In 1997 Brigitte Muir became the first Australian woman to conquer Mount Everest and the first Australian to climb the Seven Summits – the highest peaks on each of the seven continents. Her motto, ‘We must live our dreams, not dream our lives’, is based on a quote from Stendhal (the pen name of 19th century French author Marie-Henri Beyle). She recalls encountering this quotation as a secondary school student, and she has tried to stay true to it ever since.
Born in Belgium, Brigitte came to live in Australia in 1983 and became an Australian citizen in 1987. Brigitte has an honours degree in archaeology, history of art and musicology but found international fame as a mountaineer. In May 1997 Brigitte became the first Australian woman to climb Mount Everest. Scaling Everest was an extraordinary feat, the culmination of nine years’ work to achieve her dream. Conquering Everest was part of her much greater achievement – ascending the highest peaks on all seven continents, a feat which she recalls started as a dare.
Brigitte made several attempts to climb to the summit of Mount Everest before finally achieving her goal. At each attempt she faced extraordinary conditions including below-freezing temperatures of minus-30 degrees, treacherous winds and, on one occasion, being inadvertently deserted by her climbing partners on a ledge high up on the north face of Everest … they hadn’t realised that her headlamp had failed, which made it impossible for her to continue. Despite suffering hypothermia, Brigitte eventually made her own way down the mountain.
Brigitte Muir’s inspirational autobiography, The Wind in My Hair, was published in 1998. She received the Order of Australia medal in 2000 for services to mountaineering, and in 2001 became the first Australian woman to walk to the South Pole.
Brigitte lives in the small Victorian town of Natimuk, west of Horsham, and continues to live her dream through climbing, painting and her commitment to the environment. In an interview about her achievements in 2003 she explained that climbing Everest should not be seen as the end of one’s achievements, as it is the achievement that makes all else possible, in fact, it is ‘where it all starts’.