From the Summit of Aconcagua to the Next: Public Office – Meet Patricia Ackerman

‘From the Summit of Aconcagua to the Next: Public Office – Meet Patricia Ackerman’, is a story written by Alex Derr, a man with a passion for America’s mountains. Since a young age, he has been exploring the outdoors, and gaining an appreciation for the environment we all depend on.

For Patricia, there was never a clear moment she decided to become a mountaineer. She said, “It was really an evolution. I was hiking, and then backpacking, and then trekking, and then high-altitude trekking, and then climbing. At that point, high-altitude mountaineering seemed to be the next logical step.” After a decade of climbing and outfitting high-altitude climbs around the world, she hung up her crampons to care for her mother, and finally retired for good following two double hip replacements. With a tenacity equal to any Everest climber, she set her sight on a new summit: the political world, and ran a hard campaign for State Assembly in 2018. This year, she’s fighting on for Nevada’s Second Congressional District seat in the House of Representatives.

Driven to Climb & Push her Limit.

When I asked Patricia why she climbed, her reasoning sounds familiar to many of us who spend time on peaks and crags… “How high and how far can I go before I can’t take another step. Where can I go where I can finally hit the wall? I want to feel what that’s like.” This comes as no surprise. Spending time talking with Patricia, two things become immediately clear: The first, her tenacity and driven individualism – the will to persevere and overcome the obstacles in her way. She’s the kind of person who hikes until she literally needed hip replacements. As she describes mountaineering, it is the “fine art of suffering… pushing oneself further than they thought possible. However, that determination is paired with an equally-powerful commitment to service to family and community. Both facts become clear when you start to listen to Patricia’s story…

Lifesaving Teamwork on Aconcagua & Kala Patthar

High altitude cerebral edema doesn’t sound like a good thing, and it isn’t. Popularly known to mountaineers as HACE, the condition involves brain swelling at elevations above 15,000 feet and can strike at random. After training for years with climbs of Rainier and other peaks, she set off for the summit, only to turn back near 18,000 feet after exhibiting the early symptoms of HACE. Tearing down camp at 5 am, she thought to herself “This is it. I can’t take one step further. That was my plateau.” They descended safely and began to wrestle with what had happened.

She didn’t let the setback stop her. Deciding that she needed a higher altitude base camp, Patricia promptly moved from Los Angeles to Minden, Nevada nearly 5,000 feet above sea level. With better acclimation and more training, she returned to Aconcagua and successfully summited the 22,841 feet peak. From that moment, she immediately began to look for the next summit, to push her limit further. “Everest became a goal,” she put it pointedly. She put together a strategy of training peaks, and was on her way. Then came along Kala Patthar.

Nearly 18,500 feet tall, Kala Patthar is a famous peak near Everest with magnificent views from its summit. During an Everest training climb, Patricia felt the tell-tale symptoms of HACE once more: fatigue, confusion, nausea, and disorientation. Her sherpas and guides packed her into an emergency pressure bag (known as a Gamow Bag) to reduce her symptoms and race her back to Base Camp. She recalls looking at their faces through the small shield to see these “beautiful human beings, keeping her alive… it was humbling… I saw how insignificant I was.” It was a turning point for Patricia, and a lesson of service she clearly keeps close today.

Stepping Away for Family & Health

Around this time, Patricia’s mother came down with a terminal condition, and Patricia stepped in to be her caretaker for what she expected would be a year at most – her mother ended up living for six more years, with her daughter serving her the entire time. At the same time, as Patricia continued hiking locally, she slowly began to notice a new pain in her hips, finally mentioning it to her husband while hiking near Tahoe. After several years of denial and doctors, she got two full hip replacements, putting an end to her high-altitude climbing days. For some people, retirement at that point might sound nice, but Patricia’s attitude already had her looking out for the next summit to climb, even if metaphorical. In 2018, she found that summit: Public Office.

The Next Summit: Public Office

Like any good mountaineer, Patricia took time to prepare for her run. She applied and was accepted into Emerge Nevada, a program that helps train women to run for public office and win. With training behind her, and the determination of a climber, she declared her candidacy for State District 39. The race was tough, as she ran as a Democrat in a heavily Republican district. Despite great effort, and a professional campaign, she still came up short. But like Aconcagua and Kala Patthar, she didn’t let the setback stop her. She got right back on track, and declared her candidacy this year for Nevada’s second Congressional District.

Listening to Patricia, it’s clear that… Keep reading this remarkable story at Alex Derr’s Blog and Website:

Mountain Women Magazine |  A magazine for Women filled with a passion for living life in the Colorado Rocky Mountains and beyond.

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