Setting a lofty goal is one thing. Setting a whole series of miles-high goals is another. But for climber Annabelle Bond, 37, the lure of extraordinary heights turned out to be a powerful inspiration for personal and athletic discovery.
Bond got a taste both for exotic locales and for athletic adventures during her childhood, a time during which her family lived mostly in Jakarta, Indonesia, and Hong Kong. She and her siblings regularly swam, rode horses, and played tennis and golf. As an adolescent, she attended boarding school in England and played on all the sports teams.
As an adult, Bond kept fit, but it wasn’t until 1997 that she took up long-distance running. Living in Hong Kong and working as a real estate broker, she began training with her then-boyfriend for the MacLehose Trail marathon, a demanding 103-km (64-mile) mountain course near Hong Kong that covers around 23,000 vertical feet in 90 percent humidity. She liked the challenge. Before long, her athletic pursuits became an abiding passion.
At the end of 2000, she resigned from a director-level position at her brokerage firm and moved to Sun Valley, Idaho, to focus on her fitness and sporting interests. She took up skiing and also began to travel the world and hike. She tramped far and wide, hiking through New Zealand, Nepal and Peru. She also trekked to Everest base camp (17,500 feet) for the first time — a challenge she still vividly recalls.
In 2001, Bond did her first mountain climb, scaling Mount Aconcagua in Argentina. She fell in love with the sport and pursued a variety of climbs throughout Ecuador and Bolivia before joining Andronico Luksic and his Chilean team, with whom she would eventually scale Everest.
In 2002, Bond became associated with The Eve Appeal, a London-based nonprofit organization dedicated to the fight against ovarian cancer. Bond was astonished to learn that 78 percent of the women diagnosed with the disease die from it. Three weeks before departing for Everest, Bond had her own scare, and it was then she decided she would help the cause in any way she could. She began advocating for early detection screening and donating all her climbing profits to The Eve Appeal (www.eveappeal.org.uk).
In early 2004, after breaking up with her fiancé of five years, Bond threw herself into her climbing pursuits. “I was going through a difficult period in my life,” says Bond. “To deal with my situation, I decided to set physical challenges and goals for myself. Climbing was very therapeutic for me.”
Bond set her sights on climbing Mount Everest, which, at approximately 29,028 feet, is the world’s tallest mountain (from its peak, one can see the curvature of the earth) — and she succeeded, becoming the fourth British woman ever to reach Everest’s peak. After descending, she struggled with what to do next. After all, where do you go when you’ve just been, quite literally, to the top of the world?
She decided to tackle the Seven Summits — the tallest mountains on each of the seven continents. What’s more, she would do it all in less than a year, a feat that no woman had yet accomplished.
With Everest already in the bag and six summits remaining to be conquered, Bond began her epic quest. She climbed Mount Elbrus (18,510 feet) in the Caucasus mountain range in Russia, Europe; Mount Kilimanjaro (19,340 feet) in Tanzania, Africa; Mount Kosciuszko (7,310 feet) in the Snowy Mountains of Australia; Mount Vinson Massif (16,067 feet) in Antarctica; Mount Aconcagua (22,841 feet) in Argentina (again), South America; and on May 10, 2005, 360 days after conquering Everest, Bond stood atop Mount Denali (also known as Mount McKinley) in Alaska, the highest peak in North America at 20,320 feet.
Bond became the fastest female climber — and the fourth-fastest climber of either gender — ever to achieve this mountaineering milestone.
She describes the confidence she got from climbing as instrumental to her emotional healing from the loss of her relationship. Her confidence continued to grow as she reached each new peak — even as her body felt the strain of the mountains. “I climbed nearly 150,000 vertical feet during that year, which definitely takes its toll on the body. But the experience was as emotionally uplifting as it was challenging. I cried on the summits of Everest, Vinson, Aconcagua and, of course, Denali. Denali was very emotional. I could hardly believe I’d actually achieved the goal I set for myself just 360 days prior.”
Today, Bond is working on writing a book about her experiences. She also dreams of making a travel-adventure television show. In the meantime, she enjoys encouraging others to embrace fitness as a means for personal transformation. “Setting physical challenges and achieving those goals can provide a big boost in self-confidence,” she says. “It can help us restore our belief in ourselves and our abilities.
“Once you accomplish any big goal that’s important to you, you’ll find that your whole demeanor — as well the way you’re perceived by others — becomes very positive.” In this way, she notes, what started as a very personal inspiration may have very far-reaching results, indeed.
To learn more about Annabelle Bond, visit www.annabellebond.com.