We’ve known Alan Arnette since he climbed Cho Oyu with us back in 1998. Since then he has built his website into a leading climbing news source. After his mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in 2003 Alan dedicated his life to raising money to help researchers find a cure. We’re proud to be working with Alan on the climbing project “Memories Are Everything: The Seven Summits For Alzheimer’s”. We hope to help Alan hit his goal of raising $1M by raising awareness for this important cause. Any and all support is appreciated — if you can join us on a climb that’s great, but if you can’t join us please consider donating. We appreciate your support!
Knocking off the Seven Summits in a lifetime is quite the accomplishment but trying to do it in 13 months could be considered crazy in some circles…what’s your motivation and how did you train leading up to your recent climb of Vinson?
The original plan was to climb them over 2 years. But once we started planning the 7 Summits Climb for Alzheimer’s program, the climbing calendar dictated the schedule with the weather windows so that meant Vinson in December, Aconcagua in January, Everest in spring, etc. However, I felt the biggest benefit is that by climbing so frequently we are able to get the message of Alzheimer’s out to millions each month, which is the real objective. Clearly my training has to be very focused with preparation and recovery in order to perform well for each climb. I spent all of 2010 preparing for this by reaching the summits of well over 30 14,000 mountains; many with a 40lb pack. Also, I have worked on overall conditioning with weights, interval training and mental toughness exercises. And I lost a little weight which is important at age 54!
Vinson was fantastic. First a plug for Phil Ershler and Aaron Mainer – they helped make the trip safe, successful and fun. There were so many great memories including the flight on the IL-76 and the summit of course, but I think a standout memory was standing at the top of the fixed ropes the first time and looking over the vast and endless expanse of the Antarctic ice. I was astounded at the endless view of the pure white snow and ice interspersed with the black specs of mountain tops all against an incredibly clear blue sky – it was perfect.
You’re 1 for 1 with your summit of Vinson on Dec. 9th and are heading to Aconcagua on tomorrow, but with two summits of Aconcagua why are you going back for Round 3?
I used to scoff at Aconcagua as a big pile of dusty rocks. Well that is true but after two summits I have grown a bit fond of Aconcagua. The culture of Argentina is special as are those crazy muleteers and wild mules who do a lot of the heavy lifting! The summit view is very nice, actually a pleasant surprise. But adding it to my year-long effort adds to our opportunity to get the message out so it was back in the plan in spite of my two previous summits. Not of great importance but if I make them all, I would be one of under 10 people to summit the 7 (actually 8 since I am also doing Kosciuszko) in under a year.
You’ve been on Everest a few times now, how will your approach be different this year than in years past?
Hey, thanks for reminding me! Yes, this will be my fourth time on Everest. Health, weather and my own judgment has stopped me before so I have spent a lot of time thinking through those experiences and talking to Eric about my approach this time. First, I think my overall fitness is much better than in previous years, second I like the fact that I will be climbing with a very experienced Sherpa team. Also I like the acclimatization approach of using Lobuche to minimize trips through the Icefall plus the wear on my body. Finally I will have enough supplemental O’s to run at 3 or 4 lpm if needed. But most importantly, I just feel different about this time. Maybe it is the cause, maybe it is experience or maybe it is just my time. I will say that I have learned, and gained a lot, from every climb regardless of the result. As always, my climbing goal is to do my best and return home safely.
Of the Seven, which climb are you most looking forward to?
Vision was up there and I was not disappointed. Of course Everest has a special meaning for me. And then there is Kilimanjaro. It has such history and mystic around it that I will celebrate seeing the Tanzania Savannah from the summit.
What’s one piece of gear you won’t climb without?
That is a tough question. Hard to pick one item but maybe my Buff and light gloves are on the A list plus and some kind of warm jacket – but it must have a hood.
Any relaxing plans between your climbs?
A: Our daughter is getting married between Everest and Denali so I am looking forward to that!
We’re proud of all our programs but why did you choose IMG?
I wanted to climb with a company who had experience with a complex plan like mine but also had a track record of safety and professionalism. I was very impressed in my early conversations with Eric and Phil in that they obviously had the experience and infrastructure but also that they understood my primary objective of Alzheimer’s awareness and fundraising.