Adriana Brownlee is a force of nature.
While most young women her age have their hands full trying to balance their studies with a social life, Adriana dedicates her time to climbing mountains as a mountaineer and a certified paragliding pilot.
In 2021, she summited Everest.
Then, in 2022, at the age of 21 years and 202 days, Adriana reached the top of K2 and, thus, set a new amazing record as the youngest female to climb K2 and Everest.
Being the youngest climber to ever summit both Everest and K2, she is also the overall youngest person to climb the higher 8,000ers (female).
But Adriana dreams even bigger.
In fact, her ultimate goal is to become the youngest person ever to complete all the Eight-Thousanders, the 14 peaks that surpass 8,000 metres (26,247 ft) as recognised by The International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation (UIAA).
To do so, Adriana would have to climb the 14 highest mountains in the world in the next three to four years.
With seven of those legendary peaks summited and a record already bagged, she’s well on track to achieving her goal.
A mountaineer was born
“The moment the seed was sewn was at the age of eight when my father introduced me to his world of training and endurance events, especially in the outdoors,” Adriana recalls.
London-born, she had to venture elsewhere to seek the thrill of an outdoor expedition.
In her own words, her hometown "isn’t exactly an 'outdoorsy' place to be."
Understandably, the British capital limited Adriana's thirst for outdoor adventures: she might have been just a young girl, but she already dreamt of mountains far away from London's urban landscape. Thankfully, her family made good use of what was offered by the nearby hills in Surrey.
Adriana and her family trained there on weekends, and regularly partook in the Three Peaks Challenge, which involves climbing the highest mountains in England, Scotland and Wales in under 24 hours.
“It took me two attempts at age nine but successful on the second and my brain was suddenly focused on making these events a part of my life.”
“I loved the mental challenge, the determination and the focus needed to be able to do these adventures,” she says.
Between the ages of 15 and 18, when she was just a teen, Adriana climbed three of the Seven Summits (Kilimanjaro, Elbrus and Aconcagua).
After that, Everest became her next goal and the focus of all her training.
Goal-driven, Adriana remembers that she was dead-set on climbing the tallest mountain in the world and that she aimed to inspire others with her adventure:
“When I was in primary school, I wrote down in one of my homework that when I was older I wanted to climb Everest and inspire other people,” she says. “12 years later, I did!”
“Climbing has always been my happy place, and a place where I can challenge myself mentally and physically and continue to grow as a human.” - Adriana Brownlee
Training for the adventure
For Adriana, training means mainly listening to what her body needs.
“The hardest part is having the correct genetic makeup to be able to withstand the high altitudes and luckily that was a check for me,” she says.
Adriana trains for six days a week, sometimes up to four hours a day.
Mental preparation is key, but she also had to ensure the strength and health of her cardiovascular system, in order to be ready to face the immense physical effort of the summit.
All this, of course, juggling her training with the normal life of any other young woman.
“There’s one important thing in mountaineering and that’s making sure everything you can control you makes sure you master. Fitness is one of them. Mental strength is the next.”
“Mentally I train almost every day just by visualising expeditions, planning my 'what ifs' (how to mitigate things that could go wrong like an avalanche or problems with other teammates) and doing monotonous exercises with breathing restrictions to get used to the monotony and difficulty of walking up to 32 hours in one push.”
The record-breaking expeditions
The expedition on K2 (the second-highest mountain in the world, measuring 8,611 metres (28,251 ft)) and Everest (which, standing at 8,848 m (29,029 ft), is the highest mountain in the world) gifted Adriana some of the best moments of her life so far.
“The best moment on Everest and my life so far was just before reaching the summit, when I knew that I was going to make it,” she recalls.
“It was a beautiful day: the sunrise was hitting the right side of my face and reflecting on my climbing partner's goggles, and what looked like silver glitter filled the sky towards the summit.”
“It felt magical, unforgettable and surreal all at the same time. It has been my dream since I was eight years old and, suddenly, it was reality.”
Although K2 was a beautiful experience, Adriana looks back at that particular adventure with a tinge of wariness.
Due to the extremely hot weather and the high number of people attempting the same summit, she admits that “when climbing in Pakistan there is always an element of fear”.
“The rock fall from Advanced Basecamp to Camp Three was something out of a horror movie," she said. "Rocks hurtling towards you a million miles per hour and all you can do is lean into the face and pray it flies over your body.”
“It was a relief to reach the summit, so the best moment there was to be back at basecamp out of danger!”
