When Lei Wang WG03 started at Wharton back in 2001, mountain climbing was far from the mind of the self-described “bookworm” pursuing her MBA.

How the Wharton graduate went on to become one of the world’s most accomplished adventurers was the topic of a talk held on Tuesday, February 6, in front of a packed house of some 80 alumni and guests at the Penn Wharton China Center in Beijing.

Growing up in China, Wang never dreamed she would one day lead the life of an adventurer. It was only when she joined a leadership and team-building trip organized by Wharton to Mt. Cotopaxi in Ecuador that Wang discovered her passion for mountain climbing and started on a long and unfamiliar road that most are too afraid to explore.

Along this journey, Wang developed a mentality that anything is possible. It was this inner strength and determination that led her to set her sights on climbing Mount Everest.


Wang hiking Mount Everest. (Photo: Lei Wang)


To climb Mount Everest, Wang completed six years of intensive training, building up both her mental and physical strength. But she was still at nowhere near the level of a professional athlete.

She was told that she was the least likely person to succeed in the climb. “In fact, all of the Sherpa, the Nepalese mountain guides, secretly betted that I would be the first one to quit,” Wang said.

But Wang didn’t give up despite many setbacks. She maintained her high spirits. She didn’t let the low expectations of others put her down. It was with the help of this positive attitude that Wang successfully completed her two-month Everest expedition.

“For me, the significance of climbing Mount Everest lies not in the height or the fame of this mountain, but in how I persevered against all odds on this journey,” Wang said.


Wang representing Wharton at the summit of Mount Everest. (Photo: Lei Wang)


Wang’s success didn’t begin and end with her Everest climb. In 2010, she became the first Asian woman to complete the 7+2 Adventure Grand Slam. The Grand Slam involves climbing the Seven Summits—the highest mountains on each of the seven continents—and reaching both the North and South Poles. Wang is only the 10th person in the world to successfully meet the challenge.

Wang says her experience at Wharton has been crucial to her success, as it helped her broaden her horizons, change her mindset, and realize her potential. Wang proudly showed the audience a photo of the Wharton school flag she took to the summit of Mount Everest, saying, “Be true to yourself and your dreams. I want you to see that your dream is within reach as long as you persevere. Don’t waste time questioning whether to do it or not, just ask yourself how to achieve the goal.”

Through her success, Wang has shown that an ordinary person can achieve the extraordinary. She now wants to be an encouragement for others and help them realize their full potential.

After her speech, Lei Wang thanked Penn Wharton China Center for organizing the event. She said it was good to see its close connection with the Chinese alumni, and the role it plays as a bridge between the Wharton school and China. The University of Pennsylvania and the Wharton School founded the Penn Wharton China Center as part of their commitment to enhancing learning and research opportunities for the benefit of Penn’s faculty, students, alumni, and friends in China.

After hearing Wang’s story, Weiying Xu WG05 said, “I enjoyed being here today. I think her journey has encouraged me a lot. There is no limit to what you can achieve.” Xu added that Wang’s story has helped strengthen her faith in her own ability to overcome life’s difficulties.—PWCC staff