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Lunchtime Conversation

            
             
            
Eileen Robberds


 EILEEN ROBBERDS
     

This is a story about an amazing life.  Eileen Robberds is a woman who decided at midlife that she would summit mountains after a lifetime of struggling up them.

 
The Seven Summits are the highest mountains in seven continents and at the age of 54 Eileen BEGAN her training to climb them.  Now at 58,  she has succeeded in climbing  4 - Australia, Africa, Europe  and South Amercia with more to come. 

How on earth did she end up taking on this incredible life challenge at her age? 


Eileen was able to take control of her life when all seemed lost, and with focus and commitment, achieved more than she thought possible.
 

                                                           


Eileen was born in Belfast, Ireland on the 28th October 1949 and immigrated to Australia with her family in 1960. Her parents began their life in Australia in the Cabramatta Hostels.  During a period of two years, they found work and were eventually able to move their family into a housing commission home.  

 

Gigi: Did parents enjoy living in Australia?

 

Eileen:  Yes, they came out here to have a better future. We had a good life. My two brothers and I learnt how to swim at the Cabravale Swimming club and went on to state level swimming and I have a few State medals.  I continued swimming there for about 10 years.

We trained at least 9 nine times a week.  We would get up at 5.00 am to train for two hours every morning and then again for two hours  in the afternoon after school.  It kept us off the streets and was a healthy lifestyle.

 

Eileen’s father became very high up in the swimming club and took over from Margaret Whitlam (wife of former Australian Prime Minister) and was then a director at Cabravale Diggers for over 25 years.  Her parents eventually ‘split up’.  She tells me that her adored father passed away two years ago and that during his illness in the last years of his life she was his carer.

 

Eileen married at 21, had two children and then divorced out of a very unhappy relationship.  She has since married ‘a wonderful man who is an absolute treasure.’

 

Gigi:  How long were you by yourself after the separation?

 

Eileen:  Roughly three or four years.  I played squash for many years and this is where I met my present husband.  He was quite well known in the squash field.

 

Gigi:  How old are your children now?

 

Eileen:  They are 30 and 33.  I am dying to have a grandchild.  My daughter knows how keen I am but she is working as a nanny in England at the moment so it might be a while yet.  I miss her very much but she will be coming home soon I hope.

 

Gigi:  Tell me, how did the 'Seven Summits' come about?

 

Eileen:  My present husband and I have been married about 20 years and he had always wanted to own a business.   We wanted to work hard and sell it so we would have retirement money.  We had both been through divorces and lost a lot of money.  

We had moved up the coast to Gosford about 4 or 5 years ago and thought we would open a franchise.   The franchisor said we would make a lot of money but we went broke in five or six months. 

We lost the house and we lost the business within six months.  My husband is 65 and I am 59 this year and we now have nothing.  At the time I was depressed you could say.

 

Gigi:  Did you have a breakdown?

 

Eileen:  No, I just felt ghastly, I thought at our age we are never going to get anywhere or we would have to get housing commission.  I tried to apply for one but have been told its not worth putting our name on the list as now we will never get one.   They said we would be better off moving into a caravan park.  So I did not put our name on the list. 

We have to work now to pay for the rent and still have a lot of legal fees due to the business disaster.  There was a court case and we won and the Franchisors were ordered to pay us compensation but they went bankrupt so they couldn’t pay us anything.

 

Gigi:  Did it affect your relationship?

 

Eileen:  No, we never fought over it or blamed each other.  It drew us closer I suppose.  He is a good man and that is why. We drew strength from each other and still do. He is my Rock.

 

I was reading the Sunday paper one weekend and read about a group of women who lived on the ‘North Shore’ who trained together.   It was run by Diane Westaway and the business is called “WILD WOMEN ON TOP”   I rang her up and said ‘Can I join your walking group’. 

I decided walking in a group would be helpful to me as I had been walking around the streets of Gosford on my own after work to try to relieve the stress and talking to myself at the same time (as you do) ha, because I had nothing much else to do! 

My daughter was overseas and being my age and loosing everything I just needed something. 

 

She asked me where I lived.    I said 'Gosford'  and she said she didn’t think I would be committed as it was so far to travel.  I said ‘I really would!’  (Laughs)
 
After an hour or so on the phone she said ‘OK I will give you a trial’.  Its something she has never said to anyone after that because I did not miss a session for 3 years.

