No mountain too high |

No mountain too high

Ted AlvarezVail, CO, Colorado
Special to the DailyKit DesLauriers, the first person to ski down the Seven Summits, speaks at Donovan Pavilion on Thursday.

When Kit DesLauriers reached the top of Everest on October 18 of last year, there were no sighs of relief or declarations of joy. She still had to ski down, after all.”There really is no celebrating at the top,” she says.”Even for climbers, if something bad happens, it happens on the way down.Before we started the climb, we were at the chorten doing a Buddhist ceremony, and we had a saying: Every step counts, all the way up and all the way down. I couldn’t relax until I got back to base camp.”DesLauriers made every step and every turn count: as she made her final turns into base camp, she became the first woman to ski down Everest and the first person to ski from the top of the Seven Summits (the tallest peaks on each of the continents). She skied from the top with her husband, Rob, and Jimmy Chin, an elite skier and climber who also photographed the event for “Outside” Magazine.Though she can look back on the achievement and smile, unimaginable dangers threatened to pull the team off the mountain at every turn. When it came to descend the crux of their Everest route, a 40-foot cliff at 28,840 ft. in altitude known as the Hillary Step, they discovered it had less snow than they had hoped. The team decided to rappel down with skis and skins on, but oxygen was running low, and DesLaurier’s husband Rob actually blacked out for a moment while rappelling.”The Hillary step on the way down got really scary, especially when everybody ran out of oxygen,” DesLauriers says. “You never think of it as ‘woe is me.’ But people you care about are in trouble, and you are aware that things are going sideways.”

After a restless night at the South Col, the team awoke to yet another daunting challenge: They would ski down the Lhotse Face, a 5,000-vertical-foot slope down to base camp. But conditions had deteriorated overnight, and now they needed to negotiate a vertical ice rink.”The snow was now largely gone and left behind was 5,000 vertical feet of 45 to 50 degree shimmering blue and white ice,” she says. “It was some of the most serious skiing I’ve ever done in my life.”To tackle the Lhotse Face, Kit developed a mantra “Like your life depends on it” which she repeated to herself over and over at the start of every turn. It worked, and Kit, Rob and Jimmy Chin all sped safely into camp.Though the accolades from her Seven Summits victory are still fresh, DesLauriers sees it as only one accomplishment among many, and she’s already planning for the next adventure. In April, DesLauriers will mount a ski mountaineering expedition into Alaska’s southern Chugach range.”I don’t feel any pressure to top myself I just want to walk my talk,” she says. “The Seven Summits was a project in my life. I hope to have a career where I have some accomplishments before (that event) and some after. My pursuit was different from some, in that I’m not done just because I achieved that singular goal. I’m going to keep living, skiing and doing whatever makes my heart sing.”

Beyond conquering the world’s biggest mountains by rope and ski, DesLauriers has a passion for stone masonry and environmental landscaping, which she pursues through her Teton Village, WY-based landscaping company, Rockit Corporation.”It’s a part-time endeavor, but it’s one of those things that makes me so happy,” she says. “Stone connects me to the earth and allows me to be creative with beautiful outdoor spaces. It’s important for me to help people to keep in touch with the earth through building, and I don’t see myself ever giving it up.”As part of another long-term goal, DesLauriers also wants to help others achieve their epic dreams via Pursue Balance, a non-profit she plans to launch in the coming months, first as a web presence, and then as a means to award financial assistance and support to people with similarly grand goals.”Pursue Balance will provide information, education and empowerment to hep people take the steps to live more in balance,” she says.”We’re helping people target life to live in physical, spiritual and environmental balance. We want to encourage their own journey, and if they can demonstrate that their mission will help create a world more in balance, we hope to provide financial assistance so they can achieve their dreams.”DesLauriers seems like wise counsel on the subject of the impossible. She might know a thing or two about making lofty dreams tangible.”Every mountain provides a myriad of questions and answers,” she says. “The number one thing I’ve learned from them is don’t let anyone tell you there’s something you can’t do.”Arts & Entertainment writer Ted Alvarez can be reached at 748-2939 or Daily, Vail, Colorado

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