Buchanan found Denali her most challenging and rewarding climb of the Seven Summits because climbers are on their own.
“You are unsupported on that mountain,” she said. “There are no porters, no Sherpas. You must put in the work. You’ve got a 50- to 60-pound pack on your back and then pulling an equally heavy sled behind you. Denali doesn’t care if you’re a man or a woman, if you weigh 120 pounds or 220, what your net worth is or how many social media followers you have.
“You are treated the same, and she will either show you grace or chew you up,” Buchanan said. “Denali makes you face yourself; it’s so rewarding to achieve that climb. ”
Summiting Everest, though, tops her list of climbs. Taking six to eight weeks to climb, acclimatize and summit, Everest takes tremendous emotional and mental resilience to endure. More than 300 climbers have died trying to reach the top.
She said that Everest, with its frigid and low-oxygen atmosphere, “eats you away.”
“Of course, there’s the physical strain, the dedication, but it’s also the mental and emotional strength that get you to summit or even get you through the training to get there,” Buchanan said. “You have to be comfortable with suffering. You have to get your [butt] kicked and get right back up the next day. You have to get yourself out of situations, and you need to be able to deal with it with positivity and integrity.”
After summiting Everest, she knew that her last Seven Summit climb in Australia would be a cakewalk. She was going from the tallest summit to the shortest, the hardest climb to easiest.
“You don't have to be a rocket scientist to climb Mount Everest,” Buchanan said. “But it helps to have rocket fuel for blood and a lot of grit to reach the summit.”
Coincidentally, Buchanan’s personal mantra is GGRIT, which stands for Gratitude, Growth, Resilience, Integrity and Tenacity.
She said, “I own those attributes – that’s why I'm doing this, because I can. Because I can push through anything.”
So what’s next for Buchanan after the Explorer’s Grand Slam?
“Maybe the seven beaches of the world,” Buchanan said, laughing. “Seriously, though, I have been thinking a lot about K2. While it is the second highest mountain in the world, it’s the most challenging and most dangerous.”
Then added, she is writing an inspirational, self-help book based on the GGRIT principles, which have helped her overcome obstacles throughout her life and share her life experiences with audiences.
“The thought of doing Everest probably 10 years ago – gosh, no,” she said. “I would never do that, but then I was like, ‘No. You know what? I got that fire in my belly. I can do this.’ And that is so much of what I want to share with other people.
“It’s like, ‘What is your Everest?’ It doesn’t have to be the actual Mount Everest. It could be someone with disabilities getting through high school, getting that college education, just believing in himself or herself enough to do it – and that's a goal right there, just believing in yourself,” Buchanan said. “That’s so hard, especially for people who suffer from disabilities. When you’re told every day that you can't, and when you finally have that belief in yourself, what a freeing, amazing feeling that is. I literally feel limitless.”