Mexican Climber Becomes First Latina to Conquer World's 'Deadliest' Mountain

Viridiana Álvarez Chávez has climbed the world’s three tallest mountains — and earned her spot in the Guinness Book of World Records.

views from the top of Island Peak
Island Peak, Mount Everest. Photo: Koonyongyut/GETTY

People who begin seriously exercising in their late 20s aren’t typically known for summiting the world’s tallest mountains or setting world records, but Viridiana Álvarez Chávez is proof that epic accomplishments can come from a humble beginning.

Álvarez spent 2017 to 2019 climbing three of the world’s tallest mountains. She completed all three climbs in just under one year and 364 days, earning herself a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records. The previous record was held by Go Mi-Sun, a South Korean climber who completed the feat in two years and two days in 2007.

Álvarez took up mountain climbing about seven years ago, just a couple of years after she began running as a way to get more exercise. Her story is “proof that dreams do not have to be lifelong dreams and that anyone who sets them can achieve even what are considered ‘unattainable goals,’” she said in a statement.

Her journey started with a trek up Pico de Orizaba, Mexico’s highest mountain. She’s since climbed the world’s three tallest mountains — Mount Everest in Nepal, K2 at the border of China and Pakistan, and Kanchenjunga in Nepal. “I ended up giving up my office job; risking comfort to experience the magic of the mountains,” she said.

Álvarez is the first Latina to have conquered K2, considered the deadliest of the world's five highest mountains. Fewer than 400 people have made it to the top of K2 and nearly 90 have died trying. While making her own ascent, Chávez watched another climber fall ahead of her and found herself seemingly frozen in place for several minutes, Chávez told CNN.

Álvarez, who is from Aguascalientes, Mexico, is currently at home waiting out the pandemic. She eventually hopes to become the first North American to climb each of the world’s 14 tallest mountains.

Meena Thiruvengadam is a Travel + Leisure contributor who has visited 50 countries on six continents and 47 U.S. states. She loves historic plaques, wandering new streets, and walking on beaches. Find her on Twitter at @meena_thiru and on Instagram at @meenathiru.

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