18 July 2019
| THE HEARTBEAT OF WOMEN'S SPORT

Reach for the summit – trekking tips

March 29, 2010

Giving up a high flying career in France to set up a trekking business in Nepal is a brave decision, especially for a woman in a very male dominated industry. But for Caroline Cuif-Letrange it was a ‘terrible passion’ that ‘just grabbed her.’ Here she shares her top tips for those looking for a trekking adventure.

kilimanjaro-trekThe Kathmandu and London based tour leader and expedition organiser spoke to Katy Dartford about why she created  Reach Summit and why everyone should follow their passion if they want to climb Kilimanjaro or trek in Everest region.

“I started quite late at 26,” says fortysomething Caroline, who grew up in Normandy. “I just fell in love with the mountains of Chamonix – everything started there.”

Caroline was then working as a web designer for major multimedia agencies in Paris when she began travelling throughout Europe and started mountain climbing with friends in the French Alps.

“I began on small climbs, it was a disaster at first, but the beauty of the peaks inspired me to tackle something bigger.”

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So she trained for it. “I went to the gym every day, started running and cycling and slowly, slowly I improved my stamina. I kept climbing and eventually got the pleasure to go higher and do more routes.”

But what gave her the final push to change her life for good? “This is the tough question,” sighs Caroline, “First it was the passion, which I don’t think will ever leave me. Second is that I climbed Everest for the first time in 2006 when I was married.

“It was my husband who had given me the passion of mountains. He was a good mountaineer, although not a professional and we climbed together. The idea for the business came as we were travelling. But my life changed when we climbed Everest. He reached the summit, but never came down. I did get down and decided to keep his spirit alive and make the dream we had something real.”

But is being a late starter to mountaineering something that should put people off?

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Caroline insists its not. “It’s just a matter of passion. You can start young with your parents or it can hit you later on. But there’s no going back. You will get itchy feet all the time. You will come back to the modern world and suddenly think “I’m bored” and want to get back to the mountains. Then you will meet people and climb with them and all these dreams will build up in your head. You just have to go for it.”

Caroline has since achieved quite a glittering climbing portfolio – but not everything has come off first time. “I didn’t’ reach the summit of Mount Blanc until the forth attempt in 2002 – partly because of the weather and because I was sick.” She also climbed Kilimanjaro in 2000 and 2007, Cho Oyu, in Tibet in 2004 and the North East Ridge of Everest in 2006. “The summit seemed so close, but I had to turn back at 8300m.”

With so much experience under you belt what advice would you give to anyone thinking of taking on something like Everest base camp or Kilimanjaro, treks that has become increasingly popular thanks to the likes of Comic Relief?

“Well, Kili is a beautiful mountain,” says Caroline, “it’s a volcano and when you stand on Uhuru Peak you are at the top of Africa! If you want to do it, I would say go for it.”

But most people don’t have the backing of personal trainers to make sure they’re fit for the 5,895 meter hike. “The good thing about Kili is that you don’t need to be an experienced mountaineer with technical knowledge of rope work, ice-axes and crampons to climb it.

“The main problem is altitude,” says Caroline. “Many trekkers don’t understand what that means and what the effects of it are.”

So you need specific training for it then? “Definitely,” says Caroline. “Long runs or bike rides to improve your stamina and your ability to walk longer and faster. Then hit the gym to weight train so you’re stronger and to help prevent injury. But cardio training is the most important aspect. The best tip is simply to go climbing.”

So if you’re up for the challenge, what kit should you look out for?

“Most people get too cold or too warm,” warns Caroline, ‘”so choose good layers. Include a base layer to keep you warm, a mid layer to provide insulation, then a good Gore-tex shell to cut out the rain and snow. Then invest in comfortable trekking shoes and gloves. But always remember to drink a lot of water as this will prevent cramps and altitude sickness.”

The most difficult part of going trekking or mountaineering for most of us is actually making a trip happen. How do you get past this?

“For most of us it is because of work or financial restrictions,” explains Caroline “but you must say to yourself ‘I have a dream’ and the first step to make it happen is to buy that plane ticket. Once you’ve done this you will start to cut loose and open your gateway to the world. Only then will you get to encounter the many cultures and feel new emotions that travel can bring.”

To find out more about training for mountain expeditions and altitude sickness or to book one of Caroline’s’ tours visit www.reachsummit.com

Katy Dartford, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine

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