Veteran Amputee Kirstie Ennis Prepares to Summit Everest

The Marine veteran, who suffered a life-altering injury while serving in Afghanistan, is days away from her goal.  

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- Posted on May 14, 2019

Photo Credit: Matthew Staver

Kirstie Ennis dreamed of being a Marine for most of her life. Both her parents had served and she enlisted at 17, becoming a door gunner on a helicopter.

Everything changed on June 23, 2012 when she was in a helicopter crash that ultimately led to an above-the-knee leg amputation. As Ennis wrote in her 2018 Guideposts cover story, recovering from the crash nearly destroyed her, but she refused to let her injuries hold her back.

To prove to herself just how unlimited her possibilities are, Ennis set an audacious goal: become the first veteran amputee to complete the Seven Summits—the highest mountain on each of the seven continents.

“Heck, I’ve been to the lowest. Why not take myself to the highest?” Ennis wrote in her Guideposts story.

But Ennis’ climbing journey isn’t just about the mountains. On each climb, she raises money in support of a different nonprofit.

“I realized that it was a pretty unique platform … whether it’s the younger generation, men, women or wounded veterans, they can look to me in a different way,” Ennis told Connecting Vets. “It’s just the culmination of everything I always wanted to do.”

Ennis has summited five of the seven mountains. She’s been on Everest for more than a month, acclimatizing to the altitude and planning routes, and her team plans attempt to summit on May 15, 2019. It’s a climb she has been preparing for three years, including a scouting trip in 2017.

Everest is the pinnacle of everything I have trained for,” Ennis told Pensacola News Journal. “Every mountain teaches me something different, now I have to use all of those skill sets to be able to tackle Everest. Should I summit, history will be made as the first woman above knee amputee to do so.”

Ennis said that each individual, especially those with disabilities,should be able to determine what they’re capable of doing and write “their own definition of their disabilities.”

Ennis shares detailed updates on her blog, and will post again after the summit attempt.

Editor's Note: Ennis and her team attempted to summit Everet in May 2019. They turned back at 28,490 feet. Ennis plans to try to summit Everest again. 

Tags: Military
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