I’m Magdalena, AEIN volunteer and this is my story.
I was born in Poland, but currently I am living and working in infrastructure fund in legal department in Luxembourg. I guess my profession is the main reason why people quite frequently ask me how my passion towards mountains started.
Well, once upon a time…just kidding, it all started pretty ordinary. I am coming from Katowice, a city in Poland that is situated approx. 4h drive by car to the mountains. When I was younger, my parents and I were doing a lot of hiking and trailing trips. It was part of our bonding weekend activity that allowed us to spend the time all together. At first, being a young teenager, I’m not going to lie, it was challenging, it was more of a hate-love relationship with mountains. While all my high school colleagues were simply enjoying their free time with friends or simply getting more sleep over the weekends, my weekends were different, even unusual for my peers. On Fridays we were packing our backpacks and going to sleep as early as possible, so that we could wake up between 3-5am to hit swiftly the road and hopefully be the first one on the track. Usually we hiked till late afternoon in different weather conditions. Sometimes we hiked in quite heavy heat and the other days in pure rain with no place to hide. I also had so called “rebellious moments” when I repelled the mountains for some period of time. Thankfully, soon enough I actually realized that it was the best time ever spent. Till now, I appreciate, and I am thankful to my parents for such passion that is rooted in me so deeply that, I am sure, will stay with me forever.
Mountains helped me to polish my character, develop self-discipline, strong dedication, determined focus and resilience. They taught me to be patient and humble but also stressed the importance of quality family time and parents-daughter bond.
In recent years, I started to explore different mountain activities such as via ferratas in Garda or Dachstein region, portaledge hanging tents in Poland, ice-climbing on the frozen waterfalls in Poland, Slovakia and Nordic countries, some pure climbing and then…mountaineering. I think this is one of my favorite ones.
Before my fathers’ passing, we had a mission to conquer the Mont Blanc together. Soon after, it became my own mission… it was my way of preserving my childhood memory and extending this unbreakable bond, strong as only the mountain can be.
First on my way was Mt. Toubkal in Atlas mountains in Morocco (4,167m on 15 June 2020) Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania (5,895 m on 25 June 2021), then it was time for Mt. Blanc in Alps (4,809m on 13 September 2021), Mt Kazbek in Georgia (5,054m on 23 July 2022) where I was supposed to climb it alongside with Mt. Elbrus in Russia, but unfortunately the war broke out and I had to cancel it. The recent one, which is a highlight for this story was Mera Peak, 6,476m in Nepal summited on 23 April this year at 7.30am, which was my very first Himalayan expedition and simultaneously my very first 6k mountain…but for sure not the last.
When we arrived to Nepal, we were extremely thankful for the humbleness and curiousness of the people we encountered on our way. Each time, they greeted us with big smiles and waving hands. Kids were running around us and teasing so many times, so we treated them with some sweets in return. We spent a lot of time with our guides, so called Sherpas and their families and friends along the way. We had a chance to be a true witness of their routine, day to day life, which is simple but somehow happier and full of generosity and kindness. Sherpas were our heroes as they were waking up earlier than us and going to sleep later than us, serving us their traditional dishes and ginger tea each day carrying our heavier baggage, helping us in every weak moment we encountered. Women were cooking for us so our bellies could be constantly full after extreme physical effort. They took care of us and made us feel like at home.
I remember particularly, the night before our initial summit plan attack. The weather has worsened. The temperature was –35 degrees with strong wind, between 50-60mk/h which at this attitude makes the summit almost impossible for people like us. Huge snow falls and plenty of avalanches didn’t look promising. We all felt like during heavy winter Christmas season. During the evening, the electricity went down and the Russian team, who went up for the summit few days ago, just came back. Not all of them made it. One girl came down with very intense fingers and toes frostbites, not really conscious and aware of what was happening to her due to the altitude sickness that she got. We gave her medicines and tried to warm up and bring back the blood circulation to her already black fingers and toes. That was the first time I realized that this expedition is not like any other before. The reality hit me as next day I had to decide if I’m ready for whatever might happen up there. Next days I made affirmative decision as I felt physically well, was properly hydrated, slept good enough and was actually excited to already start going! I was trusting my intuition and believed in my skills, preparation and knowledge gather while preparing for the expedition. I also knew that we are in good hands, and we are in a team that care about each other’s mental and physical state. Our expedition leaders and Sherpas were experienced and well prepared to give us the comfort and create the environment of trust and partnership. Truth to be said, without them we wouldn’t be able to make it. The entire experience helped us to appreciate small little things in our life again: warm homemade food, good night sleep, time with your beloved ones.
In the next chapter of my story, I will share more about the social and environmental aspect of my expedition, and how I became AEIN volunteer.