Climbing Higher: mountaineer Allie Pepper

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Image: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

by Ellen Hill

Inspiring others to achieve more is the soul purpose of Blue Mountains high altitude mountaineer Allie Pepper.

Right now (Autumn 2023), Allie is climbing the 14 highest peaks in the world – without supplemental oxygen. No Australian has yet completed this challenge.

“I don’t want to die without having tried the hardest thing there is for me to do,” Allie says. Allie has overcome many mental, physical and emotional barriers to achieve her goals so far.

She spends hours each day in a hypoxic machine which takes the oxygen out of the air – while riding a bike – to help her body adapt for the Olympics of mountaineering. She also runs far into the wilderness alone, often at night.

Now aged 47, Allie discovered mountaineering when she was 24. After a time of self-discovery in India and Nepal, she came across an outdoor recreation course that changed her life.

“I failed my HSC and was working casual jobs. I had low self-esteem,  so I read ‘recreation’ as re-creating. I loved the outdoors and I wanted to recreate myself.’’

Allie had never been good at team sports but she excelled at rock climbing, abseiling, canyoning and guiding others. She discovered her passion for mountaineering in New Zealand in 2000.

Working as an assistant guide on the high-altitude mountain Aconcagua in Argentina, Allie realised she was strong enough to look after others in thin air.

Her adventurous life has taken her skiing in Japan, ice climbing in the United States and Canada and mountain climbing in Nepal, Tibet, New Zealand, and the Andes. She has ascended many high-altitude peaks in the Andes and four 8000m summits in the Himalaya including Mount Everest in 2011.

In 2007 she scaled to the summit of her first 8000m mountain, Cho Oyu in Tibet, on her own without the use of supplementary oxygen, a feat achieved by very few women.

But the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area is home. Despite living here since she was five, Allie continues to discover more magnificent locations.

The wild Kedumba Valley is a favourite training haunt, with runs through the bush to Mount Solitary and rock climbing the glowing escarpments.

There’s Claustral Canyon near Mount Tomah and the pretty waterfall walks near her mid-Mountains home around Lawson and Hazelbrook.

Often when Allie is training, lyrebirds will be her track companions. The lyrebird, which is the Gundungurra totem animal, is tattooed on her leg.

Allie encourages locals and visitors to venture into our grand backyard and to care for it.

“I would like people to be more conscious of how they live, to leave no trace in the bush and look after themselves. The Blue Mountains is a place where, no matter what I’m doing, I can go into myself and discover more about myself. That connection can happen anywhere. This just happens to be my home.”

Allie Pepper Adventures offers personalised small group local adventures and global expeditions. Visit www.alliepepper.com

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