Climbing Nemjung Is Normal, Right?!

by Karen Loudon

Climbing Nemjung Is Normal, Right?!

Being 'normal' is relative. From one person to the next, it can look very different, but we all have our own concept of what we think it is to be normal. So meet Karen Loudon, who is as normal as any of us. Except she also runs marathons and climbs mountains that are over 7,000 metres high in elevation.

Living Free And Running More

My name is Karen (Kaz), I live currently in south-east Melbourne, I am 57-years-young, and I love adventure and extreme sports! I was born in the mid-1960's in a hospital that used to be a workhouse in the North of England in a town called Whitley Bay. Dad was an electrical engineer before he retired, and was transferred to South Africa for the first time when I was 5 years old. Living free and a bit wild as a child on a dirt road in a suburb of Johannesburg, South Africa was perhaps the beginning of my love for the outdoors…

My husband Alan and I met in South Africa in the late 80's and we have two beautiful sons together. We found our way into marathon running which was - and still is - very popular in South Africa, and ultimately ultra-marathon running which was to be a big part of our lives for 10 years. Between the age of 30 and 40, I ran 16 marathons and 8 ultra-distance marathons. It was a fun, social, active, and healthy outdoor lifestyle for our family.

In 2003 our time in Africa came to an end and what better way to say goodbye to the continent that I would miss so badly than to go and climb a mountain. And why not make it the highest peak in Africa - Mt. Kilimanjaro (5,895m) in Tanzania. I summited successfully in 2003 with my brother Philip.

Karen Loudon in South Africa as a child
Karen Loudon at Mount Kilimanjaro in 2003
Karen Loudon at Himlung Himal

From early days in South Africa to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro and now, on to Himlung Himal. (Images courtesy of Karen Loudon)

Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi

Now a proud Australian I was caught up with raising our young sons, working full time, and building a new life in Melbourne - but my bucket list was very much alive and well. And it revolved around the mountains. Everest Base Camp nestled in the stunning Himalayan peaks of Nepal (5,364m) was a dream. In conversation one day in 2018 Alan said 'Why don't we go!' so we did - we even went a bit higher than EBC over the renowned Chola Pass (5,420m). It was not all plain sailing - I was struck down with altitude sickness and the trip was cut short. After the disappointment had passed the only option was to learn from my mistakes (go slowly slowly) and there were many, go back and have another go. It was game on.

COVID hit which stalled things for a bit, but we kept a good level of fitness ticking over and in 2022 we were back on a plane winging our way to Kathmandu, East Nepal to Lukla Airport and ultimately Lobuche East Peak 6,119m - a training (and not too technical) climbing peak for the Mt Everest climbers. Alan and our eldest son Scott came along making up Team Loudon.

Rest Stop with the team on route along Chola Pass
Hiking with the team descending from Everest Base Camp

Making the route along Chola Pass and descending from Everest Base Camp. (Images courtesy of Karen Loudon)

Next Is Nemjung

Still hungry for more my next goal would be to climb Nemjung (Himlung Himal) at 7,126m. Nemjung is a cold north-west facing peak that lies more to the west of Nepal between Manaslu and Annapurna. I was thrilled to be supported not only by my family (from Australia this time) but also by Mountain Designs. The plan was to join my team at base camp to start a 20-day rotation to summit this magnificent peak. And while records aren't my focus, on this occasion there was one that was in front of me - should I summit I would be the oldest Australian woman to stand atop this mountain.

Why do I want to do this? I consider myself to be so 'normal', just the girl next door really. The fact that I can push myself to do things that seem extreme to some is a deep-seated personal achievement for me. I am not exceptional or special but I am purely a determined woman who feels 'filled up' from pushing myself mentally and physically. The high-altitude mountains make it a challenge to earn a glimpse of their hidden beauty and have a calm and serenity about them that is somehow magical and captivating to me.

How do I do this? I have a very busy job working full-time supporting a science team in ovarian cancer research. I train consistently six days a week to a plan that is set months in advance and all in an Excel spreadsheet (yes there is a real geek in there somewhere). I am an extremely busy woman - I plan and organise each hour of my every day to fit everything in, paper and electronic diaries are my saviours. I also have an amazing support structure from those close to me. I strive to be positive, strong and motivated every day to help me reach my goals.

Karen Loudon hiking at Mount Feathertop in Victoria
Local wildlife at Mount Feathertop in Victoria

Preparation at Mount Feathertop in Victoria with the locals. (Images courtesy of Karen Loudon)

Personal Highlights

Some of my personal adventure achievements so far include:

  • Completing 16 Marathons and 8 Ultra Marathons (over 42.2km in distance) from 1997 to 2003
  • Summitting Mt Kilimanjaro, Tanzania (5,895m) in 2003
  • Walking the Oxfam 100km in 2014 in 28.5 hours
  • Canoeing the Orange River in Namibia during a drought in 2017
  • Arriving at Everest Base Camp after climbing Chola Pass (5,420m) in 2019
  • Summiting Lobuche East Peak, Nepal (6,119m) in 2022

I hope to add the summit of Himlung Himal to this very shortly.

Video & Photo Credits

All video and imagery supplied by Karen Loudon




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