One Step at a Time
Hassell and her husband atop Mt. Elbert, Colorado's highest 14er. Photo courtesy of Sarah Hassell.
Permitted use provided by: Boulder Weekly
When Sarah Hassell climbed her first 14,000-foot peak in Colorado, she felt “an overwhelming sense of gratitude.” It wasn’t due to the view, or the stable weather that allowed her to summit, or even the fact that the friends she climbed the peak with were there to accompany her to the top. It was because she made it up there — higher than she’d ever climbed — due to a stranger’s heart.
Hassell had never climbed a peak before. In fact, she didn’t do much at all. When you have a heart that’s failing, she says, “one of the things that is terrifying is that I had a very limited number of heartbeats left. I didn’t want to waste them doing physical activity.”
That equation was dramatically changed when she received a heart transplant in 2006.
“It took a solid year to recover from surgery,” Hassell says. “But I was able to return to my life the way I was living before, with a lot of energy. But the one thing I could never do before was things at altitude. I would never be able to climb a 14er. This is a complete change, and it’s an ultimate statement, it really is the ultimate thing.”
As part of the Colorado-based No Barriers What’s Your Everest? climb on Saturday, June 1, Hassell will be attempting her fifth 14er as she joins a diverse group of climbers — from novice to expert — on an ascent of Front Range classic Grays Peak (14,270 feet).
The climb will raise money for No Barriers, an organization that provides transformative experiences to empower people to embrace a no-limits mindset and discover the potential that lies within themselves and the world.
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