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Climbing the World to End Alzheimer's
Jul 222011
Alan on Denali

Alan on Denali

When I started to leave the 17, 200 High Camp on Denali without standing on the summit, I wondered; how would people consider this effort. One person characterized it this way:

“Alan, sorry to hear of the failure, but safety first. Safe travels home.”

I understand.

After spending eight days watching the swirling hurricane-force winds on the summit; it was safety first. We never got an opportunity to try to summit. It would have been suicide at most of the time.

Denali, well known for some of the harshest weather for climbers, had shown her stuff. Of all my 7 Summits climbs, I knew this one (after Everest; which I had summited the previous month) was the most risky. I could control my preparation, my health but not the weather.

So what was this effort: a failure or a “non-summit”?

Well obviously for me it was not a failure. I believe that every person I reached with the message of hope, need and urgency around Alzheimer’s is one person more than if I didn’t try. I see a climb similar to research where not every effort results in achieving it’s goal but it does lead to new learnings and that has immense value. Besides, not trying is simply not an option.

However, beyond all the climbing, my 7 Summits effort is about Alzheimer’s awareness and fundraising; not summits. I asked for a pledge of a penny a foot for every foot I climbed or $131 for Denali to one of the three non-profits. I was 3,000’ short making it $101 but everyone made the full pledge as if I had summited – so Denali is a summit for me!

I am humbled and motivated by your reaction to my climbs. I will always do my for every Alzheimer’s family, researcher, support and my followers.

Climb On!


Memories are Everything

Please continue to read this trip report from Denali 2011

  27 Responses to “Denali 2011: Faliure or Non Summit?”


    Congratulations Alan on reaching 17,200 feet on Denali. That is quite an accomplishment. As mountaineers, we can only take what the mountain will give us. The summit will always be there next year. I just summitted Mont Blanc on July 22nd on my fourth climbing trip to the Alps. Persistence does pay off. So, where to next for you?

    All the best,



    Been following your climbs for many years now, and you’ve even given me some career and college advice (which is turning out to be excellent). Sorry to hear you didn’t make it up but your drive to make a difference is what inspires me not only to contribute to your cause but also to try to make a difference in something that is personal to me, cancer. Best of luck on your remaining climbs and as always, stay safe.



    One step in front of the other is never failure, it is living your life. Make it happen again and again Alan. Good thoughts to you, cheers, Marty.


    Dear Alan , Think about the people that you meet on this trip . I always says every time you meet someone it effect your life and there life , because Im sure that you talk about your life and why you were climbing , just that alone is not a failure it get the word out , and for me because I have MS , you also climb for me , because I can not , Thank you for have this web sight Karen and Jim


    Not a failure!
    I would never have been so like you was, after the third day I had packed my bag and tried the summit…
    Denali tempted you – without success!
    Another question: Your spot seemed to be near the summit, why is it so dangerous to go up there? It’s not like 17000 ft are a safe place…
    Climb on


      Thanks Chris. On your question of being so close to Denali’s summit and still not go for it. Yes, we were 3000 feet and about 3 miles from the true summit at High Camp at 17,200′, but it was still a 12 to 16 hour day to go up and back. That meant we needed to have low enough winds, and acceptable visibility (light snow and/or no low clouds) to see. Also, we needed to have stable snow after some heavy new snow to avoid avalanche danger on the so called Autobahn section. We just never got all these for long enough. In 2011, over 5 people had died between High camp and the Summit so it is a dangerous place in poor conditions.



    I’m glad to see the disappointment of not making the summit hasn’t deterred your resolve to raise awareness about Alzheimer’s. I’m not sure if you watch NBC news while you’re stateside, but they’ve been running a series on Alzheimer’s and this particular story was particularly moving and I thought I’d share it with you. You’d make a great candidate for their “making a difference” series of reports. Thanks for your continued inspiration and the effect it has on so many people.


