Melissa Arnot Gears Up For 6th Summit Of Mount Everest With Humility And Hard Work: BUST Interview

by Dawn Day

While the rest of us are stuffing our faces with pumpkin-flavored treats and drinking Starbucks coffee from our plain red cups, Melissa Arnot is training to run a 50K in preparation for her sixth summit of Mt. Everest. That’s right, sixth, and in an effort to push her limits just a little bit further—this time, she’s doing it without supplemental oxygen. But for Arnot, it’s not about holding a record; it’s about interacting with nature.

“I think there’s something really powerful about being at the mercy of nature in such a very real way that reminds you to be humble in all of our areas of life,” Arnot said in an interview with BUST. “I go into lots of different places where humility isn’t obvious, but in the mountains it’s very obvious. You’re like the most small, least in control thing there.”

With five summits of the world’s largest peak under her belt, Arnot is the record holder for a non-Sherpa woman with the most summits Mount Everest. Her next expedition will depart in mid March, and when she successfully reaches the top, sans an oxygen mask, she will be the first American woman to do so.

“Trying to climb without oxygen for me is a huge personal challenge between me and myself, and understanding what my true limits are, and how to function responsibly with nature,” Arnot said. “I’m curious if I can interface with nature without that help.”

Arnot, a 31-year-old mountain guide and rescue worker, has seen tragedy and devastation in her eight seasons of experience with Everest, but it does not keep her to returning to the Mountain she has bonded so deeply with over the years.  

From an avalanche in 2014 that killed 16 high altitude workers to this year’s catastrophic earthquake in Nepal, Arnot has seen friends lose their life at the mercy of the mountain.

“That was a crazy thing that happened,” Arnot said of the 2014 avalanche. “Some of those people were my friends, and it just totally made me think about how we’re climbing there, and the importance of respecting the place and respecting the people, and using this place in a sustainable way.”

Her love for both Mount Everest, and the people of Nepal is clear in the passion she brings to a discussion about her career paired with her incredibly humble down-to-earth nature. Plus, her actions go beyond going on expeditions in Nepal. The Juniper Fund is an organization Arnot co-founded with David Morton to support the families of mountain workers that lose their lives while working in the dangerous conditions.

Arnot is also a minority as a woman in the world of climbing, but she quickly gains the respect of anybody that questions her experience quickly with her expertise.

“One of the main things is the assumption that I’m not the leader of the trip, or that I’m not the most experienced person there,” she said. “It’s one of those things where initially people approach it with, ‘Oh no, you can’t be the climber, you can’t be this experienced mountaineer,’ and that’s a huge challenge for me, but once they see that I’m an expert in my arena, and I’m really competent in that arena, it’s not a question anymore at all.”

Following her heart and staying true to her passion is something that Arnot clearly brings to her sport, and it is amazing to have a woman who quite literally represents from the top of the world.

Visit Arnot’s website to follow her journey to reaching Mount Everest with no oxygen, or check out The Juniper Fund

Photo via Instagram/@melissaarnot

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Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

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