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Colorado Champions: Veteran begins Mt. Everest climb to complete Seven Summits after leg amputation

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- Here in the Centennial State we are no strangers to very impressive athletes. There's one U.S. Marine Corps veteran who is now on her way to Nepal to summit Mount Everest.

Kirstie Ennis is a Colorado Champion who's resilient and inspiring as she looks to complete her journey of the Seven Summits, climbing to the highest point on every continent.

"When I get out there, there's no room for error," said former U.S. Marine Sgt. Ennis. "Of course, there's a lot of nerves, there's anxiety of another failure if you will, but I have learned so much since my first Everest attempt in 2019."

The last time Ennis was on Everest she was close to the top, but one of her climbing partners ran out of oxygen and the group collectively decided to go down together.

"This time I just told myself that I left a piece of my heart on the mountain and I have to go back for it," said Ennis.

In the last several years, Ennis has reached the highest point on six continents, and getting to the top of Everest next month would complete her goal of the Seven Summits. And do so as a war amputee.

"The wealth of the knowledge that I have now in the mountains for everything from the technical systems to my prosthetics to my gear and even the nutrition aspect I feel stronger than ever," said Ennis.

But that strength was tested after she almost died in a helicopter crash when deployed to Afghanistan in 2012.

"Hit the ground, weapon came back and went through my face and ended up breaking my jaw, I could fit my fist through my face actually," Emmis explained. "Lost my teeth, broke my orbital socket, broke my nose, my arms tore from their sockets, my rib cage got twisted because of the way that I was tethered to the floorboard. And then of course the most obvious thing, my leg."

Dozens of surgeries later, the road to recovery has been long, hard, and challenging for Ennis.

"It didn't take us long to realize and see the pictures of her in the hospital and the struggle and suffering that she was enduring but soon after we realized she was beyond amazing in so many ways," said Andy Pujol, the founder of Building Homes for Heroes. "As you and I learn from her, all of America should follow her."

With the help of Building Homes for Heroes, a non-profit that helps vets, Ennis has been able to chase new dreams outside the military, they support all of her mountaineering. And now are proud to watch her conquer the tallest mountain in the world.

"It never fails that Andy and the entire Building Homes for Heroes staff, the moment I come up with one of these crazy ideas for myself they will not let me give up on it. If I give an inkling of a suggestion they encourage me to go and get after that," said Ennis. "And that is huge not just for me, but people in general. It becomes very difficult to give up when you have so many people believing in you and fighting for you."

Stay with KRDO for more stories in the coming weeks as Ennis makes her way up Mount Everest. If everything goes according to plan, it's a fast schedule. She's hoping to summit on May 7, 2023, and be back in Colorado a month from now.

To follow along with Ennis and her movements in Nepal you can track her Garmin by clicking here. Password is KEverest23

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Brynn Carman

Brynn is an anchor on Good Morning Colorado. Learn more about Brynn here.


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