August 13, 2022

A former journalist who had no climbing expertise has revealed how Cheryl Cole impressed her to overcome the seven highest volcanoes on every of the continents.

Sophie Cairns, 43, went about summiting Sidley in Antarctica (4,285m/14,058ft), Pico de Orizaba in Mexico (5,636m/18,490ft), Giluwe in Papua New Guinea (4,367m/14,327ft), Ojos del Salado in Chile (6,893m/22,614ft), Kilimanjaro in Tanzania (5,895m/19,340ft), Damavand in Iran (5,609m/18,402ft) and Mount Elbrus in Russia (5,642m/18,510ft) in just below six months, because of an intense coaching regime that even noticed her climb the steps of a London Underground station 30 occasions in a row with a heavy backpack on.

She instructed MailOnline Journey that she launched her bold Seven Volcanoes Undertaking after Cole conquered Mount Kilimanjaro to lift cash for Comedian Reduction.

For the crater good: Sophie Cairns, 43, went about summiting seven volcanic peaks on every of the continents in just below six months. She’s pictured above (on the left) on the summit of Mount Elbrus, Russia, with climbing buddy Tina Bowman

Recalling the chain of occasions, she stated: ‘Chery Cole really impressed me to start out climbing, and oddly sufficient this had nothing to do together with her music! A number of months after [my] dad handed away, from oesophageal most cancers on the age of 64, I used to be present in a sort of darkish cloud of grief.

‘I had simply turned 30 when Dad handed and was discovering it exhausting to manage. At some point, I occurred to leaf via Hi there journal. There was a function on Cheryl Cole’s climb of Mount Kilimanjaro to lift cash for Comedian Reduction.

‘I discovered myself drawn to a photograph of her on the mountain, with a glowing orange-red dawn behind her, and examine how painful but inspiring the climb was for her. A little bit voice in my head stated, “Possibly you could possibly try this too.” I wanted to do one thing huge, one thing troublesome, to get me out of my disappointment and do one thing optimistic.’

Cairns, who beforehand labored as a journalist in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Paris, continued: ‘My father beloved hill strolling, and on the fifth anniversary of his passing I launched into the seven volcanoes undertaking in his reminiscence.’

When she revealed her grand plan to family and friends, Cairns stated folks thought she had ‘gone nuts’.

She recalled: ‘My mom was significantly frightened resulting from my bronchial asthma [which I suffered with since a child], however when she noticed I used to be decided to do the climbs she was 100 per cent supportive.

Wheeling over the crater of Mount Sidley, Antarctica. Cairns said: 'The plane we were in would be the first to touch down inside the crater, a hair-raising experience'

Wheeling over the crater of Mount Sidley, Antarctica. Cairns stated: ‘The airplane we have been in can be the primary to the touch down contained in the crater, a hair-raising expertise’

Cairns said: 'It was a sobering thought that without the plane we would never have been able to return from Mount Sidley, the highest volcano in Antarctica'

Cairns stated: ‘It was a sobering thought that with out the airplane we’d by no means have been capable of return from Mount Sidley, the best volcano in Antarctica’

Cairns' adventure took her to Mount Sidley in Antarctica, Pico de Orizaba in Mexico, Giluwe in Papua New Guinea, Ojos del Salado in Chile, Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Damavand in Iran and Mount Elbrus in Russia

Cairns’ journey took her to Mount Sidley in Antarctica, Pico de Orizaba in Mexico, Giluwe in Papua New Guinea, Ojos del Salado in Chile, Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Damavand in Iran and Mount Elbrus in Russia

‘A number of occasions after I messaged her from some windy remoted mountainside to say I used to be exhausted and homesick, she would message again: “I do know it’s exhausting however you are able to do this. I’m considering of you and sending you all my love.”‘

After plotting her around-the-world journey, Cairns realised she needed to get into form as she had ‘just about no’ expertise with mountaineering and climbing.

In a bid to attain her objective, Cairns went about crafting a vigorous coaching routine that she stated she took ‘very severely’.

