Climbing for a Cure – Introducing Wild Women community member Jen Willis
You may recognize Jen from her recent post on Wild Women Expeditions community Facebook page. While the message below is written in chalk, Jen’s goal is already written in stone. She’s taking on the Earth’s highest mountain above sea level. Its Tibetan name, Chomolungma, means “Goddess Mother of the World” or “Goddess of the Valley.” Jen’s already in good company and we’re tagging along too.
“I am very excited to share my upcoming adventure Climbing Mt Everest, 8848m in April, as the first Australian with MS to undertake this challenge! Climbing for a Cure- fundraising for MS research. Last year I climbed a couple of peaks in Nepal and raised almost $10k. This time I am aiming higher! Doing all I can to not let MS slow me down, when I can remember to, haha, as I seem to have the memory of a.. hmmm… can’t remember what of! You can read more about my adventures on my website if you would like to www.helpcurems.com“
Jen’s story deeply resonated with Wild Women Expeditions’ CEO, Jennifer Haddow. Their personal stories overlap and both women were motivated to fiercely push back and surprise themselves with their strength. (You can read more about Jennifer’s story about being diagnosed with MS here.)
In April 2023, Jen is joining an expedition in hopes of becoming the first Australian with multiple sclerosis to attempt and summit Mt Everest! She is Climbing for a Cure to help increase awareness of MS, generate funds for medical research and encourage others to change their outlook on a perceived obstacle. Over a span of 60 days, Jen will make her way to the summit along the south col route, trekking through tiny villages, visiting tea houses and recalibrating in camps in sun-lit meadows below the vertiginous peaks.
Jen’s courage, resilience and spirit is what WWE is all about. Her commitment to fundraising for MS research while also achieving her dreams of being a mountaineer is in total sync with Wild Women Expeditions’ mantra:
To empower women to live happier, healthier lives by connecting with wild nature and each other in outdoor adventure travel.
We wanted to share what Jen is doing to mentally and physically for her expedition to Mt Everest–whatever your summit is, it’s all about dedication and setting tangible goals. If you’re thinking of joining WWE on our Trek to Everest Base Camp or walking a section of the Camino de Santiago, Inca Trek or just eager to get yourself back outside and feeling better and fitter, Jen has created this easy-to-follow blueprint and it includes everything from Oprah to a Mediterranean-infused menu!
Move Over FitBit–It’s EVEREST!
Jen has focussed on a combination of climbing conditioning (this involves pack-loaded uphill hiking, walking and stair-climbing), strength training (isolating lower body and core), cardiovascular training (including both aerobic and anaerobic workouts with and without pack weight) and flexibility training.
For climbing and cardiovascular training, she commits to 3 sessions per week in an altitude chamber, averaging 2 hours of moderate intensity per session. One of these 3 sessions is dedicated to a longer duration with a pack (on a Stairmaster or outdoors).
Closer to her departure Jen will be increasing her intensity level by alternating walking for 10 minutes on a steeper incline with running for 10 minutes on a lower level.
For strength training, Jen is committed to 2 sessions a week (which always begins with 20 minutes of cardio before progressing to core and full body strength training).
The Whole “Jen-chilada”: Saunas and Buddhism
To maintain her sense of wellbeing, Jen has great affection for the healing properties of infrared saunas. She uses them for 30 minutes approximately 5 times a week. She eats mostly a Mediterranean-style diet and has started taking ice baths and cold showers, recognizing the benefits of simple hydrotherapy (alternating hot and cold baths and showers to improve circulation).
While Jen does not adhere to a regular meditation practice, she was a principal at a Buddhist-inspired primary school for four years. The Buddhist philosophy is something she is inherently guided by and continues to seek greater learning from.
Who Gets Jen Charged Up?
Naturally, Jen has been listening to endless podcasts on climbing Everest and Oprah’s SuperSoul Podcasts for anticipation and nourishment.
Jen also recommends listening to (and reading) anything by these thought leaders:
- The Art of Letting Go: Tara Brach’s meditation and teachings blend Western psychology, Eastern spiritual practices, mindful attention to our inner life and the necessity of full, compassionate engagement with our world. This has been poignant in Jen’s life.
- Pema Chodron: The beloved Buddhist teacher, author, nun and mother has touched millions around the world with her message of practicing peace in these turbulent times.
- Thich Nhat Hanh: The teachings of the spiritual leader, poet and peace activist are timeless. His keystone message is that through mindfulness, we can learn to live happily in the present moment—which is the only way to truly develop peace, both in one’s self and in the world.
- Rick Hanson: Dr. Rick Hanson has spent decades gathering research and vital resources to encourage people to turn everyday experiences into a powerful sense of well-being.
Interested in following in Jen’s footsteps (*watch out for the yak dung on the route!)?
You can learn more about Jen’s empowering adventures, give your support or cheer her on, by visiting her website: www.helpcurems.com. We’ll share more photos of her progress on our facebook page when she has a chance to give everyone an update!
Congratulations Jen, for taking the first brave step in tackling your dream. We’re all behind you!