Oklahoma mother, daughter attempting to summit Mount Everest

Jess Wedel remembers sitting in chemo rooms, cold and sterile with machines beeping and IVs dripping.

But she also remembers the person most often there offering encouragement and support and love. Her mom, Valari, was a constant companion as she battled ovarian cancer in the spring of 2016.

Together, they conquered that mountain.

Five years later, they hope to scale another mountain — Mount Everest.

The Oklahoma residents have already begun the nearly two-month-long journey in Nepal. If they are successful, they will become the first mother-daughter team from the United States to reach the top of the world’s highest peak


Jess is also planning to summit nearby Lhotse, and if she reaches the peaks of both Everest and Lhotse, she would become only the second American woman to do so in the same climbing season.

Valari and Jess admit those accolades would be nice — Oklahomans aren’t often known for mountain-climbing exploits, after all — but that isn’t why they climb.

They climb because they can.

Really, they believe they have been given a second chance to embrace life, to go big, to try the unexpected. They believe that not only because Jess beat cancer but also because all three of Valari and Greg Wedel’s daughters did.

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“We understand the concept of live for today,” Valari said. “It’s not a motto — it’s how we live our life.”

They know that after receiving a cancer diagnosis, nothing is guaranteed. Not success. Not survival. 

After beating cancer, Jess has never been the same.

How could she be?

She has embraced being outdoors and pushing limits more than ever before. But she often does those things with her mom. Together, they are doing something that lifts their spirits, something that fills their souls. When they climb mountains, they are reminded of where they have been.

“It’s ever present for both of us,” Jess said.

They are reminded, too, of where they are going.

The quest to climb mountains began early

Valari Wedel is very much an Oklahoman.

Lifelong resident of Edmond. Went to Oklahoma Christian University. Attends Memorial Road Church of Christ.