The 7 Summits Climb for Alzheimer's: Memories Are Everything®
Alan Arnette Interview
Alan Arnette is an Alzheimer's advocate for individuals, their families and anyone impacted by this disease through his professional speaking, climbing and website.

His objectives for the Memories are Everything® climbs are:
  • Educate the public, especially youth, on the early warning signs and how to prepare
  • Increase awareness that Alzheimer's Disease has no cure
  • Raise research money for Alzheimer's non-profits
Donate to Alzheimer's

• NO CURE, always Fatal
• No easy, inexpensive method of early detection
• 3rd leading cause of death in the US
• New case every 68 seconds, 4 seconds worldwide
• Impacts more than 5+m in US, 25m+ worldwide
• Devastating financial burden on families
• Depression higher for caregivers
• Issues are increasing rapidly as population ages

Donate to Alzheimers
None of the donations go to Alan
or climbing expenses.

This interview was posted on OP Adventure team's Blog in December 2011. I have added videos that were not part of the original interview

Alan at 17K on Denali

The Summits

Having just finished climbing the seven summits plus one, which mountain was the hardest to climb, easiest to climb and your personal favorite?

Climbing is my passion so I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of each climb, from sleeping in a wet bag on Carstensz (well almost!) to climbing in dense clouds and snow on Aconcagua, to standing on each summit. The summit night on Everest took me to my limits. It was -20F with strong winds. I only stayed on the summit long enough to post an audio dispatch to the blog, about 10 minutes.

The easiest was definitely Mt. Kosciuszko in Australia. It is a walk-up and my last of the climbs. I thoroughly enjoyed it being that New South Wales is a great part of Australia and I met some fun people on the climb.

It is challenging to pick a favorite since each one had a unique highlight from culture to weather to teammates to climbing. That said, Vinson in Antarctica was amazing and of course Everest was, well, Everest.

Illyusian 76 Plane at Union Glacier Antarctica

IIyushin 76 Plane at Union Glacier Antarctica

What is your favorite mountain outside of the Seven Summits to climb and why?

Another tough question. I have been very fortunate to climb on about 30 major expeditions around the world since starting at age 38, yes a late bloomer! Ama Dablam in Nepal was very special because I thought it was simply impossible for me given the technical nature of the climb, my age and the time and money involved. But only a few years after I first saw it, I summited it.

Ama Dablam Nepal 22494

Ama Dablam, Nepal, 22,494’

Another favorite is my local mountain, Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park here in Colorado. I have climbed on it more than 100 times and summited it almost every month, more than 25 times. With a vertical gain higher than a mile, high winds and a varied terrain, I use it as my training peak.

What is the one piece of gear you would never leave without?

My satellite phone. It is always with me, in my pack, even on the treks. I call my wife almost daily on my expeditions and use it to upload my dispatches to my website. A crucial part of every 7 Summit climb was a call to my website from the summit to send my message of hope, need and urgency around Alzheimer’s to my followers. While others celebrated, my first priority was to make my calls, and then I took in the views and let out a yelp of joy.

How dangerous did you feel the summits were, as an outsider looking in they seem to be extremely dangerous, but how real does the danger feel when you are climbing them.

With proper preparation and precautions, alpine mountaineering is not an excessively dangerous sport. That said, events beyond your control like avalanches or severe weather take too many lives. I am very careful not to put myself in those types of situations, if possible.

That said, spending eight days at 17,000 feet on Denali in a four man tent with three other men waiting for the weather to let up allowing for a summit push was not dangerous but … well, I don’t want to do that again!

On a serious note, I have fallen in crevasses, been forced to perform self arrest while skidding down snow slopes toward thousand foot drop-offs and have suffered extreme illness, so I am well acquainted with danger on the mountain.

camp 3 lhotse face everest Interview with Alan Arnette: Climber of the Seven Summits and Alzheimers Advocate

Camp 3 Lhotse Face Everest

What does it feel like to stand on the summit of the tallest mountain in the world?