 

It is funny, because at the time I didn’t think I would have to pay for this training.  I thought it was just a group of girls going for a walk. Then I realised it was her business and the fees were quite expensive.  I have managed though.  (Layby System)

 

Then after a couple months the girls were talking about climbing Mr Kilimanjaro.  There were 15 of us in the group then. There are over 100 now, but only 5-6 of us doing the seven summits.   They were talking about this huge trip but I had no interest in doing something like that. 

All I was looking for was the walking, companionship and exercise.    We train for 3 hours, twice a week, plus 2 hrs twice a week cardio on your own.  Now we are preparing for Denalli and have introduced indoor rock climbing to take it to the next level. 

 

Gigi:  Gosh you must be nice and fit!

 

Eileen: I think I am!!   Well, they were long days, as I would have to come down from Gosford after work.   I would be very late home after training then up early for work the next morning.   Then on Saturday I have to get up by 3.30 am to get to training by 5.30am for two and a half hours.

 

Gigi:  What does the training consist of?

 

Eileen:  Lots of walking with heavy packs.  We do hills, stairs and tramping through the bush.  We would go to National Parks, through sand and everything.  Anyhow, they asked me if I was going with them to Mr Kilimanjaro and I said  “No, I can’t climb a mountain!” 

 

They are all ten years younger than me and even younger again.  I said “No I haven’t got the money”. 

So we organised ourselves and decided to do some fund raising and I somehow got the money.  In this fundraising campaign we also donated to the ‘Fistula Foundation’.   Dr Catherine Hamlin and her husband Reg went to Ethiopia and after working at the hospital there for some time, began the Fistula Foundation to help the women there.  So we climbed Mr Kilimanjaro to raise funds to help the women of Ethiopia.  

 

Dr Hamlin was coming out here to Australia to get an award, and because Cathy Bowman another women Wild Women on Top, and I did most of the fund raising, we were invited to have afternoon tea with this amazing woman.  We were so privileged to meet Dr Hamlin.

 

Back to the trek though, on Mt Kilimanjaro I think I cried everyday because I was in agony.  I was tired and I kept thinking, “Why am I here, this is not fun”!!! (Laughs)

 

Gigi:  I know what it can be like.   It can be all about endurance that is for sure!

 

Eileen:  I had gone from walking around the streets to walking this mountain. It was awful (laughs).  It is 5,900 metres.   It is quite a high mountain but I managed and I made it to the summit.  

 

The next three mountains we have climbed, we have raised money for the Fred Hollows Foundation in Third World Countries.   The Foundation  actually helps you.  It is a two way street.  Their motto is ‘you get see what you want to see when you help people see for the first time’.

 

By raising money for Fred Hollows Foundation is the only way I can go mountaineering.   The other girls live on the north shore and are quite well off and probably don’t need as much assistance as I do.  I am the one who struggles the most with funds, so I have to do a lot of fun raising.  But I don’t mind as it is what I have got to look forward to every year.   It really is or I might just as well roll over and die!!  (Laughs)

 

Gigi:  Do the partners go on these adventures?

 

Eileen:  No it is just the women.

 

Eileen tells me her husband is her number one supporter and doesn’t mind her going.   She says he was on the world circuit for squash and played State one until he was fifty.   He won the World Masters when he was 50 so he has done all his sporting and travelling and he is just happy to stay at home this time and let her do her adventuring now.

 

Gigi:  Do you think joining Wild Women on Top was a defining point in your life.  You seem to have found things within yourself that you might never have found up until this.

 

Eileen:  Climbing a mountain is something I never even thought of and now I am trying to complete the Seven Summits.  

 

The 7 highest mountains in seven continents and I am thinking “Gosh I am 60 next year”!

 

The local MP must have seen my story in the paper and wrote me a letter saying ‘I am a inspiration to the baby boomers and to himself.’  I must say I was rather pleased that he would think that.

 

Eileen and the Guide

Gigi:
  What was your first walk?

 

Eileen:  Mt Kosciusko (2,228m) the highest mountain in Australia which was my first weekend away.  I have never trekked in Australia before.  I hate the bush, especially with the animals you have here!  I hate it.  I had never camped in my life and never been in a tent or a sleeping bag until I met Diane.  

