“I didn´t know someone like me could climb mountains. I grew up in a flat part of Sweden and all the stories I heard about climbing mountains was from super hardcore men. They were the ones featured in the movies, books, standing on stage talking about their adventures, in the magazined and on TV.”
When Emma Svensson started climbing mountains a few years ago she had never done anything similar in her life. People around her told her she couldn´t do it. But the passion and curiosity for these challenges made her go for it anyway. She describes herself as a regular girl who loves adventures.
“I´m not a professional athlete and I´m not trying to be either. I want to be someone people can relate to. I want to inspire others and I want them to feel that if she can do this so can I”.
After climbing her first big mountain in 2017 she came home from the expedition and felt restless. She had just climbed the highest mountain in Europe, what should she do now? Two hours later she changed her whole life and started her 49 Peaks project.
“I called a friend and asked if he wanted to join me climbing Swedens highest mountain the next day. A week later I was on the summit of Mt Blanc. In one year I climbed 61 mountains in Europe + Aconcagua and four 5000 m mountains in Peru. I went from zero to everything. It was impossible to go back to my old life after this to I kept climbing.”
She bought a van and travelled around climbing mountains like Matterhorn, Ama Dablam, back to Aconcagua and started her next project: American Peaks.
“The goal was to climb the highest mountain in every country in The Americas. North, Central and South. I did a lot of them like Chimborazo, Nevado Sajama and a crazy expedition on Haiti and in the Amazon to the highest mountain in Brazil that is located in the middle of nowhere. But I realised it´s not right to have a big project like that on the other side of the world. Even if I was doing a fundraiser for the rainforest with the project I couldn´t motivate myself to travel across the world as much as was needed for environmental reasons. Also I wanted to do alpine climbing, not bushwack through the jungle.”
She quit the project and decided to do something closer to home: To climb all 4000 meter peaks in The Alps. With only female partners. Something that had never been done before. Then covid happened.
“Just when we were about to start the project the world went into a lockdown. The 4000 meter peaks in The Alps are located in France, Italy and Switzerland so you must be able to move freely to do a project like this. We waited for two years and hopefully it will be possible to start the project now.”
A French alpine climber, Liv Sanoz was the big inspiration for this project.
“She climbed them all in just a little bit over a year. First we thought about it, trying to climb them all within a year but I think that would be dangerous and difficult for us. There is 82 mountains over 4000 meter and to climb them all in one year you need to have good luck with weather and conditions and that is not something you can´t control. With global warming making the conditions more dangerous in the mountains we don´t want to take the risk to go when conditions aren´t good. Things like rockfalls are becoming more and more common due to the warmth and that is something that can be very dangerous.”
She knows what she is talking about. In the summer of 2019 Emma almost died in a rockfall on Grand Jorasses Traverse. She was hit in the head by a big rock when an avalanche of rocks came down on her.
“My partner saved my life. We were climbing with running belay on Dome the Rochefort and I had just taken out the cam (protection) that held the rope to the mountain when I looked up and saw the rocks falling from the sky. There were so many and nowhere to escape. I thought “shit” and then everything went black. I passed out and fell down the mountain. My partner saw this and managed to throw himself on a lousy rock and hold on for our lives. If he couldn´t hold my fall we both would die. I´m so thankful for my partner. I woke up 45 minutes later when the helicopters was rescuing me. I was super lucky and got away with minor injuries, some stitches in my head and a concussion but this accident have teached me to be careful.”
So they decided to not put a time limit on the project. To be able to have good conditions for each climb to be more safe and to have time to enjoy it.
“If you have a time limit you need to compromise with your safety. Take shortcuts. You will be stressed. When I did my 49 Peaks projects I had a time limit to do them within a year. Even if a limit can be good motivation it means you are always stressed and can´t enjoy the project. This time I want to enjoy it.”
To join this project is Emmas friend and climbing partner Emma Håkansdotter. A Swedish climber living in Italy.
“We met on a climbing trip I was arranging together with Matilda Söderlund in Kaylmnos and discovered we shared a passion for alpine climbing. Emma is stronger than me in sport climbing and have more experience there but we are pretty much on the same level in alpine climbing and that is great because we develop and learn together when we are climbing.”
They will also invite other women to climb together with them.
“The whole idea of this project is to inspire others, specially women to climb these mountains. Therefore we will also make a free climbing guide of every mountain on this website for everyone to use. We want this project to mean something for more people than ourselves. We want to give back to the community.”
After two years of waiting the project is finally about to begin. In March 2022 they will go for the first mountains – on skis.
“I´m not a skier, I learned to ski just a few years ago. We will see how it goes but even if I don´t have the best style skiing down a mountain I will always be happy that I didn´t let fear stop me from following my dreams”