Alyssa Azar.

'If you're reading this, it means I have died on Mt Everest'

"IF YOU'RE reading this, it means I have died on Mt Everest..."

Alyssa Azar was determined to conquer the highest peak in the world but also wanted the last say in case she did not make it back down Mt Everest alive. She wrote a note to her family and critics in the event of her death.

In May this year, at the age of 19, Alyssa became the youngest Australian to climb the 8848-metre mountain that is part of a range that forms a border between Nepal and Tibet.

The highs and lows of her attempts to climb Mt Everest have been revealed in a new book, The Girl Who Climbed Everest, by Sue Williams.

Alyssa had attempted the climb twice before, and said the expeditions were incredibly dangerous. She knew there would be controversy if she died in the attempt.


ON HER WAY: Years of preparation have lead up to the Mt Everest summit attempt for Alyssa Azar.

Photo Contributed
ON HER WAY: Years of preparation have lead up to the Mt Everest summit attempt for Alyssa Azar. Photo Contributed

"People would say, 'she's too young' or 'she shouldn't be there' and I wanted the chance to have my say on why I did it, something that they could end the book with," she said.

The Toowoomba teenager's story has been revealed in more detail in the book, including discovering her love of trekking in Papua New Guinea and the bullying she faced at school as a result of her success.

Throughout it all a strong bond with her family and a steely determination helped her succeed in her goal to reach the rooftop of the world.

As a young child it was stories told by her father, Glenn Azar, which first attracted her to trekking.

Following a year of training, an excited and nervous eight-year-old arrived in Port Moresby in August, 2005 to attempt the Kokoda Track. Even in those early days she had her doubters. Williams relates a story where a stranger said to her father: "You're joking if you think she'll make it!"

She proved critics wrong and became the youngest Australian to walk the 96km of rugged terrain.


Alyssa said the trip was an eye-opener and the first real challenge that got her into adventuring.

"At that time I'd never been out of Australia and everything was new to me, going to a Third World country and into the jungle. It was a unique experience," she said.

The young girl had always been into sport. She was athletic and wanted a challenge.

But the publicity surrounding the feat brought its own problems.

As a child she was sheltered from negative publicity and was not using social media.

Later though, in high school and after climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, the spectre of bullying raised its ugly head.


Alyssa Azar above the clouds on Mt Kilimanjaro.
Alyssa Azar above the clouds on Mt Kilimanjaro.

"I don't know why that was the reaction," Alyssa said.

"A lot of people my age didn't understand what I was doing, it put me out of the norm.

"But I knew what I wanted to do and kept pursuing that. I never let that hold me back in any way."

Williams quotes Alyssa in the book: "I cut off a lot of social media I looked at so I just wouldn't see it. I didn't see the point in having it if it was going to be negative. Instead, I just used my energy to focus harder on the trip."

It was Kilimanjaro that spurred her on to attempt Mt Everest and in the book Alyssa relates the moment when she first told her father.

"You said that if I ever wanted to climb Everest, you'd support me. You wouldn't want me to do it, but you would fully support me if I wanted to enough. You said kids could sometimes have big dreams, and it was up to parents to help them come true..."


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And family has played a huge part in that journey.

"My father always supported me from day one, and so did my mother and siblings. They never doubted me and my ability to do it," Alyssa said.

During her gruelling climb up Kilimanjaro she learned the art of mountaineering: ice climbing, rock climbing and dealing with avalanches.

She visited Everest Base Camp and climbed other peaks.

Alyssa fondly recalled the first time she saw Mt Everest and was instantly drawn to the peak that towered over the other mountains.

She trained relentlessly. Williams writes: "Often she trained so hard she had to stop and vomit into bushes by the side of tracks. Then she just carried on. Her program at the gym continued at an ever-increasing intensity, so she'd often have a bucket close by in case she had to there too."

It wasn't long before Alyssa made her first attempt on Mt Everest.


The Girl Who Climbed Everest, by Sue Williams, is on sale now. For more information go to
The Girl Who Climbed Everest, by Sue Williams, is on sale now. For more information go to Contributed

She was to be thwarted twice, first by an avalanche in 2014 - the same one that claimed the lives of 16 Sherpas - and then the devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake that rocked Nepal in April last year and killed nearly 9000, injured 22,000 and destroyed more than 880,000 homes.

The setbacks were tough mentally.

"Those two disasters were unexpected, and mentally ... it's challenging to reset and start again," Alyssa said.

"I thought, if I ever summit Everest I need not to quit, and that's what I did."

When she finally made it to the top in May this year she made the most of it, letting the moment sink in.

"It was almost peaceful to stand up there and have the moment all to yourself, that I finally did it and let that sink in."

On the way down she passed an Australian woman, Dr Maria Strydom, who later died during her attempt.

Alyssa said it had had an impact on her.

"If we'd known she was in trouble we would have done something," she said.

Williams quotes Alyssa: "The Australian woman's death is something I've thought about a lot since. We had no way of knowing how serious her altitude sickness was. If we'd known, maybe I could have put my oxygen mask on her and helped her get down to camp II, at a much lower altitude."

Now that she's completed her goal of climbing Everest Alyssa is continuing her work with her father in their company Adventure Professionals, leading treks on the Kokoda Track.

She also plans to complete the seven summits, climbing the highest mountains on each continent.

Alyssa has done three and hopes to finish the others within a year.

Williams' book includes interesting vignettes about famous people who have climbed Mt Everest. People like Dan Mazur, slated as "Everest's Hero".

He gives an account of life on Everest.

"A lot of high-altitude climbers talk about Everest as a suffer-fest," he says in the book.

"Because you really suffer up there. There's the cold, the snow, the wind, the ropes that aren't fixed, the accidents, the tragedies, the deaths, even that time a bunch of foreigners got into a fight with Sherpas. There are so many different things that can go wrong, and you really have to be prepared to suffer, to know how to suffer and to keep going despite everything."

Alyssa said the accounts were a welcome addition to the book.

"She (Williams) wanted to give people who didn't know about Everest a comprehensive background. It turned out really well."