FORT COLLINS, Colo. — If you’re a Colorado climber, you likely know the same Alan Arnette of Fort Collins. Arnette, who summited Mount Everest in 2011, is getting back in the climbing game after he was blown off a trail in 2017, breaking his leg in three places. He is about to return to Nepal for yet another climb. This time, it’s for his mom, Ida.
“My mom never really understood my mountain climbing,” he said. “I didn’t start mountain climbing until I was 38 years old.”
Since then, he has climbed the two tallest mountains on Earth, plus many more. He became the oldest American to summit K2, at the age of 58.
But that trajectory changed when a 100 mph guest of wind on Twin Sisters cartwheeled him head over tail in the rocks. He broke his tibia and fibula in three places.
“It crossed my mind that maybe it was time to stop,” he said. “That experience has proven to be a gift in my life. It allowed me to reach more people than I ever thought I could reach. Telling a story of what was potentially a negative and turning it into a positive.”
In 2003, the health of Arnette’s mother, Ida Arnette, started going downhill. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
“It’s a disease of the brain — it’s a degenerative disease, and it’s a disease just like cancer or diabetes or anything else,” Arnett said. “And there’s no way of slowing it down, there’s no way of reversing it once you get it, and it’s 100 percent fatal.”
Arnette said he and his mom were best friends growing up. When she passed away in 2009, Arnette started raising funds for Alzheimer's research through his climbs. Since her death, he’s raised more than $300,000.
“We don’t have a cure for Alzheimer’s,” Arnette said. “And, as long as I have a voice, and as long as I can use climbing as a mechanism, I’m going to continue to be an advocate… When I do my public speaking and I show a video of my mom, I often say to the audience, ‘I wonder what she would think?’ And I can hear her voice in my head, just crystal clear, saying, ‘Well, if you think it will help people, then I guess it’s OK,’ in her soft, southern, Memphis accent.”
To follow Arnette’s climb, visit www.AlanArnette.com.