My name is Leanna Shuttleworth, I’m 20 years old, currently live in Grenada and hold the record as both the youngest British female to summit Mt Everest, and the youngest British female to have completed the Seven Summits. I was born in England, but moved to the Middle East when I was 10 - first to Qatar for two years, and then to Dubai, where I finished secondary school in 2011, at Dubai College. I took a gap year to climb Vinson and Everest and to finally finish my Seven Summits dream. I'm completing a course in veterinary science at St. George's University currently and am thoroughly enjoying it!
I actually started climbing when I was in Dubai, of all places. It was thanks to my maths teacher and form teacher at my previous school, Wellington International School - Neville Hopwood, who is very enthusiastic about trekking, arranged a school trip to Everest Base Camp. I was the only girl on the 21 day trip, got quite bad altitude sickness from refusing to drink enough (a dislike of the toilet facilities that I quickly overcame!), and didn’t shower for weeks, yet somehow I had the best time of my life to date.
Having had such a fantastic time, when Hopwood arranged a second school trip to Kilimanjaro and I signed up, my enthusiasm had persuaded my dad that trekking was definitely something he should try. So, embarrassing as it could have been, my dad became the second adult on our trip. It worked out brilliantly, and he was soon just as hooked as I was.
Just before the Kili trek, some friends gave me a book by Phil and Susan Ershler about their Seven Summits adventures, and the idea was planted. So, being just 15, ambitious and slightly naïve, I looked up a heap of information, including prices, dates, and a tiny amount about what was actually required. I then presented it to my dad, telling him that if he gave me a loan to do the Seven Summits, I would pay him back when I had a proper job. I will forever be in his debt for not laughing in my face at this.
We quickly moved on from just school trips and booked the rest of the big peaks with Alpine Ascents International; we completed the Seven Summits with them by summitting Everest on the 20th May 2012.
Climbing the Seven Summits has been truly life changing, and has taught me so much about team work, the importance of a good support unit, individual strength, motivation and balance. I now hope that somehow I can pass the message on, especially to other young girls, to follow your dreams however impossible they seem.