 

We had to walk right from the bottom of the mountain.  We couldn’t catch the chairlift up like everybody else who does this Mt Kosciusko walk as that would have been cheating.    You have to walk underneath the chairlift which is actually the hardest bit.  The girls were really supported me.  

 

We even slept up the top and storm came in during the night.  There were gale force winds and we had to walk back down, two together, arm in arm – the winds were so strong.    We were all exhausted and thought we would have to get the chairlift back down the final bit, but when we finally got there, the chairlift was closed due to the bad conditions.  Wouldn’t you know it!! 

The guys were there cleaning the restaurant there and when they saw us coming around the corner they were shocked and said “my god you weren’t out there were you” and warmed us up with hot chocolates.

 

Gigi:  I bet they were impressed!

 

Eileen:  They were and they kindly took all our packs on the truck down to the bottom of the mountain so it was a bit easier to complete that last leg.  That was my first experience of the Australian bush.  

 

Then we did the Mt Kilimanjaro (5,895m) in Africa, and then Mr Elbrus (5,642m) located in Russia which is the highest mountain in Europe.

 

Brigitte Muir who was the first Australian women to climb Mt Everest and the Seven Summits came with us on that one.  We were originally going with Sue Fear on that mountain but just before we left, she died falling into a crevasse climbing an 8,000m peak.

 

We talk about Sue being a good friend of Lincoln Hall (a well known Australian climber), who was actually reported as dead when returning from the top of Mt Everest that same year.  He was miraculously found alive the next morning and fortunately survived his ordeal. Sue was not so lucky.

 

Eileen:  Well, Sue was originally taking us on the Mt Elbrus climb

 

Gigi:  Do you appoint these people to take you?

 

Eileen:  Sue had heard about us as she was also from the ‘North Shore’ and volunteered to take us.  She came training with us a couple of times and saw we were very into it and knew what we were doing. 

 

Mountain Designs (Adventure gear specialists) sponsored her.  The day she died I was in “Mountain Designs’ speaking to Chris, and I knew there was something wrong with him.   He told me he got the call that morning. 

So I rang Diane and told the girls at training that night.  We sat in a circle and said a prayer for her.  She had been declared missing down a crevasse.   Her sherpa was desperately trying to get down the mountain to get help but because it was the end of the season there was no one there.   Her brother said that she had said that if she died in the mountains, that is where she wanted to stay. 

 

So we had to find someone else and World Expeditions asked Brigitte if she would be interested.  

 

Sadly, I didn’t summit Mt Elbrus.  I had my own guide because I am slower than the rest of the girls.  I was almost at the saddle when one of the other girls from the other group got really, really sick (I knew someone was throwing up as I had to walk past it) and my guide was the one who had to go down. 

I was standing on the mountain and I did not know how far ahead the rest of the group were and as it turned out they weren’t that far away. These are the things you learn about on the mountain.  Ask more questions!!

 

I am looking up and I am looking down and I am thinking, “I want to go up, I want to go up.”  So we went up a bit further and then we got another call saying that the sick girl had to come down and that my guide would needed to take her down. 

 

And you don’t ask these questions when you are new to mountain climbing and I had to make a quick decision.  We took her down which was a good decision for the team but I had to forfeit my summit.


 



Gigi:
  How difficult was that mountain?

 

Eileen:  That was a technical mountain.  It was more dangerous and there were lots of crevasses but it was such a beautiful mountain.  All white and snowy, very pretty.

 

Then on January this year we did Aconcaqua (6,960m) highest mountain in South America.  It is in Argentina on the border of Chile and there are a lot of deaths on that mountain.  

It is such a different mountain very rocky, bloody rocks everywhere!! Boulders so big and lots of landslides it is also a very  windy mountain that you have to hang onto your tent all night.  If you get really bad weather the wind will just pick up your gear and blow it off the mountain.

 

Gigi:  So how do you manage the toilet and things like that?

 

Eileen:  We use a little plastic bag.( A ZIP LOCK BAG)  You know the little sandwich bags,  well you just pee in them in the tent and do the zip lock up and put it outside the tent and it freezes. 

The first time I used the pee bags was on Aconcaqua.  Before then I used to get up and go outside the tent until this mountain!!

 

Annie taught me how to pee in a bag and now I am quite experienced (laughs).  It is quite easy and you can even do it in your sleeping bag!! 

