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A tribute to Sue Fear: A lost legend

Remembering Sue Fear, the first Australian-born female to summit Mt Everest, 1963-2006


The 28th of May, 2006, is the day the world lost the adventurous spirit, strength and beauty of Sue Fear, who was an important member of the World Expeditions family for almost two decades.

While it’s been 15 years since Sue very sadly succumbed to a tragic accident on her descent from Mt Manaslu (8,163m) in Nepal – the world’s eighth highest mountain, there is not a day that she is not far from our hearts and thoughts.

We called her ‘Fearless’ for the stoic and relentless passion she had to escape into the wilds to trek, ski and in later years, climb the big mountains.

May 28 marks her tragic passing during her fifth 8,000-metre expedition when a late-season ice bridge gave way to a crevasse in terrible weather conditions and where a rescue was impossible.

Sue is immortalised as a young, vivacious lady with smiling, blue eyes who gave so much to the world.

At home, she was a loving sister to her brothers Graham and John and like a best friend to her father Ron, who was so proud of Sue, not only for her climbs on Mt Everest, Shishapangma, Makalu and Broad Peak, but because she was an inspiration to females of all ages.

She lived a minimalistic lifestyle and yet gave her time generously to all who knew her. Her philanthropic work extended to Nepal, The Fred Hollows Foundation and the Australian Himalayan Foundation, volunteering and providing fundraising support, which was avidly part of her DNA.

Aged just 43 years at the time of her death, she was one of only ten women globally who had successfully reached five 8,000+ metre mountains and was the first Australian-born woman to climb the technically difficult north face of Mount Everest.

There are very few books written by women climbers and Sue’s Fear No Boundary: the road to Everest and beyond is an intriguing read about her journey to become Australia’s most successful female mountaineer.  

Sue made a huge contribution to Australian mountaineering and paved the way for females in the sport, which is traditionally male-dominated.

She used her profile, as one of the world’s leading female mountaineers, to help others and that was synonymous with how Sue chose to live her life.

She also loved to present to student aged girls, championing the messages that as a petite-framed person matching the boys in climbing big mountains, that we should all strive to be the best version of ourselves, to dream big and to achieve big things.

She empowered young people to get out of their comfort zone, to immerse themselves in nature and to meet other cultures. So in 2019 when Barker College in Sydney’s upper North Shore, where Sue had attended the last two years of high school, it was apt that they named a house in her honour with ‘courageous soul’ attached with the house motto.

SUE FEAR’S SUMMIT ACHIEVEMENTS:

  - Mt Kilimanjaro (5,895m) Tanzania
  - Makalu II (7,678m) Nepal
  - Cho Oyu (8,188m) Nepal
  - Shishapangma (8,027m) Tibet
  - Mt Everest (8,848m) Nepal
  - Gasherbrum II (8,034m) Pakistan
  - Mt Manaslu II (8,163m) Nepal

'Climbing is a bit like rolling a dice – sometimes things fall into place and you achieve your aim. Sometimes your number comes up.' – Sue Fear

Her achievements have been recognised in other spheres too, most notably, in 2005 when she was awarded an Order of Australia Medal for her services to mountaineering and work as Ambassador for the Fred Hollows Foundation.

As a passionate advocate of wilderness travel, she was also celebrated as Australian Geographic's Adventurer of the Year in 2003 and in her memory, World Expeditions’ eco campsite beneath Mt Sonder at the western end of the Larapinta Trail, is named after her, Camp Fearless.

As well as guiding internationally, Sue relished taking trekkers on the Northern Territory’s Larapinta Trail, through the West MacDonnell Ranges near Alice Springs, when World Expeditions first pioneered commercial walking on the trail.  

World Expeditions were blessed to have Sue’s professional involvement as a tour guide over 16 years, leading treks around the world, and it was hard not to be in awe of her ardent interest in helping others to achieve their outdoor pursuits.

We often hear from past travellers who regale their memories of Sue Fear as their trek or mountaineering guide, having met her at one of the information nights she’d presented or heard her inspiring keynote speech at an event.

She loved a beer, listening to music, dancing, running, swimming and, of course, going on bushwalks.

Sue was an incredibly accomplished mountaineer, an outstanding guide and a dear friend to us.

As she lays in the abode of the gods on the mountain in her beloved Himalaya, we all remember Sue in our own way and with our own precious memories.

Rest in peace, Fearless, we miss you dearly.

You can read more about her legacy at suefear.org and leave a message for her family who dedicated the website to Sue.

Words by Sue Badyari, CEO of World Expeditions.

Published 24 May 2021


 

Mountaineering, Sue Fear

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