As Roxanne Vogel reached the peak of Mount Everest, her first thought was that she had just two days to get back to San Francisco.
Vogel, who graduated from Texas Woman’s University with a master’s degree in 2017, was able to make it home just two days later, completing her goal: going from San Francisco to the peak of Everest and back in 14 days.
“Being on the summit, I was the most tired I have ever been from any climb or trip I have ever been on,” she said. “Aside from that, it was really surreal. There was nobody else up there, and I figured that was a rare occasion in itself. I was overjoyed and I was glad I was there.”
Vogel completed a lightning ascent on the north side of the mountain on May 22, the same day a photo of a long line of people trying to summit the mountain from the Nepal side went viral. She didn’t know that on the south side of the mountain a queue of hikers waited to reach the peak, and that 11 people died attempting the climb.
“I really had a hard time believing it,” she said of the news. “People were asking if I was OK or if I saw the people who died, and I was like, ‘What are you talking about?’ It was so unbelievable to me because my experience was so different. I was shocked.”
Vogel chose to hike the north side because it’s known to be less crowded and other rapid ascent climbers recommended it, she said. She started climbing in Tibet, which issues fewer permits than Nepal. This year, Nepal issued a record 381 permits to climbers.
Her guide, Lydia Bradey, also achieved the goal. In 1988, the New Zealander became the first woman to complete the Mount Everest summit without oxygen, and this was her first time to climb the north side. Spending two weeks with Bradey was the highlight of the adventure, Vogel said.
“She’s one of my heroes in the climbing world, and being in the presence of one of your idols for two weeks straight is pretty amazing,” Vogel said.
Leading up to the climb, Vogel trained aggressively and slept in an altitude simulation chamber so she wouldn’t need time to adjust to the altitude at base camp.
When she made it to the San Francisco airport a few hours before midnight, she was greeted by friends, colleagues and her parents, who came to surprise her.
“I was so relieved when I made it back,” she said. “I’m not a big crier, but I started crying when I saw my parents there. It was a great moment. Friends and colleagues came and greeted me, and it was a hero’s welcome.”
With Everest behind her, Vogel is gearing up to climb Vinson Massif, the highest summit in Antarctica. If she completes it, she’ll have hiked the highest mountains on each of the seven continents.