SACRAMENTO — A 33-year-old Berkeley woman went from sea level to the summit of Mount Everest and back in a span of two weeks, the shortest amount of time that has ever been done.
Roxanne Vogel just returned home Friday night and is still processing everything she experienced.
As a nutritionist and research performance manager at GU Energy Labs, Vogel knew how to prepare her body for Everest’s 29,000-foot summit.
Her three years of training and preparation included working and sleeping in simulated high-altitude environments.
“I had a tent on my bed that I slept in eight hours a night and then at work here, where I am a GU Energy Labs in Berkeley, we have an altitude chamber,” she explained. “So, I would also wheel my desk and computer in there, and spend about an additional four more hours a day in hypoxia so that I could simulate altitude and cut down my trip time.”
Vogel and three companions were the first ones this season to summit from the north, the Tibet-China side of the mountain.
“The day we summited, May 22, was actually the day that that famous picture was taken with that whole crowd lined up on the south side. We didn’t see any of that, so I had no idea that any of that was going on,” Vogel told FOX40. “It was later in the day for us, so it was close to noon, and everybody had already come and gone from the south.”
Eleven people have died on Everest this season, most attributed to altitude sickness.
“It’s very present and it sticks in your mind that people die up here and it’s a possibility,” Vogel said.
There is a limit to the amount of time the human body can withstand extremely high elevations, even with supplemental oxygen. The long line on the south side has been blamed for pushing the exposure to deadly levels for some climbers.
“It’s unforgivable,” Vogel said. “It’s a terrible tragedy what happened on the south. But I think there could be ways to, at least, help solve the problem going forward.”
Vogel suggests limiting the number of climbing permits. She said climbers should be required to have experience in high-altitude mountaineering before they are accepted on one of these trips.
As for her experience at the top of the world, it was about as perfect as such a thing can be.
“Obviously it’s the closest to heaven I’ve ever been,” she said. “It was like a dream, you know. I thought I was in the wrong place for a minute or we had taken a wrong turn somewhere because I just didn’t think that there was any way we’d ever be alone on the summit of Everest. So, it was surreal and it was beautiful.”
She also credits Alpenglow Expeditions, based in Squaw Valley, with helping her complete her entire Everest journey in 14 days, a feat never accomplished before.