Rebecca Stephens MBE is the first British woman to have climbed Everest – an achievement recognised around the world.
Rebecca then went on to become the first English-speaking woman in the world to climb the Seven Summits, the highest mountain on each of the seven continents.
Her achievements might suggest she has always known exactly what she wanted to do, but this is far from the truth. At school, she followed no particular path. ‘I went to university and then into journalism, still not knowing what I wanted to do.‘
It wasn’t until the age of 27 that she discovered a passion that was to change her life.
As a journalist, Rebecca Stephens accompanied an Anglo-American expedition on Everest’s North East Ridge and got bitten by the mountaineering bug. She decided she wanted to climb. Not only that, she wanted to climb the highest mountain in the world. Four years on she fulfilled this ambition and has subsequently continued to break records and barriers.
But how did she do it?
‘Simple’ she says, “with the benefit of hindsight, I wanted to climb these mountains more than anything else in the world, and that was half the battle won. A burning desire meant I just pushed that much harder to acquire the requisite skills and make sure it happened”
Rebecca Stephens believes that everyone has ‘their Everest’, something they badly want to do. The secret is to have the self-awareness to listen to your inner voice and follow a path that is true for you.
With a passionate belief that every individual can achieve goals far beyond their wildest dreams, Rebecca Stephens lectures to corporate audiences around the world. She also contributes articles to a number of national newspapers and has regularly appeared on television, most notably on Tomorrow’s World.
She has written a compelling account of her ascent of Everest, On Top of the World, and a Dorling Kindersley book on mountains, entitled Everest.
Not surprisingly, Rebecca Stephens continues to adventure at every opportunity. She has sailed the Southern Seas to the South Magnetic Pole and Antarctica, competed in an eight-day Eco-Challenge with polar explorers Sir Ranulph Fiennes and Dr Mike Stroud, running, biking and canoeing across the Canadian Rockies, and crossing the island of South Georgia in the footsteps of Sir Ernest Shackleton.
She is a trustee for the Sir Edmund Hillary’s Himalayan Trust, a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, has been closely involved with The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme and the Outward Bound Trust.
As the first British woman to climb Everest, Rebecca Stephens occupies a unique place in mountaineering history, and yet regards herself as nothing other than ordinary.
What she achieved is something she believes is accessible to any one of us. “It’s about clarity of vision, defining exactly what it is you want to achieve” she says.
To listen to Rebecca talk about Everest is to be up there on the mountain with her and to feel the gut-wrenching effort of every high-altitude step. It’s to feel the misery of looking failure in the face, and the jubilance of turning everything around and standing ‘on top of the world.’
It is also a lesson about what every one of us can achieve. It’s about setting sights, taking initiative, overcoming fears and sheer tenacity and grit. And it’s about recognising one’s limitations and working collectively with other people – about leadership and teamwork. “Without the Sherpas” she says, “I could never have climbed Everest”
Rebecca Stephen’s story is a powerful metaphor for our lives and our careers.
Time and time again people draw insight and a fresh way of approaching familiar issues which is to the real benefit of themselves and others, at home and in the workplace.