Climbing 50 Peaks in 50 Days, Powered by Microsoft Technology
Melissa Arnot returns from record Everest climb to help protégé tackle 50 Peaks Challenge
By Vanessa Ho as written on microsoft.com
In May, Melissa Arnot became the first American woman to successfully climb Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen. A month earlier, her good friend and business manager in Seattle, Christine Hass, had a baby.
After such life-changing feats, you might think the two of them would want a leisurely summer. Maybe hang out at the pool and do a little less after summiting 29,028 feet in brutal conditions on dangerously thin mountain air, or caring for a newborn day and night after giving birth.
But you’d be wrong. Instead, the women are now helping Arnot’s climbing protégé, Maddie Miller, tackle a new adventure called the 50 Peaks Challenge, which involves climbing the highest point in all 50 U.S. states in 50 days.
With Microsoft Band, Skype, Office and Surface empowering their journey, Arnot and Miller are now on a cross-country race against the clock in a camper van named “Tiffany,” with Hass providing support from her home office in Seattle. The epic road trip and expedition kicked off on June 27 when Miller summited 20,308-foot Denali in Alaska. She then flew to Florida to join Arnot, who sustained a cold-related foot injury on Everest and skipped Denali to recover and finalize logistics.
After quickly reworking their plans – part of their nimble nature in the business — the pair is now heading north and west, before flying to Hawaii for a final hike up Mauna Kea in Hawaii. If they’re successful, Miller will be the first woman to complete the challenge.
For the trio, 50 Peaks is less about mountaineering and more about a powerful team working together to achieve goals, share a joy for adventure, and inspire others to accomplish great things. It’s a chance for Arnot, a renowned professional climbing guide, to mentor a younger athlete and share her vast mountaineering experience, which began at 19. She had quit an ad-writing job in Iowa, drove west and lived out of her truck to climb mountains.
“This year is really a year of mentorship, and it’s pretty special. It’s the most responsibility I’ve ever had in terms of teaching and caring for people,” says Arnot, who started her climbing business seven years ago. Earning success in a male-dominated industry, Arnot has summited Everest six times, led expeditions on three continents and climbed to the top of Mount Rainier more than a hundred times.
She has also supported others. This year, she guided a 13-year-old girl on climbs in Nepal for six weeks. She worked on her non-profit organization, The Juniper Fund, which helps families of Sherpas killed on Everest. And she’s been preparing Miller for 50 Peaks, on everything from gear to workouts to mental stamina. The two met in 2013, when Arnot guided Miller on a climb up Rainier as part of Miller’s high school graduation gift from her dad.
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“It’s been teaching her the skills to be technically ready, but also the skills to have the confidence in herself that she can do this,” Arnot says of 50 Peaks, which includes technical climbs, shorter hikes and six summits in a single day.
For Miller, the challenge is an opportunity to learn mountaineering and life skills from a thriving entrepreneur and world-class climber.
“Melissa is a really important person in my life, not just for guiding me up mountains,” says Miller, a 21-year-old Colorado College senior majoring in mathematical economics. “She’s taught me that women can achieve so much, and do so much, and there’s no limitation.”
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