Accent: Meagan McGrath’s journey

Laura Stradiotto / The Sudbury Star

She scaled the world’s highest peak and played a critical role in saving the life of an injured climber, but it was a vacuum cleaner that got the best of Meagan McGrath.

After a few days of rest at home in Ottawa, McGrath was ready to begin training again when she broke her toe.

“I went to pull my vacuum out of my closet and it knocked over a flower pot that I use for a stool and it cracked on my toe,” she laughed over the phone from Ottawa.

The impact cut one toe and broke another.

The injury hasn’t discouraged McGrath, who is already thinking about her next adventure.

“I figure I’ll build up the experience I need and then come up with something really crazy,” McGrath said.

“The way I look at it, there are mountains to be climbed and deserts to be crossed.”

The 30-year-old is the youngest Canadian woman, and the first Canadian Forces member, to successfully climb the Seven Summits.

So, where do you go after reaching the top of the world?

But new adventures already in the works

During the period Meagan was on Mt. Everest, three people died trying to climb the same side and another person met a similar fate on a nearby peak. Some causes of accidents are ascending a steep slope and falling, avalanches and walking over crevasses hidden under a blanket of snow.

McGrath would like to explore flatter landscapes, either snow or sand desserts.

“These are definitely things in my very near future,” she said.

McGrath plans to participate in the Marathon of the Sands in April 2008, a six-day race across the Sahara Dessert in Morocco.

McGrath said she isn’t entering the competition to come in first; her goal is to cross the finish line.

“If I can hit somewhere in the middle of the pack, that would be perfect,” she said.

McGrath returned home to Ottawa on May 30 after successfully climbing Mount Everest, five pounds lighter and with a nasty chest infection. “I had no voice, I couldn’t breathe and I was coughing goo.”

Once on Canadian soil, McGrath tackled some of things she missed doing while trekking thousands of feet above surface.

“I went for a bike ride, went for a walk and got a Slurpee from the 7-Eleven. That was high on my priority list,” she laughed.

Last week, McGrath attended the Commander in Chief’s Ball, a military event hosted by the Governor General and Gen. Rick Hillier. “That was very much an honour for me to attend,” said McGrath.

“Having those people thank you for representing Canada well, was kind of nice.”

People keep asking McGrath whether she’s going to write a book.

“I still have a lot more adventures before I write something,” said the modest aerospace engineer.

The Canada Forum of Nepal wants to recognize McGrath at a cultural event it’s organizing called Himalayan Heartbeat.

For the last part of her journey up the mountain McGrath was accompanied by a Sherpa. The Sherpa people are an ethnic group from the most mountainous region of Nepal who are experts in mountaineering and resilient to low oxygen in high altitudes.

“A young, academically strong and energetic person like Meagan would be an inspiration to the youth of Nepalese origin who have come to settle in Canada in the last decade,” Pramod Dhakal, the group’s executive director, wrote in a letter.

“Also, all Canadian youth, especially those from small and remote communities, would draw inspiration from her.”

During the period McGrath was on Mount Everest, three people died trying to climb the same side and another person met a similar fate on a nearby peak.

Some causes of accidents are ascending a steep slope and falling, avalanches and walking over crevasses hidden under a blanket of snow.

McGrath crossed the crevasses on her own, holding onto a loose rope as she walked above. If she looked below all she could see was endless black.

“Sometimes there’s a bridge within the crevasse, but you don’t know how thick it is. So, even if you were to fall on it, you don’t know if you’d keep going. And sometimes it just turned into darkness, you don’t know where the bottom is.”

McGrath said she was fortunate to be among other climbers who were always more than willing to help each other out, but sometimes she found herself on her own.

“I did find myself on my own on a number of occasions,” she said. “You keep your eyes open and travel at the right time of day – in the early morning when it’s cooler.”

McGrath would spend a couple of hours “working hard” climbing each day.

“A long as you can put up with that, you’re working toward your tent – that’s your goal – go to the tent and chill out for the next few hours.”

For the last part of her journey up the mountain McGrath was accompanied by a Sherpa. The Sherpa people are an ethnic group from the most mountainous region of Nepal. They are experts in mountaineering and resilient to low oxygen in high altitudes.

“He was there to make sure I was fit and healthy and ready to go for the top,” she said.

“That was his job and he did it very well.”

Welcome home

Everyone is welcome to Meagan McGrath’s homecoming 10 a.m., Tuesday, June 19 at Science North.

Join Meagan McGrath as she recounts her adventure 7 p.m., Tuesday, June 19 and Wednesday, June 20, at IMAX Theatre, Science North;

Tickets: $10 Science North members, $12 non-members.

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