My name is Alison Levine. I have conquered the highest peak on each continent, served as team captain of the first American Women's Everest Expedition, and skied to both the North and South Poles. I'm an adjunct instructor at West Point and lecture about leadership across the country. In my new book, On the Edge: The Art of High-Impact Leadership, I chronicle the ups and downs of my expeditions. Ask me anything.

My Proof:

Thanks so much for joining me here today you guys. This was really fun -and it was my first time on Reddit -- I am now a fan! If you have any questions I have not answered, just contact me through my website and I promise I will get back to you. All of those emails come right to me. Have a great day. Now go get outdoors! :-)

Comments: 245 • Responses: 90  • Date: 

cadenhead32 karma

Mount Everest is polluted with tons of empty oxygen bottles, climbing gear, food packaging and worse. A National Geographic story this year described "garbage leaking out of the glaciers and pyramids of human excrement." There also are over 200 corpses. What was it like to encounter all of that during your ascent, and do you think something needs to change to restore the beauty of the mountain?

Alison_Levine46 karma

hi. bear with me because i am not the best typist (two fingers here my friend!). i have climbed everest twice -- and both times i will say that i did not find the conditions to be as bad as they are often described. most climbers really try to observe the "leave no trace" policy, but of course not everyone does... sherpas have financial incentive to bring down trash, so that really helps. i only saw one corpse when i was there -- and i had to look away. it was someone who had been there for years and years. had it been more recent, i am sure it would haunt me forEVER.

farmerfoo19 karma

accomplished leader, faculty at west point, climbed 7 peaks, types with 2 fingers...Checks out

Alison_Levine12 karma


Narrko22 karma

That description is hugely over exaggerated, to the point of being completely false. I was there during the 2013 spring climbing season and the worst garbage you see on the glacier is yak dung. I have no idea where the 'Piles of human excrement' statement comes from in NG but every group operating from base camp pays $30,000 (USD!) to the Nepalese government as a rubbish deposit, refunded upon a clean inspection when they leave.

Alison_Levine13 karma

i completely agree with you -- thank you for chiming in.

brindlethorpe21 karma

Are there any challenges you have considered but then refused?

Alison_Levine45 karma

yes. climbing k2. the death rate on that mountain is out of my comfort zone.

halfpakihalfmexi10 karma

What is it in comparison for Everest?

drz400s25 karma

Everest is 5.7%. K2 is 23.24%. Annapurna I is the worst at 38%.

Alison_Levine18 karma

that sounds about right to me. thanks.

Alison_Levine6 karma

i am not sure of exact percentage -- google it and let me know if you do find the answer. there are very few success stories from that mountain. annapurna too. many more people attempt everest, so on a numbers basis everest has had more deaths -- but percentage-wise when you look at k2, it is a deadlier mountain.

jvreeland4 karma

1.5 out of 100 die summiting everest where 1 out of 4 die summiting K2.

[Edit: Correction on Stat]

Alison_Levine9 karma

hmmmm...that would mean there is a greater than 25% fatality rate on everest ??? i dont think that is correct, only because if 400 people go for the summit in a season, that would mean that there are more than 100 deaths.

jvreeland5 karma

Yup, mis wrote that. Thanks for the correction.

Alison_Levine12 karma

the way they word those stats online can be really confusing.

SlappaDaBasss15 karma

What experience in your life, climbing related or not, has had the biggest impact on how you live your life?

Alison_Levine59 karma

my south pole trip, when i was the weakest member of my team and could not keep up with the 6'3" tall 230 lb guys (I am 5'4" and 108lbs. okay okay 112!!!). i trained my butt off, but those big guys could haul the heavy sleds faster than i could. but instead of making me feel like sh*t about it, they helped me out by taking some of the weight out of my sled and putting it in theirs (which meant they were now hauling MORE weight to help me out). It changed my leadership philosophy, because i used to just wish that weak people would quit so that my teams could go faster and be more efficient...but once I became the weak person, i realized that it is a leader's responsibility to help out those who are struggling. and after those guys helped me out, it made me very conscious of the fact that i should always be trying to help others (not just on expeditions, but in every day life). Holy crap this was a long answer...

jjt239013 karma

What was your most memorable moment as deputy financial officer for Arnold Schwarzenegger?

