At 24 years old, Ciera Knight set her sights on scaling the tallest mountain in the world, and came within a kilometre of her goal before a health scare forced her to turn around.
Mount Everest is 8,848 metres tall and Knight trained for a year and a half before she attempted to climb it.
“It was six days a week of training. Three or four of those days would be cardio or endurance. A day or two would be hiking, summiting mountains and then there’d be muscular training as well,” she said.
The Edson, Alta. native knew she would face dangerous challenges along the way.
“To ascend and descend Everest, the very first obstacle that everybody on the south side has to face is they have to get through the ice falls,” Knight said.
“There’s these massive hanging glaciers that at any point can fall and cause an ice avalanche.”
LISTEN BELOW: Ciera Knight speaks with 630 CHED’s Ryan Jespersen
Physical barriers, she was ready for – but she wasn’t ready for all the health complications she endured: a dehydrating stomach bug, random heart palpitations and a blood clot near her ankle. But those weren’t even the worst of it. Nearing the top, she really started to slow down and didn’t know why.
“I was sick that entire night and I woke up the next morning with a very red eye. My team leader at the time thought it was snow blindness. But it was not snow blindness,” Knight explained.
Suddenly, she lost all vision in her left eye.
“It was terrifying. I had no idea what was going on at the time.”
“I had thought about what could go wrong up there and an eye infection never crossed my mind. It was from my contact lenses so I learned I will not wear contact lenses again.”
Eight-hundred metres from the top, she was forced to turn around. When she reached a lower altitude she was picked up by a helicopter and rushed to hospital.
“One part of you is just wondering why you’re there, putting yourself through this torture,” she explained.
“But the other part is so amazing. When you look back see the view and look back at how far you’ve come, it’s a feeling I don’t think anybody will be able to understand unless they go. But it is absolutely incredible.”
After getting treatment for her health issues, Knight returned home to Edson in June. She’s been told she needs a cornea transplant to correct the damage done to her eye.
But for now, she’s holding off on the surgery. Knight said her doctors informed her having eye surgery will result in a greater chance of complications at high altitudes – and she’s not done with Everest yet.
“I will be back. I plan on summiting again in 2020. I saw the top, it was right there.”
She learned a lot from the adventure too, and hopes it encourages others to pursue their dreams as well.
“I came back, definitely a stronger person, more independent of a person,” she said.
“It was so cool to experience that and I have those memories for life now. Even though things went wrong up there, it was still really cool.”