Pro Tips: Climber Melissa Arnot on Pushing Herself (and Treating Herself)

Already an Everest record-holder, the 29-year-old climbing great shares what it takes to reach the top

Melissa Arnot     Photo: Ben Rasmussen

Vitals

Age: 29
Height: 5'3"
Weight: 120lbs
Sun Valley, Idaho

She’s not even 30 years old, and Melissa Arnot is already one of the most recognizable names in climbing. As a guide for Rainier Mountaineering since 2004, Arnot has notched 94 ascents of that peak and summited Everest four times—the current record for a non-Sherpa woman. If all goes as planned, she’ll climb Everest again this spring, without supplemental oxygen. How does she prepare for laps at 29,035 feet? Acupuncture, gold stars, and the occasional beer.

PINS AND NEEDLES: “Six weeks before a trip, I do weekly massage and acupuncture. It prevents sprains, strains, and tendinitis.”

DOWNHILL BATTLE: “Downhill hikes are one of the most important things I do. Three days a week I hike in my crampons and climbing boots, with 50 pounds of weight in my bag, 3,000 feet up at Sun Valley. Then I hike right back down. A lot of people think it’s bad for their knees, so they ski down or take the lift. But you’re working totally different muscles.”

SHUT-EYE: “Sleeping at elevation is difficult, so sometimes I use Ambien. It’s one of only two sleep drugs approved for use at altitude.” 

STICKING TO IT: “I write my training program a few weeks before I do it. If I complete everything, I give myself a gold star. If I miss one thing, I get a silver star. Two things, a green star. The worst is a red star. I’ve had one red star in my life, and it still haunts me.”

STAY FRESH: “I’ve started to become hyperaware of how much processed food we eat on expeditions. So I avoid those foods at home. No grains or potatoes, just fresh whole foods—and tons of fruits and vegetables.”

MIND OVER MATTER: “To switch my pain brain off, I’ll count to 100, then count to 100 again. Then I’ll try to remember how many times I’ve counted to 100.”

TREAT YO’SELF: “I’m a total beer girl. I push myself hard, but I enjoy a cold hefeweizen at the end of the day.”

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