Following are excerpts from an interview with Alan Arnette specific to my interest in climbing. Visit www.AlanArnette.com for further information on Mt. Everest
Q: What drove your interest in climbing the 7 summits and Everest in particular?
My pursuit of the 7 Summits began in 1993 by chance when I joined a group of climbers that needed one more person to complete their team for a summit attempt on Mt. Cotopaxi, Ecuador. We were successful in our summit bid and I was hooked on the “vista from the top” and “the journey that got me there”. I had always been a camper and hiker but had never considered mountain climbing … ever! After this climb I looked for other opportunities and climbed a few volcanoes in Latin America, and then started to climb the “fourteeners” in Colorado. My next challenge was Mt. Rainier and was a formidable challenge as it proved to be a major test for my new skills. Soon after I started the 7 Summits in 2001 and have done 1 a year for the past 7 years, with Mt. Everest left as the crowning glory to my feat
I’m sure the book “Into Thin Air” was an influence on my decision to pursue the 7 Summits as I got caught up in the drama of the event, but more importantly the tragedy of the injuries and deaths. The nurse in me wished that I could have been there to do something, to help someone. I introduced Beck Weathers at a nursing conference years ago, just prior to my climb of Mt. McKinley, and I saw how his body had been ravaged from the extreme weather of which he had been exposed. Despite these injuries he has been able to move forward and succeed in life and has motivated many people, self included.
My wife and I have always been adventure travelers and have hiked and backpacked throughout 53 countries around the world. Many of those countries were visited during two complete year long trips. I have always enjoyed meeting people from other countries and experiencing the differences in cultures. Pursuing the 7 Summits has given me another opportunity to meet more people, and experience a wider array of cultures.
Q: You live in an area that does not have a lot of high mountains, how do you train for high altitude climbs?
Training at sea level is very problematic! I have tried to be creative in my training and have been climbing steps at Williams Brice Stadium, home to the University of South Carolina (USC) Gamecocks football team. Climbing the stadium steps has helped me to get into a routine, and has been a welcome break from the USC Blatt Physical Fitness Center where I alternated between using the stair-stepper, stair-climber, rowing, and treadmill machines. Additionally I have trained in the stairwells of the College of Nursing at USC, and after work it’s always a long run and/or bicycle ride. My first altitude (since Mt. Vinson in December 2006) will be the hike in to basecamp from Lukla.
Q: Why is your goal of "becoming the first nurse to complete the 7 Summits” important to you?
I am hopeful that as the first nurse to complete the 7 Summits I will have an opportunity to speak to larger audiences about the challenges that we are facing in healthcare as related to the nursing shortage. I don’t believe that the public is fully aware of the crisis that is going on in our hospitals due to a lack of qualified nurses to fully staff medical units. Patient safety issues are a major concern in hospitals and as a former Risk Manager in a hospital setting I know all too well what can happen to patients’ when there are not enough nurses to render safe, quality care. I am hopeful also that this accomplishment will help me to become a role model for those males that are interested in nursing, but possibly concerned about the stigma associated with being a male nurse. Unfortunately, males still only comprise 7%-10% of nurses.
Q: Your good friend and fellow Canadian Sean Egan died on Everest. How has that affected your climbing?
Sean was a great friend and mentor. We were both from the same town in Canada (Almonte, Ontario – population 4000) and on every trip home I would consult with Sean regarding training tips. Sean had a lot of experience in exercise physiology and had traveled to Mt. Everest on a few different occasions to do research on the challenges of altitude to the human body. I had hoped to climb Mt. Everest with Sean in 2005 but had to back out of that scenario due to work/school schedules. I have regretted not going as I have often thought that had I been there I might have been able to pick up on some of the medical cues to an emerging crisis, and possibly could have saved his life! I had sent an email to Sean when he was climbing Mt. Everest and asked him to blaze a trail to the top for me as I would soon be following in his footsteps. Due to Sean’s death I will now pick up where he left off and go to the top for the both of us! Climbing for both of us has taken me to a different dimension where I am even more determined to make this summit a success for Sean, myself, and my hometown that love us both!
Q: Any other thoughts for us followers this year?
As a “newbie” to Mt. Everest I am hoping to learn a lot of lessons from the “pros” on the mountains. As a Professor in a College of Nursing, at the University of South Carolina, I am usually the one teaching, but am looking forward to being in the student role as I know that there are a good majority of climbers that have more experience than I do, and am hopeful that they are willing to share. My wife and friends have cautioned me about knowing when to turn around, when to stop if I experience problems, and how important it is to listen to those that are thinking clearly. These wise words can mean the difference between life and death … and don’t worry, I intend to pay attention!