Lene Gammelgaard

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Lene Gammelgaard
Born (1961-12-18) 18 December 1961 (age 57)
Copenhagen, Denmark
OccupationMotivational speaker, Author, Psychological Counselor, Journalist, Lawyer, Expedition Leader and Mountaineer.
Years active1981 - present
ChildrenSmilla Gammelgaard, Sylvester Gammelgaard, Srijana Gammelgaard
Parent(s)Helge Nielsen, Kirsten Nielsen

Lene Gammelgaard (born 18 December 1961) is a Danish author, motivational speaker and mountaineer. She is based in Denmark but has traveled and worked in over 15 countries in pursuit of her speaking career.

Her book Climbing High, printed in 1998 and published by HarperCollins, was about the 1996 Everest disaster, a storm that took the lives of Scott Fischer, Rob Hall, and six other climbers. The book has sold over 1 million copies worldwide and has been translated into 13 languages. She was portrayed in the film Everest (2015) by actress Charlotte Bøving. Lene Gammelgaard was the 35th woman and the first Scandinavian woman to climb Mount Everest, [1] reaching the peak via the South East Ridge route. She accomplished this feat on 10 May 1996 as part of Scott Fischer's Sagarmatha Environmental Expedition.[2] This is one of the most remembered expeditions in the history of Mt Everest.

Early life[edit]

Gammelgaard was born in Copenhagen Denmark, to Kirsten and Helge Nielsen, a businessman. When she was growing up, her family moved every three years due to her father's career. This forced her to redefine herself and adapt to new circumstances. It also gave her insight into different parts of the world. Gammelgaard said "I was more of an observer than impulsive in the forefront. I kept to myself more than being an extrovert socializer. I was definitely wild and thrived the best riding my horse bareback in the remote parts of Denmark."[citation needed]

When she was 22 years old, one of her brothers died in an accident. She later said "Get busy living or get busy dying. If you were to die in 24 hours are you then living life the way you find meaningful? If not what are you willing to do to change it? Your life is not going to improve until you do".[citation needed]

She pursued higher education at the same time as ocean sailing and climbing tours.


At the age of 20, after finishing college, she sailed the Caribbean working as a deck hand and later crossed the Atlantic on a yacht via the Azores. In 1982, she attended the University of Copenhagen where she achieved a law degree specializing in tax and company law. She worked full-time and studied at night as a finance analyst at Erik Møller's Efterfolgere which was the largest stock brokers company in Denmark at that time. In 1988 she took a break and sailed from Zealand to Gibraltar as a co-navigator on a Nautical 42 for a 3-month trip. Later that year she worked as a purchasing manager in charge of negotiations, legal and transport issues dealing with Hong-Kong, Singapore and Thailand in Pinetta Textile Company. She was also the project leader and activist at Greenpeace.

In 1991 she went back to school on a supplementary study at Danish school of journalism. It was during this year that her mountain climbing passion was sparked. She spent three months on a climbing and trekking expedition around Dhaulagiri Massif. She then made an attempt on Island peak in Nepal as a single climber. During this attempt she encountered Scott Fischer and his friends who had just climbed Mera Peak. Scott Fischer would later become her friend and mentor.

In 1993 she studied psychotherapy using the American 12-step method, a degree in psychotherapy specializing in addictions and installing life altering self-responsibility habits. She co-founded two drug-treatment centers,[3] developed and led a therapy program for professionals and co-dependents aimed at changing individuals’ mental attitudes and behavior towards self-responsibility in one-week processes. In 1995 she embarked on an expedition with Scott Fischer and Mountain Madness to the Karakorum mountain range, Broad Peak base camp and Gondogoro Pass in Pakistan. It was during this expedition on the glacier below K2 that Fischer invited her to climb Mt. Everest in the spring of 1996 with him. 1996 saw her reach the summit of Everest and safely return, on an expedition which claimed many lives, including Fischer who died on the way back from the summit. This expedition received a lot of media attention and multiple films and documentaries were based on it. The experience opened many doors for her career.

