Erin Parisi, the Clarence native attempting to become the first transgender person to scale the tallest mountain on every continent, now has conquered four of the "Seven Summits."
On Saturday, Parisi reached the peak of Mount Aconcagua in Argentina, at 22,841 feet the highest point in South America.
Even though it's summer in South America, the weather at high altitude – bitter temperatures and 50 mph winds – made 10 of the 15 climbers in her group decide to turn back.
"It was the hardest thing I've ever done," Parisi said in a statement released by TranSending7, the not-for-profit entity she established to raise funds for her quest.
"I wanted to turn around so badly. I didn't feel strong until the minute I saw the top of the mountain," said Parisi, who has climbed 18 mountains of more than 14,000 feet in Colorado.
Several mountaineers have scaled the "Seven Summits," as mountaineers call the list of the tallest mountains on each of the seven continents, but Parisi, 41, would be the first transgender athlete to do so.
Last year, she climbed the highest mountains in Australia, Africa and Europe.
Allison Smookler of TranSending7 said Parisi started up Aconcagua with her team Jan. 28, but she was among only five who made it to the summit 12 days later.
"The weather was not cooperative, but they had already used up their weather contingency days, so it became now or never," Smookler said.
After completing her descent, Parisi faced an 18-mile hike to the nearest town Monday. After some rest and celebration with her family in Buenos Aires, she is scheduled to return to Denver Friday.
Smookler said Parisi's next target is Mount Denali in Alaska, the tallest peak in North America, in June.
An expedition to Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in Asia and the world, now is tentatively scheduled for May 2020, to be followed by Vinson Massif in Antarctica at some subsequent date. Parisi's original plan was to save Everest for last, but Smookler said that has changed.
She would be the first transgender person to climb Mount Everest.
She was born Aron Parisi in Clarence and played football at Clarence High School, graduating from there in 1995 and the University at Buffalo in 1999.
Parisi moved to Denver in 2001 and began taking female hormones in August 2016, after years of hesitation, she revealed in a Buffalo News interview published in September. Parisi has undergone several surgeries.