i hope you had a great week?
yesterday, 25th september was just another busy day for me, until i had a message from glenn johnson, a climbing friend of mine from australia, who reminded me that 365 ago, he and i, along with all of the other members of the himex manaslu 2013 trip, successfully summited this 8156m giant of a mountain.
this was my first trip to the himalaya, and was where i met russell brice and all of his amazing guides and sherpas, where i met my friend and head guide bruce hasler, and where i was to briefly meet alan arnette, the legendary climber, with the most informative website about everest and the worlds other big mountains, there is anywhere. http://www.alanarnette.com/index.php
alan and i summited within hours of each other, and since our climb we have kept in touch, mainly with me bugging him for info and tips on how to climb everest, and he has always been extremely forthcoming with help, and his training tips and advice on mental prep were a significant part of my programme that saw me in the best shape of my life as i entered everest base camp this year.
alan told me of his planned trip to attempt to climb k2, and asked me not to tell anybody as he hadn't announced it, and when on my everest trip and the conversation turned to alan's fabled website, i longed to tell my fellow climbers of his latest expedition to attempt the savage mountain, as she is known, but alan's trust in my ability to keep a secret was well placed, and i muttered not a jot.
i watched with the climbing world as alan attempted k2, and felt a happiness when the man i had probably only exchanged a hundred words with that weren't typed, returned safely.
did he make it to the top, well that is for alan to tell you himself, and luckily for you dear reader, he has agreed to tell his story, and answer some questions about his amazing life here on my blog, so without further ado, i welcome alan arnette, firstly to my weekly blog, and, i am very proud to say, to team moose.
hello alan, can you tell me when you first started climbing?
I was a late bloomer in climbing as I started at age 38. Early on, I focused on my career and family so did no climbing. I took a job with HP in 2005 living in Europe, Amsterdam and Geneva, and started climbing with my first big peak being Mont Blanc.
I loved the entire experience. The next year I took a trek to Everest Base Camp where I saw Everest, Cho Oyu and Ama Dablam and was totally hooked. I set my sites on climbing the big mountains and have now completed at least one major expedition each year over the past 20, now 36 in all.
what was the first time you climbed wearing crampons, and describe how it felt?
It was on my first snow climb in the French Alps. I bought some inexpensive strap-on crampons in Chamonix and had no idea how to use them. I had hired a French guide who, in disgust, helped me get them on my leather boots. I really had no clue!
Today, when I clip my Black Diamond Cyborgs onto my climbing boots, there is a deep sense of satisfaction and comfort as I hear that click then the crush of snow under my boots. It is very affirming about the sport I love.
when did you first think about climbing everest, and when you made the decision to climb her, and how long did you prepare for your trip?
I remember the moment clearly. In the Autumn of 2000, I had summited Ama Dablam and was descending with David Hiddleston of New Zealand. He looked at me and said with his strong Kiwi accent, “Well, I guess Everest is next for you, mate.”
I had reached the summit plateau at 8000m on Cho Oyu in 1998 and now had Ama Dablam; so being ambitious and hooked on climbing, I seriously considered Everest.
I started to research the climb and honestly was disappointed with the information I found, mostly marketing fluff. And many of the books seemed to glorify the climbers - this was the impetus for starting my website, alanarnette.com, to chronicle my own experiences - both good and bad.
describe your first attempt at climbing everest?
It was difficult. I had a full time job that required extensive international travel so my training was horribly inadequate. I was on a good team led by Hiddleston and Adventure Consultants but really had no idea what I was doing.
That said, I reached 8200 meters just below the Balcony so I actually did pretty well. But I reached a point where complete fatigue overtook me and I found myself throwing up while on my hands and knees.
I was with a young Sherpa who spoke little English. The rest of the team had long since left me behind. It was that moment that solidified the notion of personal responsibility and self sufficiency as I made the decision to turn back.
tell me how you felt when you got back from that first attempt?
I was OK with it overall knowing I had done my best with what my body and mind would offer. But it nagged me that I had not made the summit.
how did you cope with two other attempts without achieving your goal, and how did you change your approach?
Everest is a tough climb with the altitude. I began to understand that I needed to be in “Everest Shape” not the best shape of my life. I also began to internalize that I needed much more mental toughness if I wanted to summit 8000 meter mountains.
I returned in 2003 and 2008 for more difficult experiences. Apparently I had not learned as much as I needed! On all three of my attempts, I hit a mental wall. I changed my training and support strategy knowing this but each time something happened mentally, physically or with conditions that caused me to focus on why I couldn’t summit.
I talk about this in my professional speaking that there are a 1,000 reasons to stop and only one to keep going. I focused on the 1,000, not the one.
when you summited in 2011 describe your feelings?
It was extremely emotional. I collapsed in tears. I had changed everything I was doing with respect to high altitude climbing. I got more experience on smaller climbs, changed my approach to training, nutrition, hydration and support strategy. I climbed with Kami Sherpa and IMG, no western guide. Kami was perfect for me with his personality and style. We reached the Balcony in 3 hours versus the 7 it took me in previous attempts. I stood on the summit as the sun rose over Tibet at 5:30am, tired but satisfied.
But the real success was that I was able to send a message of hope, need and urgency around finding a cure for Alzheimer’s and better support for caregivers. We reached over 30 million people during the 7 Summits and 5 million on K2.
what year did your mom ida first show signs of alzheimer's, and how did you first notice?
