Climb to find a cure

Mar 022011
Authors: Ali Sylte and Amy Kousch

Alan Arnette has climbed Long’s Peak more than 100 times and has summitted all 54 of Colorado’s 14,000 foot peaks. He has braved 100 mph winds and sub-zero temperatures, climbing for the sake of what he only describes as a “higher purpose.”

“There are often 1,000 reasons to stop and just one reason to go on,” Arnette, a 54-year-old Fort Collins resident, told a crowd at the TILT center on Wednesday during a presentation on his adventures.

His next goal is to become the 10th person to climb the fabled Seven Summits –– the tallest peaks on each continent –– within a year.

He was motivated by the death of his mother, Ida, a year and a half ago. She lived with Alzheimer’s disease for the final eight years of her life, motivating Arnette to climb with the motto “Memories are Everything.”

Arnette is trying to raise $1 million for Alzheimer’s awareness and research, giving supporters the opportunity to pledge a penny for every foot he climbs.

His passion for climbing began relatively late, when he was 38 years old. Two years later, in 1997, he began his first expedition of Mt. Everest, calling it one of the most unnerving experiences of his career.

“We were in white-out conditions,” he said. “I fell into a crevasse. I went straight down and found myself hanging on to a 20-foot rope. I was looking down, and I couldn’t see the bottom. It shook me to the core.”

In conditions such as these, Arnette said, he tries to distinguish between whether the task is impossible or if it is simply hard. He credits this sentiment to be the source of his drive.

He began his first Seven Summit bid with Mt. Vinson, a 16,000-foot peak in Antartica, calling it the “trip of a lifetime.”

“You’re at the bottom of the earth, and all you can see is snow and ice forever. It’s just mind-boggling to try and wrap your head around it,” Arnette said.

In January, he topped Aconcagua, a 22,897-foot peak in Argentina. His journey will continue in three weeks, when he will once again attempt to summit Mt. Everest.

“Follow your dreams and follow your visions. Don’t be afraid to set audacious goals,” he said. “Work hard to get them.”

Staff writer Amy Kousch and News Editor Allison Sylte can be reached at

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