Alison_Levine33 karma

getting a republican elected in the state of California. :-)

choboy45612 karma

How was the skiing at the poles? Was one better than the other?

Alison_Levine33 karma

very different experiences. north is brutal because you are skiing on floating ice rather than on a land mass, so there is DRIFT. And it can be very psychologically CRUSHING to ski for 15 hours, go to sleep, and then wake up and find you have drifted BACKWARD and are not further away than you were when you started the previous day. That is one reason the North Pole is so much harder. With south pole, at least you can track your progress and you know exactly how much further you have to ski to reach your destination.

choboy45613 karma

I didn't even think about drift, that must have been crazy!

Alison_Levine13 karma

Oh, it SUCKS.

Alison_Levine13 karma

oops -- meant "and are NOW further away" -- not "not further away."

LonelyFrenchFry11 karma

Wikipedia says that you suffer from Raynaud's Disease. I haven't the slightest clue what this condition entails. Could you give us a brief description of the disease and how you cope with it while you're on an adventure.

euyyn13 karma

My fiancee has it, and I tell you I have no idea how this woman can be into mountain climbing while having it too: Essentially, when it's cold, blood flow to your fingers and toes is reduced like crazy, and it hurts. I've seen her digits turn yellow and dark purple.

Alison_Levine18 karma

i think i am pretty tough, but twice i have cried from the pain. and i am not a crier (unless Duke loses early during March Madness).

dude_stfu13 karma

Oh, you're a Duke fan? Fuck this AMA.

Alison_Levine2 karma


HamulcarBarca4 karma

You appear to be a terrific and wonderful person but this cannot be forgiven. I wish many tears of sadness come March, preferably pre sweet sixteen.

Alison_Levine2 karma

hilarious!!! we clearly dont like the same team, but i love your passion about ncaa hoops. i respect that in anyone. i went to univ az for college -- does that help my standing at all?

Alison_Levine10 karma

raynauds is a circulatory disease -- where the nerves clamp down on the blood vessels that feed your fingers and toes, leaving you at high risk of frostbite. it is very tough to manage on expeditions. but i gotta say that sometimes it is tough to manage in the checkout lane at the grocery store too...

nocbl23 karma

I think it's awesome that you just power through something that could be a total death sentence if it gets out of control. That's real dedication and courage.

Alison_Levine2 karma

well thank you. some would call it stupidity... :-)

AlmostSawTheEnd9 karma

Have you ever 'illegally' downloaded something?

I know it's not related to your profession/career/fame. But I like to ask in most IAmAs, just because...

Alison_Levine13 karma

LMAO (love this question). PROBABLY. but Shhhhhhhh....

prosotos8 karma

Which had the best view? Where was "that place" where you just had to stop and admire the beauty of nature?

Alison_Levine17 karma

Mt McKinley Mt McKinley Mt McKinley!!!

RobbersDaughterRonia8 karma

Hi Alison! I'm really fascinated by mountain climbing, especially eight-thousanders. I was wondering how it felt like for you to reach the summit of Everest on your second attempt, after coming so close on the first try? Also, what happened on the first attempt that made you turn back?

Alison_Levine15 karma

i gotta say, that when i reached the summit of everest i was expecting ashton kucher to jump out and tell me i had been punk'd! felt very surreal. it also was NOT as big a deal as I thought it would be. i realized that the journey is much more important than getting to the top of a big pile of ice. you're only on the summit for a few minutes -- but you are on that mountain for about 2 months total. i think people put too much emphasis on the summit.

smattbomb8 karma

I'm interested in travelling to Nepal in a few months as a sort of right-of-passage. I've hiked up a few mountains, stayed a few days at around 14k feet, and generally love the outdoors. I'm not expecting myself to summit Everest when I go, but I am hoping to make the best of my time there. Do you have any advice about how to best prepare to climb as high as I can if I'm in lowly Texas until then? Do you have any insight for travelling to Nepal alone for a mid-20s dude?

