Trudging through freezing darkness, with only the beam from her head-torch to illuminate the footfall ahead of her, Alyssa Azar, then 18, was moments from the summit of Mount Everest. “What I had imagined a million times was actually happening,” recalls Azar, who at 3:45 AM on May 21 this year became the youngest Australian to reach the top of the world’s highest mountain.
After three attempts, it was the culmination of a lifelong dream. This one-of-a-kind former schoolgirl from Toowoomba, Queensland, had been aiming high ever since she was 8 years old, when she became the youngest person to walk the Kokoda Trail. “I was always really ambitious,” says Azar, who shares her story in the book, The Girl Who Climbed Everest, by Sue Williams. “It was about having a goal, a purpose.”
Yet the road to Everest was hardly smooth for Azar, who won a national boxing title at age 10 and ticked off the “10 Peaks” of Australia when she was 12. Bullies targeted her and high school became “a struggle,” says Azar, whose parents split up at around the same time.
Climbing “was an escape,” Azar, who now lives with her father, Glenn, in Brisbane, tells WHO. “She is tough, she is amazing. She is so mentally strong,” marvels her dad. “After three attempts I worried she would potentially let herself die rather than fail.”
Instead, she stood on top of the world.