Alan Arnette will embark later this month on a year-long quest to climb the tallest mountain on each continent, which he hopes will raise awareness about Alzheimer's disease and $1 million for research toward finding a cure.
It's no spur-of-the-moment lark. Arnette, 54, spent nearly a decade caring for his mother as she succumbed to Alzheimer's, losing her memory in stages and ultimately forgetting even her name and everything about her life.
Ida Arnette passed away in August of 2009. Since then, her son has meticulously planned his mission to conquer the so-called Seven Summits, an achievement made by fewer than 400 people. If he completes it within a calendar year, he'll become one of only a handful of climbers to have done so.
"It's doable, but ambitious," said Phil Ershler, who works for International Mountain Guides and will lead some of Arnette's expeditions. "What I like is that he has a good business mind, too, so he's going to go up there and put his brain to work, add his lungs and his legs, and bring not only a greater awareness but big bucks to the cause."
Arnette announced his mission today during a satellite media tour from his home state of Colorado. He'll begin the series of climbs Nov. 24, when he leaves for Antarctica to ascend the 16,067-foot Mt. Vinson Massif. His itinerary includes Mt. Aconcagua in South America; Mt. Everest in Asia; Mt. Denali in North America; Mt. Elbrus in Europe; Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa, and the Carstensz Pyramid in Oceania.
For good measure he'll add an eighth peak, Mt. Kosciusko in Australia, which is sometimes counted instead of Carstensz as part of the Seven Summits.
He's asking that people who wish to support his odyssey donate at least a penny for every foot he climbs, via his expedition website or his personal website. He'll post frequent dispatches and via the Facebook link on his expedition website.
(Since climbs do not begin at sea level, the penny-per-foot donations are not as expensive as they might seem. For example, Arnette will begin the Vinson ascent from a base at 7,000 feet and his actual gain will be 9,067 feet, so the donation would be $91. Everest, which at 29,035 feet is the world's tallest mountain, entails a 19,635-foot gain and the donation would be $196.)
Arnette's climbing expeditions are already sponsored by corporations so 100% of the donations will benefit the Cure Alzheimer's Fund.
The mountaineer, who has extensive climbing experience, knew little about Alzheimer's before his mother was diagnosed. He has since discovered that it's the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, where more than 5 million people are suffering from the disease. More than 25 million people suffer from Alzheimer's worldwide.