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A Ukrainian Woman Has Made History by Climbing the Seven Summits

Tetyana Yalovchak has become the first Ukrainian woman to climb the seven highest mountains on each continent, also known as the Seven Summits.

Yalovchak got her start in climbing years ago, but Russia’s war on Ukraine inspired her to seek more from her climbing career. Since 2014, Ukraine has been in a state of crisis after conflict with Russia led to invasions of Yalovchak’s homeland. Despite a ceasefire being signed, the conflict is still occuring to this day. While away on vacation in June 2014, her home in Donetsk, Ukraine, was destroyed.

“I found out that I had no home anymore; my place, located close to Donetsk airport, was destroyed. When I lost everything, I felt the need to reformat my life, I wanted to reach a new level. I knew I had to climb higher,” Yalovchak revealed.

Yalovchak began her experience with the Seven Summits back in 2012, starting with reaching Mount Kilimanjaro’s peak in Africa. A year after that, she climbed Mount Elbrus, the highest mountain in Europe. Her third feat was Aconcagua in Argentina in 2015.

After those three, Yalovchak sought to conquer arguably the most famous mountain of the Seven Summits in 2016: Mount Everest. Everest has proven to be a challenge for even the most experienced of climbers, but Yalovchak took it in stride and, like other powerful women around the globe, completed the trek. She was the second Ukrainian woman to climb Everest, with Irina Galay being the first.

Despite Everest’s reputation, Yalovchak did not consider it to be the most difficult of the Seven Summits. Her next mountain, Mount Denali in Alaska, definitely topped that. Yalovchak explained, “I consider Denali in Alaska to be the most challenging of all the peaks I have ever been to. Although it is not the highest, only 6,190 meters, it is very harsh. I had to carry all my equipment by myself, I had to do everything by myself. Due to a storm in Alaska, we had to prolong the expedition up to 18 days, instead of 7.”

After Denali came Australia’s Mount Kosciuszko in October 2017, and Puncak Jaya, located in Indonesia, a month later. Finally, Yalovchak climbed the Vinson Massif in Antarctica to conclude her Seven Summits journey in December 2017.

When reflecting on her expedition, Yalovchak prefers not to say she “conquered” these peaks. She states, “Up in the mountains I realized how powerful nature was. I never say that I conquered the mountain, I come to visit it, to see its beauty. I always ask the mountain to accept me, but then to let me go. It might sound strange, but it is my philosophy, and it helps. Moreover, I always carry rushnyk, a traditional Ukrainian embroidered towel, that my grandmother made many years ago. It protects me and I think it is very symbolic, when a girl from Donetsk, who wants peace in her country, takes a Ukrainian rushnyk to the highest peaks of the world.”

Featured Image by Christopher Burns on Unsplash

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