Meet the mother-daughter duo who climbed Everest together

By Isabella Lamshed 23 November 2018
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Would you do this with your mum?

IN 2008, Nikki and Cheryl Bart joined an elite club boasting the world’s top mountaineers, when they successfully reached the summit of Mount Everest. Upon doing so, the pair became the first ever mother daughter duo to not only climb Everest, but also to complete the Seven Summits – reaching the highest peaks on each of the seven continents around the world.

In order from biggest to smallest, the Seven Summits include Carstensz Pyramid in Oceania, Vinson Massif in Antarctica, Elbrus in Europe, Kilimanjaro in Africa, Denali in North America, Aconcagua in South America and, of course, Mount Everest in Asia.

Australian Geographic recognised the magnitude of their record breaking adventure by awarding the Sydney-based mother and daughter team the Australian Geographic Spirit of Adventure Award in 2008. Ten years on, with their record still unmatched, Nikki and Cheryl reflect on the powerful bond between mother and daughter, with a new set of mountains to climb in their sights.

The “Forrest Gumps” of mountaineering

Nikki and Cheryl describe themselves as the “Forest Gumps” of mountaineering. It wasn’t something they’d always dreamed of – they weren’t even sure it was something they could do at all.

“We climbed one and thought ‘that went well! I guess we can climb the next!’” says Nikki.

Nikki, now 33, remembers her first encounters with mountaineering, at the iconic Mount Everest.

“I was 16 when we first went hiking to Everest base camp, and it was actually the first time that Mum had been in a tent since she was eight years old,” she says. “Naturally, it was a very steep learning curve for the both of us.”

“I remember sitting at Everest base camp and looking up and thinking about what it would take to climb Mount Everest. And if you’d have told me then, that it was something that was going to be possible for me in the future, I would have laughed at you!”

It was this initial climb that gave them a taste for life on the mountain, and so they found themselves taking on more and more challenging ascents. It wasn’t until their climb of Mount Cho Oyu in Tibet, at just over 8000m above sea level, that they realised that the Seven Summits might be within their reach.

From there, the pair set out to climb the world’s highest peaks, one by one, taking them all around the world. It took eight years to make their way through the list, and in 2008, when they finally reached the summit at Mount Everest, they became the first mother-daughter team to complete the Seven Summits.

Lessons learned on the mountain

Both Nikki and Cheryl took away far more from their climbs than a couple of records and awards. For Nikki, it was the unforgettable memories she made with her mum, being able to navigate extreme situations, both mentally and physically, whilst supporting one another.

“A lot of my friends say they probably couldn’t go for coffee for a couple hours with their mums,” Nikki says. “But mum and I, we were such a good team, and it took a lot to be able to learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses to be able to achieve what we did. I think that was a really important lesson for the both us.”

Cheryl agreed, saying “to have this opportunity was special, but to share this with my daughter was an absolute privilege.”

Aside from their strengthened bond both on and off the mountain, the pair says they also learned a lot about living in the moment and making the most of what they’ve got, while they have it.

“When you’re on a mountain you’ve got no phone reception, you’ve got no internet, you have to boil snow to make your own drinking water, you’ve got to carry all of your own food on your back, and so you really learn a lot about being in the moment,” says Nikki.

More mountains to climb

As far as they know, no other mother daughter duo has attempted the Seven Summits since Nikki and Cheryl did 10 years ago. And the pair is contemplating new records to add to their list of achievements, with talks of attempting the Seven Volcanic Summits next. The Seven Volcanic Summits are the tallest volcanic peaks on each of the seven continents.

In January 2018, they climbed the tallest volcano in Antarctica, Mount Sidley, which was one of the most remote climbs they’ve ever done.

“Less than 50 people in the world have ever climbed this volcano before, so we feel pretty lucky to have been able to do it,” Nikki says.

Mount Sidley is one of the Seven Volcanic Summits, of which Nikki and Cheryl have already climbed three. “The Seven Volcanic Summits are definitely something we’re thinking about. Watch this space.”