With his Seven Summits Climb for Alzheimer’s: Memories Are Everything expedition now complete, Alan Arnette finally has his feet planted firmly on the ground. In October, he summitted Mount Kosciusko in Australia and the Carstensz Pyramid in New Guinea, after scaling each of the highest peaks on the other continents. His goal was to honor the memory of his mother, whom he lost to Alzheimer’s in 2009, and to raise money toward finding a cure.
Of all Arnette’s climbs this past year, the Carstensz Pyramid was the most technical. This 16,023-foot rock climb required him to hang upside down on a cable in mid-air. Arnette’s biggest challenge was not the climb itself, but navigating the politics of thousands of miners who were on strike at the base of the mountain. Kosciusko is the base of a ski resort and the highest peak on the mainland of Australia at 7,000 feet. “Kosciusko was a low-drama mountain and a tremendous amount of fun to climb,” says Arnette.
“I feel gratified that the Seven Summits campaign accomplished the awareness and education objectives we set out to attain, including a message of hope, need and urgency,” Arnette says. He is also deeply grateful to all of those who have contributed to the cause*, although the dollar amount is not yet where he hopes it will be. Arnette’s journey has given him a deep sense of accomplishment in helping to get the frightening realities of Alzheimer’s disease on people’s radar.
With mountain climbing in his blood, Arnette will continue to climb on a personal level. He also hopes to return to Denali (Mount McKinley) in Alaska, in an attempt to summit in order to honor the campaign. “I don’t think it’s OK just to give up on Denali just because the weather was bad. Like fighting Alzheimer’s disease, you can’t give up on something just because it’s hard.”
Arnette also plans to take his experiences on a Seven Cities speaking tour, in which he will share his experiences and continue to raise awareness and funds to fight Alzheimer’s. “The fact that the financial equation is upside down—only one penny out of every dollar spent on Alzheimer’s goes toward finding a cure—and the cost of caring for an Alzheimer’s patient is going to devastate Medicare and Medicaid, brings a sense of urgency that I’m not sure people totally understand. It’s important to get that message out.” Despite what Arnette has accomplished, he says, “there’s a phenomenal amount of work ahead. My goal is to leverage the momentum we’ve built and continue to raise awareness and funds toward finding a cure. We still have a huge mountain to climb. I have been honored to work to raise money for CAF and will continue to do so. I thank them for their devotion and commitment to finding a cure.”
*The Alzheimer’s Immunotherapy Program of Janssen Alzheimer Immunotherapy and Pfizer Inc. funded Arnette’s journey, which allowed him to dedicate 100 percent of the money raised directly to Cure Alzheimer’s Fund, the National Family Caregivers Association and the Alzheimer’s Association.