Born and raised in Lima, Peru as a child she endured a period of sexual violence that would haunt her for much of her adult life. Nearly 30 years later, while attending a meditation retreat in Peru, she had a vision of reconnecting to her inner child and the two of them walking in a valley surrounded by mountains. This propelled her to journey through the Himalayas and reach the base of Mount Everest. It was a revelation –“The shadow of the mountain was the only thing big enough to swallow my shadow.” Silvia developed a sense of resilience, strength, compassion – and finally rediscovered her courage.
Another epiphany came in 2013, when, after losing her mother to cancer and undergoing a divorce, she summited Aconcagua and realized that she had to help others. “I had this voice again that said, ‘You have to continue.” So she founded Courageous Girls, a non-profit group dedicated to helping victims of sexual violence find their own sense of peace and closure through trekking. She decided to turn survivors into empowered people by helping them find that inner strength within themselves, knowing from her own experience how difficult that can be when wrestling with shame.
In 2016, she climbed Everest, and two years later completed all the Seven Summits, becoming the first openly gay woman to do so. Being sandwiched between the Himalayas on either side felt like being held by the mountains. Nothing ever made her feel so safe and so terrified at the same time. The experience was one of sublime vulnerability and mutual compassion between her and the mountains.
Now, Silvia is a humanitarian and compassionate social entrepreneur driven to rouse vulnerable populations by providing alternative solutions & methods for empowerment, education and advancement. Her book, In The Shadow of the Mountain, is her remarkable story of heroism and community, one which awakens in all of us a lust for adventure, gratitude for the strong women in our lives, and faith in our own resilience.Download Bio
In the Shadow of the MountainA Memoir of Courage
Henry Holt and Co.
Endless ice. Thin air. The threat of dropping into nothingness thousands of feet below. This is the climb Silvia Vasquez-Lavado braves in her page-turning, pulse-raising memoir following her journey to Mount Everest.
Elle celebrates Silvia Vasquez-Lavado as a Latinx woman changing the world.
Learn more about Silvia Vazquez-Lavado’s role in LGBTQ+ policy and activism, as listed in Out.
Silvia Vazquez-Lavado is listed in In Style’s “Badass 50”, which highlights change makers who will make us optimistic for brighter days to come.
“Silvia Vasquez-Lavado is a woman possessed of uncommon strength, rare compassion, and a ferocious stubbornness to not allow the trauma of her childhood to destroy her life. In climbing the Seven Summits, she did nothing less than take back her own life—one brave step at a time. She will inspire untold numbers of souls with this story, for her victory is a win on behalf of all of us.”—Elizabeth Gilbert
"Vasquez-Lavado understands that 'we do not conquer Everest, just like we do not conquer trauma. Instead, we must yield ourselves to the chasms and unexpected avalanches.' And herein lies the wisdom of this work, aptly subtitled 'A Memoir of Courage': In a world that demands us to harden, to tell stories of strength and triumph, the bravest act can be embracing our inner child, our fears, our truths."--Qian Julie Wang, author of New York Times bestseller Beautiful Country