Miller puts in (and up) more than two cents for Everest’s 50th |

Miller puts in (and up) more than two cents for Everest’s 50th

BRECKENRIDGE – Ellen Miller is the only American woman to have summited Mount Everest from both the north and south sides, and she just moved to Breckenridge last week upon returning from Nepal yet again. Having summited from Everest’s north side May 23, 2001, and from the south side less than a year later, Miller led expeditions to the base of Everest this spring, as well as trips up other Himalayan peaks.

A Vail resident of 10 years, she left for Nepal in March shortly after winning the Sportswomen of Colorado mountaineer of the year award. She has competed for Team Vail in two Eco-Challenges and has been a long-standing competitor in Nordic, snowshoe, running, mountain biking and adventure racing, including events in Summit County.

Although hundreds of people from around the world attempted to summit the 29,035-foot peak during the past few weeks to mark the 50th anniversary of Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s first-ever Everest conquest in 1953, Miller was not a part of the celebrations.

According to the Associated Press, the Nepalese government permitted 22 expeditions teams of about 12 members to climb Everest between March and the end of May, but Miller was not sorry she was not among them this year.

“I thought there were way too many people on the mountain,” she said. “From my friends who work as guides on Everest, their perspective was that there were a lot of inexperienced people on Everest this year. I’m glad I wasn’t up there. This year was a rough year on Everest weatherwise. It was very windy and very cold. Some of the people that did succeed in going to the summit came down with very severe frostbite. There’s definitely going to be some fingers and toes lost this year. I was happy to be doing what I was doing. It’s a beautiful part of the world. One of the biggest treats for me is when I take trekkers there. Every day it gets more beautiful and more real. You see these people, they look at the mountains, and their faces light up. They’re like, “this is so incredible.’ I love turning people onto that.”

Miller, 44, also likes to hear the stories of other women who have summited Everest. The only other women in the world to have reached the top from both the north and south sides include Sherpanis Miss Lapka and Pemba Doma and Cathy O’Dowd of South Africa. Miller is collecting stories of all the women who have summited since Junko Tabei became the first woman to summit with Hillary in 1975. Of the nearly 1,300 individuals who have accomplished the task since 1953, Miller figures only about 85 are women. Next year, she will publish a book about them.

“When I climbed the north side in 2001, I became interested in other women who have climbed Everest,” she said. “When I started researching, I discovered that most of the women had climbed via the south-side route, so I thought, well, I better go look at the south side so I know what these women are talking about. There were 75 up to this year, and I’m guessing there were eight to 10 that summited this year. I’m fascinated. Of all these hundreds of books on the market about Everest, there’s not one that focuses on the women’s efforts. I’m also very attracted and connected to the Sherpa culture. I’m fascinated with the spirituality that surrounds the mountain. It’s cool because I’ve gotten to climb with both of the Sherpanis. They’re interesting women, quite famous in Nepal and very heavily honored. Of all the people I’ve talked to so far for my book, they’re all psyched. They’re excited to have their own book with their own projects and efforts honored.”

During her recent trip to Nepal, Miller married Breckenridge resident and international mountaineering guide Bill Crouse in a Sherpa-style wedding.

Of her own trips up Everest, Miller says her summit bids might not end at two successes.

“Climbing Everest isn’t easy,” she said. “It’s really hard, particularly on the summit days. You have to be really focused and committed to training, and you have to have experience. At 26,000 feet and above, it’s a huge mental challenge as well as a physical challenge. Two and a half months is a long expedition. Not a lot of women are interested in climbing Everest twice. They’ll move on to climb other mountains. I went back because I had a specific goal. If an opportunity arose, I’d go back again. For some of us in our lives, we’re kind of destined to be athletes. It’s always good to accomplish something that you’ve had your eye on for a long time. There’s a lot of satisfaction and mainly gratitude that I was able to climb Everest and get down safely. I was lucky to do it twice.”

Shauna Farnell can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 236, or at

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