Mountaineer Erin Parisi has planted the pride flag on the summit of five of the world’s highest mountains. Only two more peaks, Denali and Everest, and Parisi will be the first known trans woman to climb all Seven Summits. It’s a massive achievement—and as James Shackell discovers, it’s changed her perspective on life.

In December 2021, just before New Year’s Eve and shortly after her 45th birthday, Erin Parisi was standing in a place that only about 2,000 humans have ever been before: the summit of Mount Vinson in Antarctica. Ambient temperature: -52 degrees Fahrenheit (-46 degrees Celsius). Altitude: 16,050 feet (4,891 meters). Its summit juts out from sea level—making it the eighth most prominent peak in the world; a lonely, wind-blasted massif on the western edge of a frozen continent.

When Parisi reached the summit, she waved the trans pride flag, danced around and screamed into the gale, “I got it! I got it!” It had taken four days of trekking to reach the peak, plus weeks of navigating quarantine hurdles and years of patient fundraising. High-altitude mountaineering is not a cheap hobby.

“At the time I committed to climbing the Seven Summits, I was afraid to go to the grocery store, and here I was standing on the tallest point of Antarctica,” says Parisi. “Let me tell you, there’s nothing easy about getting to Antarctica.”