It was around 2003 that we began to notice my mom’s memory was slipping. Also she began to have behavioral changes in dressing, appearance and social contact. We new something was wrong.
Then in 2006, as my dad was in critical health I was discussing this over breakfast with my mom. She looked at me and then asked a question that changed my life forever “Now, who are you again?” It was that moment I knew my mom was not just getting older but she was sick.
As I gained a better understanding of Alzheimer's, I was shocked that there was no cure, nothing to slow the disease. All we could do was to keep her safe, and loved in her final years.
did you start your association with the alzheimer groups on your website early in your climbing career, and did you have a plan with goals, or have things grown organically?
As I was gong through the final years overseeing the care of my mom, I felt a strong call to make a difference in the world of Alzheimer’s. My website now had over 1 million loyal followers, plus my passion for mountain climbing was growing. I had taken early retirement from 30 years with Hewlett-Packard to take care of my mom. Once she passed I decided to redefine my life’s purpose into advocacy work for Alzheimer's.
I work with several non-profits but focus on those where all donations are used 100% to find a cure. I never touch any donation, that is a non-negotiable line for me. When I ask people to make donations, I want all of their money to go to Alzheimer's. I either self-fund my climb or work with sponsors.
we met on manaslu, and you are an inspiration for me as you push the envelope, and watching you climb K2 this season has been another amazing feat which i admire tremendously, can you tell please our readers some statistics about K2 to give them some perspective?
K2 has the second highest summit to death ratio with about 312 summits and 83 deaths or 26% through 2013. Only Annapurna is higher at 32%. In comparison, Everest has over 7,000 summits and a death ratio of 4%.
can you tell us how you felt mentally on your k2 trip, as the statistics you just mentioned are daunting to say the least?
I fully understood what I was getting myself into. I was not so much worried about my ability to climb K2, even though I absolutely knew it would be the most challenging climb of my life. It was the factors outside of my control that bothered me: weather, route, politics. Many professional and highly skilled climbers had died on K2, so it was a real factor that I too could die on the Savage Mountain.
as we live in times where doing ‘firsts’ on mountains becomes more difficult, and as a fellow fundraiser, i know that getting support from companies can be quite difficult, how do you keep reinventing yourself, and do you have a plan for the next few years?
Great question. Today I combine my passion (climbing) with my purpose (Alzheimer's) and am very clear with my motivation. Working with companies, and non-profits, is really a business. They are there to accomplish their objectives as I am to meet mine. I have been fortunate to find companies that share this intersection of purpose and objectives to make progress in raising money for Alzheimer’s. My plan is to keep my focus on who I am and to do my best to make a measurable difference.
are you superstitious?
Not really. That said, I accept any and all suggestions to keep me safe on the mountains. I embrace the Puja ceremony to ask the Mountain Gods’ permission to climb the mountain and humbly and gratefully thank everyone who sends me good thoughts during a climb whether through candles, chants or prayers.
can you describe your top three favourite moments from your whole climbing career?
Summiting Everest has to be in the group given I tried three times with no summit. I feel like Ama Dablam was a milestone given the technical nature of that Hill. And, now I would have to put K2 into the mix - it was beyond amazing.
what are you most proud of alan arnette doing.
I’m very proud of my step-daughter and I hope I had an impact on how she turned out - a wonderful person by the way. Also, honoring my mom and two aunts and the millions around the world with my climbs for Alzheimer's.
I am deeply touched when I receive an email telling me my work had made a difference for them and gave them hope one day we will have a cure.
what advice would you give someone who reads this interview, and is inspired by you, but doesn’t know where to start to try mountaineering.
Get out there! If you don’t go, you won’t know. Mountaineering is a sport of steps - literally and figuratively. To climb mountains like Everest or K2, you need experience, and skills. The only way to get that is to climb. So start within your ability, find friends to share the experience with and enjoy the journey.
apart from donating, how can my readers help alan arnette achieve his dreams?
Live your life to the fullest. Share your experiences generously. Find your passion and pursue with zest. Live your life with purpose. If we all do this, we will benefit.
alan arnette thank you so much, it sounds corny, but i am very honoured that you have taken time to tell my readers about your amazing climbing career, and how you follow your dreams, and i would love for your spirit to inspire somebody reading to do something outside their comfort zone.
alan has mentioned how he supports alzheimer's charities all over the world, and details of the uss associations he works with are on his site, but if you wish to hook up with the uk charity here is a link http://www.alzheimersresearchuk.org/donate-to-us/?gclid=CjwKEAjw-o6hBRDOmsPSjqakuzYSJADR2V3SDipHNWO_pTUvBIMnts0Q4RU043FICQZ7JSCcJ57v6BoCP7_w_wcB
i hope you found alan's interview interesting, and if you did please leave a comment as it will be great for alan to see the love.
in other news there is only a fortnight until 'elevation' our last fundrasier for teenage cancer trust, where i am hoping we pass the £60,000 mark, which will be amazing if we do.
we have a website for all of our silent auction lots for people to bid on from afar before and during the evening, even if you aren't there, and we will be launching it, and shouting about the address later today (friday) on social media, so keep looking out, there are some pretty awesome lots including holidays, tickets to the 2015 rugby world cup, and lots of phenomenal artwork.
so until next week, i'll be seeing ya,