In pushing herself to the limit of her endurance and ability, Lydia Bradey learnt how to have fun. By Allan Uren
Lydia Bradey is a mountaineer in the true sense of the word. There are those who go into the mountains because it’s the place they’ve found as an outlet for their athleticism. They don’t necessarily love, or have an affinity with the alpine world, it’s where they go to climb technically difficult routes. They tend to burn-out in a few years because they find the mountains too dangerous, or they become bored with them. Lydia has the mountaineer’s love of the mountain environment; someone who takes the good with the bad.
Not that the 54-year-old goes into the mountains to lounge around. She believes there’s nothing more satisfying than being with a good climbing partner and being physically challenged, pushed to the limit of human endurance. She is blessed with a metabolism that acclimatises well to altitude, is good on her feet and is always physically fit. For a time in the mid-1990s, she focused on sport climbing at crags and was able to climb grade 26.
There are those who believe mountaineering is a sport of no use to society, nothing is achieved, nothing is given back. A selfish sport. But people who do it understand the importance of adventure, inner harmony, true friendship, a realisation that collecting material objects isn’t as important as experiencing life intensely. This is passed on when you come out of the mountains and it enriches society.
On an attempt of Gasherbrum 1 (8080m) in the Himalayas, Lydia’s team was sharing the work of fixing ropes with a Basque team. When it was the Basque’s turn, they didn’t show – it was a public holiday in their country so they had taken the day off. At basecamp, they invited the frustrated and bemused Lydia to “sit down, relax”. The Basques were strong climbers and ambitious, but they didn’t lose sight of the big picture: that it was okay to have a good time. The lesson she took away from that incident was it’s possible to still have fun while trying your hardest.
After her epic 1988 solo ascent of Mt Everest without supplementary oxygen – a feat that would have destroyed most people – she has gone on to qualify as a physiotherapist, be a successful sport climber, run her own guiding business and guide Mt Everest to the summit two more times.
Through it all she has remained a mountaineer and, with her guiding, will continue to pass on the values of what is important in mountaineering. Just having someone like Lydia around enriches us.
– Allan Uren, a mountaineer living in Wanaka, has known Lydia since the 1990s.