Alyssa Azar Summits Mount Elbrus
Alyssa Azar recently returned from successfully summiting the dangerous and unpredictable Mount Elbrus. At age 19, Alyssa has now completed four of the Seven Summits. We caught up with the determined adventurer to talk about her Elbrus climb and tease out some of her top mindset tips.
Mount Elbrus has a reputation for being dangerous and unpredictable. Were you afraid going into this summit?
Mount Elbrus is definitely unpredictable and I wasn't afraid but I was alert and I was not underestimating the mountain. I knew that whiteout conditions can come through very quickly and on my acclimatisation climbs I experienced storm conditions. I was also aware that hidden crevasses are everywhere and not far off the climbing route.
What was your experience like?
I had a really mixed experience of both climbing and pushing myself while getting to experience the authentic Russian culture of the North Caucasus. It was just myself and one local guide so I had a pretty cool experience.
What did you learn from your guide?
My guide grew up in the area around where we were climbing (a remote area of Russia). He knew it like the back of his hand and I got to experience the culture by meeting locals in Terskol and Cheget - villages at the base of Elbrus.
My guide had extensive knowledge of the mountain range and many of the other peaks of the mountain. He had worked on Elbrus for 14 years with over 200 ascents of the mountain, so I got some great insights from him. I also enjoyed trying the local cuisine, hearing the language and picking up some words here and there.
What were the main challenges along the way?
The main challenge is endurance on summit day, it is a long day with around an 11-12 hour climb.
How did you get through the day?
I knew with previous experience such as Everest that I could climb for long hours. So, I overcame the challenge by focusing on each section as I was climbing it and not allowing myself to think too far ahead. I knew I had put in my training and that I was well prepared. It was time to switch my mindset on and focus on what I was there to do.
Tell me about your state of mind during the climb.
My state of mind was very focused during the climb. We set out from Base Camp at 2am in the dark with head torches and slowly made our way up the mountain. I was focused on getting into a rhythm and just making sure I was putting my steps in the right places.
Was there ever a moment of doubt?
I was confident, but yes, there are always some doubts. There are moments of fatigue and every climb at some point makes you question yourself. I think that's part of the process.
How did you push past this?
I pushed past any doubts by focusing on why I was there on the climb and how bad I wanted it. I find that my desire always overshadows any doubts as long as I am taking actions toward my goal.
What was it like to reach the summit?
It was an amazing feeling to reach the summit after a long day. I had imagined it beforehand and to see all the training and process end with a successful summit was a great way to complete the expedition.
On my summit day, I had perfect weather with no wind. It was sunny and clear, so the views on top were amazing.
How did you celebrate when you got back?
I celebrated by going out to dinner with some of my family - it's always nice to just be at home and relax after a successful expedition.
What did Mount Elbrus teach you?
Mount Elbrus really reinforced the lessons I've learnt in the mountains time and time again. It taught me what I am capable of if I set my mind to a task and the gratifying feeling that comes from hard work. But, overall the greatest lesson it taught me is that I am capable of pushing myself far beyond perceived limitations.
You've completed four of the Seven Summits at the age of 19. When do you hope to complete all seven by?
I don't have a specific timeline to complete all seven at the moment because it depends on many factors like sponsorship, logistics, timing. But, I am hoping to return to Aconcagua in December for number five and then we will see after that!
You've started an online mindset program with your father, Glenn, to help people achieve their own summits - whether it's a mountain or everyday challenge. Can you let us in on a couple of your top mindset tips?
Yes, Mountain Mindset is the online program and our first program is set to launch on September 1 this year. The program centres around lessons learnt in the mountains that are applicable to anyone in any field. It's for anyone who wants to achieve their goals right through to those who simply want to gain a bit more confidence or self-belief.
My top tips would be:
- Be clear about what you want
Clarity precedes success. If you're not clear on exactly what you want then you will be pushed and pulled away from the goal by every little thing that catches your attention.
- Make a plan
You know what you want (step 1), so now work back from the goal to understand what steps you need to take to make it happen.
- Seek mentors
When you know the plan you'll also become aware of what skills and knowledge you require to achieve the goal. In most instances, you won't have all of these skills, so look for ways to gain them. It could be courses, mentors/coaches or most likely a mixture of the two.
To get on track and stay on track you need to be held accountable. Initially you need to be strong enough to be accountable to yourself, be honest about where you're at and the effort you're putting in. It's even more beneficial to have someone you know and trust who will hold you accountable. Not someone who tells you what you want to hear, but rather someone who is honest and tells you what you need to hear.