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HEROES Spotlight: Adriana Brownlee

2021-04-16

Tell us about yourself, Adriana. What makes you uniquely you? Can you tell me a bit about your background, your hobbies, your human experience? Climbing, Mountaineering, Alpinism and Philanthropy and Motivational speaking are relatively new endeavours for you in the grand timeline of your life. How did you come to find these passions and pursue them at an elite level, surrounded by history's greatest vertical athletes?

So where do I begin! I guess what makes me, me is that I just love pushing myself to the absolute limit… There is nothing in this world that can truly expose your strengths and flaws like a huge challenge and so that’s why I climb. Since age 9 I have been involved in endurance and hard core fitness projects, starting with the Three Peaks Challenge in the UK where I was the youngest to complete it. From then on, with the help of my father, I found that I had a crazy ability to focus my mind on the challenge ahead and block out the pain that comes with some of the things I have done.

My life at the moment is pretty much fully devoted to mountaineering. My goal is to transform my passion into a full time career and so to do that I must focus 100% of my attention on this. At the moment my three year goal would be to complete the 14 8000m peaks - with the potential of being the youngest person to do so. An exciting, yet challenging project which will push me to the limits whilst also being a financial nightmare too!! More recently I had the huge privilege of being on the K2 Winter expedition alongside Nimsdai and his epic team who I now consider family. This gave me my first proper taste of what life as an extreme athlete is really like, and well, i frigging loved it!! I was exposed to all angles from PR to Communications to Social Media and all matters in between that make up what it is to be a successful and influential climber.

With your travels taking you all over the world, what has your experience been with respect to the degradation of the environment and the effects of climate change? Where have you witnessed some of the largest impacts?

So for me climate change is a relatively new topic that I am coming to explore in detail. Following Nimsdai’s interest, I decided to look into it myself and started by reading a few books such as Bill Gates “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster”. Just recently on my trek into Everest Base Camp we came across a flood warning sign in the town of Dingboche - the glaciers are melting and there is a risk that the small village can very quickly be flooded by glacier water - a real life, real big problem that nobody can fix. Another issue was the air quality in Nepal - I had the pleasure of learning to solo paraglide in Pokhara for 2 weeks in a beautiful hilly area of Nepal where once the mountain range in the distance was crystal clear, now you would be lucky to see them on a bright sunny day.

These aren’t just small changes, these are noticeable and sad changes that we can’t reverse. So the only solution is to completely change the way our world functions - something that is certainly not going to be easy. I am now in a partnership with Save the Duck, an amazing clothing brand which promotes anti-animal cruelty and sustainability by using other materials such as Plumtech instead of Down in their jackets etc. I’m super excited to learn more about sustainable living and also more specifically sustainable climbing! I’m very new to this area so it’s one step at a time but I’m loving every moment of this new experience and hope to become an influential advocate of sustainable climbing some day!

sherpa

In your travels, have you seen any highly effective, simple ways that people have implemented to reduce their impact on their environment? What are some simple ways that you yourself reduce your own footprint?

I recently came across a man called Tommy Gustafsson who has created the Sagarmatha Next Center in Namche Bazaar- a village on the way to Everest Base camp - which allows artists from all over to create artwork from recycled materials found on the trek to base camp. He also has created an initiative called Carry Me Back which simply gets people to carry a 1KG bag of waste from the entrance of Sagarmatha National Park to Kathmandu airport where it can then be recycled by a separate company - if every trekker did this, over 70 tons of waste would be removed from the area each year!! So simple yet so effective! I really loved his idea and will be promoting it for sure :)

It seems as though your father was integral in developing your passions, introducing your education at altitude and fostered your young experiences as you pursue elite climbing. Tell us a bit about your relationship with your father, and what is some advice you have for other young women as they pursue support from their parents.

My father is the reason I am where I am today. He pushed me beyond my limits when I thought I had reached them and was the ultimate idol for me. I remember being so proud of my father and boasting about him at school to my friends!! A big moment was when he climbed Aconcagua and I just remember thinking I want to do this one day, I want to achieve big things. And eventually we did get to climb Aconcagua together in 2018 which was just a magical moment :)

My advice to young women would be to find what you’re good at, and more importantly what makes you happy, and be the best at it. Point your heart and soul at your passion and huge things will come your way. Your parents are ultimately the only people you can fully trust , so don’t be afraid to talk to them and ask them for support, Sometime they may not agree with your choices but at the end of the day it’s your life to live, SO GO LIVE IT!

Climbers have an inherent obligation to nature. To preserve it. To protect it. To teach about it. What are some ways that you use your talents to perpetuate the soul of a climber to others that you cross paths with?

In modern times, the best way to promote, advocate or put across any beliefs is via social media. I am of two minds when it comes to social media. I absolutely love the platform it provides and the reach it can have - which is how I use it to promote my beliefs such as sustainable climbing and women empowerment! My aim is to be as real as possible and not create a false identity or picture of what my life or climbing is really like. Unfortunately social media has its downsides - such as mental health related issues. However at the end of the day it’s the best way to communicate with the world and make real impacts.

summit push - adrianna brownlee

What is next for you in your young career? You have had the opportunity to work with some of the most talented professionals in the world and in the near future, that will hopefully continue to expand. Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?

Next for me is to complete Everest/ Lhotse followed by K2 and Broad peak in summer 2021. I am also planning on climbing some unclimbed mountains in the Kanchenjunga range which will be more technical in terms of ice climbing, etc. My three year goal as mentioned above would be to complete all 14 8000ers and hopefully become an influential young climber where I can promote and advocate important issues and hopefully make a positive mark on the world :) I also hope to get more into paragliding and find a way to incorporate both climbing and flying into one! Now that would certainly make me an adventure athlete haha

Where can people find you or get in touch? How can people get involved in ultimately giving back to things you truly care about? What are some projects, productions and adventures you're really proud of and would like others to know about?

The best way to get in touch with me is via email or through my Instagram. I absolutely love having people ask me questions and show interest in what I do!! My biggest project at the moment is working with the charity Friends of Himalayan Children, which gives young children in difficult living situations access to accommodation, food and education. My main role within the charity would be to teach young girls to become trekking guides - an occupation which is heavily dominated by men , not only in Nepal but all over the world! I’m also super excited to be able to use my platform as a young female climber to promote both female empowerment and raise awareness on mental health issues in young adults through the British Inspiration Trust which is an organisation that provides young adults suffering from mental health related issues with support and help.

Website - adrianabrownlee.com

Instagram - Adri.Brownlee

Facebook - Adriana Brownlee

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