Approaching Amphu Labtsa pass with Ombigaichan in background | Soren Kruse Ledet
Cheryl Bart really is a woman on top of the world - in both business and adventure. In fact, she’s been on top of the world on all seven continents. Cheryl and her daughter Nikki were the first Australian mother and daughter team to reach all Seven Summits with their ascent of Mount Everest on 24 May 2008.
Not only is Cheryl incredibly passionate about adventure, she also has a very successful career as a lawyer and company director. She is a non-executive director on a number of boards including the Australian Himalayan Foundation and supports AHF’s sustainable education, health and environmental programs across the region.
Cheryl is particularly passionate about trekking in Nepal. In September 2017, Cheryl will be leading the 15-day AHF Ladakh trek which will be a wonderful introduction to trekking in Ladakh through the remote Markha Valley.
We sat down with Cheryl and asked her why she loves the Himalaya, how she juggles her many roles, and what she is most looking forward to on her trek to Ladakh.
Of all your achievements which are you most proud of and why?
Of all the successes in my adventure and professional lives - my greatest achievement has been managing to continue a fulfilling career and raise two exceptional children. My daughter, Nikki, has almost finished her specialist training as a cardiologist and my son James is the CEO of the global business Shaw of Australia and has just started a really cool furniture business called James Lane.
Of my adventures, the greatest journey was when Nikki and I were climbing the Seven Summits. It was the preparation, planning and the climbs in extraordinary places, countries and cultures that made it such a special experience.
I've been fortunate to serve on many amazing boards but the highlights have been while working with the Australian Himalayan Foundation – particularly our post earthquake rebuilding of schools and lives. I also love start-up type organisations and delivering special events. I was at the very beginning of the Adelaide Film Festival and the Asian Cup Australia and I recently launched the Invictus Games in Sydney 2018 alongside patron Prince Harry.
How do you balance adventure/career/family?
It's not always easy! It's a matter of planning and attitude. I find it to be an iterative process and the lessons I learn on my adventures can be transferred to business – and vice versa, some business skills like risk analysis and mitigation help in my adventures.
Overall having a strong loving family base provides the underlying support above anything else. And I am enriched and empowered from nature and from my business opportunities which I believe, makes me a better mother/ wife/ family member.
In practical terms, I plan an adventure by first blocking that time period in my diary. I'm usually planning two years in advance. But of course you have to be flexible as things pop up!
Cheryl Bart and son James Bart
What is it about the Himalaya that keeps you coming back for more?
It is an extraordinary privilege to be in the Himalaya. Of course the mighty and spectacular mountains are beautiful! They always fill me with awe and joy. I feel the vast passage of time and we are just a tiny speck in time and space. I feel deeply connected, spiritually connected, with the mountains. It’s a time to reflect, pause and consider ourselves and our environment. I love climbing and hiking. It makes me feel stronger and better every day - I vibrate at a higher frequency.
And then of course there are the wonderful people and culture of the Himalaya. So it's easy to keep going back, and each experience is so different than the time before.
What are some of the exciting projects and challenges ahead for the Australian Himalayan Foundation?
In Ladakh specifically, the AHF will be funding the annual five day health camp in August. This medical camp includes patient check-up and treatments as well as training for the local health officers, doctors and nurses, paramedics and also the local Amchi (traditional healers of the Ladakh region). The communities in the Zanskar Valley in particular can be very isolated, with some villages being cut off for up to six months in winter with heavy snowfalls, so it's really important to have the local medical staff and Amchi trained, especially in maternal and infant health.
In other areas of the Himalaya, AHF is always at work. A major focus is still the fallout of the Nepal earthquakes in 2015 - AHF has already built 35 classrooms that were either damaged or destroyed, and will be funding another 44 classrooms in the year ahead, all designed to be earthquake resilient and to provide communities with safe spaces. Another really exciting project is the vocational training that has been happening in both Bhutan and Nepal. This project is still quite young, but is providing women with economic independence and the ability to be in control of their own futures.
What can trekkers look forward to on your upcoming Ladakh trek?
Trekkers can look forward to a transformational experience. They will learn so much about themselves and of course about a remote and special part of our planet. It is far more than just a trek - it will be a life changing experience. The area is so remote and non-touristy so we will really get the true Himalayan experience including mountains, people and culture. Also, hopefully we’ll spot an elusive snow leopard! How amazing would that be!
The AHF, along with the Snow Leopard Conservancy in Leh, have been working with local communities to find out where snow leopards prey on livestock. They are also working with these farmers to find a balance between protecting their livelihood and endangering the snow leopards. We hope that with some help from the SLC we will be able to see one of these beautiful cats, but if not, we will spend time finding out more about where and how they live and seeing footage from the SLC cameras.
What is so unique about the Ladakh region of the Himalaya vs other more well trodden trekking regions?
These days it’s hard to find many adventures without tourists, yet Ladakh is unique in that it is really the road less travelled. Ladakh is remote and we will be dealing with altitude - sounds fun huh? It really is special and spectacular place.
Join Cheryl on a special trek in Ladakh in September 2017, where you will gain an unrivalled insight into the rich cultural history of Ladakh. The trip will provide the opportunity to appreciate the innovative AHF health care and snow leopard conservation programs. The specially devised trek extends to remote settlements and villages that still reflect a deep seated Tibetan culture and where the turn of the prayer wheel is still in harmony with the seasons. Find Out More