Alison_Levine15 karma

do the base camp trek!!! you will LOVE it!!! you will get to 17,000' and you'll get a good feel for what altitude tastes like. also, bring a ton of hand sanitizer. tons of people get sick there, so you have to be really careful.

smattbomb6 karma

I'll look into it! Thank you for the response

shelteringloon5 karma

there was a thread on r/hiking a few weeks ago. someone was going to nepal and asked for suggestions. the base camp hike was on suggestion, but there were a few others that seemed way better. I'm to lazy to find it now, but you might want to put the time in.

Alison_Levine3 karma

could have been Annapurna circuit.

joetromboni6 karma

did you know that picture is giving us all the middle finger?

Alison_Levine18 karma

yeah - that's why i picked that one. ;-)

gaseouscloud5 karma

What is the essential kit for these kinds of expeditions? Do you a take satellite phone?

Alison_Levine8 karma

oh yeah i take a satellite phone! and a solar charger. it's a lot of extra gear to carry, but it is worth it as a safety precaution. And so you can call home and get sports scores. :-)

essential kit varies based on type and length of expedition.

NemesisAtDawn5 karma

Which peak was your favorite to climb?

Alison_Levine10 karma

of the 7 summits -- i would say mckinley. beautiful, beautiful mountain. but outside of the 7 summits i would say rwenzori mountains in uganda. i have climbed them 6 times.

ShyKidFromCleveland4 karma

How many dead bodies have you seen and if you've seen any do they make you rethink doing something so dangerous?

Alison_Levine9 karma

i have seen 1 on everest, and then have had someone i was with die during a trip from a deep vein thrombosis. we were on mustagh ata in china and he died in his tent at base camp and it was a f'ing CRUSHER (because it wasnt like he died from an avalanche or pulmonary edema or anything mountain related). we were so far away from any kind of medical care... everyone there was absolutely devastated. but of course this could have happened to him if he were skiiing in tahoe too... i always think about the risks though. always...

rabbischmooleyishot4 karma

A few questions for you Alison:

  • What kind of physical and mental training did you undergo to accomplish your climbs?
  • Where did your love for climbing or your passion come from to accomplish such a grand goal?
  • Also, I think of climbing as a 'male-dominated' sport, how did you fit in or were there any obstacles being a woman accomplishing these goals?

Alison_Levine6 karma

physical training: i trained on smaller mountains as often as i could -- i would climb mt shasta (in northern cal) as much as I could and then when i lived in CO i would climb in the rockies as much as i could mental: well...i guess i really got the mental training once i got there, because you get the crap kicked out of you all the time, so you REALLY need to have a strong voice in your head telling you NOT TO QUIT (dammit!!!) :-) Mountaineering is still very male dominated, but more and more women are getting into the sport. biggest obstacle:learning to pee standing up. ha!

Esmereldista3 karma

I actually have a follow-up question to this. My husband and I are looking to get involved in mountaineering and the learning to pee standing up thing seems pretty important. Is that because it's faster than finding time/a place to sit down? Also, how important is minimizing skin exposure time in some of the higher elevations (and colder places, in general)?

Alison_Levine6 karma

you can buy a device called the Lady J. it is basically a funnel that you can use to pee standing up. if you are not on a glacier and are not roped in, then you can always walk away and find a place to squat. but if you are tied to your teammates and are wearing a climbing harness, you'll want to stand up so that you dont have to loosen your harness, drop trou, squat/try to balance, etc...

Mrgoldfishybo4 karma

What was your most scary/frightening experience while climbing mount everest?

