Kim Hess climbed Denali with a broken foot. And a broken arm.
But, she still doesn’t think of herself as tougher than the average person.
“I’m definitely tough, but aren’t we all tough?” Hess said.
The reason Hess was on Denali in June 2013 with a broken foot and arm is because six years ago, she and her brother set a goal: climb the seven summits, or the tallest peaks on each continent.
“He was super jealous that his baby sister had visited more countries than he had,” Hess said, explaining that she had traveled the world after graduating college. “He just wanted to go travel, and I said, ‘I don’t have a job or anything going on right now, so let’s go.’”
They set out on a journey that has taken them to some beautiful place.
They have successfully summited five on their quest to climb the seven--Aconcagua in South America in 2011, Mt. Elbrus in Europe in 2012, Kilimanjaro in Africa in 2012, Denali in North America in 2013 and Everest in Asia in 2016.
“The reward for me is huge,” Hess said. “It’s something that I accomplished and something I worked my butt off to get there—and nobody can take that away from me.”
Hess said she is proud of what she has done so far, and has learned a lot about what she is capable of doing. The broken bones on Denali were nothing compared to her first attempt at Everest, she said.
In 2015, an earthquake hit Nepal, causing multiple avalanches on Everest, killing multiple hikers.”
“That first year on Everest, surviving a 7.8 earthquake is probably something my parents wish they could forget, and stories I wish I could forget,” Hess said. “We got hit by three avalanches, or almost hit, and everyone was miraculously fine.”
She successfully reached the summit of Everest the following year, and this December, she plans on summiting Vinson Massif on Antarctica.
“It’s going to be very cold,” Hess said. “I would like to see a proper penguin.”
A plane ticket from Chile to base camp is $26,000. It is not the most expensive expedition she has been on—that is Everest—but she said she works hard for every trip she makes.
“I do everything from dog walking, one summer I helped a friend to asphalt sealing, which is so gross, I bar tend, I work at a ski shop, I do public speaking, I’m trying to write a book,” Hess said. “I’m working nonstop, seven days a week, just never having a break, and then the minute I show up at DIA it’s just everything goes away.”
Her vacations look a lot different than the average person’s time off. Hess said she would not have it any other way.
“If everyone could embrace the uncomfortable instead of freaking out, you’d be surprised at where it takes you,” Hess said.
Uncomfortable is a feeling she is used to. Besides climbing Denali with a broken leg and arm, she also had another accident. One she talks about with a little bit of embarrassment, and a little bit of pride.
“Yes, I peed myself,” Hess said.
Hess explained that on the side of a mountain, a climber needs to be clipped in, so that presents a lot of challenges to women if they have to relieve themselves. She used a device called a “Go Girl,” which she described as a funnel. It overflowed.
“I was wearing all clean clothes and all of a sudden it overflowed and went into my boots,” Hess said, laughing, and remembering how all of her group was cheering for her. She said she now knows the funnel of choice for mountaineers is the “Freshette.”
Though each trek has had its difficulties, all have funny stories too. Hess said if you cannot smile on these trips, there is no point in going.
“I’m comfortable with being uncomfortable,” Hess said. “I said I was going to do this, and a lot of people laughed, and I just smiled back and said, ‘Well watch me.’”
Her next goal is to complete the “Explorers Grand Slam,” which is reaching the seven summits and also traversing the North and South Poles.
“I love a challenge and I’m kind of seeking what my breaking point is,” Hess said. “Maybe it’s cross country skiing past a polar bear, I don’t know, trying not to get eaten!”
To learn more about Kim Hess, go to her website: http://www.kimhessclimbs.com/