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Climbing the World to End Alzheimer's
Dec 052010
Mt. Vinson, 16,067', from Vinson Base Camp

For those familiar with following my climbing expeditions, you will recognize our current wait and see state. On Denali one year, I waited for 7 days for the weather to break. Today, December 5th is our 4th day of waiting.

Thus is the case for Vinson. The low pressure system is just sitting on top of us creating clouds and high winds. Teams are reporting from the high camp regular winds of over 20 mph and low visibility. This combined with temps well below zero make for dangerous climbing conditions. Frostbite would be a high risk not worth taking at this point.

So we sit tight and wait for better conditions. We have sufficient food and fuel for a while.

With lot’s of free time to think, it is almost impossible not to consider how isolated we are.

Cloudy Dec 5th view of Low CampIt is a minimum of two days to get back to Punta Arenas if everything is perfect. We are surrounded by ice and snow with brutal temps and winds. Walking out is not an option.

Only down feathers and thin nylon tents provide protection. While the sun never sets, it is not strong enough to make the cold bearable. Only with extreme activity, does warmth break through.

With this as context; I think about the isolation my mom must have felt going through the stages of Alzheimer’s. The loneliness, helplessness; the inability to connect, to remember – the isolation.

Waiting out weather requires patience. It is easy to let your mind go to negative places when you have no control. Little things can conspire to steal optimism. Staying focused on the goal, using your sense of humor, remembering why are all keys to maintaining perspective.

Again, reflecting on the last few years with my mom; patience was crucial to everyone. Being willing to answer the same question over and over. Or listening to the same stories for the tenth time that day. Caregivers do these acts not out of obligation but out of love. And they also deserve our patience as well.

So as I sit in my tent listening to the wind blow high on the summit ridge, I think about my mom. I know why I am here. I value all those memories.

Climb On!


Memories are Everything

Comments on/from Facebook

  4 Responses to “Antarctica Isolation and Patience”


    Hi Alan: The most important thing is that you know why you are there. You know your purpose for being there. This makes all the difference. Stay strong. We are all praying for you and the entire team. Climb on!


    Hi Alan,
    We are following your trip with facination (and a little envy). We wish you all the best for the conditions to improve and for your success on Vinson. In the meantime, we hope your shortwave radio is working so you can keep up with episode #27 of BBC’s “The Platypus” series 🙂
    Take care and we hope to catch up with you in some awesome place soon.
    Ian and Di


    Hey Alan,you know you guys arent completely alone theres seals and penguins!lol Anyway i know your mom would be very proud.As always safety first and THEN climb on.Enjoy antarctica and just think,this is summer here!Good


    I’m reading this post as I’m having dim sum with my grandmother, with much of the same thoughts. It’s most certainly a struggle to safeguard optimism and keep from thinking of this time as obligatory. She deserves my patience, even if she asks the same question for the 12th time. Thank you, Alan.