Everest expedition, visit

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