"You don't have to be the best, fastest, strongest climber to get to the top of a mountain. You just have to be absolutely relentless about putting one foot in front of the other."

--Alison Levine

Milestones

for the Adventure Grand Slam

In May 2010 Alison became one of a handful of people in the world who have completed the Adventure Grand Slam -- climbing the Seven Summits and skiing to both the North and South Poles.

1998

First ascent 1889

5895 m / 19,340 ft

Kilimanjaro

(Africa)

First ascent 1889

1998

First ascent 1874

5642 m / 18,510 ft

Elbrus

(Europe)

First ascent 1874

1999

First ascent 1962

6962 m / 22,841 ft

Anconcagua

(South America)

First ascent 1962

1999

First ascent 1913

4884 m / 16,024 ft

Carstensz Pyramid

(Australasia

First ascent 1913

2000

First ascent 1966

6194 m / 20320 ft

Denali

(North America)

First ascent 1966

2001

First ascent 1953

4892 m / 16,050 ft

Vinson Massif

(Antarctica)

First ascent 1953

2002

First reached in 1909 (some dispute)

8848 m / 29,029 ft

Everest

(Asia)

First reached in 1909 (some dispute)

2004

First reached in 1911

North Pole

First reached in 1911

2008

First ascent 1953

South Pole

First ascent 1953

2010

Completes 7th Summit & Adventure Grand Slam

8848 m / 29,029 ft

Everest

(Asia)

Completes 7th Summit & Adventure Grand Slam
1998
First ascent 1889

5895 m / 19,340 ft

Kilimanjaro

(Africa)

First ascent 1889
1999
First ascent 1962

6962 m / 22,841 ft

Anconcagua

(South America)

First ascent 1962
2000
First ascent 1966

6194 m / 20320 ft

Denali

(North America)

First ascent 1966
2002
First reached in 1909 (some dispute)

8848 m / 29,029 ft

Everest

(Asia)

First reached in 1909 (some dispute)
2008
First ascent 1953

South Pole

First ascent 1953
1998
First ascent 1874

5642 m / 18,510 ft

Elbrus

(Europe)

First ascent 1874
1999
First ascent 1913

4884 m / 16,024 ft

Carstensz Pyramid

(Australasia

First ascent 1913
2001
First ascent 1953

4892 m / 16,050 ft

Vinson Massif

(Antarctica)

First ascent 1953
2004
First reached in 1911

North Pole

First reached in 1911
2010
Completes 7th Summit & Adventure Grand Slam

8848 m / 29,029 ft

Everest

(Asia)

Completes 7th Summit & Adventure Grand Slam

May 23, 2010. Summit, Deconstructed.

Below is an excerpt from Alison’s Everest Blog.

We have lost radio contact with base camp. They have no idea of the weather conditions up high where we are. In order to not worry the people back home who are following our progress, they report on the cybercast that the weather is pretty good but there is an “increased chance of precipitation.” This is like saying that there is an “increased chance” Lindsay Lohan will be found passed out drunk of the floor of Les Doux. The reality was that just about every base camp manager of every major expedition on the mountain was worried about us and many stayed up throughout the entire night in their attempts to check in on us. It’s a tight group on the mountain. Everyone pulls together to help everyone. The good folks do anyway…

We leave the Col and start climbing in the howling winds. The snow is really coming down now. I am wearing clear goggles so that my eyeballs don’t freeze. Frozen corneas are often a problem for climbers on summit day. Within minutes my goggles fog up and are worthless. Arghhh. I scrap the goggles and just try to close my eyes for a few extra milliseconds in between steps. I am getting pelted in the face with snow. I can feel little icicles forming on my eyelashes.

There is no way we are going to climb for long in this weather. We keep moving. Lakpa is first in line and is leading the way, followed by Chewang and then me. They are breaking trail and are kicking in steps since there is a decent amount of new snow. Their steps are too big for me. I hate being short. Trying to use their steps is exhausting so I do my best to kick in my own. I look ahead and I see a few groups on the trail up ahead. Relatively speaking, not many people are going for the summit tonight which is good because it means we won’t have to deal with crowds on the fixed lines or at the Hillary Step. What do they know that we don’t know??? About 90 minutes into the climb I look up and see a big group of headlamps ahead of us. It takes me a minute to realize that the headlamps are pointing TOWARD us. That’s not the way to the summit guys. They finally reach us and their guide tells us that the weather conditions are too extreme for them to continue–they are calling it quits and are heading back to camp. He says, “I hope we don’t regret this decision.” There is a part of me that is hoping that we will turn around in the crappy weather too as the winds and snow are making me nervous. I don’t know if I can do this. I want to be able to blame the weather rather than my own weakness. We keep climbing. Visibility is horrible. I know Meg would tell me to ignore the pain/discomfort and to just put my head down and keep taking steps uphill. She was a fighter. Much moreso than I am.