 

Another thing is, you don’t have water to wash from base camp onwards and in base camp you get a little basin of water per day to wash yourself and your  undies if need be. The rest of the time you use the packets of wet ones.

 

Gigi:  It sounds like a lot of fun.  It is amazing isn’t it, what you can do when you have to!! (Laughs)

 

Eileen:  It is just amazing what you do that you don’t believe you are going to do!!


It is way out of my comfort zone.  All my girlfriends said ‘there is no way in the world that you could go anyway without your hairdryer and your makeup'  and I said ‘just watch me’!

 

Gigi:  When you walk in the mountains do you feel a spiritual connection?

 

Eileen:  No I don’t.  I don’t really like climbing mountains in this country at all. My mind and my heart is more set in what is around me like the animals.  I am very fearful of them and I don’t like being in the bush here.  I got my first leech the other week.


My brother, who is an ex commando, and I went out walking recently.  I could have been going out with him all these years as he has been trekking for 40 years but I didn't have an interest in it, just imagine how much fitter I would have been if I had, but I only started the trekking 4 years ago. 

 

We went on a big all day walk because I wanted to get the distance in and we ended up at the ‘golden stairs’ in the Blue Mountains. I went berserk because I leech attached itself on my leg.  I tell you, I went berserk and I could not wait until we got out of the bush.  

 

Gigi:  They are nasty little things.

 

Eileen:  Yes you can say that again.  We don’t have these things in Ireland. I just hate them.  I have got this phobia about snakes, spiders and insects of any type.

 

I like these high mountains because there is nothing on them, nothing but snow, wind and the fresh air, and the crispness.
 


I am happy there and I know there is nothing around me that is going to affect me, just my concentration and where it is supposed to be. And I just love the challenge of the higher mountains.

 

Gigi:  I guess that might be the place you are looking for to find your tranquillity.  You have been through a lot with the divorce and the business and all.  Do you emotions affect you when you are trekking?

 

Eileen:  I am emotional and I still cry a lot in the mountains. If the day is really tough I have a few tears, but I'm not crying as much these days.  I think its to do with being a wee bit fitter and know what to expect.  I didn’t cry as much on Aconcaqua, as the other mountains so I must be getting better.  I cried a little bit because I didn’t make the summit.  This is what happens you go away, some things just knock you for six. 

 

Our guide on summit night had to go down and help another group, a head guide who had got snow blindness.  He didn’t get back up to our Camp until about 3 or so in the morning when we were supposed to be taking off.   That meant we took off two or three hours later than we should have. 

The weather was perfect and the faster girls and the head guide took off and left two of us behind.  So our guide could have a sleep in we set off at our own pace until he caught us up.   Because we had left a few hours later should have and because we were going slower than the other girls and we didn’t get to a certain point on time but did manage to get up to 6500 metres.  

When you have got a guide, if you don’t make this spot by the required time, they make you turn around.   I am waiting at the 6500 metre stage and kept  saying to the guide ‘we can do it, we can keep going.  I want to get to the top’.  He said ‘Shauna is still coming up the mountain she can’t go any further’ and I said Yes but I can!’  I was prancing around like a nut but at least I was making him laugh.

 

Gigi:  I think it is fantastic you get up any of it at the end of the day.

 

Eileen:  I have not suffered from any altitude sickness.  Some of the girls looked like death warmed up when they came down from the top though.  It was a really tough mountain that one. Took three  days just to walk into base camp and that was bad enough.


 

Gigi:  Which mountain will you be climbing next?

 

Eileen:  The next one is going to be Denalli (6,194m)  in June 2009 in Alaska.

 

Gigi:  Will it be completely snow bound?

 

Eileen:  Yes, just snow and ice and crevasses.  It is a very technical mountain and you can’t actually do it until you go and do a technical course in New Zealand which I have to do in January.  I hope I  can get the money together do both the course and Denalli.

 

Gigi:  Have you climbed Mountain Kinabulu (4,101m), I can make a personal claim to summiting that one!! (Laughs)

 

Eileen:  No we are only doing the Seven Summits.  We are the ‘hard core’ girls Diane says. She took some of the women that don’t want to do the really high altitude stuff to Mt Kinabulu with their daughters last year. They had a great time. I am concentrating on the bigger ones.

 

Gigi:  Do you think all of this has changed you?

