For most people, climbing one of the world’s great mountains would be an achievement enough. But not for Finnish mountaineer Atte Miettinen, 36, who has set himself the daunting task of conquering seven of them.
Known as the Seven Summits challenge, he is attempting to climb the seven highest mountains on each of the seven continents. Fewer than 350 people have done it.
In May, Atte completed his sixth and the biggest mountain of them all: Mount Everest. Luckily for us, Atte also took a Nokia 808 PureView with him on the Everest expedition and took some great photos.
From his base in Dubai where he is resting before he embarks upon the final summit of Denali in Alaska in June, Atte spoke to me about his great endeavour and how it feels when you are standing on top of the world.
Why the Seven Summits challenge?
My first mountain was Kilimanjaro over 10 years ago. I was climbing mountains one at a time, graduating to more extreme ones each time and I started needing a goal.
I am a very goal-orientated person so I wanted something to strive towards and the Seven Summits seemed like a good way to go.
Is it a mental and spiritual challenge as well as a physical one?
Absolutely. Most people don’t realise that 10 weeks on Everest is not just climbing all the time. Physically it is very demanding but it is mentally demanding also and you have a lot of time to yourself.
When you are climbing it is difficult to breathe because there is not a lot of oxygen and hence you don’t talk a lot but you are in your own thoughts and I think you come back a much calmer person. You have a chance to process all kinds of things related to life.
Have you ever felt like you couldn’t do it anymore?
I think on previous mountains yes but part of the appeal of the Seven Summits challenge is that you discover that you are able to push yourself quite a bit.
Things that might seem amazingly difficult before you start, you realise that if you break them up into smaller milestones then you can achieve a lot of things and achieve very big challenges. I think that is part of the appeal of discovering the inner strength that you have.
How is the view from the top? Have you ever been disappointed when you’ve reached a summit?
I think you have to take every mountain individually. I’ve always had a feeling when I get to the top that, ‘I’m here’ and there is a satisfaction because you’ve reached your goal and at least in that moment you are not comparing it to the last one or the next one.
You enjoy the moment of conquering yourself and conquering the mountain and then after a while you start heading back down again.
How do you celebrate when you reach the top?
There have been mountains when you reach the summit at the same time as other people, and you hug them and high five them. On Everest I took my time getting to the top and once you get to the top you sit there and stare at the sunrise and admire it in your own head. But everyone is pretty tired so there is no jumping around.
What about the Nokia 808 PureView? Do you enjoy taking photos on these expeditions?
I enjoy it a great deal. I carried a big DSLR as well but I had a big preference for the small and compact Nokia 808 PureView. It was much easier to carry around.
I was amazed at the quality of the pictures. It’s an excellent camera and I think the product will do very well when it gets launched.
It’ll be nice to look back at the pictures and remember the different things that happened on the trip and you appreciate things a lot more that way.
How will you go back to normal life again after you’ve finished this challenge? You have an MBA – will you return to the office?
The world is full of all kinds of challenges so I think it’s just a matter of picking something else to keep your mind occupied. I think that spending time on the mountains is great and challenging yourself is great but I am also eager to get some real work done.
I’m sure I can take a lot of experiences from the mountains and these expeditions and translate those into boardrooms or the office and utilize what I have learnt into practical work.
The Nokia 808 PureView has now started rolling out to markets, and will become available for sale in coming days and weeks.