Silvia Vásquez-Lavado In 2016, she became the first Peruvian to climb Everest, a milestone for mountaineering in South America, and in 2018 she completed the Seven Summits, the ascent of the highest mountains on each continent. Her book In the Shadow of the Mountain has been translated into a dozen languages, including Spanish, The Embrace of the Mountain (Planet 2023), and will soon be made into a film with Selena Gomez as protagonist. Today the mountaineer lives from the conferences that she offers around the world, she runs her own NGO called Courageous Girls and she is especially known in the United States, where she previously worked as a director of multinationals such as eBay and Paypal. All that shines at the top. But… What was in the chasm?
«My story is a vulnerable story, a very intimate story. “It’s a story of survival,” he confesses to EL MUNDO in a telephone conversation from San Francisco, where he lives, and the story begins.
Vásquez-Lavado suffered sexual abuse from the ages of six to nine by an acquaintance of his family in Lima and in the following decades, although he went to study at Millersville University in Pennsylvania with a Fulbright scholarship, although he achieved success among Silicon Valley companies with positions of responsibility, the trauma of that violence haunted him. Alcoholism threatened his professional career and even his life, with several hospital admissions. Until he stepped on the mountain.
In 2005, at the age of 41 and after his first trip to the foot of the highest mountain in the world, Vásquez-Lavado embarked on a career as a mountaineer that took him to Kilimanjaro, Elbrus, Aconcagua and Vinson before returning to Everest in 2016 and trample its summit. «I did it for myself and with a lot of respect for the mountains. Everest is a relic, we must respect it. At that time I had no intention of telling my story, of explaining myself in public, quite the opposite,” Vásquez-Lavado admits about his writing process.
Suddenly, in 2020, during confinement, he found himself facing the harshest loneliness and, with his stability and sobriety at stake, he put his heart into it: he wrote his biography. «Pity, shame, fear… I experienced very strong emotions in the writing process. I have not seen a mountain higher than that. I had the support of my therapist, but it was still a very painful process. Luckily, afterwards I felt a liberation, a lightness, a reconciliation with myself. Today I see the book as a blessing,” says the mountaineer.