 

Eileen:  I am a lot stronger and I enjoy a good bloody challenge now and I am much more energised.

 

Eileen is a debt collector tells me that Monday is the hardest day of the week.   She is up at quarter to six, to work by 7.30am until 6.30pm.  Then she drives across Sydney to Manly, starts training at 7.30pm until 11.00pm.  By the time she gets to bed that night it is quarter to one and then it is up at 5am the next morning.  No wonder she has the stamina to climb mountains!!

 

Gigi:  Well I guess the mountains have shown you, that you can dig deep, that there is no limit to grit.  So often, people put parameters on themselves.  They say ‘I am tired, it’s too hot, I can’t be bothered.’ 

 

Eileen:  Some people I know are in bed by 9.30pm during the week!

 

Gigi:  Are you are you makeup girl and glamour puss, conscious of your hair and clothing?

 

Eileen:  People say I am attractive. I don’t think I am.  I think I am normal like everyone else.  I am five foot two and I like to look nice even if I am in my tracksuit.  I like to dress professionally for my job.  I like jewellery and my hair is immaculate.  Not that you can do that in the mountains.

 

Gigi:  So you make an effort to put your best foot forward?

 

Eileen:  People always say I always look terrific, but I don’t necessarily think so. I do try though. 

 

I was at a Health and Fitness expo at Darling Harbour a couple of weeks ago and three speakers were asked to talk about their lives. There was a man who, when he became a ‘Senior Citizen’, his family bought him at Fitness training course so he could learn to teach exercise to older people.  Anyhow he loves it and it has changed his life.

 

There was another guy who had got into a lot of trouble and who ended up in gaol and when he got out, he turned his life around and he now he owns 14 gyms in New Zealand.

 

I was the other presenter.  I spoke about at the age of 55 and losing everything and having to turn my life around.   I am trying to inspire people my age to try and get out there and do something they wouldn’t normally do or have never tried to do. 

If they think they have missed the boat….’don’t think you have missed the boat’…… because you can still go out and do whatever you want to do.

 

The mountains have taught me that I don’t have to be the youngest, the fastest or the fittest to achieve my goals.

 

After I had done my presentation, I went into the expo and had a look around.   Anyhow, I had to tell you that the Eyesential people, the product you sell on your website, were demonstrating the product and I bought the eye cream. I think it is fantastic and hope to save up and buy the whole pack.  By the way I love your website.  

 

Gigi:  Thanks Eileen.  So what is happening now in your life?

 

Eileen:  We are having a big fund raiser for the Fred Hollows foundation at St Patricks College at Manly.  I am trying to drum up fund raising items, free balloons, and some great prizes that people would like to make a bid on,- so I am madly trying to organise these things when I am not working or training!!!! One of the most challenging things to do is the fundraising.  If I don’t get the prizes and my share of the money then I can’t do the mountains. Then I would have to give up and then I think I might go down hill then I would have to much to think about my situation and working and bills etc.

 

Eileen tells me the fund raiser is always a terrific night where everyone dresses up.   You enjoy a four course meal, there is music, silent and live auctions, and big screens with slides of Wild Women on Top achieving their dreams.  The room is even themed to the mountain they are about to climb and they are hoping Lincoln Hall might attend as well.

 

Gigi:  What are your hopes for the future?

 

Eileen:  I am trying to find a sponsor. You don’t know how expensive these mountains are to climb.   The higher you go, the more expensive it gets and the last ones are really expensive.  Mt Everest is something like $45,000.  Before you climb Mt Everest you have got to do Cho Oyu and that costs $30,000 to do that one.

 

I have to buy more gear.  So I will have to find a sponsor of some kind or I won’t be in a position financially to do any more.   I need someone who says ‘good on this woman, look what she is trying to achieve – what a great example at her age.’

 

Gigi:  Maybe someone who couldn’t do the climb themselves but would love to be totally involved with the whole experience, so you could relay it onto them personally.  To live their dream through you as you set out to inspire other women.

 

What you are doing is so outstanding, is your mother proud of you?

 

Eileen:  Yes she is but, she just does not want to me to climb any of these mountains.  She would give her eye teeth to get me to stop doing this.

 

Gigi:  Is she fearful for you?

 

Eileen:  Proud, but yes she does want me to give up.

 

Gigi:  Do you read books about climbing Mt Everest?