She defined: ‘I knew that there is no such thing as a such factor as an “straightforward” mountain expedition, and preparation may be the distinction between survival and harm or worse. I began doing cardio and lifting weights, and likewise started carrying water bottles in a backpack, in preparation for carrying heavy masses and dragging sleds on the mountains.

‘I slowly constructed as much as carrying 25kgs of water in a backpack on the treadmill. It wasn’t straightforward to slot in coaching round work, however on the weekends, I’d head out to hilly areas outdoors London to trudge round with my big backpack.

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‘A number of occasions I couldn’t get away, so I made a decision to climb up the spiral staircase in Russell Sq. Tube station about 30 occasions, once more carrying the heavy backpack. Every time I’d climb it whereas dodging vacationers coming the opposite method, then take the elevate up and begin another time. I bought a couple of unusual stares!

‘Russell Sq. Tube station has the longest staircase, and I managed to work out precisely what number of steps have been equal to a typical every day altitude acquire on the mountain expeditions.’

When it comes to her weight-reduction plan, Cairns additionally upped her calorie consumption and ‘ate lots to achieve muscle and fats’.

A shot of Pico de Orizaba (5,636m/18,490ft) looming over the city of Xalapa in Mexico

A shot of Pico de Orizaba (5,636m/18,490ft) looming over town of Xalapa in Mexico

Cairns loaded up with backpacks in Mexico before climbing Pico de Orizaba

Cairns loaded up with backpacks in Mexico earlier than climbing Pico de Orizaba

Explaining why bulking up was essential forward of her expedition, she stated: ‘In Antarctica, the [cold] temperatures imply you may simply burn 5,000 to six,000 energy a day on a mountain expedition there. I managed to achieve 5 kilos – rather a lot when you think about that I solely weighed about 53kgs to start out with!’

After finishing the mandatory coaching, Cairns packed her luggage and set off to finish her problem of a lifetime, having gathered the mandatory funding via sponsors and squirrelling away cash earned working three part-time jobs.

Requested what essentially the most difficult a part of all the expertise was, she replied: ‘A serious problem is of course bodily – you’re coping with large altitude features which take days or even weeks to acclimatise to, typically vicious climate, and the potential for exhaustion.

‘However a good larger problem was protecting my nerve and persevering regardless of every part.’

To make issues worse, Cairns needed to battle altitude and bodily exhaustion whereas monitoring her continual bronchial asthma.

The adventurer admitted: ‘It’s not straightforward whenever you’re above 5, six thousand metres [16,400ft/19,685ft] and the oxygen appears to have disappeared, and your lungs really feel half their standard dimension.’

Together with bodily challenges, Cairns additionally had excessive climate to cope with as she reached dizzying heights.

Russell Sq. Tube station has the longest staircase, and I managed to work out precisely what number of steps have been equal to a typical every day altitude acquire on the mountain expeditions

She stated: ‘In Antarctica, the common temperature at Union Glacier Camp was a gradual minus 20 levels Celsius. It didn’t really really feel too unhealthy, given it was a “dry” chilly. Nonetheless, it will get lots colder with wind chill and better altitude.

‘We have been later stranded on the foot of Mount Sidley in Antarctica for 2 days after a storm hit – we needed to anchor the airplane into the ice to verify the wind didn’t shift it.

‘The opposite excessive is the warmth. A number of occasions I used to be near warmth exhaustion, significantly on Ojos del Salado within the Atacama Desert in Chile.’

One other peak Cairns was cautious about was Mount Damavand in Iran as it’s nonetheless an lively volcano and it leaks sulphurous fumes that may show poisonous.

The day she was on the mountain, there have been plumes of gasoline emanating from crevices, which made for a fairly disagreeable expertise.

At 18,403ft (5,610m) Mount Damavand is regarded as the highest volcano in Asia

At 18,403ft (5,610m) Mount Damavand is considered the best volcano in Asia

An aerial view of Mount Kilimanjaro in the evening. It was Cheryl Cole's hike up this mountain that first inspired Cairns

An aerial view of Mount Kilimanjaro within the night. It was Cheryl Cole’s hike up this mountain that first impressed Cairns

The outdoorswoman stated: ‘Mount Damavand in Iran continues to be an lively volcano, and the final time it erupted was over 7,000 years in the past. I did fear a bit about being on the volcano simply on the identical day it selected to erupt once more, however the higher problem was the sulphur.

