Elianna Mintz Perez
Former CBS News Producer Turned Travel Producer

The Wife Whose Husband is Climbing Everest

Asher Looking Down from the Summit (photo courtesy of author)

For the past month, I’ve shown up to at least a dozen events solo. I barely make it through five minutes before getting asked where my husband is.

“He’s on Everest.”

They automatically assume I’m making some sort of joke and laugh until they see my earnest un-laughing face and awkwardly inquire if I’m serious. 

“Yup, four weeks down, only two more to go!” I usually respond in some variation, depending on how long it’s been. 

“Oh my God, SIX weeks? My husband left for a week and I couldn’t handle it.” 

Or “I barely allow my husband to go on boys’ weekends and he left you for SIX WEEKS?!” 

“Yes, yes he did.”

Needless to say, I have mixed emotions. 

Climbing Mount Everest is one of those incredible feats that is limited to those who are typically ambitious, goal-oriented, physically fit, and crave adrenaline rushes. At 29,032 feet above sea level, it is the tallest mountain in the world. There is an enormous aura of romance and adventure surrounding anyone attempting the challenge. But what about the loved ones left behind at home? What is the experience like for them? 

I, Elianna Perez, am a self- identified wife of an Everest climber. Do I have an identity outside of this? Of course. But leading up to the big event, during, and most likely after, I will be defined as that: The Wife Whose Husband is Climbing Everest. 

The majority of people who climb Everest train for it. They do rock climbing, endurance, strength, and flexibility training. Most train for about a year leading up to the actual expedition. Some, like my husband, will travel to specific destinations for extended periods to help with the training. My husband did a one-week trip to Ecuador to prepare for ice climbs and spent time training in Vail, Colorado.

For many, Everest isn’t the first major mountain they’ve climbed. If they’re serious climbers, they’ll usually hit some of the other summits prior like Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania or Denali in Alaska. Since we’ve been married, my husband has climbed Mount Mckinley, also known as Denali, and Pik Lenin in Tajikistan. Prior to our dating, he climbed Kilimanjaro and Mount Elbrus in Russia. 

One who is climbing Everest is likely very excited by the prospect and will talk about it incessantly. It’s something that will be the center of conversation  – or sometimes the elephant in the room if it’s a sensitive topic with a significant other – for a long time leading up to it. This is all part of the time and energy leading up to Everest. 

Throughout this period, I am The Wife Whose Husband is Climbing Everest. 

Then comes the big event – the Everest expedition. My husband’s Everest trip is six weeks. Most people don’t realize it takes six full weeks to climb to the summit. It’s not that the actual climb takes six weeks but you need to wait for a good weather window and acclimate to the high altitude as you go up to avoid mountain sickness. That’s one of the main causes of death on Everest. 

I am The Wife Whose Husband is Climbing Everest. 

Some people think it’s cool, more think it’s crazy, but most of all I get a lot of sympathy. My husband and I have an adorable, kind, smart, and sassy one-year-old. She is a handful but also my best friend. I am solo-parenting for six weeks and that elicits the most pity. 

“How are you doing this by yourself for six weeks?! I can barely do bedtime alone,” one friend wrote to me. 

Is it easy to solo-parent? No. But I’m not unique. There are countless parents out there who solo-parent while their partner is serving in the army or needs to travel for work. That’s not to mention all of the single parents out there who have to do it every day with no end in sight. I have a six-week countdown. I know it’s not forever.

But it is hard. 

I have moments when I get overwhelmed taking care of my daughter while simultaneously running my own business and simultaneously overseeing a remodeling project in our house. There are days when she wakes up at 5:00AM, won’t nap, and is insanely energetic. I get tired, really tired, and I can’t turn to my husband and tell him he’s on duty. I can’t just take a nap. I have to push through and be there for my baby because I’m the only one who can. 

I am The Wife Whose Husband is Climbing Everest. 

When we’ve had a long day, and she poops in the bath, I can’t call my husband for help. He used to be in charge of cleaning poop from the tub. Now I have to do it by myself. I clean her off, get her ready for bed, and then clean the bathtub thoroughly with bleach and hot water, before taking out my work that I wasn’t able to get done during the day. I go to bed only to wake up five hours later and do it all over again.

I am The Wife Whose Husband is Climbing Everest. 

My husband was on the mountain for Mother’s Day so I didn’t get flowers or a special brunch as a family. But I did get to spend the day with my daughter and my mother and that’s what the day is really about. I’m grateful for that. But I still missed him.

I am The Wife Whose Husband is Climbing Everest. 

