Alan Arnette Interview taken in 2012
Alan Arnette is a mountaineer from USA who has climbed the Seven Summits with the aim to raise awareness and research money for Alzheimer’s disease.
You reached the summit of Mount Everest in May 2011 after three failed attempts due to health, weather and judgement. How much of a relief was that to you?
Reaching the summit was a moment of great pride and emotion for me Colin. Perhaps I appreciated it slightly more given my previous attempts, which I viewed as lessons, not failures 🙂 I applied everything I had learned on those attempts from health to technique to mental toughness. Also, this climb was the best overall experience I have had climbing so the summit was a fantastic bonus. But as you know, it was more than a climb with my primary purpose being able to send a message of hope, need and urgency around Alzheimer’s from the top of the world.
You phoned your wife Cathy whilst on the summit, was that very emotional for you?
Beyond words! My wife has been my confidant, coach and supporter of my climbing for almost 20 years so to share this summit with her was very meaningful. She laughingly says she may be the only spouse in the world to have received a call from mountains on every continent!
Did you take your oxygen mask off while on the summit? If so, did it have any effect on you?
I took my oxygen mask off to make my phone calls, probably 10 minutes in total. Also as I walked around taking in the view, I had it off. I never really noticed a huge difference but I was not moving that much. It was the strong wind and cold that bothered me more!
Has there been anytime while climbing on Mount Everest that you had feared for your life?
Only from lower GI problems! Seriously, never from actually climbing even though it was stressful at Camp 3 on the Lhotse Face last year as hurricane winds piled snow up around our tents and shred others. I have made it a practice to be very, very careful climbing through the Icefall, on the Lhotse Face and, this past time, on the slabs below the South Summit. I was keenly aware of foot placement, staying clipped in and listening for avalanches. That said, accidents happen in spite of best efforts and I am thankful I have never been seriously injured with over 30 major climbs around the world.
You took 11 hours from the South Col – Summit – South Col, which is a very good time. Did you have times set in your mind for different places or were you not really aware of time and just kept your head down and plodded on?
Great question! Yes, on my previous attempts, it took me 6 hours to reach the Balcony so that was my mental benchmark. So when I made it in 3:40, I was astonished. I checked my time again at the South Summit and when I saw it was about 2:30 hours, my confidence soared. It was still dark and unbelievably I started to worry we would summit before sunrise. But seeing the true summit from the South Summit gave me an adrenaline rush that lasted … well it is still there today! I also want to credit Kami, my IMG Sherpa, for setting a great pace and being with me the entire time.
You have climbed on Mount Everest in 2002, 2003, 2008 and 2011. During this time have you seen any change in the environment on and around Everest?
Honestly, not really. There is always talk of trash and receding glaciers but from my untrained eyes, I have not noticed it. The South Col was always rocky and strewn with oxygen bottles so there may be less today after some of the clean-up efforts. There are still shredded tents at Camp 3 on the Lhotse Face that were there in 2002. As for glaciers, in my four times, I have seen a variety of snow years so it tends to mask what is really happening, again to the untrained eye.
Your website is very popular, more so during the Everest climbing season through the excellent dispatches that you give. Why do you think there is a great interest in following those climbing Mount Everest?
Thanks! Yes, my site is my way of giving back to the climbing community and a way to get my Alzheimer’s message out. I try to cover Everest the way I wanted to see it before I started climbing, you know stories of regular people, not the elite athletes, doing what they love. Everest still remains a dream for many and a reality for few. Following climbers on Everest is a distraction from normal life for a few weeks each year and encourages some people to follow their dreams.
Can you let us know why climbing and raising awareness of Alzheimer’s means so much to you and how can people donate to Alzheimer’s research?
I took early retirement from 30 years with Hewlett-Packard to oversee the care of my mom, Ida, as she went through the last three years of Alzheimer’s disease. As I saw my mother struggle with Alzheimer’s, I felt helpless. I knew I had to do something to raise awareness and funds. With such a big problem, it needed a big project to get attention, thus, a huge goal of climbing the highest point one each continent in under a year, including Everest. My goal was to reach millions of people worldwide with a message of hope, need and urgency about Alzheimer’s. Hope that progress was being made for early detection, improved treatments and, of course, a cure. Need that Alzheimer’s destroys finances and family caregivers’ lives, who are the silent victims with their sacrifices. All this and in addition it takes the lives of individuals, and there is no cure. Urgency that AD is increasing very quickly.
In the US, one person developed Alzheimer’s every 70 seconds a year ago and now it is every 69 seconds. More than 450,000 people were diagnosed with the disease during the 11 months I climbed the 7 Summits. Until we have a cure, a better treatment, earlier diagnosis and family caregiver support, funding will be a critical need.
Any size of a donation is always welcome and sincerely appreciated. Visit my site at www.alanarnette.com and click on the donate button. You can select from our three campaign supporters and donate directly through their websites. Remember, 100% of donations go to Alzheimer’s and none ever to me.
I will be climbing Ben Nevis in early March, 2012 via the Tower Ridge to continue my Alzheimer’s efforts and encourage people to make a donation to the UK’s Alzheierm’s Society.
Where do you think the body of Andrew Irvine lies?
Wow, no idea. It seems logical that he and Mallory were in close proximity as they neared nightfall either before or after their summit, if they did. How’s that for covering my bases? If they were roped together, it would suggest he is on a fall line below one of the Steps, maybe near where Mallory was found. But exhaustive search efforts have never found him in that area. On one hand I hope they find him, and the camera, one day but on the other, some mysteries are better left unsolved!
Do you think that George Mallory and Andrew Irvine climbed the Second Step?
Yes. I think they were so driven that they made it over this obstacle; beyond that we will never know for sure.
If you would like to find out more about Alan Arnette then head over the his website at www.alanarnette.com