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In the winter of 2020/2019, the first Ukrainian Women’s Expedition is preparing to climb the world’s highest volcano – Ojos del Salado (6893m).
“Buntarok” is a team consisted of 17 Ukrainian ladies from different parts of Ukraine.
The purpose of the Expedition is to inspire people to realize their dreams.
And now, in an interview with Oksana Litynska, the third Ukrainian to climb Everest and the second Ukrainian to complete the Seven Peaks program, who is one of the team’s mentors, we offer to get acquainted with the Women’s Expedition more closely:
How did the history of your women’s team begin? Who initiated the group?
The idea came to me, but it fell on very fertile ground and developed in its own direction.
My dream is to cultivate self-confidence. It’s good when a person has the opportunity to fully reveal her talents.
I always admire and am inspired by our team. Everyone is welcome in our team.
I especially want to mention Julia Zi, who simply joined our team. We only met once in London on her initiative. Now it is impossible to imagine our first expedition without her.
Why was the format of the women’s team chosen? Would men interfere in the team?
It is difficult to imagine a world without men. Many of us are married and value a reliable partner.
However, it is in the mountains, where there is a lot of physical work, quick decision-making and teamwork, which we do not often hear about women’s expeditions.
The news about the passage of Trango by the girls is like pearls in a sea of sand.
Much more often it is one or two women in the male expeditions, or the leaders are men.
However, the world is changing and we see that everyone can bring their knowledge and skills to develop confidence in their own strength.
It is important to us that we are a women’s team, but not at the expense of humiliating other people, we develop ourselves and by our example we want to inspire others regardless of gender or religious beliefs.
Who is the leader in your team? And in general, do you have clearly defined “roles” in the team in advance, or do you make decisions together, solve problems together?
We have a team of strong-minded women with strong leadership qualities.
We are all very different and with very different experiences. One of the first things we did in the beginning was to write down our strengths and areas of competence, and that is what helps us in the distribution of roles and tasks at different stages of our preparation for the expedition.
Working out the risks, we discussed in particular the option of preventing the situation of “several captains on one ship” and came to a common vision of which of us has the last word in a given situation.
When it comes directly to the safety of the climb, we agreed that due to my mountain experience, this word is behind me, in all other matters there is either someone else (who has the most experience in this area) or we are looking for a common solution together.
Sometimes we discuss and argue, but it always happens in a rather constructive format, sometimes we resolve some issues on the principle of voting.
In particular, they agreed to speak directly and openly, because the atmosphere within the team and the success of the expedition in general largely depends on it.
If we compare the expeditions in a purely women’s team with teams in which the predominant number of participants are men, what are the advantages and disadvantages in both cases?
It is better to answer this question in January, because we have not yet been in a 100% women’s expedition.
It is planned for December. But we often hear in society that there is no female friendship, or that the company of women is a “snake brood”, and the saddest thing is that women themselves often spread such views.
But friendship in the mountains forms very strong ties and definitely a better understanding of each other.
In general, a lot of mythical mystery is woven around women – I want to clarify the concept of women’s mountaineering.
For some reason, no one talks about menstruation during the expedition, about women’s health, about the effect of height on the cycle. But everyone likes to mention “female emotionality”.
Yes, women may have different needs than men, but that doesn’t mean we are inferior in strength, endurance, or professionalism.
I would very much like other people to understand this as well.
This year, your team climbed the most popular peak in 2020 for Ukrainians (in quarantine) – Ararat. Was this your first shared mountain peak? Did everything go as planned?
The first stage of preparation was a marathon and training for it (endurance training).
The second stage was planned for high-altitude climbing, as most of the team did not climb above 3,000 m on foot.
We considered the Mont Blanc or Kazbek option, but the quarantine made its adjustments.
The main task of climbing Ararat was to check how each of us reacts to the height, and it was equally important to finally meet the whole team live for the first time in six months!
We will cope with both the first and the second task 100%. We also managed to find the first patron at the time of the ascent.
Everyone coped with the height better than expected, the team work in the conditions of the ascent took place, the conclusions from the ascent were made and we understand how and where to move next.
The only thing that was missing in this climb was technical training and we are now working on it.
Your next goal is to climb Ojos del Salado – the highest volcano in the world with a height of 6891 m, located in the middle of the Atacama Desert in Chile. Why did you choose the male top? How do you prepare for the climb, because the altitude of almost 7,000 meters above sea level, despite the relatively technically not difficult route, is already dangerous for the untrained climber?
The idea was suggested to us by the “living encyclopedia of mountains” – Valentin Sipavin, with whom we accidentally crossed paths in Ararat.
Even then, it was clear that mortality from Corona virus in Argentina is much higher than in Chile, so the borders can open faster in Chile. Regarding the technical nature of the route, most of the girls in the team have experience in climbing, winter climbing in the Carpathians; also, most of them are ski or snowboard instructors, so the biggest challenge for our team is height.
About training: starting in mid-March, we started our physical training, we also meet through Zoom every week on Tuesday (we have never missed a meeting).
We discuss the problems outlined above: logistics, risks, money, marketing, training, etc.
If it is impossible to get to Chile, you have an equally ambitious plan – to set a record by crossing the winter Ukrainian Carpathians in a completely female team.
At first glance, these are two very different goals in many ways; Is it really so easy to change a trip to North America in a short time (where our winter period is summer) to the winter Carpathians?
We set only ambitious goals.
