Oct 27, 2022 - Sports

Former Marine to climb last of the Seven Summits after leg amputation

Kirstie Ennis

Kirstie Ennis accepts the Pat Tillman Award for Service at the 2019 ESPYs. Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

There's no shortage of athletes who've accomplished unimaginable feats, but even among them, former U.S. Marine Kirstie Ennis stands alone.

The big picture: Ennis, 31, nearly died in a helicopter crash 10 years ago in Afghanistan, which resulted in her left leg being amputated. Next spring, she'll attempt to summit Mount Everest to complete her journey of the Seven Summits — the highest point on every continent.

Six down, one to go: Ennis has scaled six other summits so far.

  • March 2017: Mount Kilimanjaro (Tanzania, Africa)
  • July 2017: Mount Carstensz (Indonesia, Asia)
  • September 2018: Mount Elbrus (Russia, Europe)
  • February 2019: Aconcagua (Argentina, South America)
  • June 2021: Denali (Alaska, North America)
  • January 2022: Mount Vinson (Antarctica)

What she's saying: "I like being able to prove people wrong," Ennis told Jon Frankel on Tuesday's episode of HBO's "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel."

  • "I really like being able to give people my middle finger and say, 'I told you so.'"

The backdrop: All Ennis ever wanted to be was a Marine like her mom and dad. She enlisted at 17, requiring parental consent, and made it through her first tour of duty unscathed.

  • But in 2012, as a door gunner, her helicopter crashed while evading enemy fire. Six died, and her injuries were so bad that doctors thought she might not survive.
  • A year later, after attempting suicide, she made the decision to have her left leg amputated to rid herself of the constant pain and begin moving on with her life. Then she took up climbing.

Flashback: Ennis' Everest attempt won't be her first. She came within 200 yards a few years ago but had to turn around when her climbing partners ran out of oxygen.

  • "I didn't give a damn about summiting Everest if I didn't have them with me," she said.
  • "The mountain's not gonna go anywhere, but I can come back."
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