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NEWS > Alumnae News > Bella Reaches New Heights

Bella Reaches New Heights

PR Director, Bella Gareh, Class of 2009, is coming back down to earth after climbing two of the world’s most majestic mountains above 6,000m, on an exhilarating four-week expedition in the Himalayas.

Bella says: “Nothing can beat the feeling of standing on the summit, knowing you made it, and finally having the time to look around and take in your surroundings with your teammates. It will always be a special memory.”

She adds: "The scale, power and magnitude of a big mountain can only be truly grasped when you are hanging off the side of its vertical slopes on a rope you have to learn to trust. On the climbs, you have a complete focus up there on what you are doing, with a team of like-minded individuals who become your best friends, experiencing something incredible together amongst some of the best views in the world, where you throw yourself into a challenge and learn a new skill.”

Bella is fairly new to the world of climbing and mountaineering, having been a keen hiker in the Alps previously. Her journey with climbing started last year when she took a sabbatical from her job at PR and Communications agency Halpern, where she’s worked for 11 years, and decided to do the trek to Everest Base Camp.

After that she was inspired to undertake the Three High Passes trek, which crosses three mountains in the Khumbu region of the Himalayas. As Bella explains: "This was where I discovered a love for the challenge the mountains presented, from the biting cold, the incredible views over the highest mountains in the world and being at an extreme level of altitude where you are literally breathless from the thin air.”

After visiting Nepal last year, Bella knew she wanted to return to attempt something bigger. So, she signed up with an expedition company called Elite Exped, which included a bespoke training package at Everest Base Camp. Following this she successfully summited Lobuche East at 6,119m high, and then Island Peak at 6,189m, both within five days of each other. Each mountain featured extreme steep icy terrain, vertical rock faces and cliff face exposure at extreme high altitude. 

Bella says: “You must be physically fit, but being mentally fit is equally important. Big mountain climbing expeditions last anywhere from 20 to 50 days, so it’s a long time away from home and the comforts that come with it. It’s a challenging trek, there’s a lot of time spent in a low oxygen environment where it’s cold, especially at night where you sleep in up to -20 degrees, there’s a lack of hygiene and personal space, and so it’s important to understand that you will often be put in uncomfortable situations.” 

She adds: “I’ve grown up often hearing the saying “the mountain always wins”. And it does. But I never once felt in danger or frightened when climbing Lobuche East or Island Peak. This was down to the fantastic team around me, and our guides and Sherpas who are full of knowledge, experience and encouragement. 

“Even passing a crevasse I knew I would be safe, as long I took it slow, one step at a time. The climbs were extremely tough, physically and mentally challenging but also very rewarding. They were harder than I imagined they would be. But one thing you have to remember, and the number one rule of big mountain climbing is that the summit is only halfway, and you have to have enough left in the tank to descend. There’s a famous quote - 'Ascending is optional, descending is mandatory'." 

It was an emotional experience for Bella: “When I got back down to the Base Camp, I was utterly exhausted and drained from being at such high altitude with little oxygen to breathe. Each climb was around 15-18 hours in total, starting at midnight and climbing throughout the night and into morning on no sleep. But with this, I was so unbelievably happy, filled with immense gratitude at being there, very humbled by the mountains and filled with many emotions at the achievement." 

So, what’s left to conquer?  “I’m not sure where my climbing adventures will lead me,” says Bella. “The next ones I have booked for this year are Kilimanjaro (one of the Seven Summits), Gran Paradiso (highest mountain in Italy), and Mont Blanc (France). But looking at the Himalayas, the next climb on the bucket list would be Manaslu. It’s one of the infamous 14 x 8,000m peaks, with the summit at 8,163m it’s the 8th highest mountain on the planet, and often considered the best first 8,000m peak to climb.”  

We will be cheering Bella on, feet firmly on the ground!

If you are logged into your Holles Connect account, you will be able to see some more of Bella’s stunning images of her Himalayan adventure below.

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