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Brigitte Muir: First Australian Woman to Summit Everest

Brigitte was born in Belgium in 1958. She discovered caving as a teenager, and decided that outdoors adventures were a lot more exciting than watching TV all week end. She has been climbing and walking extensively in the Himalaya and all over the world since 1976. In 1983, she moved full time to Australia and in 1987 became an Australian citizen. In 1988, she started a quest to climb the highest mountain on each continent, and eventually got there: in May 1997, she became the first Australian woman to climb Everest, and the first Australian to climb the Seven Summits. Her autobiography , ‘The Wind in my Hair‘, was published by Penguin in September 1998. Her next plans involve inspiring people through speaking, writing, making documentaries, painting, promoting renewable energy and walking across wild, empty spaces.  

Interview with Brigitte Muir, first Australian woman to climb everest, professional mountaineer

1. Where did you grow up and what did you get up to as a kid?

I grew up in Belgium, reading Tintin at the foot of a slagheap. I lived in a valley filled with factories, and the only escape was up the slagheaps slopes towards the sky and dreaming of faraway lands. I still like factories though.

2. How did you find your senior years of School? Did you know what you wanted to do?

As a teenager, I used to have competitions with my girlfriend to see who could watch the most movies during a week end. Then I heard a little phrase at school that changed my life. 'Il faut vivre ses reves et non rever sa vie.' 'We must live our dreams, not dream our lives'. My high school was a Catholic College in a town called Seraing. At the end of the soccer field the factories started. I started caving, then climbing and mountaineering. Travelling and living a life of adventure was exhilirating. I somehow managed to enjoy my studies as well, and decided to become an archeologist. That was before Indiana Jones became famous.

3. What was something important that sparked your decision to launch into dreams of adventure and exploration?

Yep, that little phrase I talked about in the last question was what brought it all together. I'd been dreaming of adventures since I was a kid, and thinking I could make it a reality actually made it happen.

4. What is it that makes you come alive the most?

Tackling the unknown, physically, mentally and spiritually. Running up and down hills, and looking at the sky in a flat land that goes on for ever. Writing, painting. Connecting with someone I love physically and spiritually.

5. Any advice for young people who are wondering how they can aim for their own dreams?

What really matters in ones' life is to do what you love doing, whatever that might be. Things start to happen if you do what you love. To find what you love if you are not sure, every morning write a couple of pages of whatever passes through your head Don't read it again. Don't show it to anyone. The truth eventually pops out.

6. What do your parents think about your adventures?

Mum yelled and forbid me to go caving when I was 16. I fought and won. Now, she burns candles for me in church when I go on a trip and she is proud of me.

7. What would you say are the low points and high points of your adventure travel lifestyle?

Low point: financial uncertainty High point: financial uncertainty, better known as freedom.

8. In really hard times what is it that gives you the motivation to go on?

Pig headedness. Although I have my share of downs. Sink, kick the bottom and come back to the surface. But it is all relative. I usually slap myself out of it by re discovering that things could be much, much worse. We live in a privileged world. We can afford to think that the place is here and the time is now is the only way to live.

9. What is the worst situation you have encountered and how did you get out of it?

I was not honest with myself, and refused to accept who I really was. Getting out of it was hard and painful, but worth it.

10. Any views on Tim's journeys, or do you have any dirt to share (stuff that Tim isn't willing to bring up himself)?

It adds years to your life. You go away two months and it feels like you lived life to the fullest, two years of it at least, before you get back home.

11. Ultimately, what do you love about adventure travel?

It adds years to your life. You go away two months and it feels like you lived life to the fullest, two years of it at least, before you get back home.

12. What was one of the funniest moments you have shared during a journey?

I'd have to seriously think about that one. I am pretty sure that it usually involved being out there, like minded minds and a few drinks.

13. If you had to pick one highlight to date what would it be?

The smell of damp earth on a winter morning just about to abseil down to the centre of the earth. Receiving the first copy of my book, 'The Wind in my Hair'. I felt like a proud mother! Dancing on an empty moonlit beach in Tasmania, and having a pelican deviate its course and circle me to check me out as I waved at him. The colours of a Wimmera sky at sunset. Trumpeteer swans taking off a misty river miles from nowhere in the dusk of an Alaskan October. A dancing party with Sherpas in a kitchen tent The warm smoky breath of a Belgian cafe, the smiles of friends sharing stories and Hoegaarden beer. The feel of frozen nose hairs, as I make my way up the side of a Himalayan peak, with the triangular shadow of its summit cutting the rainbow of first light on the landscape below. reading the morning paper or anything in bed with a cup of organic coffee in my hand. Anywhere. I did it on the way to the top of Everest too. My every day luxury! Etc etc etc

14. Any views on Tim's journeys, or do you have any dirt to share (stuff that Tim isn't willing to bring up himself)?

Invite your sister along next time boy. She is amazing. Plus, you could do with a pretty face on them documentaries.

Thanks Brigitte, and good luck!