Alison_Levine11 karma

oh, that's an easy question. DEFINITELY going through the Khumbu Icefall in 2002, when a huge serac collapsed -- and i missed getting knocked into a crevasse by just a few feet. YIKES!

Mrgoldfishybo5 karma

Just reading that made me scared.....

Alison_Levine7 karma

writing it again made me scared!!!

eraof94 karma

active women like yourself, how do they feel about the kitchen?

Alison_Levine13 karma

LOL!!! Love it. Can't stay out of it. Especially when I am barefoot.

ElectricFleshlight0 karma


Alison_Levine4 karma

Yeah, I'm good like that.

NotMathMan8214 karma

You've climbed the tallest mountains on earth, but have you ever been higher than Snoop?

Alison_Levine5 karma

so true so true!!! have you ever heard the Gourds do their bluegrass version of Gin and Juice? it is AWESOME.

NotMathMan8213 karma

I have not, but you may have just become my new favorite person in the world.

Alison_Levine4 karma

LOL!!! You HAVE to go download it RIGHT NOW. seriously. you will play it 1000000000 times and you still wont be sick of it. it is such a great song.

Hausenkamp3 karma

As a person with fear of heights. How the fuck do you manage to not pass out when you're up there?

Alison_Levine9 karma

DON'T LOOK DOWN! :-) The Khumbu Icefall is probably the scariest part for me -- all the ladders that you have to cross and all of the massive crevasses...even if you do not have a fear of heights it will scare the sh*t out if you. even atheists mumble prayers when they climb thru the Icefall.

theextremist043 karma

I'm a climber that's gotten my dad into climbing. He was very scared of heights at first (got scared 30ft up in the gym) but this summer we climbed a 600ft route in Colorado. A fear of heights is very natural, but you can learn to get over it as you learn to trust your equipment and realize that heights aren't as big of a deal as you might think.

Or you might be terrified, you never know.

Alison_Levine1 karma

thank you for sharing that. great insight.

AmishRockstar3 karma

What do you teach at West Point?

Alison_Levine12 karma

i lecture in the dept of behavioral sciences & leadership -- and i lecture about how to lead teams in extreme environments. a lot of the stuff i lecture about is in my book which is called On the Edge: The Art of High-Impact Leadership.

CrashAndBurn693 karma

How did you get into such a unique lifestyle/career while still being financially stable?

Alison_Levine9 karma

that has been one of the BIGGEST challenges. i had so much debt from student loans (70k),so i always had to find sponsors for expeditions. and finding a corporate sponsor is SO HARD (at least for me, because i hate fundraising). fundraising feels like a full-time job...

CrashAndBurn695 karma

Thank you for the answer. I've always been so curious how people like you live such awesome lives while still managing to get by financially, mainly because I too would love to live a life full of traveling and adventure. Although I just don't know how to break out the mold of everyday life.

Alison_Levine8 karma

it is hard to do, and i definitely had more than a few moments of frustration and felt like giving up. i was tired of being broke and feeling like i was not making progress toward ANYTHING in my life...but in the end, persistence really paid off, and once i lured in one sponsor, then the next ones seemed to come more easily. but i still have my ups and downs...

thewitt332 karma

Hee hee, ups and downs. Think that pun was lost among this group. I liked it!

Alison_Levine3 karma

omg, it was lost on ME TOO!!!

thewitt331 karma

Haha! I love puns so always seem to see them. Keep doing what you do Alison, you are an absolute inspiration to so many people. Love reading your stories! And thanks for the AMA!

Alison_Levine1 karma

thank you for absolutely making my day!

Alison_Levine1 karma

thanks for the kind words. this AMA was really fun.

jealousblues5 karma

whats the process like for finding a sponsor?

