VAIL, Colo. — Editor's note: An earlier version of this article has been updated to clarify the number of successful ascents of Mount Everest Jon Kedrowski has completed. It has also been updated to clarify Kedrowski's attempt to ski down all the summits of Colorado 14ers in a single season.
“I'm just sort of a normal guy from Vail that loves to hike and climb mountains.”
Those are humble words coming from Dr. Jon Kedrowski, an adventurer, teacher, writer, and motivational speaker who hails from the little mountain town.
When he was eight, Kedrowski reached the top of Mount of the Holy Cross alongside his parents. It was at the top of his first 14er, that Kedrowski set his sights even higher.
“And as soon as I stood on the summit of that mountain, I wondered, well what is the highest mountain in the world?” Kedrowski recalled. “And that was going to be Everest.”
At 29,029 feet, Everest has captivated the minds of the most daring climbers in the world. With the goal implanted in his young mind, Kedrowski set out to conquer many smaller mountains first.
He first climbed all of Colorado's 14ers. He then set out to hike and ski down all the 14ers in a single season, a project he documented on his website, skiing14ers.com. While some peaks took multiple attempts and some areas were not ski-able, Kedrowski does not claim to own the record for this accomplishment but maintains that he has skied down every 14er in his career.
It wasn’t until 2012 that Kedrowski traveled to Nepal to achieve a dream nearly 25 years in the making.
“There was no wind on the summit,” Kedrowski recalled on what it was like on the top of Everest. “It was just a really amazing experience.”
Fewer than 5,000 people have stood at the top of Everest since the first ascent in 1953. Kedrowski's second attempt came in 2015.
“In 2015, I was on Mount Everest and we were climbing Everest but there was an earthquake. And the earthquake made the season stop. I mean it made everybody realize that you know, people have died in this earthquake so climbing the mountain isn’t important.”
“The mountain makes the decision,” Kedrowski added. “If it’s too stormy, you know, if the conditions aren’t safe from an avalanche perspective, it’s easy to manage that and turn around. You know, let’s face it, the mountain isn’t going anywhere, and the mountain is always going to be there.”
His third attempt came in 2018, this time, with no supplemental oxygen.
“I turned around at 8700m within two hours of the top due to strong winds and not perfect conditions," Kedrowski said. Even though he did not reach the summit, “it was still a successful ascent for me because I learned that it is truly possible to climb Everest without oxygen.”
As he crosses off each challenge on his bucket list, the adventurer's love for mountains has become secondary.
“Really it was about the journey and the experience of traveling to other parts of the world," Kedrowski added. "It’s more about the culture and interacting with people and then getting a chance to climb a mountain. After you go and climb the mountain, you explore the culture.”
In the years since summiting Everest, the 39-year-old’s passion has slightly shifted. Now he sets his sights on helping others scale their own metaphorical Everest.
“It could be as simple as raising a family, trying a different kind of work out, or achieving something in your personal or in your business,” said Kedrowski. “And all of those things can be an Everest.”
It’s the lessons he’s learned from the highest of peaks that he now shares in his books, his lectures at Colorado Mountain College, and in the motivational speeches he gives at businesses and universities.
“My dream was just to hike mountains. I could have never imagined in my wildest dreams that I’d get to go to Everest three or four times and get to ski some of the highest mountains in the world,” said Kedrowski, the excitement building in his voice.
“It just sort of comes from a burning desire inside to always raise the bar and I think mountains raise the bar in life. And if we could all think that way, I think everybody in society would be better off. We would wake up each day and say how can we help others and how can we raise the bar and that’s a great way to live.”
Kedrowski currently resides in Vail where he writes and teaches. He has hopes to lead more expeditions and to start a study abroad program with Colorado Mountain College. He says his next goal is to complete the Seven Summits, the highest mountains on each of the seven continents.
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