Big and cold! I felt tiny up there looking over the highest peaks on earth and watching the sun rise. I was very humbled thinking about my mom and our cause. It was a very emotional moment. I made the climb from the South Col in about 7:30 hours, a very fast time for me. It was hard, especially the slabs above the Balcony. Once I reached the South Summit, I knew I would make it in spite of the strong winds. I was equally careful on the descent.

alan arnette on everest summit Interview with Alan Arnette: Climber of the Seven Summits and Alzheimers Advocate

Alan Arnette on Everest Summit

What are your other hobbies when not climbing?

I spend my time fundraising for Alzheimer’s through speaking. I also stay busy spending time on my mountains and climbing, then posting my adventures on my website. I also enjoy spending time with my wife, Cathy, and our two cats, Max and Mimi!

How You Did It

How were you able to complete such a task in such a short period of time?

Being retired early in my 50’s allowed me to focus exclusively on this project. My climbs were funded by the Alzheimer’s Immunotherapy Program (AIP) of Janssen Alzheimer Immunotherapy and Pfizer. That enabled me to direct 100% of the donations to these non-profits: The Cure Alzheimer Fund, The Alzheimer’s Association and the National Family Caregiver Association.

When I started to think about this project, I knew I needed large scale, professional support to reach millions of people to raise awareness and money for Alzheimer’s. This was about the cause, not the climbs, so I was gratified when the AIP joined to help promote the project on a global scale.

How does one prepare for these types of high altitude climbs both mentally and physically and how did you know you were ready?

I climbed about 30 of my Colorado 14,000’ (14ers) throughout the previous 12 months, each with a 40lb pack. Along with the physical training this provided, it allowed me to think deeply about my purpose and gave me an extra oomph to keep going – mental toughness. I often say there are a thousand reasons to turn back and only one to keep going – I found my one.

Climbing can be a selfish sport. I had attempted Everest three previous times reaching about 27,200’ before health, weather or my own judgment caused me to turn back. Each time was a learning experience that I brought with me on these climbs. It is amazing how far we can push our bodies. I think extreme alpine mountaineering is at least 50% mental so these experiences were key to climbing more than 100,000 vertical feet on eight mountains on seven continents in 11 months.

Climbing the 16K ridge on Denali

Climbing the 16K ridge on Denali

Why You Did It

Talk a little about why you felt lead to climb the Seven Summits in support of Alzheimer’s.

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.

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 mountains.

How successful do you feel doing this has been on your ability to raise awareness for Alzheimer’s?

After 58 flights, 116,112 miles flown, 120 time zones crossed, 201 nights away from home, 101,058 feet climbed on eight mountains on seven continents, more than 29 million people heard the message of hope, need and urgency around Alzheimer’s. While I feel good about our results, it is just the beginning.

Where can people donate and how do you suggest they get involved?

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 our site at, Facebook page at or my site at 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.

Alan with the natives in West Papua New Guinea for Carstensz Pyramid

Anything else you would like to close with?

Support from my followers was crucial to this project. The emails and donations that came as a result of touching people with our message kept me going. When I got home from Everest, I was told that Friday night parties were interrupted when someone talked about my climb and they all went to a PC to follow my GPS tracker to the summit. They then listened almost live as I sent out our message and I dedicated the summit to my mom and all moms.

Find your passion and link it to a personal effort to make a difference. I was very gratified by the reaction from my fellow climbers throughout these eight climbs in that many of them had gone through what I had and they fully supported me and the cause. When they returned home, they encouraged their friends and families to make donations and to learn the warning signs – and that is what this was all about.

With the devastation this disease brings to individuals, finances and families, Alzheimer’s must take center stage in healthcare. Every 69 seconds a new case develops in the US alone. As a society, we are not prepared for the Alzheimer’s tsunami so I will continue to raise awareness, educate people and raise money for research through more adventures and speaking to whomever will listen.

Alan at the Tyrolean Traverse on Carstensz Pyramid

Thanks again to Alan for taking the time out to talk to us about this. Make sure to follow his adventures and speaking engagements on his blog and also share this post with your friends and family so that we can keep the message of Alzheimer’s awareness going strong.

About Josh of the OutdoorPros Adventure Team

My name is Josh and I am an fan of the outdoors. On the weekends you will find me hiking or trying to complete any of the numerous adventures I have on my list. I live in Southern California and love the diversity that allows me to have in my daily life. I am part of the OutdoorPros Adventure Team. I also love photography and you can find me blogging about my photos of California.