‘Mount Damavand spews a continuing giant plume of yellow-green sulphur. After we reached the summit plain, my information Ali and I set out for the summit whereas the plume was blowing away from us.

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‘In fact, as we have been nearing the summit, the wind modified and we have been engulfed in a putrid cloud that smelled of rotten eggs. We crouched down, however the wind refused to alter, so we simply made a break for it and ran down. I managed to get a horrible lungful of sulphur, and even an hour later I might nonetheless scent sulphur on my breath.’

Regardless of the intense circumstances she witnessed in Antarctica, Chile and Iran, Cairns stated the scariest second was in Papua New Guinea climbing Mount Giluwe.

She stated: ‘Mount Giluwe is about an hour’s flight north of Port Moresby, and within the a part of the nation the place cannibalism and tribal warfare reportedly nonetheless exist. It was exhausting to seek out any native guides to take me to the volcano.

‘A number of months earlier, there had been an assault by an area tribe on vacationers strolling the Black Cat Path, which was not so far-off.

‘As we have been descending from the summit, my guides, who weren’t native, stored repeating “we have to be down earlier than darkish”. After which earlier than we knew it, it was all of the sudden night time. We have been nonetheless caught within the dense rainforest. It was as if a change had flipped and the rainforest got here alive.

‘A cacophony of strange animal shrieks and bug sounds all of the sudden began up, and we (my guides included) all of the sudden felt very susceptible. The following hour was a frenzy as we crashed down at the hours of darkness via the rainforest. I fell a number of occasions over tree trunks and vines. Something to get again to the security of our van and get away.’

Whereas Papua New Guinea proved to be a bit sketchy, Cairns stated it really turned out to be her favorite summit of all of them.

Horombo hut on Kilimanjaro, where Cairns stayed for the night while trekking up the mountain

Horombo hut on Kilimanjaro, the place Cairns stayed for the night time whereas trekking up the mountain

A brief pitstop while making her way to Ojos del Salado in Chile

A short pitstop whereas making her strategy to Ojos del Salado in Chile

She mused: ‘It was by far essentially the most fascinating, terrifying and comical climbing expedition I’d ever been on.

‘The climb itself was additionally wonderful – via rainforest, then alpine highlands, adopted by mountaineering amidst a downpour. The volcanic landscapes have been additionally surreal, and the native folks have been nice firm.’

When it got here to problem ranges, Cairns stated Ojos del Salado in Chile was essentially the most difficult climb due to its top.

She stated: ‘At practically 7,000m (22,965ft), Ojos del Salado is the best volcano on the earth. It took three weeks simply to acclimatise sufficient to achieve excessive camp, which at practically 6,000m (19,685ft) is identical altitude because the summit of Kilimanjaro (and likewise the cruising altitude for native flights).’

On the different finish of the dimensions, regardless of its distant location and sub-zero temperatures, Cairns stated that ‘funnily sufficient’ Mount Sidley in Antarctica was in all probability the best to climb of the seven volcanoes.

I used to be probably not one for spirituality earlier than climbing. However there’s one thing about the great thing about the mountains, the awesomeness of the sky, the sunrises and the celebrities, and that feeling that you simply’ve no power left. That’s after I would sense one thing intangible and otherworldly throughout

Detailing what the height was like, she stated: ‘At an altitude of 4,285m (14,058ft), it was nonetheless fairly excessive, however the snow fields resulting in the summit have been comparatively straightforward to navigate. The tough half was discovering the precise summit!

‘In the course of the Antarctic winter, mushroom-like blobs of rime ice kind on the highest of Mount Sidley, and annually the wind shapes them a bit in another way. Because of this amusingly, we needed to go from ice mushroom to ice mushroom to seek out the best one, then scramble up it so let’s imagine we’d reached the true summit.’

The ultimate volcano Cairns summited was Mount Elbrus, on the Russia-Georgia border. It’s the best and most outstanding peak in each Russia and Europe.

