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Record-Breaking Mountaineer Bonita Norris Will Make You Want to Be a Badass Climber Too


When Bonita Norris scaled Mount Everest in 2010, she became the youngest British woman at the time (age 22) to do so. (Melissa Arnot recently set the record for being the first woman to do it without supplemental oxygen.) What's more, she reached the 29,000-foot peak only two years after taking up mountaineering, which she did on a whim. "I was at a university lecture about Everest and decided then and there that I was going to become a mountaineer," Norris says. She never looked back. Now the world-class climber is on a mission to get more people hooked on the outdoor high. Fresh off an expedition on K2, the world's second-highest (and deadliest) mountain, she shares some pointers for living fearlessly.

Bonita Norris Climbing

Mental game

Your goals should be really big and scare the crap out of you. Even the thought of Everest made my heart race. I was in love, I was obsessed, and I was completely terrified.

Must-have gear

Dear Kate leggings! They're so comfortable that I wore them as a base layer for my whole K2 expedition. I also like to take a fresh pair of socks and underwear for each day of an expedition—it really helps with morale.

Expedition prep

Mountaineering is all about endurance: Climbing above 8,000 meters—nicknamed the Death Zone—is like having the worst flu while doing 30 hours of the hardest exercise you've ever done, all without eating, drinking, or sleeping. So I do multiple short but intense workouts a day. I'll circuit-train in the gym, doing four eight-minute sets of things like burpees, press-ups, weights, and pull-ups; do a 50-minute session on the climbing wall; then go for a 40-minute run or to a yoga class. (Want to try climbing? Give these strength exercises for rock climbing newbies a whirl first.)

Bonita Norris Selfie

Sanity saver

My family has cats, so my mom bought me a little furry water bottle and said, "You can pretend it's Bubbles when you're in the mountains."

Newbie advice

The biggest thing climbing has taught me is to take it just one step at a time. No matter how intimidated and overwhelmed you are, have the faith that those little steps will add up. (Need more inspiration? Check out this other record-setting female mountaineer.)

You love your shape because...

I love my toned arms and back, which I've earned from being a climber. That's the secret to body confidence—using your body to achieve your goals. (See why more inspiring badass women are proud to say "I #LoveMyShape.")

Bonita Norris Cliff

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