On March 21 she left for Kathmandu, Nepal, to begin the trek to Everest base camp
BAY VILLAGE -- Kara Stinson sees the world from vistas most of us cannot imagine. She's an international pilot for Delta and life for her is routine at 35,000 feet.
But for the last two years, Kara has been reaching new heights without the cockpit comfort of her Boeing 767.
"I never set out with the ambition of climbing Mount Everest. For me it was always one mountain at a time," Kara says.
She is no stranger to tough challenges.
"My greatest asset is mental strength and endurance, so 10 years ago I got into Ironman Triathlon," she says.
An Ironman is a 2.4-mile swim in open water, 112-mile bike race and 26.2-mile marathon all in one day. Kara has done five on five different continents, no less.
It was in Africa six years ago where the mountain climbing bug bit hard. An adventure race took Kara up Mount Kilimanjaro, which is 19,341 feet high. Since that day she has never looked down.
"I realized right away that my passion was for climbing and for being on a big mountain for an extended period of time, I just fell in love with it," Kara says.
The seven summits are the highest mountain on each of the seven continents. Summiting all is regarded as a mountaineering feat. By 2012, Kara conquered Mount Elbrus in Russia (18,510 feet) and Aconcagua in Argentina (22,838 feet). Last year she added three more. Carstensz Pyramid in New Guinea (16,024 feet), Denali in Alaska (20,322 feet) and Mt. Vinson in Antarctica (16,050 feet). Denali brought Kara the toughest challenge and the greatest realization.
Kara describes the mountains she's climbed:
An adventure race took Kara up Mount Kilimanjaro, which is 19,341 feet high. Since that day she has never looked down.
"Up to 14,000 feet you're carrying an extremely heavy backpack -- 60-70 pounds -- in addition to pulling another 50-60 pounds on a sled. So it was after Denali for me where I thought Everest is a possibility," Kara says.
On March 21 she left for Kathmandu, Nepal, to begin the trek to Everest base camp, (17,598 feet). For the month of April she's been training and acclimating to the altitude and getting prepared for the ascent in May. Climbing season on Everest usually takes place during two weeks in May when the weather is usually agreeable.
But on Friday April 18, just hours after Kara and her team climbed halfway through the Khumbu Icefall that leads to Camp 1 on the mountain, disaster struck.
Sherpas, known as "ice doctors," were carrying gear for climbers up to the higher elevated camps when an avalanche swept sixteen away and seriously injured three others.
No climber can make the ascent without the help of the expert Sherpas, the indigenous people who live on Everest and are known for their expert mountaineering skills.
The overwhelming grief among the tight-knit Sherpa community and the fact that the original route is now blocked by the avalanche forced Kara's team and others to abandon their trek to the top of the world.
"The personal disappointment will be hard to deal with -- but pales in comparison to what the families of those 16 Sherpas are going through right now," Kara says.
Looking back on our conversation in March, we were struck by something Kara said as she looked forward to her climb.
"For me the summit is really the ultimate goal but it's not the reason I'm there. I'm there for the journey, and every mountain has something to teach me," she says.
The lesson from this year's tragedy may be that even those who know Everest best and have lived for generations in its shadow can sometimes fall victim to the unpredictable power of the world's highest peak.
Kara shows us the gear she needs to attempt a climb:
"My greatest asset is mental strength and endurance," she says.