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When she reached the highest Cairns stated she might ‘barely imagine it’.

She added: ‘Once I walked up the previous couple of toes of the snowy slope and arrived on the summit, I had tears in my eyes and was on the verge of simply sobbing with aid and elation. It was an exquisite day, with the solar shining down on us and a sea of clouds under.’

General, Cairns’ Seven Volcanoes Undertaking took her just below six months. She had initially ‘deliberate to climb all seven of the volcanoes inside 4 months, to interrupt the present unofficial report of 18 months’.

The final volcano Cairns summited was Mount Elbrus, on the Russia-Georgia border. Topping 5,642m (18,510ft) it is the highest and most prominent peak in both Russia and Europe

The ultimate volcano Cairns summited was Mount Elbrus, on the Russia-Georgia border. Topping 5,642m (18,510ft) it’s the highest and most outstanding peak in each Russia and Europe 

Nonetheless, resulting from ‘lots of points to do with exhaustion and climate’ she did it in a barely longer time-frame, however she stated she was nonetheless ‘very happy’ with the record-breaking achievement.

After getting dwelling and having time to replicate on her epic mountaineering expertise, Cairns stated the factor that shocked her most about her travels have been the ‘virtually religious’ moments that occurred ‘amid all of the sheer bodily exertion and hardship’.

She defined: ‘I used to be probably not one for spirituality earlier than climbing. However there’s one thing about the great thing about the mountains, the awesomeness of the sky, the sunrises and the celebrities, and that feeling that you simply’ve no power left. That’s after I would sense one thing intangible and otherworldly throughout. I can solely describe it as a combination of awe and gratitude.’

One other factor that shocked Cairns was the unfriendly and, at occasions, sexist perspective she witnessed from fellow mountaineers when she was on the mountain.

Pertaining to why the mountains can typically be a lonely place, Cairns stated: ‘I do assume there’s a sense of competitiveness inherent in elite athletes and climbers. 

One of the barrel huts on Mount Elbrus, which Cairns said was her 'temporary home' while she prepared for her summit push

One of many barrel huts on Mount Elbrus, which Cairns stated was her ‘momentary dwelling’ whereas she ready for her summit push

The adventurer stops for a spot of lunch on the way to Mount Giluwe in Papua New Guinea - 'with a borrowed knife that even Crocodile Dundee would be proud of'

The adventurer stops for a spot of lunch on the way in which to Mount Giluwe in Papua New Guinea – ‘with a borrowed knife that even Crocodile Dundee can be happy with’

Climbing the Seven Volcanoes: A Search for Strength by Sophie Cairns is published by Amberley Books

Climbing the Seven Volcanoes: A Seek for Energy by Sophie Cairns is revealed by Amberley Books   

‘It’s not malicious. It’s simply that the climbers on these monster volcanoes are usually very pushed, very match people.

‘They’re powerful on themselves, and difficult on others. That stated, I did typically get a way that as a lady I used to be a little bit of a goal. I did get talked all the way down to on various events. I attempted to not let it trouble me. Mountaineering is difficult sufficient with out worrying about what others assume.’

Trying again, Cairns stated she thinks her dad would ‘be proud’ of her achievement. She has additionally raised round £15,000 for Most cancers Analysis UK via her endeavours.

She stated: ‘I wish to assume he can be happy with me. My father beloved to journey. Rising up, he all the time inspired me to push myself, bronchial asthma or no bronchial asthma. He inspired me to swim, he pushed me to be courageous, and he all the time cheered me on. I believe he would in all probability have put his hand on my shoulder and stated in his reserved British method, “Effectively executed, Soph.” 

Now based mostly within the Scottish Highlands ‘surrounded by attractive munros’, she concludes: ‘I’ve been fortunately strolling up a couple of native hills close to Fort William. I like dwelling within the Highlands of Scotland – it’s a climber’s paradise.

‘I used to be [also] fortunate sufficient to marry a person who ran up and down hills in his childhood and is aware of lots of good native trails.’

Climbing the Seven Volcanoes: A Seek for Energy by Sophie Cairns is revealed by Amberley Books and priced at £18.