Acclaimed hairdresser Mikael Bottero is unstoppable. In a sense he lives a double life here in Shanghai: one as a professional hairdresser and another as an experienced mountain climber.
Mikael climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in 2017, and on July 14 he plans to climb Muztagh Ata. The journey will take 22 days. Muztagh Ata is China’s second highest peak and the 43rd-highest mountain in the world. Both Luis Lovai from Paraguay and Dawa Gyajlie from Nepal will climb with him. The goal is to raise funds for the AFM Telethon, which helps kids suffering from neuromuscular genetic diseases.
We chat with Mikael about his trip, why he's climbing and what the Telethon is for.
How did you first get into mountaineering?
I use to ski and trek in France. During my first humanitarian trek with the association of Gaurishankar, I realized I enjoyed mountaineering. It was one year after the earthquake in Nepal.
How do you stay motivated while climbing up a mountain?
Climbing a mountain of 7,546 meters (24,757 feet) is not a vacation like going to a beach or resort; it’s a challenge. It is painful for everyone. But, I am doing it because I want to challenge myself physically and mentally.
What is your favorite inspirational quote and why?
“Keep the body in good health is a duty... otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear,” said Gautama Buddha.
What is appealing about mountaineering?
The sport helps me find balance in my daily life.
What are some of the challenges you expect to overcome while climbing Muztagh Ata?
Muztagh Ata will be a great experience, but the high altitudes can be difficult. It makes me lose my appetite and drink less. I'll have to push myself but also make sure I am maintaining excellent body conditions, so I have enough energy to summit and come back. This can be difficult.
Why have you decided to climb without oxygen supplies?
Muztagh Ata is 7,546 meters and I know it is dangerous. But, climbing without oxygen will give me a real contact with the mountain.
How do you cope with negative 30 degree temperatures?
Dealing with negative 30 degrees or more, with wind, is also a real challenge. Great mental and physical equipment is required.
What is the most dangerous situation you have ever found yourself in while mountain climbing?
The most difficult moment was when I was facing a 15-hour trek, five hours to summit from the last base camp. I decided to go to the bottom of Kilimanjaro in one go. I was suffering from hallucinations and paranoia at the end, but I got back to the hotel safely.
What is your most outstanding memory of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro?
It was holding the Telethon’s flag on the top of Kilimanjaro. I felt really strong mentally and physically, which lead me to discover a new Mikael!
What inspired you to advocate for myopathies and neuromuscular genetic diseases?
The Telethon started in 1970 with the Association in France. I knew about their medical research when I was young. I too wanted to help kids suffering from neuromuscular genetic diseases so they could have better conditions of life.
Do you have a fundraising goal for the next Telethon? If so, what is it?
This year my fundraising goal is 7,546 meters x 10 and RMB75,460. I know we can work together for the kids.
How does mountaineering compare to hairdressing? They seem very different.
Mountaineering and hairdressing are very different, but it is also based on the same quality. Both require hard training, development skills, confidence and experience. When I am climbing a peak or creating a balayage haircut, I visualize where I want to go to reach the final point, or make my client feel amazing.
If you chose a second career path, what would it be?
What is your favorite part about being a hairdresser?
I have worked in the industry for the past 24 years and I still enjoy cutting hair. I like the creativity and marketing aspect, managing my team and making my clients feel great about their hair.
Is talking to your clients most rewarding?
For the past 16 years working at the international Standard, I have met extraordinary clients from all over the world. Talking to them and sharing information has helped me understand hair culture, from many countries. It also helps me develop my own style.
Which person inspires you most and why? It could be someone you know, a stranger or a historical figure.
My grandmother because she is a fantastic woman. After my grandfather died she raised three kids by herself. Later on, she gave me a great education and she taught me how to be honest and hard working.
The trip is self-financed and 100 percent of the collected funds will be donated to the AFM Telethon. To support Mikael’s cause, scan the QR code below.
[Images courtesy of Mikael Bottero]