Hilaree O’Neill

Photo by Darin Back

For Hilaree O’Neill, skiing is the gateway to possibility. She started skiing at age 3 at Steven’s Pass in the Cascade Mountains of Washington state. She took a leap of faith shortly after graduating from Colorado College and moved to Chamonix, France. In many ways, her five years in Chamonix served as a second round of college in that this was where she was introduced to the world of big mountain skiing and alpinism. From there, the place for Hilaree was anywhere she could cut turns on mountain slopes: volcanoes in the Kamchatka Peninsula of Russia, in Mongolia, Pakistan, Lebanon, and first descents of the tight couloirs of Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic. Her mountain adventures led Outside Magazine to name Hilaree one of the most adventurous women in the world of sports.

But climbing the largest mountains on the planet haven’t shown as Hilaree’s tallest challenge. When Hilaree’s not on the treks, she’s back in Telluride raising two energetic little boys who will one day indefinitely be on her heels as they summit peaks together. “Expeditions are definitely feats of endurance, and I think parenting is very similar to that,” comments O’Neill.20141014_TELLURIDE_Himay-FINAL2.Still057

Hilaree says she couldn’t do it without the support of the community and the parents who take turns herding the young kids on the mountain. But as she works out at home to keep in shape and tuned for her next mission, she finds some of the best exercises are just keeping up with the kids and holding their squirming bodies as they try and wiggle free to go play more.

She proudly states that becoming a mother of two young boys did not slow her down but, rather, renewed her passion for her career in the mountains.. During those first years of the boy’s life she was able to make regular pilgrimages to the high mountains of Alaska, Pakistan and India.

Then came Everest.

Photo by Darin Back

Hilaree’s enduring presence on the The North Face athlete team led to an invitation to the Everest Education Expedition in 2012. Surrounded by team members she would mentor, and alpinists who would mentor her, she attempted to climb the planet’s tallest mountain during a season beset with storms, and conditions made dangerous by melting glaciers and icy slopes. Reaching the summit of Everest did not satisfy Hilaree. The next day she marched up Lhotse, an 8600 meter peak next to Everest, cramming two 8,000-meter climbs in 24 hours. By becoming the first woman, and only the fourth human ever to climb Everest and Lhotse in a continuous push, Hilaree has entered the record books for high-altitude innovation and prowess.

Most recently, continuing on her quest for adventure, Hilaree just returned from leading an expedition to the northern mountains of Myanmar this fall after receiving an Explorer’s Grant from the National Geographic.

Watch #LuckyEnough with Hilaree O’Neill →

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