I suppose thats the kind of thing people dont think of

Alison_Levine4 karma

in my opinion, it is VERY frustrating and NOT fun. you basically send a gazillion pitch emails, letters, put together proposals, and try to think of creative ways to get the attention of marketing departments within companies that have deep pockets. you get a million "no's" before you ever get a "well...maybe..."

jealousblues2 karma

I cannot imagine its ever a fun thing.

So do you send one to say, Redbull and try to make it a fun thing for their brand or is it more national geographic or say the company that makes the boots you are wearing on your trek or is it more scientific stuff?

Alison_Levine2 karma

customizing the sales pitch is absolutely essential. you have to think about what would appeal to each company, and gear your pitch toward that. this is what makes it sooooo time-consuming. it's not like one letter will do the trick.

theextremist041 karma

Most of the expeditions for normal people are sponsored by "other" corporations or charities (surprisingly.) The companies in the outdoors industry mostly sponsor cutting edge expeditions- for example, Mountain Hardwear sponsored a trip for some of its athletes to go to Greenland not that long ago. Some gear companies (like La Sportiva, the probable boot company you mentioned) might donate gear, but rarely go beyond that.

Alison_Levine1 karma

you are spot on with this by the way...

CapAnson3 karma

How did you end up at West Point?

Alison_Levine11 karma

I had just turned 42 and was trying to enlist in the army - because my entire life i felt like it was my duty to serve, just something that i have always wanted to do. i knew age limit for army was 42 -- so i thought "gotta do it NOW." but when i talked to the recruiting officer he told me i was TOO OLD. I was crushed. I was thinking, "I just skied 600 miles across antarctica while pulling a 150l sled -- and you're telling me that any other chick who happens to be 41 can enlist and i CANNOT? i did not want to take "no" for an answer.So i called a guy I met at a leadership conference a few years earlier who was a colonel at the time. he gave me his card, and my SOME MIRACLE I saved it and found it in a drawer. I called him and I said, "i dont know if u remember me, but i need your help." I asked him if he could pull some strings for me so i could get around the age limit. he said, "if you want to help the army -- come lecture in my department at USMA. I am now the head of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership. I remember your lecture from the conference and I think you would be a great asset to our dept because your views on leadership are very applicable to the military." that's sort of the abbreviated version.

blair91232 karma

That's awesome, I'm glad you found a way to serve in the end.

Alison_Levine6 karma

I travel there from CA on my own dime. I do not get any kind of salary. And I hope I get to do it for at least 50 more yrs.

CapAnson4 karma

Oh wow you had to enlist? And I was thinking 32 or so from your pic. I guess that's a benefit of an active lifestyle.

Alison_Levine7 karma

oh I LOVE YOU FOR THAT! yeah, 47 now...but I was 42 at the time.

Alison_Levine3 karma

forgot to clarify -- recruiting officer explained that i had to enlist BEFORE my 42nd bday. I did not know that at the time. Thought I was good to go at 42!

vahillbilly3 karma

Who do you think was mostly to blame for Everest Disaster or 96?

Alison_Levine6 karma

President Bush.

vahillbilly2 karma

Gee that's a stupid answer. Seriously, I am asking an honest question of an experienced climber. I would like to have your take on the events.

theextremist041 karma

The people that were there don't know. No offense to her, but she certainly doesn't. We all have our opinions, but they're simple speculation at best.

Alison_Levine1 karma

this is 100% TRUE.

DrSpagetti3 karma

Out of all your experiences, was there ever a time where you did not expect to make it back alive? What was your most frightening experience?

Alison_Levine3 karma

YES. It's such a long story -- but it was a trip to Carstensz Pyramid, and i was by myself and i got really really sick. I had so many things go wrong with my equipment and made a TON of rookie mistakes (i had only been climbing for a year and underestimated the mountain). people who have read my book have told me it was their favorite chapter. I tried to keep the tone pretty light, but i was scared sh*tless.

The-Gnome3 karma

Hello Alison! Thank you for doing this AMA.

