By Kathy Walsh

DENVER (CBS4) – A climber from Steamboat Springs has joined an elite group of mountaineers who have conquered the Seven Summits. Over seven years, 33-year-old Kim Hess made it to the top of the highest peaks on all seven continents.

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Kim Hess (credit: http://www.kimhessclimbs.com)

It is a feat accomplished by fewer than 500 people. But Hess’ struggle to get there was a unique uphill battle. She realized her dream only after working through a nightmare.

Hess had a bad accident on mountain number four.  She credits a hand surgeon at the University of Colorado Hospital with helping her recover and conquer.

“It was a bet with my brother,” Hess explained.

That’s how the challenge started. In 2011, Hess and her brother, Steven, tackled Aconcagua, the tallest peak in South America.  In 2012, the pair climbed Mt. Elbrus in Europe and then Kilimanjaro in Africa. But Denali in Alaska got off to a rocky start.

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Mount Aconcagua (credit: http://www.kimhessclimbs.com)

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Mount Elbrus (credit: http://www.kimhessclimbs.com)

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Mount Kilimanjaro (credit: http://www.kimhessclimbs.com)

“I broke my foot at a wedding here in Denver,” Hess told CBS 4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh.

Hess climbed to the top anyway. But on the way down, she fell when snow and ice broke away.

“My arm got caught in a rope and it just snapped,” Hess said, “My hand was facing the wrong direction. There’s just something unnatural about seeing your arm torqued the wrong way.”

Back home with three broken bones, Hess wound up at the University of Colorado Hospital with hand surgeon Dr. Michael Gordon.

“When I met him I said I need you to make my hand perfect because I’ve got some things planned. And he just looked at me and shook his head and smiled and said, ‘It’s a good thing I’m a perfectionist.’ And I said, ‘Rock and roll,'” said Hess.

It took two and a half years and six surgeries, but Hess was climbing again. In 2016, she and her brother summitted Everest. In 2017, they climbed Mt. Vinson in Antarctica.  And finally, on March 11, 2018, the pair conquered number seven, Mt. Kosciusko in Australia.

“I guess that’s a pretty big deal.” she said.

A pretty big deal made possible with the help of a doctor who accomplished the business at hand.

“Without Dr. Gordon, there’s no way I would have ever gotten back,” said Hess.

Now, the mountaineer is considering pursuing the Explorers Grand Slam.  In addition to climbing the Seven Summits, the challenge is a traverse to the north and south poles.

Hess is featured in a new series of advertisements for UCHealth, giving her a platform to thank those who’ve helped her and spread the word that anyone can do anything they set their mind to.

LINK: UCHealth Stories

Kathy Walsh is CBS4’s Weekend Anchor and Health Specialist. She has been with CBS4 since 1984. She is always open to story ideas. Follow Kathy on Twitter @WalshCBS4.

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