In 1997 she went on a reconnaissance to Peru, Chile, and Argentina, participated in a horse expedition and helped take a young Greenlandic woman from a human resource development program. As an expedition leader on a trip to Kilimanjaro, she instructed 8 African youths from the slums of Arusha and taught them to become helpers on trips for African Environment, African Adventure Agent and National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). She then went on another reconnaissance and participated in a documentary film from Greenland. In 1998 as an expedition leader she led 12 Danes to Mt Kilimanjaro. It was in this year that she published her bestselling book Climbing High and went on promotional tours. She participated in a sea kayaking expedition course in Alaska with NOLS and fishing expeditions in Greenland. She also participated in a reconnaissance in Sweden for Human resource developmental programme. In 1999 her book ‘Habets Sejr’ – ‘The Victory of Hope’ was published in Denmark. The Victory of Hope is a strategic self-programming process aimed to instill the will to survive and overcome any setback.

She was an expedition leader and organizer of Upper Mustang, Nepal trek. She went on a sailing trip to the Goeteborg Skargaard and British Virgin Islands. In April 2005 she went on a trekking trip to the Atlas Mountains, Morocco and a horse trek in Utah and Arizona with Equestrian Tours. In 2006 she was the captain of her off-shore sailing yacht Van de Stadt 34[4] from Amsterdam to Copenhagen through the North Sea. She lived for 14 months in Nepal when her mission to adopt her daughter was disrupted by the peace process and UNICEF.[citation needed] She shared her experiences of being victimized by the international adoption and humanitarian process in her book Mitlivskamp "The struggle of my life”.[5][6] She says “Everest and “fighting for my daughter” has taught me the importance of determination and never giving up. Quitting is not in my vocabulary”.[citation needed]

In 2008 she broadcast Storm over Everest, a documentary by US film maker David Breashears,[7] with the mountaineers who were caught in the death zone on Everest May 1996. Later that year Gammelgaard was awarded the Mt. Everest Golden Jubilee Medal by Nepals Government. In 2009 she received a Nepal Tourism Board award for her focus on expanding tourism in Nepal and was later nominated as the Honorary Goodwill Ambassador by the board. 20 years after 10 May 1996 Gammelgaard published To the Summit and Safe Return in which she gave her extensive account and reflections on Everest 1996. She gives an account of her experience sharing life mountaineers such as Anatoli Boukreev and Scott Fischer and the way they impacted her and she approaches existences.

She currently operates her own consulting business, Human Innovation. She also works as a professional lecturer and author. Gammelgaard is often published in leading Danish and German newspapers and magazines. She works to raise funds for the Lapka Sherpa Educational Fund, which pays for education for orphaned daughters of Sherpa mountaineers in Nepal.[8]

Climbing High[edit]

Climbing High is an account of Gammelgaard's experiences and memories while climbing Mount Everest. On this expedition, she became the 35th woman and first Scandinavian woman to reach the peak of Mount Everest. She writes about how she was inspired to take on this adventure by Scott Fischer, and how she mentally prepared for the climb as part of the Sargarmantha Environmental Expedition. She writes of how she planned to climb without supplementary oxygen partly as a kick start to open the European market to Mountain Madness, Scott Fischer's mountain guiding operation, with her as the company's representative.

Personal life[edit]

Gammelgaard has participated in horsemanship training, sailing quests and a skiing trip both alone and with her children. Gammelgaard was married to Soren Smidt, a fellow mountaineer, until 1992 when they divorced.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "EverestHistory.com: Lene Gammelgaard". www.everesthistory.com. Retrieved 2016-11-09.
  2. ^ "NOLS - Sagarmatha Environmental Expedition". www.nols.edu. Archived from the original on 2016-03-26. Retrieved 2016-11-09. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  3. ^ Gammelgaard, Lene. "Co-founder and program developer at Institutes for Drug Addiction and behaviour change".
  4. ^ "Van de Stadt Design - Van de Stadt 34". www.stadtdesign.com. Retrieved 2016-11-09.
  5. ^ Mit livs kamp af Lene Gammelgaard (Bog) - køb hos SAXO.com. https://plus.google.com/u/0/108691979647707785255/. External link in |publisher= (help)
  6. ^ "Lenes kamp for moderskabet". www.b.dk. Retrieved 2016-11-09.
  7. ^ Breashears, David (2008-05-13), Storm Over Everest, retrieved 2016-11-20
  8. ^ EverestHistory.com bio

External links[edit]