Carole Fuchs has had a crazy week. She flew into Nepal on a Friday, climbed the 6,584m Chulu Peak on Sunday, drove 12 hours in a bumpy jeep and has arrived in Pokhara to run the Annapurna 100km mountain ultramarathon on Saturday.
“I did it for the challenge to see how far I can push it. For me, just running a race is becoming very boring. It’s not an adventure for me,” the Japan-based Frenchwoman said. “It’s nothing like exploring. I hadn’t climbed this year so far, I’d focused on running, I hadn’t done an 8,000m peak like I planned, so I thought I’d do this instead.”
Fuchs used a hypoxia chamber to train, but said it is not perfect preparation because it only replicates a lack of oxygen and does not replicate the lack of air pressure. However, she landed and went straight to the 5,000m-high camp, reached the summit through deep snow and then descended straight to Manang village, 3,000m below. The downhill in particular has left her legs tired ahead of the ultramarathon.
“It won’t be easy. I’m very sore,” she said. “It was downhill like crazy, with a big expedition bag. I was my own porter. My Sherpa was not my Sherpa but my climbing partner as we did it alpine style as there are no fixed ropes.”
Fuchs, 40, has been climbing since she was 14. Last year she climbed Everest, and plans to be the first woman to summit the five highest mountains in the world in just four months, if she can secure the sponsorship.
“When you are in the mountains nothing exists, you are just floating,” she said. “It’s like meditation. You forget about everything else you are so focused. It is just magical.”
Fuchs works as a legal adviser, and was sponsored by Showa Holdings, a Japanese holding group and its sports brand Lucent. She said it wouldn’t be possible without the time her employer gives her to do “these crazy things”.
But not everyone is afforded that time and money, so Fuchs is raising funds for the Mira Rai Initiative, which has a Hong Kong branch called Exchange & Empower. Rai is a famous trail runner who was lifted out of poverty by the opportunities given to her via running, and hopes to share the same opportunities by getting more Nepalese women into mountain sports.
“In the high-altitude sphere there aren’t many women, it’s a male world,” Fuchs said. “I want to inspire women to go and do some challenging things in the mountains.”
Now, as Fuchs re-enters populated areas, she is excited to get back into the mountains on Saturday. And then, even more excited to follow up on future expeditions.
“It’s peaceful, it’s challenging, and it’s just you. You are with yourself trying to overcome everything that comes you way, more than trail running,” she said.