Tuesday, July 27, 2021
‘Tough as Nails’ Ex-Marine ‘Summits’ Mount Everest Via Baldy
Delilah Carden sports a wide grin as she trots down Lower River Run for the final time.
Monday, May 31, 2021


Delilah Carden almost bagged it on the sixth lap of 10 laps up and down Bald Mountain. With the 3 a.m. darkness closing in around her, her legs throbbed with pain, her ribs ached—her stomach even hurt.

But her boyfriend Jakub looked her squarely in the eyes. “You’re going to do this!” he said.

With that, the 5-foot, 105-pound ex-Marine found the renewed energy she needed to run four more laps up Sun Valley Resort’s famed ski hill to achieve the equivalent of summiting 29,032-foot Mount Everest.

Eduardo Emmanuel Ballesteros bangs his tambourine, while Jesse James Rice and Marsha Edwards cheer, hoping their cheers carry up Bald Mountain as they learn Delilah Carden has run the equivalent elevation of Mount Everest.

“I feel so accomplished!” the administrative assistant at St. Luke’s Wood River said, recounting her 74.4-mile journey up and down Bald Mountain in 22 hours and 14 minutes. “It was an amazing experience. I cried at the top—I couldn’t believe I’d done it.”

Carden, who served at a Marine base in California for four years, was among cyclists and runners from 12 countries who took part in Ketchum mountain biker Rebecca Rusch’s second annual Giddy Up Challenge.

The challenge: To walk, run or bicycle a quarter, a half or a full Mount Everest, with the money they raised going to six organizations tasked with preserving outdoor spaces, including The Wood River Trails Coalition, POW (Protect Our Winters), the Wood River Land Trust and The Conservation Alliance.

Carden accepted the challenge just a few weeks ago but was able to take advantage of the online coaching Rusch was offering. She also ran up the 3,400-foot Bald Mountain a few times in preparation.

Delilah Carden drinks from a stash of Powerades as she completes her first lap on Bald Mountain Friday evening.

She started her Mount Everest challenge at 3 p.m. Friday with her boyfriend Jakub and Co-worker Marsha Edwards cheering her on.

She followed the route she takes during winter, running straight up Lower River Run, turning onto the first cat track on the left and following that as it coursed to the south, then veered up to Sun Valley’s historic Roundhouse Restaurant. She continued on the Roundhouse Lane cat track to the bottom of College Boulevard, which she followed to the top.

Carden figured her first three laps would take about two hours each but managed to scamper down  Lower River Run 15 minutes ahead of schedule on the first lap.

She drank a swig of lime Powerade from a plastic tub containing five bottles of Powerade, a bottle of Pepsi, two gallons of water, Clif Bloks energy chews and a few other items. Co-worker Betsy Mullin, who just missed her on her first lap, added a couple baggies of watermelon to the tub, which was stashed under the chairlift.

Rebecca Rusch, fresh from having cheered on those biking up Trail Creek Road in the Giddy Up Challenge, rings a Swiss cowbell as she learns Delilah Carden has logged her Mount Everest goal of 29,032 feet.

“I’m so impressed with Delilah,” she said. “She’s an ex-Marine so she’s tough, impressive.”

Near the top of College, Carden had to trudge through a 30-foot swath of snow a half-foot deep in some places and two feet deep in others. She used hiking poles as she set a trail through it the first time but bypassed the poles for the remainder of the laps as they slowed her down.

Jakub set American flags of varying sizes along the course, in part to keep Carden from getting lost.

“I’m pretty patriotic having served with the Marine Corps for four years so I felt the impact of those flags,” she said.

Jakub and Delilah Carden were joined by Luis Alberto Lecanda on the 10 p.m.-to-midnight run. Courtesy photo

Night proved a welcome relief from the sun, even though it meant that the temperature would dip to 31 degrees at the bottom of the mountain by 7 the next morning. Carden donned a jacket and gloves as Luis Alberto Lecanda joined her for one lap via headlamp.

“We started out about 10 p.m. and it was just beautiful,” he said. “There was still a hint of sunshine in the sky and we had a purplish, reddish sunset. We saw a satellite cross the sky. And having the flags posted along the way was very meaningful to me, as I have two military veterans in my family.”

At 3 in the morning, after Carden had been running for 12 hours, Salt Lake City Construction Manager Rick Ballesteros started his quest to summit Everest by running up and down Baldy. In the dark, he got lost on the first ascent but realized he was off course when he didn’t see the flags Jakub had posted.

Ballesteros had learned of the event from his brother and decided it was a great way to spend Memorial Day Weekend.

“This is more than a fun run for me,” said Ballesteros at 12:30 p.m., as he wolfed down a cold burrito and Snickers candy bar. “I’m doing this for a family member who just passed.”

Forty-five minutes later—at 1:14 p.m.—Carden approached the imaginary finish line that marked the summit of Everest. She picked up one of the American flags Jakub had planted and carried it triumphantly, if cautiously, through the snow, which was beginning to get dangerously soft.

“We’re so proud of you! Congratulations!” said Mullins, as she watched the video relayed to a group of 14 friends and co-workers who had gathered at the bottom.

Carden took her time getting down but still arrived at the bottom about 2:15 p.m.—ahead of the 3 to 3:30 p.m. landing she had envisioned. She squatted, then stood up and pulled her knees to her chest.

“I honestly didn’t know if I could finish at one point,” she said. “I told Jakub: Tell me something to help me keep going.”

Yoga Instructor Eduardo Emmanuel Ballesteros said he was inspired by Carden’s effort.

“Anyone who makes it to the top of that mountain has achieved a major accomplishment and she’s doing it 10 times,” he said. “I asked her why she was doing this and she said, ‘It makes me feel alive.’ ” 

Marsha Edwards said she had no doubt Carden would finish what she started: “She’s five feet, if that, and tough as nails.”

Rusch said she started the virtual challenge in 2020 as a way to motivate herself to train during the  COVID pandemic. She capitalized on it as a way to honor military servicemen like her father during Memorial Day Weekend and to raise money for good causes through her Be Good Foundation.

The challenge had raised $78,000 towards her goal of $100,000 by the time Carden crossed her finish line. And it had two days to go.

“I put it together for people to challenge themselves, but I love that it helps the places we love to protect,” said Rusch, who biked a half-Everest up Trail Creek Road and ran a quarter Everest on Bald Mountain.

Carden was just glad she had met her challenge

“I ran a hundred-mile race in McCall and only gained 20,000 feet in elevation over a much longer course. So, it’s really a matter of mind over matter,” she said. “If you don’t mind it doesn’t matter.”

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