Hello all! I am thrilled to introduce today’s Sunny Star. Another reason why I love weddings: you never know who you will meet. Last week I met Alan Arnette, supporting the bride and summiting Mount Everest in a matter of two weeks.
Alan Arnette is in the midst of the 7 Summits Climb for Alzheimer’s: Memories are Everything. This year long series of climbs of the highest peak on each continent is to raise awareness and $1M in research money for Alzheimer’s. The disease took his mother, Ida, after an 8 year struggle and two of his aunts. It can hit anyone at any age, not just the elderly. The cause is unclear, the treatment only address symptoms and there is no cure. It destroys an individual’s lifelong memories, devastates finances and has a tragic effect on family caregivers. The money spent on research is significantly less than on other diseases yet the impact is one of the largest as society ages.
Alan has chosen as benefactors for donations the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund for research, and The National Family Caregiver Association for caregiver support. All donations go directly to these organizations and zero to Alan or his supporters due to the support from the Alzheimer’s Immunotherapy Program (AIP) of Janssen Alzheimer Immunotherapy and Pfizer.
Alan is 54 years old and took early retirement after 30 years with Hewlett-Packard when his father died and his mother entered the later stages of Alzheimer’s. Today, he combines his mountaineering passion with his Alzheimer’s advocacy from his home base in Colorado. He posts live dispatches from each climb on his blog at www.alanarnette.com.
You can also visit his website: http://www.climb4ad.com/#
He also recently wrote a short article for ALOL/Huffington Post that you can read here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alan-arnette/climbing-for-alzheimers-a_b_878673.html
I hope you enjoy getting to learn about Alan’s adventures. Thank you so much for sharing, Alan!
1. You recently climbed Mount Everest! How happy were you when you reached that summit?
Lauren, this was my eighth trip to Nepal or Tibet to climb the world’s largest peaks so it was an incredibly humbling feeling looking out over the tops of mountains I had looked up at for the past 10 years. I felt very tiny. It was also very gratifying to receive so much support from the Alzheimer’s community and to be able to honor my mother and the over 25 million Alzheimer’s individuals and their families who are struggling with this disease.
2. You are sponsored by Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer to climb the seven summits of the world. Can you tell us about which mountains you have climbed thus far and how these experiences have added to your happiness?
My goal is to climb the 7 Summits, the highest peak on each continent in one year. I have summited Vinson (Antarctica), Aconcagua (South America) and Everest (Asia). I leave for Denali (North America) on June 25 and will attempt the rest throughout 2011. Each climb has been meaningful in their own right. I enjoy the cultures of the different countries as well as the unique geography. However, while Everest is clearly a standout, Mt. Vinson in Antarctica was simply amazing. It was so pristine and quiet. I had to keep reminding myself of where I was on the planet. As you mention, I am sponsored by The Alzheimer’s Immunotherapy Program (AIP) of Janssen Alzheimer Immunotherapy and Pfizer so that 100% of the money raised goes directly to the Alzheimer’s non profits I have chosen.
3. Why do you climb?
Ah, the question of ages! I receive a lot of personal enjoyment from climbing, not just a summit but the overall experience from training to gear to sleeping on the ground to the camaraderie with my teammates. Today, I climb to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s research.
4. What has been your greatest challenge climbing and how have you been able to overcome this?
Mental toughness has been difficult of me. I used to joke that I have tuned back from more mountains than I have summited. There are a thousand reasons to turn back and only a few to keep going. But as I took on the 7 Summits challenge, my goal was focused on Alzheimer’s and not climbing and strangely enough, I have made all the summits. I think having a tough goal with a strong purpose has given me a determination to push through the tough times like when I am vomiting and weak at 25,000’
5. What has been your happiest memory from climbing?
Too many to list just one but I love the kids in these countries like Nepal and Pakistan. They are so genuine and have so little and are so happy. Of course some of the mountains views are beyond words such as overlooking the flat steps of Tibet from 20,000′ or the endless ice fields of Antarctica. Summits are always a bonus but climbing steadily up or down, taking in the moment and letting that memory seep deep into my essence is what it is all about for me.
6. What advice would you give young climbers who are a little hesitant about hitting the trails?
Get out there! You don’t have to climb Everest or Rainier. Find a hill that you can enjoy spending some time on with a good friend or family member. Enjoy the moments and build up to more challenging climbs over time. But there is no time like today to begin that first step. Who knows, you may climb Everest yourself one day!
7. What are you looking forward to with your climbing career?
I enjoy sharing my experiences and encouraging others to get out there so having opportunities to show my pictures, tell my stories and share my memories are the rewards of my climbs. Overriding all of this is the opportunity to share my Alzheimer’s experience and talk about my mom and aunts that were taken by this disease. There are many parallels between the challenges of Alzheimer’s’ both for the individual and their caregivers with mountain climbing. In the future I hope to bring this story to as many people as possible all in the quest to raise research money to find a cure and awareness so that families will not go through what we did.
The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook