There are 7 billion people that inhabit our planet, less than 60 have ever completed the Explorers Grand Slam, and 12 are women. The Explorers Grand Slam is an adventure achievement comprised of climbing the highest peak on each continent, known as the Seven Summits, and a traverse to the North and South Pole. Located in some of the most remote, unsupported, and harsh environmental areas on Earth, it is no surprise that every year people pay the ultimate price. Completing the Explorers Grand Slam is one of the most prestigious and acclaimed adventure achievements in the world.
I remember the first time I laid eyes on Mt. Everest. I was 8 years old and a dear friend of my parents was sharing her photos from her trek to Everest basecamp years before I was even born. I was mesmerized by the photos. I imagined standing on the summit it would be like going to the moon-a cute dream for a kid. I believe that was the day the seed was planted and I subconsciously began working toward conquering that dream everyday since.
Although I was hooked on the three year TV series, it seemed impossible, and without knowing I diverted my path to traveling the world. I wasn’t ready, or at least I can say that now looking back.
Upon my return from traveling the world for two years, my oldest brother Steven challenged me (us) to climb the Seven Summits. I had no idea what those were. He kindly explained that The Seven Summits were the tallest peak on each of the seven continents. I agreed without a moments hesitation.
We began our journey in February of 2011 climbing Aconcagua, the largest peak in South America and the largest peak outside of the Himalaya mountain range. The following year we climbed Mt. Elbrus the largest peak in Europe, and Kilimanjaro the largest peak in Africa. In July of 2013 we climbed Denali (Mt. McKinley) which is the largest peak in North America.
Our plan was to head to Mt. Everest the following May of 2014, but my life took a drastic turn, and for the better in hind-sight. I had an unfortunate accident while descending Denali and severely broke my arm. I was devastated. After an emergency evacuation off the mountain I found myself in surgery a few days later. I felt like everything I had worked so hard for was all gone. Would I ever get my life back? Not only did I have a broken arm, but I had a broken foot as well from an accident before the climb. I literally couldn’t do anything. Getting dressed was the easiest part of my day and even that took about an hour. I couldn’t do the things I loved to do. No skiing, mountain biking, running, tennis, walking, swimming, or climbing. I couldn’t even put my own hair in a ponytail without help.
One day I woke up and decided to stop feeling sorry for myself and start appreciated what I have. I acknowledged that I’m not invincible and a fully functioning body should never be taken for granted. I had a bit of a rebirth and the moment I turned to positive thoughts things started moving in the direction I wanted. I wasn’t meant to climb Mt. Everest in May of 2014 and breaking my arm was the perfect detour. Tragedy struck Mt. Everest in 2014 killing 16 Sherpa in the iconic Khumbu Glacier. If only I had the ability to see into the future, I might not have been so depressed by missing that climbing season.
Three surgeries and more physical therapy than I care to remember I was officially discharged as a patient. Although my doctor gave me the okay to return to any activity I wanted as long as it didn’t hurt, I don’t think he knew what my next move would be. Two weeks later I signed up for Mt. Everest and here I sit at basecamp staring at the mountain that I’ve been dreaming about for 22 years. It’s breathtaking. It’s bigger and louder than I could have ever imagined.
I’ve lived by the motto: Don’t let your dreams be dreams. I set my eyes on the impossible and I’ve done the impossible to achieve it. Life sends you curve balls and people who will tell you you are incapable of things. I welcome the curve balls and the disbelievers because that makes the ending so much more satisfying!
“In the end, we only REGRET the chances we didn’t take.”