FEATURED FEBRUARY 2010 GUESTS: Jo and Rob Gambi
Understanding that life is precious, they set out to achieve their dreams, and along the way became the first married couple to climb the 7 Summits and ski to the Poles.
"The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.
- Eleanor Roosevelt
©Rob and Jo Gambi: The South Pole
Q: When did you first begin to have the idea of climbing the 7 Summits?
A: In the late 1990’s - just after we were married (about 2 years before Rob had his second episode of cancer), Rob had broken his leg and consequently had lots of time for reading. One of the books he read and passed on to me was "Seven Summits" by Dick Bass (the first Seven Summiter). This planted a seed in our imaginations...even though it was in the realm of extreme fantasy at that time!
Q: What challenges were you faced with in the initial planning stages and how did you address them as a couple?
A: There were many challenges but the 4 key ones were:
1- We had a sense of urgency - ‘Carpe Diem!”, as we didn't know what the long term future held for Rob's health and therefore potentially our time together.
2- We only thought in terms of taking a year off work - so it was a matter of what we could fit in.
3- We were self funding - so we had to reorganize personal finances.
4- There were specific seasonal windows for climbing certain mountains - this meant we had to fit together a jigsaw puzzle of expeditions.
©Jo Gambi on Ama Dablam
Q: You completed the 7 Summits at a blistering pace in 1 year and 38 days. How did you maintain your physical health and your mental focus during such a challenging time?
1- Preparing well with months of full time training (climbing, strength and cardiovascular) before starting our expeditions, gave us a strong physical and mental foundation to build on.
Prioritizing adequate rest and recovery time between expeditions was key.
3- Pacing ourselves so we didn’t peak too soon due to over training (but we were usually off on our next expedition before we had time to peak!)
4- Knowing we didn’t want to miss any precious opportunities. If we missed the seasonal window for any mountain, we knew we’d have to wait for another year...which might mean never.
5- Knowing tenacity was the key. Having faced some big challenges together prior to our successful expeditions, we both understood that to survive (and succeed) in the face of any difficulty required tenacity, at times until it hurt. Plus as people, we simply get drawn to a challenge and don’t like giving up – which can be a helpful disposition at times!
©Rob and Jo Gambi: Mount Elbrus
Q: What were the most difficult obstacles you faced while climbing together and what strengths did you rely on to overcome them?
A: Some examples were...
1- When we feared for Rob's life in Nepal, because he was critically ill at high altitude and the helicopter couldn't reach us. I (Jo) tried to remain calm and reassuring for Rob in a distressing situation (despite how I felt), and we both prayed, desperately, for God’s help.
2- When we felt so utterly exhausted on our final summit pushes, especially on the 8,000 meter peaks, Cho Oyo and Everest, that we both doubted we’d make it. Yet consistently - when one of us was struggling and weak, the other was always stronger and able to encourage and help. In this way, together, we always managed to press on.
3- When Jo developed a throat infection just as we were attempting Aconcagua’s summit, because I (Rob) knew how she performed and moved, I had the ability to help judge if it was right or not to push on. Accurate judgment of your own and others ability at altitude is critical to survival.
©Rob Gambi on Ama Dablam
Q: Rob, you faced cancer not once, but twice prior to your bid for the 7 summits. What kind of mental or emotional tools did you gain from this experience that later you applied in the mountains?
1- Focusing on small, achievable steps to just keep going, and realizing the overwhelming end objective is made up of many achievable, smaller ones.
2- Knowing through experience that the strength of the human spirit can override the body's weaknesses gave me confidence in new challenges I faced.
3- From previous support and feedback of loved ones (in particular Jo), I’d come to understand how I responded and coped during difficult experiences. Understanding yourself when performance is paramount and there is no margin for error, is critical.
Q: Communicating with and supporting your climbing partner (who also happens to be your spouse) is crucial to staying alive and healthy in the mountains. How, if at all, has your experience together changed the way you communicate and support each other when you are not in such extreme conditions?
A: Having been through plenty of stressful, dangerous situations together, it helps put everyday problems and frustrations into a healthy perspective. If you have your health and your life is not in danger - then things can't be that bad!
Also, having seen each other in our worst and most heroic moments, we have ultimately become more appreciative, tolerant, forgiving and supportive of each other…which helps us continue to build a mature, loving relationship.
©Rob and Jo Gambi on the summit of Mount Everest
Q: What new goals have you set for yourselves as a couple and as individuals?
A: We have discovered the world of triathlons and bike races which we love. Last summer we did some fantastic races in legendary regions of the Alps and next stop will hopefully be an Ironman.
We still have plenty of new routes and peaks on our dream list, many just locally in the European Alps.
We love the opportunities that our book and motivational speaking brings us to contribute to worthy causes and encourage others on their life journeys, and to this end we are working on a new inspirational book.
Most importantly, after years of trying for a family, we are expecting our first baby…a whole new adventure! So our biggest goal is to be good parents and introduce them to some of the many wonders of this amazing planet!
Q: In your experience what are top three elements of succeeding in any area of life?
A: Passion, Preparation, Perseverance.
©Rob and Jo Gambi on Ama Dablam
To learn more about Rob and Jo Gambi please visit: www.robandjogambi.com
©Mt. Everest Mind Camp 2010