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Climbing the World to End Alzheimer's
Nov 262017

My eyes popped open with an urgency I rarely felt while sleeping. The pain in my upper abdomen was strong this Friday night after Thanksgiving. Nine hours later I was being rolled into the operating room gleefully singing:

“So long, farewell
Auf wiedersehen, goodnight”

The pre-anesthesia was kicking in but more so was my own belief in trying to find the positive in a bad situation.

From 1 until 5 am, I tried to clear whatever was causing my pain but to no avail. The pain was constant and increasing. Finally around sunrise, I told Diane “Its not getting any better. I know my body and we need to get to the ER.” She kicked into action and 15 minutes later I was there, hunched over, alternating between sweating and shivering.

As I checked in the nurse joked – “Bad turkey?” I wished it had been that simple.

Gallbladder Disease

I had gallbladder disease – sounds worse than it is but is still serious. After a slew of high-tech tests and imaging, the Docs said I had a blockage in my gallbladder that was stopping the release of bile into my stomach. The backup had built over time and reached a critical mass that night. The gall bladder was extended, enlarged and generally in a bad mood. The surgeon was more succinct: “It’s rotten.”

I was presented with several choices: do nothing and see if it corrects itself (unlikely given it was enlarged now), wait until another episode then take care of it (not a good option given what I had just gone through and especially a bad option if it occurred in the middle of a climb) and third: take it out.  I choose door number three.

A ticking Gall

I have had stomach, GI or whatever issues for years. Starting back in high school when I would vomit after every track practice. Then when I started climbing, many expeditions were cut short with intense abdominal pain. I was flown off Denali in 2007 with such symptoms only to find no root cause after going through a Mayo Clinic class of tests.

I made some changes to how I maintained my hydration and nutrition during climbs that seemed to do the trick and I haven’t had any GI issue since 2011. But apparently the calcium stones were slowing growing regardless of my diet and life style.

Could Of, Would of …

This is the time when some readers start to type “Well, Alan, you should have …” and I usually welcome these shared experiences and advice – similar to telling me I shouldn’t use plastic trash bags … 😆 but I’m not sure I’m ready for this at the moment.

Of course I could eat better, exercise more, not break my leg, be taller, change my hair color, change my genetics …

But the Docs said about 10% of us get this thing and there was not a lot I could have done. Drum roll for those who will now promote the latest probiotic, Dr. Gall’s Bladder treatment, the new North Afghan Diet that is guaranteed to reduce gallbladder stones, ultrasound, light theory and 48 hours of continuous Kenny G music … and more.

I know your heart is in the right spot but can you hold off a bit?

Next Steps

This Thursday, I will still have the screws and plates removed from my broken leg. The good news is that they will have to use less anesthesia since I’m already under now! (joke).

I will be laying low in December to recoup from both of these year-end events and enjoying family time and watching football. I just wish Denver had a pro football team.

In January, I will begin a 24 week exercise program designed by Steve House and Scott Johnston of Uphill Athlete.  It’s a standard program available to anyone. It will give me a carrot to encourage my overall recovery to fitness with the stick coming from the hole in my abdomen to remind me that I can always do any things better.

I don’t have any climbing plans for 2018, but I’d like to be ready if an opportunity presents itself, perhaps in the autumn?


By now, if you are still reading!! 🙂 you might be think, Wow Alan, you have had a tough 2017. Well yes and no. Of course the broken leg in February and now this in November were unplanned and put a dent in my plans. But the good outweighs the bad by a mile this year.

Diane and I formalized our relationship and have built a home with Cory. I have used the incidents to build a positive foundation for the next phase in my life. I have deepened my understand of who I am in the process for dealing with these events. My true friends have become even closer and my new friends have made contributions I never imagined.

I furthered my connection with The Cure Alzheimer’s Fund in October and my Summit Coach business has taken off and I find great satisfaction in helping others achieve their dreams.

Yes, 2017 has been a good year – and it’s not over!

Climb On!
Memories are Everything

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  7 Responses to “The Gall of it All!”


    At least now we know the rocks were somewhere other than your head. 🙂 … just kidding.
    Glad you’re making progress in all aspects of your life, and have much to look forward to. And, your positive attitude & sense of humor is always good medicine. So looking forward to your carrying us along vicariously on the next Everest season.
    Take care, and all the best to you and Diane.


    Sorry you have had a very mixed year. Like you I’m still struggling but I think I may have reached Camp 2 Cheers Kate (UK) Climb on.


    What a wonderful, positive attitude. My best wishes to you.


    “Diane and I formalized our relationship “…. you’re such a, um, … romantic


    Get well soon, Alan!


    A family member of mine had golf ball-size gallstones when he was only a teenager. It really can happen to anyone.

    Sending positive thoughts your way.


    Best wishes for a quick recovery – you’re too good to lose, but your gall bladder apparently isn’t – so take care, get well, climb on.