Marina Cortês

Altitude Mountaineering

Follow my altitude adventures and mountain tips on YouTube Swan Lake on Everest 

Marina Cortês is an eight-thousander, and high-altitude mountaineer, tackling the world’s 8000m peaks. Her goal is the ascent of Everest (8,848m) without the use os supplemental oxygen. Her early career as a professional classical ballet dancer gives her a unique perspective on mountaineering challenges on the body and mind.

Becoming an eight-thousander

Marina summited the world’s 6th highest peak, Cho-Oyu (8,201m) with little supplemental oxygen (used above 7,700m).

Marina fights categorisation. Her goal is to maximize our potential as human beings. She exploits the collision of the different World’s of Art, Science and Adventuring. She’s a mountaineering ballerina who is also an award-winning cosmologist, shattering conventional notions of time in theoretical physics.

Marina wrote a text about this experience – “Disrupting the Giant” – that can be read on the pdf below

Everest without supplemental oxygen

It’s quite an accomplishment to coordinate and manage the 700+ climbers that each season make Everest Base Camp their home for two months, in April and May. This was the view, from my tent, that I woke up to every morning in the 2022 Everest season.

On April and May 2022 I put together my first expedition towards the goal of climbing Everest without supplemental O2. My expedition was halted by logistical impossibility of performing the required rotation of spending one to two nights on the South Col, Everest Camp 4. I was able to sleep on the Lhotse Face at 7,200m altitude, more or less, but could not climb higher onto to the South Col, because there were not enough resources in the expedition outfit at that time.

A rotation is an acclimatisation of your body to altitude and the lower concentration of oxygen. We climb up and the down the mountain several times, to allow for our blood to thicken creating more red blood cells, to the optimise the capturing of oxygen by our lungs and its subsequent circulation to the entire body by fully efficient blood vessels.

On any expedition, after the required number of rotation is performed, we descend back to Base Camp for a few days. There we gather strength, rest, and plan the Summit push with extreme precision in exquisite coordination with all teams on the mountain and the weather windows predictions of that year, to ensure a safe Summit push for all members in each expedition.

Everest family expedition

My husband and children joined me on Everest after the expedition and we all landed on Everest Base Camp by helicopter together!

“What I like about the mountains is that you shed all notions of self. All notions of pride, arrogance, I, I, I…

The mountain is there to tell you that you are nothing, not even a speck of dust. And the mountain is everything.

You are there to tell the mountain that you are nothing *but* you keep walking very, very slowly. And very, very slowly, the nothing gets to the top of everything.”

(The Khumbu Valley, Himalayas, 2017)

Being an adventurer and a parent

This is one of those topics where pages and pages could be written on this. There are no easy answers, and we all just adjust as we can.
I wrote a blog post on parenting and adventuring on occasion of the beautiful documentary `Torn’ filmed by Max Lowe, son of Alex Lowe one of the greatest mountaineers of all time.

Family at Leh, India, 3,500m – Andrew, Marina, Dawa e Kylo, 2019
With my husband at the Summit of Stok Kangri (6.145m altitude) in August 2019. Stop Kangri is the highest peak in the Stok range of the Zanskar mountains, Indian Himalayas, Ladakh.

We travelled as a family from Canada to India, with a our three-year old son (who is named Dawa after the Sherpa people) and our eighteen-month old daughter Kylo, in the Summer of 2019. We flew to Delhi and then Ladakh, with the goal of climbing the six thousand meter peak as a couple.
We chose Stok Kangri in Ladkh, because it only requires to be away from our two toddlers for three nights, and had a family member look after them while we took on this climb.

Due to heavy snow during the previous days, the six-thousand meter peak, actually turned into a 19-hour long summit push, without fixed ropes on severely exposed ridges. The heavy snow also caught us by surprise, without adequate gear, since this peak is typically dry during the Summer. A successful push, as a couple, with a story to tell!

In the mountains I bring together my research on the the irreversibility of time in theoretical physics with lessons from millennia-old philosophy of the Himalayas:

“Our time is limited, make every *single* second count!’’

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My first 6 thousand meter peak, Stok Kangri (6,145m) situated in the Karakoram mountain range in Ladakh India, in August of 2013.

Annapurna trail


View from Annapurna Circuit (on the way to Tilicho Lake). A good day on the Annapurna range (2012).


Landing in Skydance Skydive Davis California, 2011.

Skydive adventure article (published originally in Portuguese in 2015 in “Público”)
The adventure of a lifetime
(Empuria Brava, Barcelona, 2013)
“Stand on edge of airplane, do drills, fine. Jump off, arch, start free-fall, adjust, fine. Practice drills, fine. Practice check, read altitude, arch, fix heading, hold that heading, good.” READ MORE

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