 

Eileen:  I read Lincoln Hall’s book and Sue Fear’s book and I am watching all these documentaries on Everest on TV.  But that is not so helpful as there are always people dying and people walking over their bodies.

 

Gigi:  Well, at least you, because you had to turn back from the summit because of your sick friend, you really do have the true mountaineering spirit. 

 

Eileen:  So far I have made the right decisions.

 

Gigi:  In the future it might be you who has to pull someone else out from summiting, but at least you can say I have sacrificed, so I understand how you now feel.


When thinking over all the climbing adventures do you have one story that sticks out in your mind.

 

Eileen:  At base camp at Aconcaqua there was a young Argentinean girl and her dream was to climb Seven Mountains.  Her aim was to be a high mountaineer guide and her introduction to mountain climbing was at the age of 14.  Her father took her to her first 6,000 metres peak and said ‘I will see you in two or three days’.  

 

She worked in the Inca tent and she did the cooking for the Inca people (she was a great little cook) where she also ran the internet and phone home tent.  She came from a very poor background and didn’t have a lot of gear and was working in the Inca tent to try to buy herself a pair of air boots which she still couldn’t afford.  Our guide knew her quite well and had told me stories about her when I was sleeping in the tent with him. 

 

What she was going to do, without anyone knowing, was base camp to the summit that night without stopping.  She only had one more mountain to climb and that was Aconcaqua,  a 7,000 m peak,  and then she could become a high mountaineer guide to start off her career.

 

I was asked by the others to see if she had any candles and a table cloth (as you do when you are high in the mountains!!) We were making a special dinner for our guides as a thankyou, and that is when she asked me if I had any clothing I no longer needed.  I had heard her story so I offered her my boots, my good down gloves (that cost $350), and my gaiters.  And I didn’t stop there!  I gave her two thermals and a fleece and a pair of good socks.  My heart just went out to her.   And this is coming from someone who has nothing in the first place, but in a way I understood. 

 

I had completely forgotten my own needs though, and it suddenly dawned on me ‘I have to buy new ones when I get home’.

 

The boots fitted her perfectly and our guide came down and thanked me profusely.


I was so pleased.  Our guide told me she was going to attempt the summit at midnight and no one was to know as she was taking a few of the guides with her to help her up. So I felt quite happy with myself when I was going to sleep

 

We were leaving the next morning and so we did not know if she had made the summit or not. 

 

Gigi:  Did you find out if she made it?

 

Eileen:  Yes, when we got back I emailed and found out she did make it.   But the downside was she got the sack.  It was against the rules to do what she had done.  But she did it and I was so happy for her.  

 

She was sent home to her family who have nothing but now I hear she is mountaineering, and she’s guiding.   She gave me a lovely bracelet that she made so I still have a memory of her.

 

Gigi:  She’s probably still wearing your things too!

 

Eileen:  Yes, most likely.   She is only 22 and she’s very, very happy.

 

Gigi:  You have helped someone realise their dreams.

 

Eileen:  Yes, she was so happy and crying.  That mountain was a bloody cold mountain. She was going to climb it all in one go, and it was bloody freezing and not having enough warm gear. I couldn’t send her off in the night like that, could I.

 

Gigi:  It was extremely generous of you to give her so much of your gear.  I thought I was generous giving just one of our guides my fleece jacket in Laddakh.

 

Eileen:  Well, I thought about it when I got home….I thought how am I going to buy all that gear back. (laughs)

 

Gigi:  You are amazing Eileen, and are still achieving and contributing so much.  You know, I look at young girls who look at older age with fear and here you are proving that we are  capable of so much when we are older. 

Eileen:  And it would help if you had the money!!! (Laughs)

 

Gigi:  Yes, money can make a difference!  But maybe if you had money you wouldn’t be mountain climbing.

 

Eileen:  Gosh, you are the first person that has said that!  And I have just realised it myself for the first time.  Yes, because if all of those things in the past had not happened what would I be doing now.  Probably I would still be working 7 days a week in the shop because I wouldn’t have gone broke.

 

Gigi:  Often it is the bad the experiences that bring out the best in people.  You have found things in yourself you may never have discovered. 

 

Eileen: This is the first time I have looked at it that way and I am glad you have brought it up because it makes me feel so much better.

 

Gigi:  Well you should be darn proud of yourself.  You have shown us all that  you can create gold and from any situation.

