Q&A: Sarah Browning conquers her Everest

We celebrate the diversity of thought gained through the broad range of passions and talents our people dedicate themselves to outside of work, as well as what they contribute to our business.

For Sarah, this passion is hiking. She decided to “shake up” her life and push herself out of her comfort zone with the 29029 Everesting challenge: to hike the equivalent elevation of Mount Everest on a different mountain – 29,029 feet.

We asked Sarah how she got on, what her biggest challenge was, who she met and much more...

What inspired you to take on the challenge?

Sarah: My challenge was to summit Snowbasin in Utah 13 times - hiking up the mountain and getting the gondola down.

Following a tough personal event, I needed a challenge to prove that I can do hard things. I’d seen the event on social media and thought it was the perfect goal, I’m motivated by things that bring me a sense of accomplishment and this was a great opportunity.

Plus, 29 is my favourite number so it was a clear sign!

How did you peak for the challenge?

Sarah: I’m fortunate to live in the mountains of Idaho, so I could train at altitude. I’ve always been a keen hiker, but the preparation for this was intense. I’d wake up at about 4.30am every morning to get a hike in before work.

A few Saturdays before the challenge, I climbed Snowbasin three times to get familiar with the route.

Outside of the hiking, I did a lot of yoga which concentrated on my upper body strength as well as seeing my chiropractor regularly.

Toughest part?

Sarah: The weather was a huge challenge. On the sixth climb up, we were caught in a massive hailstorm, and we got hauled off the mountain into an aid station for 45 minutes, as they were worried about the lightning. We were so physically exhausted, and soaking wet.

Frustratingly, when we finally got to the top the gondola had a mechanical issue, we were stuck for three crucial hours. We covered ourselves with tablecloths – like we were at a toga party – to avoid freezing in our wet clothes!

This wasn’t the end, we got caught in another rainstorm on hike eight. This time we were stuck at the lodge on top with no tablecloths, having taken them down the mountain previously! I used rags as a pillow and a rubbish bag for warmth.

At that point, I was thinking this was the stupidest thing I’ve ever done. I got back down at 1.30am and managed to get some sleep – in between being ill – before powering through the final five climbs.

Favourite part?

Sarah: The community. The people were so diverse – from solo traversers to a 9/11 survivors' group and even people on their honeymoon! Everyone loved talking to each other, discussing different experiences and the reasons they were there.

I’m still in touch with my tent-mates who supported me throughout. They also did the climb solo. We formed a close friendship when I shared my supplies as I’m the quintessential over-packer and I had extras of everything.

Key takeaway?

Sarah: On the mountain, I had a chat with a woman who had the goal of trying to improve by 1% in everything she did. It’s my new motto, I’m going to bring that to work, every day trying to improve or learn by 1%. Also, if I can climb a mountain 13 times, I can definitely get my meeting notes into the system on time!

To take on new challenges; I went to a Pathways for Women conference straight after finishing and they focused on failing fast. I have been afraid of failure in the past and it has consistently led to me putting things off. I want to now get comfortable with failure by channelling the ‘fail fast’ mantra. My advice to anyone is go for it.

How did you feel at the finish?

Sarah: I felt a huge wave of emotion. On your last climb of the mountain, you get a white bib and everyone cheers you on when they see it. I started to cry at the end. I knew I was prepared mentally and physically but I only realised the size of the achievement once I’d crossed the finishing line.

What support have you had through this adventure?

Sarah: Everyone at Schroders has been so supportive throughout the build-up and the challenge itself.

As people who work with me know, I love hiking when I travel for work, and I’ve hiked a lot with colleagues.

Before the challenge, I sent out an email to about 100 colleagues. I got so many incredibly supportive responses! Since finishing, I’ve had someone calling me every day asking how it went. It feels amazing to be part of a culture where people celebrate each other's successes, in both work and personal life.

What’s next?

Sarah: Honestly, after finishing, I said I would never do anything like it again. But I’m thinking about it!

I’m turning 40 next year and I love the idea of hiking Kilimanjaro.


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