I've always been fascinated about the "summit fever" mentality. Specifically, the case of David Sharp sparked a lot of controversy over whether it was ethical to leave the man to die. As we know, he indeed died and many blamed Mark Inglis' team for passing by Sharp's dying body more than once.

Realistically, when does the summit overtake the life of another? (I'm sure we'd like to say it never does but this clearly isn't true all the time). Or is it simply a matter of being in the death zone and not being able to save a dying mountaineer? Who perhaps ought to have been better prepared.

I've never been close to such hostile environments (the death zone), I'd like to know what an experienced person thinks.

Alison_Levine6 karma

this is SUCH a great question. i have an entire chapter in my book about this. there are so many factors that go into whether or not someone can be saved. and it is all so incredibly heart-wrenching. so many things to consider: is the person mobile --meaning, can they get up on their feet? how close to death (or life) are they? Most people say they would stop for a climber in trouble, but clearly with the David Sharp case, people did not stop. many people did not realize he was there (thought he was a corpse that had been there for years). others did not realize he needed help. it was really sad that he was up there with no radio -- so he could not call for help. but one thing to keep in mind too, is that people's brain's dont always function well at altitude, and things that seem black and white at sea level look different in the death zone. also, the footage that was shown on the discovery channel was edited quite a bit, so i dont think people saw the whole story...

The-Gnome3 karma

Thank you so much for replying! I was afraid it'd be too touchy a subject. I will certainly have to read your book now, too.

Alison_Levine3 karma

yeah -- me too! i was really nervous about tackling it in my book because it is indeed so touchy. i hope it comes across okay...

bolingbrokeIV2 karma

Any of those mountains you would recomend to a mountain biker looking for something noteworthy to ride a bike down, up if possible.

Alison_Levine4 karma

okay, get THIS: mountain biking scares the crap out of me. I have seen so many friends get hurt, and for whatever reason I just have never embraced the sport.because i don't ride, i dont have a good answer for you -- i am so sorry!!!

thedudeintx822 karma


I really enjoyed your talk at the 2011 Chick-Fil-A Leadercast. It was very motivation.

I have a couple of questions:

  1. What acclimation trek was the hardest and why?

  2. What is the most profound lesson you brought back after climbing up Everest?

Thanks for doing this AMA.

Alison_Levine4 karma

thanks for joining this AMA -- and so awesome that u were at leadercast (i was a last min replacement for robin roberts). acclimatization trek that was the hardest...well, it wasnt really a trek -- it was more of a rotation -- and it was on everest-- going from camp 2 to camp 3 in order to just acclimatize. the route up the Lhotse Face is sooo icy and steep. most profound lesson: summits are meaningless unless they provide perspective (and i don't mean "views from the top"-- i mean the thinking kind of perspective). it is all about the journey.

thedudeintx827 karma

Just found my notes from that talk also. Thought you might get a kick out of seeing them.

Alison_Levine3 karma

no way. that is awesome. those notes are perfect -- you got all the main points down.

hansjens472 karma

what's your favorite and least favorite food to eat while on expeditions?

Alison_Levine4 karma

fave: anything chocolate. least fave: corn nuts.

cpek132 karma

Loved having the chance to hear you talk up at West Point! Glad you're doing an AMA here on Reddit. Had a couple more questions for you: 1. Who was the best leader you have encountered? 2. What leadership lessons did you take from him/her that you employ in your daily life?

Alison_Levine5 karma

LOVE lecturing at WestPoint -- it is my favorite part of my job. best leader i have ever encountered, hands down, is polar explorer Eric Philips (he's an Aussie). The lesson I take from Eric has to do with dealing with weak people -- and what I learned from observing him is that as leaders, it is our responsibility to help weaker people compensate for weakness rather than expecting people to overcome weakness. there are some weaknesses that people will never overcome (for me, it is usually my size -- i'm smaller and cannot drag a 150lb sled as fast as someone who is 6'3" 230lbs. But Eric did not hammer me for that -- instead, he helped me find other ways to contribute to the success of the team. And most importantly, GO ARMY!!!!

