A Brazilian woman braved the harsh weather conditions and survived health scares to make history as the first Black Latin American woman to climb the world’s highest mountain, Everest. Aretha Duarte reached the mountain’s peak on May 23, documenting her journey on Instagram.
The 37-year old’s journey to “conquer the highest place in the world” began with twelve and half months of training, a dream she has nursed since she was a Physical Education student in college.
“No dream is greater than our ability to realize it,” she said on the day she finally made it to the top of the 29,029-foot mountain located on the borders of China and Nepal.
The change in environment and altitude had Duarte developing pulmonary edema. She coughed and suffered chest pain on her way up the highest peak in the world.
This is not the first mountain Duarte has climbed. She has scaled Mount Aconcagua, the highest point outside of Asia located in Argentina, five times and done other shorter trips up other mountains. Her interest in climbing Mount Everest piqued in 2019 after seeing a social media post, according to reports.
The Brazilian beauty, born on the outskirts of Campinas, a city in the southeast of the country, was supported by her team to complete this herculean but rewarding journey and she thanked them for their unflinching support, per USA Today.
“Our team is made up of human beings who breathe high performance, even when the air is thin. They open our minds to the impossible, even when routes close before our eyes.”
To raise funds for the trip, she first created the hashtag #ArethaNoEverest in March 2020, and with her eyes fixed on her goal, she began to plunge into recycling materials. By the time she was headed out for her trip, Duarte had collected a total of 130 tons of recyclable materials.
“I wanted to write a beautiful text to tell how surreal this mountain is and how much supernatural strength it took for me to get to the top with health and safety, but I’m still digesting this unique and rare experience that I lived.
“So, for now, I will leave my gratitude registered here for all the encouragement, support, prayers, and good vibes emanating from me,” she said in Portuguese of the entire trip and overwhelming support from her followers on her IG.
She intends to go to her home country Brazil to celebrate the successful journey and her history-making feat.
Five Brazilians have conquered Everest and Duarte joins them to make six. She is the only Black Latina among them. The first Black person in the world to summit Everest was Sibusiso Vilane in 2003 after climbing for nearly two months. Sophia Danenberg then became the first Black woman to complete the trek in 2006.
Three hundred people have lost their lives trying to climb Everest while some 5,788 people have successfully scaled the mountain as of April 2021.
Mount Everest was closed to the public amid the pandemic and only resumed operations in November 2020 amid tight restrictions.