Vail woman’s passions span rocket science, Seven Summits
Meghan Buchanan arose from horrific snowboard injury to Grand Slam of Adventure
If You Go ...
What: Meghan Buchanan’s Countdown to Everest Party
When: 7-9 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 29.
Where: Remedy Bar in the Vail Four Seasons
Information: Come wish Meghan Buchanan good luck as she continues her quest for the Grand Slam of Adventure, the Seven Summits and theNorth and South poles. She leaves for Mount Everest in March. For more information go to http://www.ggrit.org and insta: @getggritt.
VAIL — Meghan Buchanan doesn’t just climb — she ascends. She wants you to, too.
The Vail resident worked her way back from a horrific snowboarding injury — she broke the head off her left femur in Sun Up Bowl — and is more than halfway to The Grand Slam of Adventure — the Seven Summits, and both the North and South poles.
Along the way she launched GGRIT — Growth Gratitude Resilience Integrity and Tenacity — aimed at helping people in general and women in particular overcome obstacles and reach their personal summits, “give people the tools to overcome challenges,” Buchanan said.
This month, she leaves for Mount Everest, the fifth of her Seven Summits. She hopes to return home to Vail in May.
Really, rocket science
Buchanan is an honest-to-brilliance rocket scientist with Raytheon. Her company shares her vision and sense of adventure.
Denali was an enormous adventure. She had good weather for the first part, then, at about 17,000 feet, a storm hammered her group.
“You power through it and keep going,” Buchanan said, which is pretty much the story of her life.
When she reached the summit, “I recall thinking how beautiful it is,” she said.
Then a more profound thought hit her.
“You get to see it if you put in the work,” she said.
Her guide on Denali told her, “You are ready. Go do Everest.”
So she is. She hopes to arrive in Kathmandu in March and be off the mountain in May.
Her toughest climb
Before she could climb, she had to get up from a horrific fall.
Feb. 6, 2011 was a massive powder day and she was on the mountain early, headed down Windows in Vail’s Sun Up Bowl. Buchanan blasted through the deep powder when she hit a fallen tree, buried under the new snow.
She broke the head off her left femur bone, twisting it so badly that the muscle and everything attached to it tore loose. She was bleeding out, dying.
Ski patrollers followed her screams to find her buried in the deep snow. Her doctors said the head of her femur looked like ice cream falling off the cone.
Dr. Rick Cunningham inserted a 14-inch rod into Buchanan’s femur, along with all the hardware to hold it in place. Buchanan’s body tried to reject it, leaving her in constant pain. The femur is one of the biggest bones in your body, and the rod needed to stay there at least a year for it to heal.
After a year and a half, bone marrow was growing back and that pain was gone.
A month later, she could finally climb stairs unassisted. Four months after that, with her team’s approval, she left for Nepal with Love Hope Strength, a Colorado nonprofit — to hike to Everest base camp (17,500 feet) and Kalapathar (18,500 feet), a 14-day trek. It was another Buchanan quest; she scattered her father’s ashes at Base Camp.
“All the amazing support and people in this valley gave me my leg back. I can’t wait to celebrate with my family and friends,” Buchanan said.
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The tragic incident left a nearby camper wondering if more could be done to remove dead-standing trees from popular camping areas.