On June 23, 2012, Kirstie Ennis’s helicopter crashed while she was serving in Afghanistan as a US Marine. She was left with a brain injury, severe facial damage and injuries to her spine and left leg, which was eventually amputated in 2015. While she was initially overwhelmed with her injuries, she connected with Disabled Sports USA, according to Health.com, and the organization taught her how to snowboard.
Kirstie’s zest for athleticism brought her to the United Kingdom in 2015, where she met Prince Harry on a 1,600-kilometre walk around Britain. When she finished the marathon walk, the prince gave her a huge hug. She started mountain climbing that same year, and now she’s set to do the biggest climb of all: Mount Everest.
“For the last year and a half, I have talked about making this happen. And now here I am,” Kirstie told People. “I try my hardest to do as I say, and say what I mean. This is now the truest testament to that.”
Over the last few days, Kirstie has been posting some incredible shots from a Base Camp in Nepal, where she’s been practicing important climbing skills like ice falls. Since Mount Everest is the tallest point in the world, it’s very important to get used to the altitude before setting off to avoid becoming sick, so she’s been taking lower hikes on the mountain with a team before setting out on the big climb.
Kristie told People she’s also been working on visualizing it all, so when she’s going through the climb, it hopefully becomes a bit easier. “I could nearly feel the pain I was going to put my body through,” she said. “We may be able to pull this off. I may actually stand on top of the world on one leg.”
It’s important to note Kirstie is no stranger to scaling huge peaks. In 2017, she summitted 16,100-foot Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and the 16,000-foot Puncak Jaya (also known as the Carstensz Pyramid) in Indonesia, becoming the first combat-wounded female amputee to scale both, according to Health.com. She has since climbed Denali – the highest mountain peak in North America – and wants to become the first combat veteran amputee to successfully complete the Seven Summits, which are the highest points on all seven continents.
“I want to redefine what it is to be disabled,” Kirstie told People in March. “When people say, ‘She’s missing her leg, that must be terrible,’ yes, it is hard – but I dictate what I am capable of. I want to encourage people to write their own definitions and choose how to live your life.”
Kirstie’s friendship with Harry has continued since the two met nearly four years ago. The prince sent her some flowers and cookies after some operations in 2016, according to People. Earlier this year, Kirstie told the publication she really admires what Harry has done with the Invictus Games, which he started for wounded and injured veterans. “He is one of the few who are using his platform to truly make a difference in the lives of everybody,” she said. We’re sure Harry is incredibly proud of her!
On each climb, Kirstie has been raising money to help veterans. She also uses prosthetic feet she designed herself for climbing, and wants to patent them so she can help others, according to Military Times.
“When I was in the hospital, I didn’t have that role model to look up to,” she told People in March. “I want to be that for other people – for a young woman trying to embrace her differences and own some scars or whatever she has going on with her body.”