Standing at 27,200' on the icy slopes of Mount Everest in 2003, I lectured myself between gags that this was it. No more. I was too old and my body was just not fit for high altitude mountaineering. After all it was only 363 days earlier that I had stood on this exact same spot suffering convulsions and made my own decision to return to the South Col before it was too late. Those experiences have come to shape my life in ways I never imagined. They are memories I never hope to forget. And now I am going back.
Those who have followed my site (www.alanarnete.com) over the past eight years know a lot about me ... perhaps too much! I appreciate the special relationship I have with my visitors. I have many new friends and in fact some of my best climbing partners and friends, including Paul Adler, I met by way of my site. So in that spirit, I will be chronicling the next year through a series of reports on my way back to Everest.
However, there is something I think is much more important.
I have two areas of interest now that I have retired: Alzheimer’s research and the environment. My Father passed away in late 2006 and my Mother is now 81 and suffers from Alzheimer’s. This is a devastating disease that we know little about. It impacts over 5 million Americans today and a new case is diagnosed every 72 seconds! The funding for research is very low compared to Cancer and heart disease. I want to use my site to raise money for research and raise the public's awareness of Alzheimer’s, the impact on individuals and their families and ways you can get involved before it is too late. To make this as real as I can over the internet, please visit my "Memories are Everything" page on my personal experience and I think you will see why this is a cause worth supporting.
Can you imagine not recognizing your children? Remembering where you live or that you stood on top of the world in your earlier years?
I am absolutely delighted to have found the ideal partner for my Memories are Everything fund raising. The Cure Alzheimer's Fund is a non-profit organization that raises money and directs targeted research. Their mission statement is:
Fund research with the highest probability of slowing, stopping or reversing Alzheimer's disease.
The Fund is supported by grants from three families and covers all of their overhead. This means 100% of your donations go directly to Alzheimer's research! I encourage you to read more about the Cure Alzheimer's Fund at their website and to give generously today. All your donations to the Memories are Everything fund will be tracked so we follow our goal of $100,000 together. All your donations are tax deductible.
They are currently funding 14 research projects ranging from an ACAT Inhibitor Study which is a two-part study focuses on the effect of a particular drug targeted at a cholesterol-related enzyme (ACAT I), with the objective of preventing or decreasing the production of neurotoxic Abeta in the brain; to their primary project of Alzheimer's Genome Project™ (AGP) initiative which has the objective of identifying all relevant remaining Alzheimer’s genes that have not yet been discovered, thereby identifying more targets for the development of therapeutic interventions.
At age 50, I fully understand what I am signing up for! And I am dedicating the next year of my life to these goals. However, my climbing priority, as it always has been, is to do my best and return home safely to my family. If it becomes obvious that I can no longer perform at altitude or some other factor enters into this plan, I will stop. It is as simple as that.
I will be doing a series of climbs to tune my body to be in the best possible shape for the Everest attempt. I have designed a schedule that provides time at altitude, builds new skills and allows for sufficient recovery times between climbs. Here is the plan:
First, I am so fortunate to live in Colorado. So Patrick, Robert - my closest climbing partners - and I will go for 14 - 14ers this year. We already have a traverse of Pikes Peak under our belts.
In June, 2007, I returned to Alaska for Mt. McKinley or Denali, as it is better known. I climbed Denali, 20,320 feet or 6,193 meters, in 2001 but was forced back due to bad weather at 17,200' at Denali Pass. So the first step on the Everest road was to attempt Denali. I reached 17,000’ before turning back due to a mystery illness. You can read more at this link
Next I will be climbing the 14th highest peak in the world, Shishapangma in Tibet. Shisha is 26,335 feet or 8027 meters. This will be a true test of my ability to perform at high altitude. I will take my time and carefully acclimatize to give me the best possible chance. The expedition will start in Katmandu, fly to Lhasa and the drive over the Steps of the Tibetan Steps. The six week expedition will be my fifth climb on an 8000m mountain.
January 2008, along with my closest climbing friends, we will travel to Mexico and climb the 18,880 foot, 5754 meter volcano, Orizaba. This will be a nice warm up for Everest but it will be great to spend time with my friends who will go for their personal altitude records.
Finally, comes Everest. I have not made my decision on which side to climb or who to go with. There are many details still to be worked out.
Please make regular visits to the site for updates and especially consider donating to the Alzheimer’s fund when it is established. The goal is to raise $100,000 before my summit bid in May 2008. 100% of all donations will go to Alzheimer’s research - zero to fund the climbs. If you are already make donations elsewhere, perhaps this is a year you can consider an alternative or a little bit more for this important cause.
If you are interested in making an early donation to the research fund, pursuing sponsoring this effort or joining a climb, please contact me. Or just say hello!