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Climbing the World to End Alzheimer's
Mar 132015

airplane wingI closed my eyes for a moment as I made my way up another Colorado 14, 000 foot mountain. For that instance, I saw myself on the Lhotse Face taking one calculated step after another, there moving my jumar higher, occasionally looking up to see what was ahead. I had transported myself into the future.

By now, mid March 2015, this practice had become commonplace as I trained for the world’s fourth highest peak, Lhotse at 27,940 feet or 8516 meters.  I know the route well from my Everest, K2 and other climbs.

I had learned from my previous climbs that preparing your mind was as critical as preparing your body.

Clear the Clutter

The last couple of weeks before leaving for a big Himalayan climb is busy. Not a long to do list but rather having your mind filled with questions.

“Did I have the right gear, did I train properly, did I select the right operator … Maybe I should have climbed something else first. The money, it was a lot of money that could be spent on better things” the questions seem endless. You know all the answers but your mind keeps playing with them.

It is time to look at the check list one more time, make decisions on items you kept open, those where you need to check just one more source, that one piece of gear you keep wanting to on or get the perfect one.

Once you arrive in Lukla to begin the trek, all this clutter will seem like last year’s news. That perfect jacket you wanted will be the one you have with you, those boots will become your friend immediately.

Prepare to begin your adventure by preparing your mind to let go, starting now.

Quiet the Voices

By now you have been asked every known question about climbing Everest. You did you to answer them honestly, but it became more and more difficult as the news media spun up the annual Everest coverage filled with sensationalized stories. How many times did you talk about Sherpa exploitation, trash, oxygen, experience of your teammates and more? And your favorite question “How much did you pay to climb Everest?”

You’ve never been to Everest but now you are an expert, as is your spouse and family members. Take this role with honor and responsibility. Take advantage of each opportunity to be honest and transparent. “Yes, I will use supplemental oxygen like 97.3% of all the previous summiters. The cost to climb Everest is the price of a car …” But feel free to say the average price is around $45,000.

Talk about the Sherpa people with pride and honor. Acknowledge their role in your climb. When you blog or write home, use their names and their village.

But most important is to let all those questions go. Avoid getting drawn into the old, tired debates. Most of the people who try to get you into those conversations have an agenda, and seeing you succeed is not in their top ten.

Focus on the Objective

You are going to climb Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world. Re-read that last sentence. You are going to climb Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world.

How many have come before you or will follow you is immaterial. Each step you take will be your first. Each view will open your eyes in ways you never dreamed. This your climb.

Everest is not “easy”, it is not a walk-up. It is a serious mountain that demands serious climbers. Remember, quiet the voices. For every one person who wants to play critic, there are nine who admire and are pulling for you. You are doing what few actually do. Many talk, but few make the sacrifices to live their dream.

What you are about to do does not come easy, cheap or without determination. Take credit for who you are  and what you are attempting.

Nothing left Unsaid

As you put that last stuff bag in the duffel, look around. See something small, unbreakable that will remind you of home? Carefully put it in the middle of that open bag. Let it be the first thing you take out at base camp and the last thing you pack when leaving.

By now you have had that quiet talk with your spouse, spoke to the kids, parents, friends. But there was one more thing you wanted to say and never got around to it.

Say it.

Flying Away

When you sit down on the airplane seat, close your eyes and focus on your dream. All the training is behind you, you are as good as you can be now. All the gear research and shopping is now in the belly of the jet, you have what you need.

Put your headphones on and play your favorite song, you know the one  …

Open that book you have been putting off, savor each word …

Or just close your eyes and give yourself permission to relax, take a deep breath.

You are about to climb Mt. Everest.

Climb on!
Memories are Everything

Comments on/from Facebook

  26 Responses to “Everest 2015: Getting in the Everest Mindset”


    I always wish you luck Alan, and thank you for each year and also during the year Karen


    Reading each of your posts is like opening a gift. Thank you.


    This is a defining moment in my life. You have captured the emotion well!


    Thank you Alan. You encourage me a lot with your thoughts. Looking forward to meet you in basecamp in April.


    I agree with Ellen, Kase, this is nothing but, well, a… cliché, I think: “8000 with is like 6000m without”. I’ve been up above 6000-7000m many times (Ama Dablam ao), and up to C4/7500m on Manaslu with a big pack, and no O2. I had a cyst in my knee which made me arrive too late at camp to start the summit push a couple of hours later, I slept with O2 and descended with it to C3 because of the pain in my knee the next day. Didn’t feel much difference…


    Well written , Alan…it is important to conquer the devil in our minds at the earliest….else it could wreck havoc.


    Beautifully written like always. However the discussion about the use of steroids or oxygen while climbing high mountains are not ” the old, tired debates”. To start with , we should be honest about it: climbing 8000+ mountains with oxygen is equivalent to climbing a 6000 meter peak, no more, no less. If you love mountaineering it is essential to stay away from “the end justifies the means ” view that has polluted so many other sports. After all we are not just trying the create any other memory but a real, genuine one, I hope (say No2 !)


