My first climb is in a few weeks to Antarctica. But before I go any further, let’s look back for a moment. Almost a year ago, I wrote these words:
First it is important to understand that this is about finding a cure for Alzheimer's, not mountain climbing. You see, if I could sing or dance or had some other skill that I thought would raise the money, I would use it. It certainly would be easier than climbing Mt. Everest! But I don't. I climb mountains and can keep an audience entertained for a while.
I sought partners for over two years that would help me fund and publicize this campaign. What I wanted, needed, was a global partner who had the expertise to reach millions with a message of urgency and hope.
In the end it was through connecting with a dear friend through Facebook who knew someone - who knew someone. And the rest is history.
We have been working for the past six months to create a campaign that will emphasize the need for more research to find better treatments and eventually a cure. We want to bring attention to the impossible task that families and caregivers face when their loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
On November 9th, we are conducting interviews with over 20 TV and radio stations across the US as well as newspapers and Internet articles to announce the campaign. Yes, it is on - big time!
And I will be sharing my personal story along the way.
I lost my mom, Ida, to Alzheimer's about a year ago. As my family and I went through the stages of the disease with her - watching her lose her short term memory, then long term memory, not being able to take care of herself, losing her identity and finally succumbing to the disease; it was horrifying.
We were helpless knowing there was no cure. We could only keep her comfortable.
But what is more tragic is that every 70 seconds another family starts that same devastating journey. The toll on the individual, families, caregivers and finances is beyond belief. Today, there are over 5 million people with Alzheimer’s in the U.S., 25 million worldwide and those numbers are projected to quadruple by 2050.
My deepest hope is that future generations never experience what we did. That is why we are starting The 7 Summits Climb for Alzheimer's: Memories are Everything campaign to raise awareness of Alzheimer's and $1M for research.
By setting this huge personal goal climbing all 7 Summits in a year, I hope to inspire people to follow me, visit our campaign website, and Facebook page thus learn about Alzheimer's and make a donation to research.
For donations, I selected The Cure Alzheimer's Fund (CAF), which is a non-profit that directs 100% of all donations to promising research and shares the results across all industries and organizations. All donations go to the CAF, none to me or my supporters - that is important.
International Mountain Guides (IMG) will provide logistics for most of the climbs. Both Eric Simonson and Phil Eshler have been forever patient and supportive with me for way too long!
With so many different approaches to finding a cure for Alzheimer’s underway, I will not be talking about specific drugs or treatments. I will talk about my own experiences and Alzheimer's Disease but within certain limitations in conjunction with the support of the AIP.
Also, I appreciate Outside Online allowing me to post this update and blog posts on Everest and other mountaineering subjects. I will continue to post updates along the way pus some thoughts on gear and the 7 Summtis here. They are a great supporter.
The 7 Summits represent the highest point on each of the seven continents. It has become a goal for climbers around the world yet only some 275 people have met the goal. Each of my expeditions will be professionally lead by an IMG Guide who has years of experience climbing these mountains. This will allow me to stay focused on the Alzheimer's campaign of awareness and fund raising. Plus I know and trust these guys immensely to run a fun and safe climb.
The 7 Summits Schedule:
November 2010: Vinson, Antarctica – 16,067’/4897m
January 2011: Aconcagua, Argentina – 22,841’/6962m
April/May 2011: Everest, Nepal – 29,035’/8850m
June 2011: Denali, Alaska – 20,320’/6194m
August 2011: Elbrus, Russia – 18,481’/5633m
September 2011: Kilimanjaro, Africa – 19,340’/5896m
November 2011: Carstensz Pyramid, Indonesia (New Guinea) – 16,023’/4884m
December 2011: Mt. Kosciuszko, Australia - 7,310’/2228m (extra credit climb as part of the original 7 Summits)
- Vinson Massif
The first climb is to the Vinson Massif in Antarctica. Dispatches posted on the campaign site, Facebook and my own site will begin soon after I arrive in Punta Arenas at the tip of South America and before I take the huge Russian Ilyushin 76 cargo plane to the ice fields only 600 miles from the South Pole. The expedition will take about three weeks and I will send dispatches with pictures and video during the climb.
Those of you that know me, know I am no stranger to the big mountains. And with that knowledge and experience my preparation has surpassed anything in my past.
I have trained hard for this journey. I made the summit of over 30 14,000' mountains in Colorado and California, including Mt. Whitney just in 2010, many with a 40lb pack. And I have taken countless other training hikes and climbs in all types of weather. Also endless hours with weights and on my beloved (and despised) elliptical machine! And foremost, I have worked on my mental toughness. I am ready.
I hope throughout the campaign you will learn more about this disease and support research through your donations.
An easy and fun way to donate to Alzheimer's research is by committing a small amount for every foot I climb on the 7 Summits. If you commit one penny for Denali as an example, you would donate $131 that goes only to Alzheimer's research. It would only be $807 for all 8 climbs over 18 months, probably less than you spend on coffee!! For Vinson it would only be $91. Why not donate now?
A year ago, I pondered the dilemma of finding support for my dream. What to do? Not give up. No. I said then and now I say about the $1M goal:
I will continue to look for that company; that organization; that person who can - who will help. I will continue to use my website and my coverage of Everest to raise awareness. I will speak to anyone, anywhere, anytime to tell them story of Ida Arnette and the day she asked "Who are you?"
If it is not climbing mountains, then something else. You see; this is not about climbing. It is about saving memories - saving lives.
So, here we are. I need your help in three areas:
1. Become informed about Alzheimer's know the warning signs and be aware, especially for your loved ones
2. Help me get the word out about this campaign
3. Make a donation today. Better yet make a pledge throughout the campaign and have some fun following the climbs
I hope you come along, but more importantly join the cause.
Memories are Everything
Arnette is a speaker, mountaineer and Alzheimer's Advocate. He is climbing the 7 Summits starting with Mt. Vinson in November 2010 to raise $1 million for Alzheimer's research. You can read more on his site.