      Thanks Tim. We contacted both NBC News for “Making a Difference” plus the Today Show but both passed on our story and efforts around Alzheimer’s. It would have been excellent to reach their millions of viewers with the simple story of my Mom’ struggle and to represent the struggle millions of families go through everyday.


    If you give it your best shot,its not failure.The cause is whats important,not a summit.Denali is gonna be there.Who knows? Maybe give it another shot one day.Proud of ya.Climb on!


    I’ve had my share of successful failures!


    Dear Alan – I am sure like so many people you have read Ed Viesturs excellent book “No Shortcuts to the Top”, and in it he quotes on a number of occasions his most important motto: “Reaching the summit is optional. Getting down is mandatory”. There is no failure in anything that you have done – many congratulations on your inspirational achievements, and keep it up!


    One word: Success.


    Thnaks everyone for your thoughts and comments. I have rarely considered not summiting a “failure” unless I gave up, which I have done. Today, I have a stronger purpose to do my best and that is what keeps me going along with your support. So once again, my deepest thanks. Climb On!


    Great effort Alan. Give it another go and I’ll bet all will contribute again. I know I will. Good luck on Elbrus and thank you for your good work.


    Alan, I’ve always liked this quote:

    There is no failure except in no longer trying
    No defeat except from within
    No insurmountable barrier
    Except our own
    Weakness of purpose

    Since I climbed Everest I ‘failed’ on Shishapangma twice and Manaslu once. Summits are elusive, but if you keep trying, you’re not failing in my book.

    Keep looking forward my friend.


    failure would be n o t come back. As long you can tray once more it is never a failure, max. a kind of delay. Try again!


    Alan, a couple of years ago I was stuck in my tent for a few hours during a storm on a 4-day backpack. I thought of people like you stuck in a tent for a week or so. I would go stir crazy. I barely lasted that few hours. I can’t imagine being stuck at 17,000 feet plus with nowhere to go for days. You are far more committed and deserve our respect for waiting it out for even two days, let alone 7 or 8. I am just in awe of you and that’s why you were there and I was home in my living room living vicariously through you. You da man! Climb on!


    well, you failed to summit, but that doesn’t make the trip a failure & it doesn’t detract from your effort.


    Brilliant effort, climbing mountains is not easy and you continue to inspire me with your climbs and your cause. 🙂


    Never a failure…every step you take is one step closer to realizing the goal…..promoting alzheimer’s awareness and raising money for research…..seems to me it was a success!


    what an awesome attitude; great perspective Alan.


    Alan, Your effort has inspired another donation for the CURE! And I believe we will find it with efforts such as yours. What strength and inspiration you give us all! Climb on!


    Alan…a great saying I used to use in coaching, “You’re only as good as your next match.” Each climb, regardless of the outcome, is a journey and that is the essence of life. Get ready for Russia and maybe ski down Elbrus. Can’t beat Moscow and St. Petersburg.

    Climb on,


    I was so upset when I first read that remark. Too many believe that if you don’t complete a project, you have failed. NO WAY! There are many times the biggest success comes from knowing when NOT to complete something. Rabbi Tarfon in Perkei Avot (Wisdom of the Fathers) taught: “It is not your responsibility to finish the work, but you are not free to desist from it either” (2:16). It’s all about trying, about the journey.

    Journey on!


    Your commitment to this cause continues to be an inspiration to me on a daily basis. Sometimes success is just making it through the day as a caregiver for a loved one with Alzheimer’s. I am so glad that people continue to be so supportive of your quest financially!


    Alan, congratulations on your magnificent effort thus far and continuing! You know, as a peakbagger and mountaineer, I am often confronted with decisions that effect whether I reach the physical summit of a mountain or not. But for someone to call the effort a “failure”, to me, demonstrates their limited understanding of being out and among these great peaks. The only “failure” would be to not learn something from the effort, as you stated above. The journey which you are undertaking is admirable, and I commend you on your good judgement and insight! Carry on!


    Not a failure in the least. Smart action to get off the mountain in those conditions. Best of luck on your next climb. I’ll be watching.

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