Anthea Fisher: Adventure Consultants Everest Base Camp Manager

Behind every climber that summits Everest is a team of people committed to their success, from the planning team in New Zealand, to our operational support and logistics crew in Nepal and the guides and Sherpas on the mountain, each and every person contributing to the overall success of an expedition.

One of those key roles is that of our Base Camp Manager, overseeing communications, organisational management, and logistics from the world’s highest workplace. Continuing our Everest Insider Series we speak with Anthea Fisher, Adventure Consultants Everest Base Camp Manager.

Anthea at Base Camp with the office view behind. Photo: Guy Cotter

What is your role with AC at Everest?

2018 was my fourth year as the AC Base Camp Manager. Some days I find myself laughing at the range of jobs that this role requires. It’s everything from managing the toilet paper and shower soap through to emergency evacuation, and everything in-between. It’s a very diverse and dynamic role. We have over 50 people in the AC camp during the season, which includes the Everest climbers, guides, support staff and our team of climbing Sherpa. On top of that we have our trekking groups come visit and get a small taste of expedition life. Essentially, it’s a small village of people living on a glacier at 5300m that require food, water, power, communications and then keeping track of all that; that’s all my job. I often get called “Ama”, which means mother in Sherpa language, and a lot of the time I do feel a bit like the Camp Mum.

How did your background lead you to this role?

It’s definitely not a role I ever imagined I would be doing when I was growing up in small town, rural South Australia where the highest mountain is 93m above sea level! I worked for several years in professional mountain search and rescue at Aoraki Mount Cook National Park in New Zealand, and then in Antarctica as a Field Guide. The combination of looking after people in cold, icy environments, a love of the mountains, coupled with plenty of experience on how to deal with emergency situations seems to be the perfect fit for living and working on the side of Mt Everest. After the Everest season last year, I found myself in northern Uganda, managing logistics for Medicines Sans Frontiers (Doctors Without Borders) in one of the world’s largest refugee settlements. It’s obviously a very different context, however some parts of that job were surprisingly similar to my role at Everest.

AC Everest Base Camp Manager Anthea Fisher at work in the communications tent.

What is your personal climbing/outdoor background?

I’ve been fortunate to have spent a lot of time in our amazing background here in NZ, with loads of climbing in the Southern Alps, including ascents of Tasman, Aoraki Mount Cook and Aspiring and a bunch of others. I’ve also climbed in the Andes of Peru and spent some time climbing and skiing several mountains in the European Alps. I would still really like to climb Tutoko in Fiordland, New Zealand, and this season at Everest I looked straight out the communications tent door at Cholatse (6440m), a stunning Himalayan peak that I wouldn’t mind a wander up one day soon. I’ve had a lot of time to have a good look at it, although I suspect that it’s a bit more than a wander to get to the top!

What are the best parts of your job?

The fact that the role is really diverse and dynamic. It’s a job where when you start your day you’re never quite sure how it will unfold. That’s something I really enjoy. I also love the range of people I get to work with. Our climbers come from such diverse backgrounds and each person has different motivations for being there, it’s always interesting to spend time with them. And our local staff are such a lot of fun, I really enjoy working alongside our Sherpa team.

What are the hard bits and how do you cope?

Sleepless nights. Our Climbing Sherpa are on the mountain most nights of the season, which means they depart camp between 2 and 3am. One ear is always on the radio. Being “Ama” there is always some concern for everyone on the mountain. It’s a great relief at the end of the season to have everyone down safe and to be able to turn off the radio. I try to make my sleeping tent a bit homelier, nice yak wool blankets and some fairy lights add a nice touch.

Tell us about how it works having two cultures, East and West, working together to bring successful results?

I find is such a privilege to work with our local Sherpa staff; it’s definitely one of the joys of the job. They have been so open in sharing their culture and traditions with us, it’s a unique insight. They are incredibly hardworking and do everything that can to make the expedition a success. But at the same time, they are also quick to laugh and love a good practical joke. Occasionally things get lost in translation, and some of them can be a bit shy. I get so much support from them in trying to solve the array of problems that come across my “desk”. It’s great at the end season when everyone is off the mountain and we can have a good party together. They are fantastic dancers.

Anthea Fisher at work in Antarctica
AC Base Camp Manager Anthea Fisher and General Manager Caroline Ogle on the trek into Everest Base Camp

What do you miss most about home life when you're at Base Camp? 

Not too much really. Being in the Khumbu Valley has started to feel a bit like home. I do miss grass and trees.

Living on the side of a mountain glacier can have it's moments. What stands out to you?

Living on the side of that mountain is amazing! It is such an extraordinarily spectacular landscape, tucked in between those mountains. Sure, living on a piece of moving ice covered in rubble at 5300m is not always the most pleasant place in the world (it can be kinda cold, and there’s not that much oxygen), but one only needs to lift their head to those mountains. It’s breath-taking. The nights are the most stunning, particularly when there’s a full moon illuminating the mountains, a sky full of stars, and being able to see the torches of the climbers making their way up the lower part of the mountain. Yeah, it can be a bit cold too…!

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