Vanessa Blasic stands below the south summit of Mount Everest, May 21, 2016.

Vanessa Blasic stands below the south summit of Mount Everest, May 21, 2016.

After years of planning and two months of living on the mountain, physician assistant student Vanessa Blasic completed a feat that few people can boast: summiting Mount Everest. More impressively, the accomplishment meant that she and her father Greg Blasic had joined an even more elite group: climbing the Seven Summits, or the highest peaks on all seven continents.

“Finally being up there and reaching that goal, which I have had for years, was a big accomplishment,” said the Primary Care Physician Assistant Program student, who hopes to specialize in high-altitude medicine. “Not many people get to this and I don’t think at first I realized what a positive impact it would have on me.”

Despite health concerns, weather and the perils of climbing, Blasic and her father reached Everest’s peak in Nepal at 5:41 a.m. May 21. Now at 29,029 feet above sea level, Blasic spent 30 minutes examining the horizon, fighting off the chilling temperatures and seeing what other peaks could possibly be in her climbing future.

Blasic’s road to climbing the highest mountain in the world had started with her tagging along with her father and brothers on a Boy Scout trip to climb Mount Whitney. In 2005, she climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, setting off the quest to reach the Seven Summits. More than a decade later, she and her father would spend two months traversing Everest and training to get to the top. There were parts of the climb at an 80-degree pitch, which would take them hours to get to the next camp, she said. Even though the group encountered dangerous conditions — including hearing distant avalanches — they persevered and accomplished their goal.

The hardest portion of the climb occurred two days before reaching the summit, when the climbers had to endure high altitude and extremely vertical portions of the mountain, Blasic said. But she was motivated by the support of her physician assistant classmates, who joined her in spirit via a “SC” patch on her jacket and motivational messages that she copied onto pink duct tape on her glove: “I can do it! Smile and keep going.”

Once coming down from the summit, Greg Blasic discovered he had frostbite on a few fingers and toes, leading him to be airlifted and spent six days recovering in a Kathmandu, Nepal, hospital. The younger Blasic isn’t ready to give up climbing, however, and said she would trek Everest again, possibly with her brother, who has climbed six of the seven summits with her.

by Claire Norman