Taking on the Explorers Grand Slam

Conifer’s Lara Daniel’s goal is to summit seven mountains plus go to both poles

Olivia Jewell Love
olove@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 11/9/21

Lara Daniel has her eyes set on the Explorers Grand Slam. The Conifer resident, who took up mountaineering in 2015, has an arduous task of taking on what are known as the Seven Summits — Everest, …

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Taking on the Explorers Grand Slam

Conifer’s Lara Daniel’s goal is to summit seven mountains plus go to both poles

Posted

Lara Daniel has her eyes set on the Explorers Grand Slam.

The Conifer resident, who took up mountaineering in 2015, has an arduous task of taking on what are known as the Seven Summits — Everest, Aconcagua, Denali, Kilimanjaro, Elbrus, Vinson and Puncak Jaya. Add to that trips to both the North Pole and South Pole, and if she succeeds at all of those quests, Lara says she will be one of 75 people, including just 15 women, to achieve the Explorers Grand Slam.

So far, she has summited Mount Elbrus, Kilimanjaro, Puncak Jaya and Aconcagua.

“I’ve attempted Denali twice,” she said. “I’ve been shut down twice.”

Lara, 48, is focused on Mount Everest in 2022, with Denali, Mount Vinson and skiing to the South Pole in 2023-24, and finishing off the Grand Slam with skiing to the North Pole in 2024-25.

Mountaineering differs from hiking in that it involves more technical skill. It usually involves tough terrain including snow, ice and glaciers.

As for her Mount Everest climb in March, Lara is well into her training. She says training has a physical component, a skills component and a thinking component. 

Aside from being physically fit and making sure she is comfortable operating her gear, Lara says she needs to think through how she might react to scenarios that could happen on her trip.

So far, her husband, Steve, has joined her on her climbs, though Mount Everest will be the first without him. He said someone needs to take care of their five Alaskan malamutes during the two months the expedition will take.

Early days

Growing up with her dad in the military, Lara lived many places including Denver and Colorado Springs, plus Berlin, Germany. However, she gravitated back to Colorado after graduating from Texas Tech. 

“I literally moved back to Colorado the day after college graduation,” she said. “I’ve always enjoyed the outdoors.”

Her first mountaineering trip was with Steve to the Cascades in Washington, and after that, she was hooked.

Steve says mountaineering has made their relationship exciting.

“It definitely creates experiences we are able to do together that are very unique,” he said.

Lessons learned

One of the most important things Lara says she has learned about mountaineering has been dealing with the uncomfortable, especially since weather can be one of the biggest roadblocks to the sport.

“It takes a commitment,” she said. “It takes training, it takes a specific want, a specific desire. It takes being OK with being uncomfortable.”

For Lara, keeping herself grounded and putting her well-being before any goal keeps her safe and enjoying her adventures. 

“I don’t ever go into a climb expecting a summit,” she said. “The summit is a bonus.”

Steve says this mindset has kept the activity enjoyable for them.

“Because you’re not so hell-bent on achieving a specific goal, you free yourself up to enjoy the process,” he explained.

Philanthropy is another big part of Lara’s life, and Steve said one of Lara’s greatest qualities is tying her goals to the greater good. She has been involved in many organizations globally and in Colorado.

For her Everest climb, Lara is linking up with the Denver Pet Project to raise money for the organization and to let people follow her journey. 

“She has a really unique ability to not only pursue her individual goals,” Steve said, “but to combine that with something that is helpful for others.”

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