The hardest part is the lack of communication. We’ve had full weeks where he was connected to the internet (yes, there’s internet on certain parts of Everest) and we were able to video chat every day, twice a day. Those weeks were amazing. He was doing his thing and I was doing mine and we were able to connect at the start and end of each day. But then there are full weeks where we can’t communicate at all. He’s climbing towards the summit to acclimate or attempting the summit push, and I worry. My imagination runs wild and I get nervous. I contact the guide company, which gets updates from the team via radio, just for confirmation he’s alive. But I still feel lonely. I have an amazing support network of friends and I’m very close to my family, but it’s not the same as talking to your partner. It’s not the same as cuddling up at night with your beloved and feeling safe and cared for. 

I am The Wife Whose Husband is Climbing Everest. 

“Are you worried? Don’t people die on Everest?” 

That’s one of the most common questions I receive. Leading up to the trip, I couldn’t respond when people asked me this because it hurt so much. 

“Yes, of course I’m nervous. It’s scary. Please don’t remind me of that.”

Since he’s left for the climb, however, I’m less nervous. I see how confident he is, how capable his guide is, and that they have a solid plan in place to prevent death or injuries. They prioritize safety. As reports of people dying this year get published, I get nervous and scared and read every article I can about the deaths. Then I reach out to my husband and his climbing team and get further clarification on what happened and what they’re doing to prevent something like that from occurring in their group. 

In recent years, climbing Everest has become trendy; it’s Instagrammable and can be sponsored. Additionally, many third-world countries bestow status upgrades to citizens who make it to the top of Everest, which encourages numerous attempts. The Nepalese government issued a record 466 permits this year because of its popularity. Those who join expeditions because of the trendiness are typically inexperienced mountaineers and unprepared. You may be in fantastic shape and a bodybuilder but that’s not going to help you with altitude sickness if you rush to the summit. More than 20 percent of those who made it to Everest Base Camp this year, which is more than 17,000 feet high, were evacuated for health issues, according to my husband’s team. 

There are only so many safe routes to climb to the summit so the more people attempting to reach the peak in a limited oxygen zone, the more dangerous it is. In 2019, there were only three suitable days for climbing due to weather, which meant hundreds of climbers and sherpas making summit attempts simultaneously. Long lines to reach the 29,029-foot peak led to 11 deaths that year. 

My husband’s team is not attempting to summit on the first available good weather day. They’re not even going on the second day. Their plan is to summit four days later to avoid the crowds and stay safe. 

But I’m human and I still worry. When my husband did the summit push, which was five days without communication, I was a mess. I’d check in with the guide company but they only had so many updates and their job wasn’t to reassure me and keep me calm. They had their own worries. At one point, I was informed that the whole group made it to the summit but then there were no more updates. Getting to the top isn’t the only dangerous part, plenty of people die while going down. I was busy taking care of my daughter, cooking for guests who were visiting that weekend, and working, but I couldn’t push away the pit at the bottom of my stomach. Finally, hours later, they updated me that he was at Camp Four for the night, a camp that is 26,000 feet high and considered part of the Death Zone. Needless to say, it was not reassuring, and I freaked out. I was in the park with my daughter and trying to hide my tears as she played. I didn’t get word until more than 24 hours later that they were safe at base camp. 

I am The Wife Whose Husband is Climbing Everest. 

Sometimes, I feel extremely frustrated with my husband and think he’s selfish for leaving. But those moments are fleeting. My emotions range from tired to sad because of loneliness, but never anger. Overall, I love taking care of my daughter and I’m grateful for the time I have with her. We’re having a lot of fun and I know that if I wanted to leave for six weeks, whether for business or pleasure, my husband would gladly step up. When I FaceTime my husband and see the pure unadulterated joy on his face, I feel happy. He’s pursuing his passions and I can’t help but be happy for him when I see it.

I am The Wife Whose Husband is Climbing Everest. 

I may not be climbing ice falls, but as a single parent of an extremely active one-year-old, I’m getting plenty of exercise and often teetering on the edge. 

Everest is about pushing yourself to your limits and proving you’re capable of more than you think. Taking care of a one-year-old solo while running a business and overseeing a remodeling project is just that. I have shown myself just how capable I am and how much I can accomplish. I can do it all. I’m holding down the fort and keeping our lives running smoothly. 

It may not be as glamorous as climbing Everest, but it’s definitely warmer and easier to breathe. 

I am The Wife Whose Husband is Climbing Everest. 

And I’m proud of it.

Elianna Perez currently resides in Hollywood, Florida with her husband and one-year-old daughter. She is a former CBS National News Producer who now runs her own travel planning and production business, Elianna Mintz Productions, after traveling the world for 1.5 years during the pandemic. She can be reached on her Instagram @aroundtheworld_inbabydays.

About the Author
Elianna Mintz Perez resides in Hollywood, Florida after spending the past year and a half traveling the world during the pandemic. She volunteers for ACHI (American Communities Helping Israel) and runs her own travel planning and production business, Elianna Mintz Productions. She can be reached on her Instagram @aroundtheworldincoronadays.
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