Business partners and soul sisters Barbara Baikie and Dolores Cummins were both carrying long-held emotional burdens as they climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest mountain, in 2011.
Ms Baikie had lost her grandson, Hamish, when he was just 29 days old in 2004 due to a congenital heart condition. And she had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1991 - although she never had another attack and refuses to believes she has the condition.
Ms Cummins had suffered the loss of her first child, Alexander, in 1995 when he was stillborn on his due date, looking ''so beautiful and perfectly formed''.
Partners in a people development consulting business - Ms Baikie is based in Canberra and Ms Cummins in Brisbane - the two women were both experienced in managing people and facilitating change in their lives, each working in private and public roles over their careers.
But their nine-day expedition up the 5895-metre Mount Kilimanjaro in September 2011 challenged their thinking and attitude to life, and they soon found ''exhaustion and altitude stripped away the masks and social niceties'.
''We listened with our heart as well as our head,'' they write in Altitude: Two Women's Journey on Mount Kilimanjaro, their new book, which details their journey up the famous peak and gives the reader a guide on how to tackle life's obstacles.
Each chapter about the climb is accompanied by a personal ''coaching session'' in which the women write about issues such as awakening one's true self, discovering what matters, being vulnerable and resilient, and building strong relationships.
''We wanted a book where people thought, 'This is a friend. If I'm having a bit of a tough time, I can just go back and read over it','' Ms Baikie said. ''The feedback we've had from people is that it makes them cry, it makes them laugh and it inspires them.
''It's just raw, it's true, it's unapologetic. We describe some situations that are really challenging but, through that, showing you can not only survive them, but grow through them.''
In a tragic twist to their story, when they were in the final stages of co-writing the book in February last year, Ms Baikie's second son, Joe Howard, 34, died in a water-skiing accident near Wagga Wagga.
''That was really horrendous, losing a vibrant, full-of-life son, but it's also made me more determined to go on and make sure I live every day to the fullest,'' Ms Baikie said. ''That's what I can give to others. Even though you suffer these horrible things, you can come through them, but also not hide from the pain. There will always be a hole in my heart.''
The book reveals how Ms Cummins made it to the summit of the mountain while Ms Baikie succumbed to altitude sickness just 139 metres short of the peak and had to descend, with the help of her husband, Peter Fletcher. She believes her experience speaks to our ideas of success and failure.
She said it took her a year to reveal to other people - including Ms Cummins - the horrible night she spent on the way down, so humiliated she couldn't even go to the camp toilet but had to get Peter to help her use a bottle in their tent.
''Even though I failed to get to the top, I succeeded in the journey and what I took from that. And in addition to that, it actually enhanced my relationship with my husband.
''He thought it was wonderful he could support me through that. I mean, that vulnerability, we fear it. But it can actually be a strength.''
Ms Baikie, 60, says exercise and meditation help her handle life, and that regular walks in the bush near her home at Wallaroo, north of Hall, are a mainstay. Her message is that a tragedy is not the end.
''Have the courage to live your life every day in every way - life is precious, don't waste or miss a moment,'' she said.
■ Barbara Baikie will be speaking on Altitude at a literary lunch at Le Tres Bon restaurant in Bungendore at noon on Sunday. Bookings are recommended; call 6238 0662.