After Annapurna, Kangchenjunga and Lhotse, Adriana Brownlee successfully summited with Makalu (8,463m), thus reaching the halfway point of her project: becoming the youngest and fastest woman to climb all 14 peaks above 8000m. Congratulations to Adri and team! #NeverStopExploringpic.twitter.com/KpYcTff5ZW— The North Face EU (@TheNorthFaceEU) May 30, 2022
On an average expedition, Adriana reveals that the hardest part - and the time to give herself a pep talk - normally comes only after reaching the peak.
In that moment, the realization that she's only halfway through the whole adventure hits her, suddenly presenting her with all the challenges that she still needs to face to head back. Then, she says, her motivation plummets as her mind wanders to the road that she still has to go.
Suddenly, the adrenaline that fueled her up to that point goes from a hundred to zero.
"At this point, I have to use a lot of internal speech to motivate me to get down to a safe place," she explains, "usually all the way back to Basecamp."
"I can say hand on heart that I’ve never felt like giving up on a summit push, but I have for sure on lower camps as the goal seems so far away still and takes a lot to go deep enough inside to find the thing that made you come to the mountain in the first place. Usually, at this point, you just have to want it bad enough!"
Family and Inspiration
Throughout her adventures, Adriana never lacked support. Surrounded by the close-knit network of her family and climbing companions, she could always count on people cheering in her corner.
“My family are my biggest fans," is one of the first thing Adriana says to us.
Then, she goes on to explain that her parents have been a pivotal presence in her training, growth and love for the mountains.
“My father taught me the power of mindset and how to harness the natural determination I had inside and my mother taught me humility, charisma and self-belief.”
Although she lost some people as she pursued her dreams, with some friends slowly disappearing as her climbing career advanced and became more demanding, Adriana has been lucky enough to encounter new kindred spirits.
In the past two years, she surrounded herself with a community of like-minded climbers.
For example, she had the chance to embark on the Everest and K2 expeditions with the legendary elite mountaineer Mingma "David" Gyabu Sherpa, the youngest person to climb all 8,000 m mountains.
The support and encouragement they provide to each other are invaluable, and Adriana looks back with affection at the adventures they lived together.
Among these companions, the young record holder mentions her inspiration and climbing partner: Gelje Sherpa.
Did you know?
The youngest person to climb all mountains over 8,000 m (26,246 ft) is 1989-born climber Mingma Gyabu "David" Sherpa.
He peaked all 14 mountains by the age of 30 years and 166 days, during a project that took him almost 10 years. His first ascent was Everest, completed on 23 May 2010. His last was Shishapangma, standing 8,027 metres (26,335 ft) above sea level, on 29 October 2019.
“The person who inspires me the most on the mountains is my climbing partner Gelje Sherpa. His whole life story is just insane.”
Gelje started climbing when he was only 14 years old following in his father’s footsteps, who was a guide at the time.
"He summited Mera Peak, a peak measuring 6,476 metres (21,247 ft), by accident carrying hot water and biscuits to clients to what was supposed to be the high camp!" Adriana continues, describing how Gelje proceeded to grind his way into becoming a pro in the field.
The two pro climbers also co-own a trekking company called AGA Adventures.
"He's one of the most successful, technically advanced and powerful climbers in the world. But bigger than his accomplishments is his heart, and his personality that lights up any room, or tent!"
Adriana: Climber, inspiration, record breaker
To the young record holder, to be part of the Guinness World Records family is “certainly a strange moment, but an amazing one!”
Adriana is well acquainted with the Guinness World Records book, as she used to receive it every Christmas when she was a child.
"I got the Guinness World Records book every single Christmas, without fail, like many kids in the UK," the climber recalls.
"It’s iconic, a part of my childhood."
Most of all, she adds, her parents and family will be extremely excited to flick through the book and read about their Adriana.
“Hopefully one day I can give the book to my kids!”
Despite her young age, Adriana has a clear idea about her future adventures.
As she messaged us from the snowy landscapes of a new expedition, she said: “Next for me is focusing on completing all the Eight-Thousanders, and making my country proud by being the first British woman to do so.”
But that’s not all: Adriana is also working to expand AGA Adventures, the company she owns with fellow mountaineer Gelje Sherpa.
“That would make me able to have a steady income for once, 22 years old and in debt from expeditions wasn’t quite how I expected my life to go!” she jokes.
Want more? Follow us across our social media channels to stay up-to-date with all things Guinness World Records! You can find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn, and Snapchat Discover– including our in-depth Curious Casebook series.
Don’t forget, we’re also on YouTube!
Still not had enough? Follow the link here to buy our latest book, filled to the brim with stories about our amazing record breakers.