Winter Carpathians are to some extent more difficult than Ochos. We are currently working on a route and a plan, because until last week our plan B was Ochos and we were going to Aconcagua first.
COVID makes many adjustments to our plans, but in any case we are planning a significant culmination of our more than six months of work / training and coaching.
The main thing is a team and a common goal, and everything else is planned and prepared in parallel.
Tell us about the project of the winter Carpathians, what route did you plan, on what dates? Will it be an autonomous hike? How long do you plan to invest in this campaign?
We plan to go +/- 300 km in the Carpathians from border to border through part of Marmaros, Chornohora, Svydovets,… the total altitude will be more than 10 thousand meters.
This expedition should take about 20 days in time (as well as the expedition to Aconcagua or Ojos with flights and pick-up) – approximately 11-31.12.2020.
If Plan A becomes unrealistic due to border closures, this Plan will take effect on December 1st.
Currently, the team plans to climb, but do you have other outdoor activities? Which exactly?
As a project, we focus on the mountains. But we all do other activities, such as skiing and snowboarding. Maybe someday we will set a goal for a ski tour, who knows.
If you take into account only mountaineering, what goal do you want to achieve: maybe climbing Everest, or 7 Peaks, maybe opening a new route?
We are currently setting medium-term goals.
Long-term in our embryonic state)) First, fulfill this goal, digest, understand what we have learned, and then we’ll see.
Your more global goals are: to inspire all those who doubt their abilities, to convey the value of individual and team leadership, to set an example of effective resource search for their dreams. Does this goal only apply to women or men’s teams as well?
This applies to absolutely everyone – regardless of gender, age, resources. Just historically, women came to equal opportunities much later.
There are also stereotypes that women can’t really work together.
Thus, our global goal is to inspire everyone to dream and act, to join forces for a common goal, to promote a culture of mentoring and mutual support.
Thus, although only women are accepted into the team, we are sincerely happy to support men in our common goal. In particular, the man became the first patron.
Now your team unites 10 girls from different parts of Ukraine. How is the selection for the team? Can every girl join your team? What is needed for this?
Our team is still stable. If we are going to outgrow ourselves, we must first think about the format in which it is best to do so.
Your projects are not commercial activities, each of the girls in your team has their own work and family, tell me, is it difficult financially to organize such projects?
Exactly! Many have families and, I must say, men are our important support. After all, behind every strong woman is a strong man. We are now fundraising for our trip. We are aware that in terms of finances we need to climb Everest to climb Ochos. However, we already have several sponsors who believe in us and we also encourage others to join this unique project. Our page: www.uawomenexpedition.com.
There is at least one GRIT & ROCK grant in the mountaineering community, which sponsors women’s teams. Do you plan to participate in this or other similar grants?
We were interested in grants, but unfortunately, during the corona crisis, most of the grants supporting the expeditions were paused.
As for grit & rock – the application had to be submitted by January 15, 2020, at that time we had no idea about this idea.
We will continue to monitor and look after this kind of grants, as it can really be a good resource and reinforcement for our future plans.
In addition to finances, the most important point of organizing large-scale events is the availability of time for their implementation.
How do you manage to gather such a large team on long expeditions?
We consciously devote our time and resources to this cause.
It inspires us and we hope that we can inspire others to believe in their own strength.
Two factors are also very important: trust in each other and division of labor. Each of us conducts his own area of work.
You are the most experienced member of the team, the third Ukrainian to climb Everest and the second Ukrainian to complete the Seven Peaks program. How does your experience affect the organization and conduct of expeditions and other team activities?
Yes, I am the most experienced and the oldest in the team.
I am happy to share my experience, but I try not to impose my opinion except on security issues – where we agreed that my word is the last.
But if you think that this is a one-way street, you will be deeply mistaken.
Many girls have succeeded in their professions and can share deep experience that can be transferred to our expedition.
But it’s not even about when you realize your responsibility to them, perhaps even in matters of life and death, then your own understanding of yourself goes to another qualitative level.
That is, being a part of this team gives me development and experiences no less than others.
How are decisions made about the team’s future plans? How exactly is the goal chosen?
The global mission of the project is the first Ukrainian women’s expedition. Therefore, the list of objects of interest to us should include any mountains or tasks that meet the two main criteria:
1. There have never been purely Ukrainian women’s teams
2. The goal should be a worthy challenge for all participants for full motivation Every Tuesday, the team meets in Zuma and discusses all issues.
As for the expeditions themselves, this usually takes place in the format – brainstorming – selection of final ideas – group voting.
Oksana’s experience helps to quickly generate ideas of difficult but interesting goals.
Do you know about similar women’s projects in other countries? Do your goals match similar teams? Is it possible to cooperate with other teams?
There are many cool projects in this direction around the world.
We are always open to cooperation, but now we have a specific goal and have not been involved in other areas.
We also plan to contact the Federation of Mountaineering and Climbing of Ukraine in terms of amateur development.
Tell us about the composition of your team.
The team consists of 8 girls Buntarok and two mentors, Oksana and Julia.
Each of us is of different ages, has different professional activities and different experiences in the mountains.
The youngest is Liana, 21 and she is a student. The eldest, Oksana, 44 and she is the financial director of the bank.
The team brought together an architect, programmer, recruiter, designer, and each of them brought to the team a part of their superpower.
Is your team a stratified hut called “Rebels”, which is hidden under this name?