      Forgive me ahead of time for my bluntness; I say this with only the utmost respect and for the sake of fostering productive discussion. I think your comments are typical of non-Everest climbers, the ones who minimize the magnitude of the accomplishment of standing at 29,035 even with O2 (as >97% of Everest climbers have done). Here is a link to an interesting Nat Geo article addressing the question of the “altitude-lowering effect” of supplemental oxygen:
      A few key points:
      1) The benefit of supplement O2 is related to many factors, including level of exertion. At high levels of exertion (as exist during most of Everest climbing), there is less “lowering” of altitude with O2 use. To get to that 6000m level you reference would require complete rest, certainly not the level of exertion necessary to move upward on the mountain. (See graph from Tom Hornbein at end of article.)
      2) Supplemental O2 is crucial for safety while climbing. Twice as many deaths happen in climbers not using O2. Climbers without O2 are more likely to get frost bite. There is also evidence of at least transient brain injury in non-O2 climbers.
      3) Finally, we may all wish we had the physiology of Steve House, Ueli Steck, Ed Visteurs, Peter Habeler, or Reinhold Messner. But the reality is that most of us don’t….. Summiting Everest, even with O2, remains the accomplishment of a lifetime (and is still going to be kick-ass hard!)


        You know i have always felt exactly the opposite, that people who climb with O2 minimize the efforts of people climbing without O2. My point is that there is as much (or even more) accomplishment /achievement in standing on the peak of a 6000-7000 meter summit (with an obscure name) without oxygen than on the summit of Everest with oxygen (which I agree is an accomplishment in itself) It is good that None-mountaineering readers understand the difference between the two and that climbing with and without O2 are totally different achievements. The safety argument always sounds to me like : ” I drive a big (fuel consuming) car because it is saver for my family”


          Hi, Kase. Sounds like you may just need some clarification from a climber…..
          First, the beauty here is that there is no need to choose either/or…..We climb Everest (because it is, after all, Everest) and other wonderfully obscure mountains of any height as well. We do this because we love to climb.
          Second, we (the climbers) totally comprehend the amazingness of Everest without O2. We are not minimizing anything as you say. We see Reinhold and the likes with reverence.
          Finally, I am all about safety and returning with brain and all digits intact.
          Totally respect your opinion. Suspect we shall have to agree to disagree. Best.


            “I’m not ing, here, to advocate an elitist discourse…but rather a return to humility, in which it’s up to the climber to adapt himself to choosing an objective within his abilities, and not to the mountain to be rendered more accessible.”

            French alpinist Patrick Wagnon


              2 questions, Kase, s’il te plait, 2 days before I leave for… Everest: Have you ever been to Nepal? Do you know any Sherpa personally? Tuchey! (Merci)


              Autre chose… I guess this guy here, a fellow Belgian and friend, really made a CASE 🙂 of humility by… riding his bicycle to Nepal, but I doubt everyone can do that…


              Maybe we should all climb without crampons, and, who knows, even naked. THAT! would be the ultimate humility, hoina? Give US all climbers a break, please!


              “Avoid getting drawn into the old, tired debates. Most of the people who try to get you into those conversations have an agenda, and seeing you succeed is not in their top ten.”

              American alpinist Alan Arnette


    Alan What An Awesome Read. I Have And Always Dream Of Everest EVERY DAY. I Hope I Will Get There. Take Good Care On Your Climb And Good Luck. Say Hello To Garrett. Tom


    May the mountain spirits be calm and welcoming to you and all who venture there.
    Namaste~Jo from Idaho


    You’d better get a special unmarked tent for yourself at EBC…….otherwise all these fans will drop in for therapeutic chats…..The Doctor Is In..


    As always, I love reading these. But I am just as anxious to hear about specifics of your climb. What equipment/supplies are different? Isn’t the part that diverges to Lhotse more technical than Everest? Do you know what the route through the icefall is likely to look like this year? Are they moving more towards the middle? Will you rotate through as often as before or will you try to reduce your trips through the icefall? I’d love to hear anything.

    We’ll be with you.






    This s helping settle the crows flying around in my stomach! See you in EBC


    You knocked it out of the ballpark with this one, Alan. Fantastic advice for all of us.


    I don’t leave until mid-April to climb my little 20.6k peak a bit west of you. I’m going through the same mindset process. But the excitement as the day to leave gets closer–oh the delicious excitement!




    Just read all of this post to my wife and mum. Thank you Alan. Perfect!


    Alan, your words are powerful, well spoken, and beautifully written. This was perhaps my favorite part:
    “You are going to climb Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world. Re-read that last sentence. You are going to climb Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world.”
    Made me smile…deep inside. I always look forward to your posts. Thank you. -Lori


    This is well put, Alan. Form and content. Tuchey!