We stop at the Balcony (27,500’) to switch out oxygen bottles. We have been climbing for about five hours. Surprisingly, I am staying pretty warm–even my hands and feet. I don’t understand how I am not an ice sculpture at this point but I’ll take it. I am glad it is dark because I think I would be even more intimidated if I could see the steepness of the route. I down a chocolate Gu and drink some water. Obviously you have to take off the oxygen mask to eat and drink. My lungs hurt. If Meg can cycle across the entire country on one lung, I can get up this mountain on two.

We keep climbing throughout the night and the early morning. The weather has started to actually get a bit better as we get higher. One step at a time, we are getting closer to the top. We reach a 90’ vertical rock pitch. No one told me about this!!! Apparently the fixed lines sometimes go around it but this year the lines go straight up and over. One by one, so do we. I am out of breath, even with my oxygen tank feeding me. We reach the South Summit (28,500’). This was where I turned around back in 2002 and was the highest point I had reached on this mountain. I don’t remember ever being here AT ALL. I have no idea how I even got this far on my last trip. I have no idea how I got this far on THIS TRIP. I am feeling totally dehydrated and I need calories. It’s so cold and the terrain has been steep, so we haven’t stopped much for food or water. Someone is right next to me all of a sudden. Michael Horst (mountain guide extraordinaire) is climbing alongside of me and pulls off his mask and starts to talk to me: “Hey… I need you to make me a promise…” He has to yell so I can hear him over the wind. WHAT do you want Michael? This is no time to be asking me for ANYTHING. Don’t you get that it is all I can do to put one foot in front of the other right now??? I am not strong and tough like you are. I wish I had your long legs and your powerful lungs. I am huffing and puffing. I reply: “What???” He is still without his mask as he climbs next to me and speaks: “I need you to promise me…that you are going to go further than THIS (referring to where we were -the South Summit–my previous high point). I start to laugh and cry at the same time. We shake hands on the promise. I never break a promise to a friend. Now I HAVE to keep climbing. We keep moving. I look down. Southwest face on one side and Kangshung face on the other. Slipping is not an option. Up ahead, the Hillary Step. 40’ of vertical but much easier than the other rock face we already climbed so no sweat–and no lines! Because the weather was so marginal, few teams chose to climb on the 24th so there was no waiting at the Step. SCORE. Now I realize that the timing for our summit bid was perrrrfect because there are so few people on the route. This was a gamble that totally paid off. Brilliant you guys!

8:00 AM. I see something up ahead–a mound of snow, prayer flags, a small statue… I think I am hallucinating.

8:10 AM. I am standing on the summit of Mt Everest. I think ??? I am waiting for Ashton Kutcher to jump out and tell me I have been punk’d. People start hugging me and congratulating me. It still hasn’t really hit me that I am where I am. I whip out the Team Meg t-shirt for a photo. I think about her family and loved ones and how lucky we all were to have her in our lives for the time that we did. She definitely taught us all about guts and grit. Now it hits me.

After photos and team hugs we head back down. It is important to remember that the summit is only the half-way point. Getting to the top is optional, getting down is NOT. Most of the accidents on Mt Everest occur on the way down from the summit because some climbers use every ounce of energy they have to get to the top and they have no reserves left to get back down. That isn’t going to happen to us. We make it back down to camp before noon.

I sit in my tent at the South Col thinking about the past two months and how hard it was. FRICKIN’ HARD. I was feeling drained as I had just climbed for nearly 14 hours on 3.5 packets of Gu and about 1/2 liter of water. Not recommended. At this point I think it still hadn’t sunk in that we actually made it. But…the climb is not over until you walk in the front door of your house. We still had to get all the way down the mountain. That meant one more trip through the icefall, so we could not yet let down our guard...