Mountain Climber Attempts 7 Summits for Alzheimer’s Research

By Marlo Sollitto, Contributing Editor

A family is never quite the same after an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. The disease gradually destroys memory, robs sufferers of a lifetime of memories, corrupts their personalities and makes them unable to function independently. Like millions of caregivers, Alan Arnette watched his mother succumb. That experience changed his life forever. He’s made it his life’s mission to raise awareness about Alzheimer’s disease and help fund research.

The 7 Summits Climb for Alzheimer’s

What makes Mr. Arnette unique is how he’s going about his personal campaign. He is climbing the Seven Summits, the highest mountain peak on each continent, to honor his mother and to raise $1 million for Alzheimer’s disease research and awareness.

He is well on his way to achieving his ambitious goal. Arnette has already summitted Mt. Vinson in Antarctica, Aconcagua in Argentina and most recently Mt. Everest in Tibet. He is currently on his fourth climb: Denali in North America.

He is asking his supporters to donate a penny for every foot he climbs. His world journey for Alzheimer’s disease involves climbing 130,000 while enduring temperatures that drop to 40 degrees below zero with 50 mph winds.

Arnette, who started mountain climbing when he was 38, retired from his job with Hewlett-Packard in his late 40s to care for his mother, Ida, who died from Alzheimer’s in 2009. Since then, the 54-year-old advocate has worked tirelessly to inspire people to join his efforts. The Alzheimer’s Immunotherapy Program of Janssen Alzheimer Immunotherapy and Pfizer Inc. are funding Mr. Arnette’s climbs. All money he raises from donations will go directly to Cure Alzheimer’s Fund, the Alzheimer’s Association and the National Family Caregivers Association.

Read more:
When a Loved One with Alzheimer’s Doesn’t Recognize You
10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s and Dementia
How To Tell Family That Mom or Dad has Alzheimer’s Disease

Mountain Climber Attempts 7 Summits for Alzheimer’s Research originally appeared on

His Experience

Mr. Arnette says “climbing Mt. Everest was easy compared to caring for my mom during her years with Alzheimer’s. She was our family’s memory keeper. She was one everyone depended upon. She was the glue that held the family together.”

And then one day, everything changed. He and his siblings knew their mother’s memory was lapsing, but like most families, they chalked it up to normal aging. “And then over breakfast, Mom dropped the most unmistakable piece of evidence thus far. She said to me, her son, ‘now who are you?’” His mom lost the rest of her memory and her identity, struggled to take care of herself and lived her final days in a nursing home before succumbing to the disease. (When a Loved One with Alzheimer’s Doesn’t Recognize You)

How Alzheimer’s Caregiving is Similar to Mountain Climbing

Mr. Arnette says every step he takes climbing mountains is a step for Alzheimer’s individuals and their families. “For me, there are so many similarities between mountain climbing and Alzheimer’s. The mental and physical demands of scaling seemingly insurmountable peaks are not unlike the everyday trials that those living with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers face. Understanding personal limitations, reaching out for support, not giving up, taking steps day-by-day are all challenges both climbers and Alzheimer’s caregivers experience.”

A Profound Moment in His Journey

Thanks to modern technology – satellite uplinks, hand-held devices and notebook computers, Mr. Arnette is able to transmit from the mountaintops. Followers can visit his blog to listen to audio recordings he makes from the peaks. One of his most profound moments, captured in audio, came when he reached the summit of Mount Everest, at sunrise on May 21, 2011. He took the final steps to the summit and saw a collection of prayer flags. At that moment, his emotional wall collapsed. He could barely get the words out: ‘I want to dedicate this summit to my mom and to all the Alzheimer’s moms. We love you, and we miss you. Climb on. This is Alan. Memories are everything.’ ”

Read more:
When a Senior Can’t Remember the Story, Let Them Make It Up
A Kids-Eye View of Alzheimer’s
“My Mom Has Dementia and Is Telling Lies About Me”

Mountain Climber Attempts 7 Summits for Alzheimer’s Research originally appeared on

Advice from an Alzheimer’s Caregiver

Here are Mr. Arnette’s top tips for caregivers coping with the stress of Alzheimer’s:

  • The most important thing is to take care of yourself because you can’t take care of anyone else if you’re not okay yourself
  • Know your limitations. It’s important to know what you can’t do even if you’d like to do it.
  • Remember that Alzheimer’s is a slow disease so you need to find a coping mechanism because it’s a long journey. There are a ton of resources for family caregivers – reach out to them. Reach out to friends and family for support.
  • Be an active part of the decision-making process.

Follow His Climbs

Listen to audio from Mr. Arnette’s climbs, view photos and videos of the climbs at To see what other caregivers are saying about his efforts, follow him on Facebook. Here are some of the comments on Facebook from caregivers who are following his journey:

“Thanks for climbing for my dad and all families affected by Alzheimer’s”

- Becky from Montana

“You are beyond amazing – awareness is key, and people do what they can to bring awareness to others…..but what you are doing? Wow!! I am honored to “like” this.”

- Kathy, Michigan

How You Can Help

To help Mr. Arnette’s cause, visit his website, and donate.

Read more:
A Caregiver’s Story: Getting Into a Dementia Patient’s Head
Dreams and Past Events: What is Reality for People With Dementia?
Things People With Dementia Say: Common Phrases and How to Reply

Mountain Climber Attempts 7 Summits for Alzheimer’s Research originally appeared on


Aditya Narayan
Aditya n5 years ago


gary c.
Gary C6 years ago


Siti Rohana
Siti R6 years ago

if everybody care to champion the causes close to their heart, we have a better chance of surviving as a Human race.

jennifer curtis
jennifer curtis6 years ago

my dad died from muti organ failure due to alhz.. this man is awesome

Rudolf Affolter
Past Member 6 years ago

What a fabulous man!

Robyn L.
Robyn P6 years ago

We have three things to give in this life: time money and influence. This is collecting all three. Bravo!

Elisabeth T.
Elisabeth T6 years ago

Great article, thank s so much...

Juliet D.
judith sanders6 years ago

His funding is coming from big corporations, and much of money raised will fund research on more drugs. OK, but when will we get more research on the causes and prevention of Alzheimers? Should research really be done by those who have a financial interest in having an endless stream of patients they can sell their products to?

Kamryn M.
Kay M6 years ago


Sharon Balloch
Sharon Balloch6 years ago

the studies show that fruit will slow down the disease . I wondered why a lady at the bank said her friend was good at Christmas and 6 months later did not know her.. and my Mom who is 94 has had it for over two years and is doing much better. I thought to myself what is going on,, it should be racing though my Mom in her advanced age as the other lady was only 60.. so I checked.. Fruit slows it down.. and I have been putting two pieces of fruit by my Moms bed every night for 2 year.. one is always a banana. I also every week make two dozen of my own fruit and berry muffins and she has one of those almost every day. So in my mind this is the thing that works. It does not stop it but it sure makes it slower.
That is what the studies say and I have to say it the only thing I can think of that makes such a difference.
She has a mood enhancer but that lost its steam a long time ago.