The Azars Return
For many of us setting out on weekend hikes or even month-long overland treks, the prospect of scaling the loftiest of peaks - Mt Everest herself - seem far off, the result of years of training and conditioning. Fewer of us still were considering the prospect at 8 years old.For Alyssa Azar, Everest was never a question, though her father Glenn was determined to ensure the pint-sized adventurer was up to the task, both mentally and physically.
Alyssa Azar’s first trek saw her complete the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea, on the condition that she had adhered to dad Glenn’s rigorous training scheme in the year leading up to it. While the Kokoda track remains a popular destination for adventure travellers, few complete the journey at just 8 years old - becoming the youngest person in the world to do so at the time.
“I harassed [Glenn] about it for a few years and when I was 8, he ended up letting me go to cross the Kokoda Track with him. It was incredibly challenging but I spent a year training for it and loved it. From then on I was hooked on it and every few years we would try to take on another trek somewhere,” Alyssa told Women’s Agenda in 2019.
Kokoda remains close to the heart of the Azars, with Glenn recently chalking up his seventy-third tour of the track.
Everest Base Camp followed at 10 years old, the Aussie top 10 at 12, and Africa’s highest peak Mt Kilimanjaro when she was just 14.
"There’s a few reasons I value these challenges. I grow so much in such a short period of time and I think that process of performing at my best is very addictive. Once you see what you’re truly capable of, it is eye-opening." she says." I think I also do it for the simplicity and sense of calm and belonging that I feel in the mountains. Especially at high altitude, I strangely feel very at home and in my element."
The dream of scaling Everest threatened to never be fulfilled after a 2014 avalanche killed 16 Sherpas while Alyssa was preparing to commence her ascent on the Nepalese side of the mountain. It ended the season in Nepal and Alyssa was forced to return home. A year later Alyssa was back, only for the April 25th earthquake to scupper her attempt - the quake killed almost 9000 people in Nepal and sent her home again.
Never to be deterred, she returned and completed her first successful summit of Mt Everest on May 21, 2016, when she was just 19 years old - the youngest Australian to ever do so. In 2018 she summited the more difficult north side of Everest, becoming the youngest woman to have ever completed both climbs - and the only one to have completed it in a custom-made, Mountain Designs down suit.
She says the biggest challenge was mental. While the physical aspects are an important part of the process, developing her mental ability to cope with suffering and manage pain, especially in the face of adversity, took four years to master.
"I needed to back myself and believe in myself even in the face of risk, danger and adversity."
Now a succesful trainer and motivational coach, Glenn’s spent 17 years in the armed forces, including time working as a medic in the Australian Army Aviation Corps. He sold his boxing gym to fund Alyssa’s climbs, and while he has no intention of climbing Everest himself, his primary motivation remains ensuring his daughter - and other intrepid adventurers - are physically and mental prepared to take on the toughest of journeys.
Through their tour company, Adventure Professionals, Alyssa and Glenn lead tours echoing their own adventures to Mt Kilimanjaro, Russia's Mt Elbrus, Kokoda and our own Aussie 10 Peaks, including Mt. Kosciuszko.
Adventure Professionals supply all of the gear their trekkers need - the majority of which has been accrued over Glenn's long working history with Mountain Designs.
"Knowing that you have the best quality gear on the trek not only sets you apart from the other tour groups, but it gives your trekkers a sense of faith, knowing that they'll be sleeping well and ready for whatever the next day throws at them - he told the Mountain Designs team.
We have worked with Mountain Designs for years and we wouldn't want any other gear on our backs."
Mountain Designs welcomes Glenn and Alyssa Azar back on board as Adventure Ambassadors. They will be providing insights into their many adventures, as well as expert advice and reviews.
Check out some of the blogs they have already created for Mountain Designs here: