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Everest 2005: Monica’s Mountain Management
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Jan 28, 2005 09: 56 EST
Monica Kalozdi will be attempting Everest next spring, through the North Col route from Tibet. She is joining the Himex team for a guided expedition, counting on supplementary O2 and Sherpa support, she admits. Compared to some professional, full-time alpinists, it may seem that Monica has chosen ‘the easy way’ to reach the top of the world.

It is not.

Monica, like other Everest climbers, loves the mountains but does not live on them. Between running a company, keeping a house, and taking care of a family in New Orleans, even considering an Everest climb is quite a challenge. Simply finding time to get there is half the battle.

Everest No Joke

However, even with O2, Sherpas, and fixed ropes, Everest is no joke. Climbers risk their lives up there, and Monica knows it.

“I believe I take Everest extremely seriously, as most climbers would,” she said. “I will be climbing : the Tibetan side, slightly more technical than the South classic route. My main concern is the weather which is beyond our control. Such would also be the case for the Khumbu Ice fall, which is unpredictable on its continuous movement. This is the reason why I chose to climb the Tibetan side.”

Monica is an experienced climber. Before even considering Everest, she has summited many peaks, each time higher than the last. And what became her passion, came from a bet.

A Gambling Passion

When her husband, Jeno, challenged her to climb Switzerland’s Matterhorn, Monica took him on. “I had never really exercised in a serious manner to that point,” she said. “I trained for 2 years, learned to rock climb, and started jogging. My first accomplishment was making it around the block of my house!” Her next accomplishment was climbing the Matterhorn.

“I fell in love with mountaineering after the Matterhorn. Ever since, I always set my next goal when I am at the summit of the current one.” Monica went on to stand on the summits of Mont Blanc, Kilimanjaro, Aconcagua, Mt. Vinson, Denali, Cho Oyu, as well as several other mountains in the Alps. And according to Monica, “Everest just seemed to be a logical next.” If she mades it to the top, she'll consider completing the Seven Summits.

Experts agree that the best training for climbing high mountains is to just climb. And this method works great if you live by a range. But if you live in the flat, wetlands of New Orleans, training gets a little difficult.

Stairway to… floor 28

Monica has been training three hours daily, primarily by climbing the stairs of a 28 story building in New Orleans. “We do not have even a little hill close to us,” she said. When she’s not climbing, she’s running—ten miles a day and half a marathon a week. She also includes weight-lifting in her weekly regiment. But the most grueling aspect of her routine may be her daily life.

The wife and mother of three also manages a manufacturing company. “The bottom line,” she says, “is that there is no time left for anything else. The focus is very intense and the sacrifice is made by the whole family. I count my blessings to have such a wonderful supportive family.”

Monica’s first experience at 8000 meters high took place last fall, when she summited Cho Oyu. The “I found it quite different to climbing 7,000 m mountains. The whole approach both physical and mental is so different that it caught me quite by surprise. I am extremely glad I had that experience first before attempting Everest," she said.

Checking homework from BC

For Monica, being away from her husband and children is the hardest thing about being a passionate mountaineer.Even while climbing, she tends to her familial and work duties: From working on the job through the lap-top to checking her kids’ homework over satellite phone in BC. “I really, really miss my family on the mountain,” she said. “After Everest, I will be happy to limit my mountains to shorter ones that require less time.”

Climbing a mental game

Being so busy at home, why should you spend your precious, spare time suffering on brutal, cold mountains?

“The mountains offer me a wonderful physical and above all a mental challenge,” she says. “I find it as mainly a mental game to overcome the fear, the pain and so forth. I really believe the mountains are climbed with the mind above all. I love that challenge. And even more importantly, the mountains bring everything back into focus. Not only do you know what you are made out of when you are on the mountain, but you also know what is really important in life. On the mountain you must go back to basics. What you have on, how you look, or even how much money you have in the pocketbook has absolutely no importance. My little, daily problems at my business become insignificant.

Nowadays I need to be on the mountain once a year to clean out my soul, keep my values in line, and know what is important in life. I love my business and the challenges it presents me as well, but thanks to the mountain climbing, I can handle it with ease.”

In a few weeks, Monica will have the chance to test her mind at the highest level in the world.

Monica Kalodzi summited Cho Oyu last fall, as part of the Himalayan Experience team, along with friend and mountain guide Jean Pavilliard. She has also summited Matterhorn, Mont Blanc, Denali, Aconcagua and Mt, Vinson.

Images of Monica on Vinson summit and close-up, courtesy of Monica Kalozdi; Monica (left) and Jean on the summit of Cho Oyu, courtesy of Jean Pavilliard
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