Adriana Brownlee or live in heaven

In the background, without warning, the sound of a radio is heard. Adriana Brownlee apologizes. “Sorry, I’m in the Cho Oyu base camp, in a tent at 5,000 meters above sea level,” she justifies herself. It is her day to day. Born to an Alicante mother, Eva Piñón, and an English father, Tony, Adri, as he is affectionately called at home, has climbed eleven eight-thousanders at the age of 21. He speaks with a very thick accent, but he handles Spanish well. In the heights, even better. It is where she feels best. “Once you start climbing, you don’t stop. You reach a point of adrenaline and emotion… now, it is very difficult for me to return to my previous life. In the mountains I am happier and it seems that there are no worries”, he explains just before attempting the ascent to the sixth highest peak in the world (8,188 meters). He already knows it, but not in these conditions: in winter and with temperatures that can reach 60 degrees below zero.

“It was a moment in which I thought that, if my body wanted, I could die right there”

Brownlee, on his expedition to Dhaulagiri

You constantly need new challenges. And he doesn’t like simplicity. In 2023, he may become the youngest person in history to cross all 14 eight thousand off his list. Nims Purja, the climber who managed to climb them in less than seven months, put the idea into her head and she decided to convolute it to the maximum. “I was inspired when I was on the winter expedition to K2, in 2020. Nims told me that it was time to start the project, years from now, but I wanted to make it even more difficult for myself, doing it as quickly as possible.“, remember. It is missing the Shisha Pangma (China) and the G1 and G2, in Pakistan. He will address them in the summer. If you don’t, you have a margin. The record, to this day, is held by Mingma Gyabu Sherpa, with 30 years and 166 days.

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Before each expedition, Brownlee still has nerves (“I’m human,” she insists), but she doesn’t channel them like anyone else. “Nerves and emotion come from the same reaction within the body. The same hormones are released, so I try to control it, ”he explains. He checks his equipment three times (“if you forget something, the worst can happen”) and his previous routine is mainly mental. “I visualize myself reaching the top. I mentally review all the situations that can occur, whether they are good or bad, ”she details. Once it starts up, the hardest part is already done. At the very least, his least favorite thing: finding financing for the expeditions. Emails and calls that, “in 99% of cases”, get no response. When you feel the cold, you release all your stress.

Adriana Brownlee on one of her expeditions.

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Adriana Brownlee on one of her expeditions.

From ecstasy to the fear of dying

Next to Gelje Sherpa, his adventure partner and the person who has taught him everything he knows, Brownlee has felt from the “most unbelievable” moment of her life the darkest fear possible. She met him during the K2 expedition that inspired her and, with him, she has not only learned to constantly live inches from the sky, but also “everything about Nepali culture and spirituality”. With him, too, he looked death in the eye. She was at Dhaulagiri (8,167 m), where she ran out of oxygen and radio at the summit. “It was a moment in which I thought that if my body wanted and gave up, I could die right there,” he recalls bitterly. “Me and my guide were the only ones at the summit. I have been in many other scary situations, but fear can kill you and sometimes the only option is to move fast.” At the other extreme, his first eight thousand, Everest (8,849 m), his “biggest dream” at the time. One that is getting higher and higher.

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