At 7:50 AM local time, she spread the Lithuanian tricolour on top of Manaslu. “The feeling was incredible!” Edita recalls. It was only one week after a tragic incident where an avalanche buried other climbers who were reaching for the peak.
“The Manaslu expedition was part of my preparations for Everest (8,848 metres). There is no better way to prepare for climbing than by climbing. I am still in the recovery phase from the Manaslu expeditions. Once I have recovered a little more, I will begin my daily runs, yoga and, of course, weekend trekking whenever and wherever I can,” Nichols told 15min after returning from Nepal back to her job in Rome.
She left Lithuania 16 years ago and has been on the move ever since. She has spent periods of her life living in France, Canada, the United States, Italy. In Rome, she started working for the UN World Food Programme and has taken part in humanitarian missions in Haiti and Niger. Lately, Edita has been based in Switzerland.
Début in Kilimanjaro
“My first significant peak was Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. I felt it was the beginning of my climbing feats. It became an important part of my life. I went to the Himalayas, where I trekked and climbed several peaks including Mera Peak,” she recounts.
Nichols climbed Kilimanjaro (5,895) in 2010. The following year, she conquered several peaks in Nepal and Mont Blanc (4,810) in the Alps. That same year, she climbed the sixth highest peak in the world, Cho Oyu (8,201) in the Himalayas – the first Lithuanian woman to do so.
This year, Edita has already climbed the mountains in Argentina. And in early autumn she once again headed for the Himalayas. This time – for mount Manaslu in Nepal, the eight-highest mountain in the world. Sinister crevasses and regular avalanches also make it one of the four most dangerous peaks in the world.
And Manaslu more than lived up to its reputation in the early hours of 23 September. A massive avalanched slid down its slope, burying a camp close to the peak. More than ten climbers died, many were injured.
Silence and tears
Edita was climbing up Manaslu as part of an international expedition which included climbers from Canada, China, Denmark, Lithuania, Nepal, Russia, the US, and the UK. The team was led by Phil Crampton from Great Britain.
When the avalanche hit, Edita's team was stationed at camp two, a little below the site of the accident. However, she did feel the force of nature. A mass of snow hit her tent as well.
“A powerful force hit out tent and we were trying to hold it up as we were tumbling down. Things happened so fast that there was no time to panic. There were so many thoughts that ran through my mind and I thought we’ll get buried under the snow. Fortunately, the blast stopped and we were able to get out of the tent,” she said the following day.
Edita's team escaped any serious harm. However, news from the camp a little further up was tragic. Climbers could see how, one after another, rescue helicopters were retrieving bodies.
Five people from Edita's team were too shocked to continue the climb – they packed up and went home. The rest of the group, including Nichols herself, decided to go on.
On their way up, the team passed the site of the tragedy. “It was beyond emotional. As I saw the debris, pieces of tents, and other things left behind, it sent chills up my spine. The whole area was devastating to look at,” Nichols says.
Sights make up for trouble
Fear, pain, cold, thinning air are but a few things in the long list of challenges that the Lithuanian has to deal during her quests. However, views from mountaintops make it all worthwhile.
“You get to see things most people will never get to see. You become a part of the mountain and it takes on human qualities. It can be kind and beautiful and it can be ugly and angry,” she says.
Edita reached the peak of Manaslu using oxygen tanks. According to her, oxygen eases breathing as air gets thinner, ensures proper blood circulation, thus preventing frostbites and altitude sickness.
“I have nothing to hide, I wanted to reach that summit on my own two feet and I did. If others choose not to use oxygen, that is a personal choice, but it does decrease the chances for success and increases the risk of injury. This is not to take anything away from those that summit without oxygen, they are strong and should be proud of their accomplishment,” according to Nichols.
Chance is not enough
Even though Edita started climbing just a few years ago, she has already achieved incredible things. She admits to being a total novice in mountaineering and speculates that her success was much helped by chance. But chance alone would not do the trick – proper preparation is key.
“I did smaller climbs first and only do what I know I am capable of. It is like any other significant goal, you don't just wake up one morning and decide: I am doing what would be impossible and dangerous.
“You progress, taking it one day at a time,” she says. “I only consider going on when it is as safe as possible and I would turn back if the conditions were dangerous or I was physically injured or sick. What I keep constantly in mind is my favourite climbing quote by Ed Viesturs 'Reaching the summit is optional and coming down is mandatory'.”
Nichols says all her trips are taxing – in terms of money, psychological and physical strength. Climbing affects her relations with family members, friends, and partners. Even though many of them are supportive, sometimes people do ask her: What is it all for? Edita sees that people do not understand why she sets out on dangerous and exhausting expeditions.
“The danger of the mountains is part of the attraction and part of the beauty. Life would be so boring if there weren't any risk factor,” Nichols believes. “I do want to inspire other people, especially other women. Everyday routines can be overwhelming for me, just like other people. Life can be hard but I try to keep true to my goals. Some people will try to discourage you in reaching your goals and dreams. Don't listen to them, focus on what is important to you and what you feel you can achieve.”
|Editos Nichols nuotr./View from a mountaintop makes the entire exhausting trip worthwhile|