26/08/2011 17:40 BST | Updated 26/10/2011 06:12 BST

Climbing Everest

At 7am on 16th May 2004 I was privileged to stand on the highest point on earth, the summit of Mount Everest. Only four British women had ever stood there before me since it was first climbed in 1953 and I was the first ever to be leader of an Everest expedition.

Seeing the world from this viewpoint, was a very powerful, emotional and spiritual experience, a life changing experience. At 29,029 feet, the summit of Everest is at the cruising height of jumbo jets. And I truly did feel nearer to the sun, the moon and the stars, than to the earth. I felt I could almost touch the sky, which was a beautiful deep cobalt blue. And as the earth curved away, far away into infinity, I became aware of the vastness of the universe; of it's limitless potential; of our potential.

When I stood on the summit of Everest it made me realise that anyone can achieve anything. Life has not always been easy. In fact the catalyst for this part of my life journey was the tragic death of my husband from cancer. I thought my life was all happily planned out when I found myself a widow at the age of 39 and suddenly my life seemed to be over. This made me realise that we can never be sure where life is going to take us and we can't be complacent. If there are things we want to do, then why wait?

The idea of climbing Everest had never entered my mind before this. Even though I was a climber and people sometimes flippantly said to me: "Wouldn't you like to climb Everest?", it never ever occurred to me to try. Because I didn't believe I could. And I don't think anyone else did either! But the death of my husband changed everything. It took me a long time to get back on my feet again, but when I did I realised that every opportunity in life has to be seized. Life is here to be lived. I also realised how much I had been living in my husband's shadow. I had been a wife living his life. Now it was my turn. So when I was given the opportunity of going to the Himalaya, to just have a look at Mount Everest, I jumped at it.

A month later I found myself at Everest Base Camp looking through a telescope at a friend standing on the summit of Mount Everest. And I knew right then that I wanted to be that person, to see what he was seeing and to feel that euphoria that I knew he was feeling. I had no idea how I was going to do it, but right then I set the intention to climb Everest. I made it my goal, I set the intention to achieve it and I stayed focused on it. And as a result, an incredible synchronistic series of events unfolded that allowed me to achieve this seemingly impossible dream.

Everyone has their own Everest in life and there are some women in this world who are overcoming seemingly insurmountable challenges every day of their lives. That's why this autumn I am leading 10 incredibly brave women on a trek to Everest Base Camp to raise £100,000 for Women for Women International. The organisation works with women around the world to give them the necessary skills and resources to be able to support themselves, thereby helping them to rebuild their lives and find a place and a voice in their community.

The women joining me on this world famous trek are not only going to be experiencing a once in a lifetime opportunity to challenge themselves amongst some of the highest mountains on earth, but they will also be supporting women facing some of the toughest challenges on earth everyday. And that is a very incredible journey to be apart of.

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