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'It's never too late': Colorado mom, 53, summits Mount Everest in pursuit of 'Seven Summits'

"If you're feeling a call for something, I think there's a reason," Riki Jones said.
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Posted at 12:09 PM, Jun 11, 2024

Five years ago, Riki Jones heard the call of the mountains.

“If you’re feeling a call for something," Jones said, "I think there’s a reason.”

The reason for Jones, a Colorado native, was to defy odds and push boundaries.

“You’re never too old, it’s never too late," Jones said. "I’m an example of that. I’m 53 years old.”

She became obsessed with mountaineering, setting out to climb the "Seven Summits" — the highest peaks on each continent.

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She started by conquering Denali (formerly Mount McKinley), Aconcagua in Argentina, and Mount Kilimanjaro. Vinson Massif in Antarctica and either Mount Wilhelm in Papua New Guinea or Mount Kosciuszko in Australia remain on the list, while Mount Elbrus in Russia is currently unavailable.

Then, she set her sights on the top of the world.

“We had to jump over some really big crevasses and traverse really narrow spots that just fell down,” Jones remembered from her journey 29,000 feet up Mount Everest.

But she couldn't reach the summit alone.

“I enjoyed the cultural aspect of it," Jones said. "Meeting all the kind locals and staying at the different tea houses.”

During the ascent, fear found no foothold in her mind.

“If I allowed myself to get in my head or have fear about it then I’d actually probably be in more danger," Jones said. "Because you’re not trusting yourself, you’re not listening to your intuition at that point. Maybe your hands are going to feel shaky. That’s not going to help in any way.”

On May 21, she said she touched the heavens. Reaching the top of Mount Everest was a moment of bliss created by a combination of physical and spiritual ecstasy, according to Jones.

“Summit day was gorgeous. It was actually warm," Jones said. “I was absolutely surprised and amazed, and it felt like this amazing gift. As far as I looked, I could see out over China and Tibet. I could see over Nepal. When you’re actually there, it’s hard to believe how incredible it is and how powerful it is. And then I came back to camp and I actually slept at that point because I had been going for 31 hours straight without any sleep.”

As a mom of two, one of whom graduated from college while Jones was reaching Everest's peak, running on little sleep isn't exactly new.

So what did her kids say about her climbing the Earth's tallest mountain?

“The honest truth is [they didn't say] much," Jones said with a grin. "Maybe they’ve gotten too used to me doing mountains. They just sort of seem like, 'All right, whatever, mom, be safe.'"

After this once-in-a-lifetime experience, the sky no longer seems like any sort of limit for Jones.

“It’s just added so much to my life," she said. "I love being in this stage of life where I’m still excited about new things. I’m setting new goals, big goals for myself, and achieving them. And that feels great.”

Colorado mom climbs Mount Everest, chasing "Seven Summits"

This story was originally published by Nick Rothschild at Scripps News Denver.