LIMA – Silvia Vasquez-Lavado became the first Peruvian woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest in May, an accomplishment that she views as a feat for Peru and a triumph for all the women like her who have been victims of sexual abuse.
The climber said in an interview with EFE that the abuse she experienced between the ages of 6 and 8 made her yearn for high places, and her first summits revealed that mountains provide “a sense of safety, a feeling of protection” like she had never experienced before.
The journey to the top of Everest began with a series of “visions” and meditative experiences that Vasquez-Lavado underwent as therapy in 2005, when she “visualized the mountain and a little girl walking.”
Months later, Vasquez-Lavado trekked to a base camp on Everest, climbing to more than 5,500 meters (10,032 feet) above sea level, promising herself as she turned back that she would return “and reach the summit with a social cause.”
That commitment became a reality this year when she led a group of survivors of sexual violence from San Francisco, the U.S. city where Vasquez-Lavado lives, and Nepal to Everest to help them find “the strength and the confidence” she had found years earlier, the climber said.
Vasquez-Lavado’s first major climb was Africa’s Kilimanjaro in 2006.
By next year, she expects to have met the “Seven Summits” challenge, which involves climbing the seven highest peaks on each continent, including Antarctica.
“I’ve climbed all of them and only Mount Denali’s summit, in Alaska, is missing. I hope to make it with a Peruvian expedition, to get it as a country,” Vasquez-Lavado said.
Reaching the summit of the 8,848-meter (29,009-foot) tall Everest “was the culmination of 11 years of experience climbing up and down,” Vasquez-Lavado said.
The climber works with the non-governmental organization Courageous Girls, counseling women who have been abused, and she pursues intense outdoor physical activity to help her “connect with that strength, that courage.”