 

Eileen:  Thanks for that, Gigi.   You have helped me.  You have made me look at things a bit more differently.

 

Gigi:  But you are doing the inspiring out of all of this.

 

Eileen:   Yes, and you are too. (we laugh)

 

Gigi:  Well, here at the website we are trying our hardest to inspire and encourage women create a life for themselves.  By yours and other women’s stories, we can show that is a world out there.  That there are so many exciting things to do and that you can still draw on strengths from within.

 

Eileen: That’s right.  Your only excitement might be to go shopping and buy something for the house, or something new.  I haven’t got a house so I don’t need to do that.  My shopping is lay buying things for my mountaineering now. All the mountaineering shops know me well and I think I am the only one that they let Layby!!!

 

Gigi:  Because not only are the experiences what life is all about it is also the connection and energy you get from others you meet.

 

Eileen:  Yes, I have had a hard life when I think about it.  I left an unsuccessful marriage when the kids were young.  It was a very difficult decision at the time.  People said I should or shouldn’t do it and I didn’t know at the time if it was the right decision.  They said you should stay in the marriage for the kids sake as that is what they did in the old days.

 

Gigi:  I believe you should never regret a decision once it is made though.  It becomes ‘what is’ and then you deal with it! 

 

Eileen:  I have also had a bad deal with my son.  He’s the most gorgeous boy, but he got into the wrong crowd and ended up on some very bad drugs.  And to live with someone like was dreadful, and it was like that for 10 years. When you got home you never knew what was not going to be there. The Pawn shops got to know me well, let me tell you. I think I began to get stronger then.

 

Gigi:  Is he alright now?

 

Eileen:  He went to WHOS (We help ourselves) a year and 2 months ago and he is still good. Doing well and doing a tafe course in filming which he loves. I can say though that I am not disgraced by it personally. Anyone can make a mistake. He is doing so well now and its great to see him smile and look so well. A tear always comes to my when I talk about him as I love him dearly.

 

Gigi:  I can see you have huge strains in your life.

 

Eileen:  Yes,  my father was also  very ill towards the last 4 to 5 years of his life.  He had asbestosis and emphysema and he was in a very bad way and was in hospital about 10 times a year.   When he was in hospital I was in there every night after work and I was in there all day Saturday and Sunday. I would never leave his side and he couldn’t be on his own that was all there was to it.  He had a very suffering life.  At the end he was very sick and he asked me to give him something to help him to go.  It was terrible and very sad time. 

 

Even though things are not going well for you, you still have to go to bed and get up in the morning.  I think I am getting so much stronger because of all of this. 

 

Eileen tells me she can’t write but would love to write a book about her life. She even has strong memories from her childhood in Ireland.

 

Gigi:  Have you been back to Ireland?

 

Eileen:  Yes.  I have been three times although I can’t afford to go anymore but I just love it over there.  Last time, I took my two 80 year old aunties from Belfast to Killarney.  We were only going for two days and we stayed a week and they hadn’t laughed as much in their entire life they said.    We went for morning and afternoon teas and went to all the souvenir shops.  There are so many beautiful memories.  We had so much fun and they said it was the best holiday they had ever had.

 

Gigi:  You should certainly get that story down in your book then.

 

Eileen:  Well, I don’t know if I can write though.  I will have to meet you for an afternoon so you can give me some lessons.

 

Gigi:  I don’t know if there are any lessons I would be able to give you. (Laughs)

 

Eileen:  You have already taught me something to day.  I can’t wait until my husband gets home so I can tell him.

 

Gigi:  Well, I hope it makes a difference!

 

Eileen:  But you are right Gigi. I wouldn’t have been climbing mountains if we hadn’t got poor.  I never thought of that.

 

Gigi:    And finally what would be your advice for us wiser women?

 

Eileen:  You don’t have to be the youngest, the fastest or the fittest to achieve your goals.  You have just got to have them? 

 

With that said, I knew that getting older was not to be sneered at.  What does it matter that your age is over 50.  You can still create a life and live adventures you might never have dreamt of before.

 

So if you think your life is in a rut, uninteresting or things that you might want to do are unattainable physically or financially.  Think again…….

 

Thank you Eileen, a truly Wild Wise Woman.
 
May your adventuring go on for years and we look forward to hearing about your next mountain.


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