Missing_tooth2 karma

After seeing Denali over the clouds at the end of a backpacking trip in AK, I've always wanted to climb the mountain. How would you suggest getting involved in the sport for someone who has a lot of outdoor experience (including rock climbing), but very little mountaineering experience?

Alison_Levine2 karma

take a glacier skills course or denali prep course with alpine ascents .they will teach you everything you need to know. VERY reputable company.

superdude992 karma

Which mountain was your favorite to climb?

Alison_Levine8 karma

i really loved mt mckinley because it is physically the most beautiful mountain i have ever been to. but the most fun i ever had was on a mountain in china called mustagh ata (not one of the seven summits) -- just because the people i met there were HILARIOUS and were as into practical jokes as i was.

jvreeland2 karma

Have you ever thought about doing any long distance hiking like the AT? PCT? CD?

Alison_Levine3 karma

YES YES YES. would love to do the PCT. But i would need to be able to bring my dog Trooper. I love him sooo much and cannot be away from him for very long because I miss him. He's the greatest dog in the world.

RoRo241 karma

I suck at skiing any tips?

Alison_Levine2 karma

honestly, i am not that good at it either.

Johnnyboy99891 karma

How do you like NY compared to CA?

Alison_Levine3 karma

i am from AZ originally, and that is the state that feels most like home to me. I love things about NY and CA though. And also hate things about them (COST OF LIVING).

DogedUp1 karma

Do you ever think about the existence of a god? I'm thinking about that since you've experienced the raw power of nature and how big it actually is compared to us humans.

Alison_Levine1 karma

i do. a lot.

jacksaces1 karma

What drives you?

Alison_Levine6 karma

Jeep Wrangler Rubicon.

Alison_Levine1 karma

sorry 'bout the jeep joke. you deserve a legit answer. what drives me? i love being outside -- away from "civilization" and working with a team of people who all want to challenge themselves...i love to see how far out of my comfort zone i can go before i call "uncle." And there is also something very empowering about knowing that you can get by in life with only the things that you can carry in your backpack. i also really love the bonding that occurs on these types of remote expeditions. i am also driven by the challenge to learn more about myself and what I need to work on. The mountains have a way of handing your ass to you.

chugz1 karma

Loved all the insight. how has the transition from 'world explorer' to 'lecturer' been on you? do you miss being on a trail rather then behind a desk? or is bringing excitement to other potential explorers just as rewarding?


Alison_Levine3 karma

Having the opportunity to connect with potential adventurers all over the world is rewarding...but it is also VERY HARD for me. I still get out to the mountains a few times a year, but what is hard is that I am an introvert, and the social aspects that come with lecturing all over are hard for me. I am not comfortable at company cocktail parties and dinners...I struggle through those and they make me very uncomfortable and nervous. I would rather sit in a dark closet by myself than walk into a cocktail party where I don't know anyone and try to make conversation.

VinWalker-1 karma

I know that climbing mountains is your forte, but would you ever consider going the opposite direction and spelunking?

Alison_Levine1 karma

why not? yeah...

nashkara1 karma

Damn. I've seen Alison speak in person and she is amazing. One AMA I'm sad I missed.

Alison_Levine1 karma

awwwwww -- you just made my day!!!! xoxox!!!

gnualmafuerte1 karma

I'm from Argentina, and I've been wanting to climb Aconcagua for about two years now. I don't have any real experience, but I am the most determined sun of a bitch I've ever seen, and when I set to do something, I usually do it. Two years ago I achieved one of my dreams (Trekking on Perito Moreno Glaciar - Calafate), Aconcagua is next.

So, did you enjoy Aconcagua? Any thoughts? Thanks for doing this AMA.

Alison_Levine1 karma

I have climbed it twice -- from 2 different routes. you could do it. the normal route is not technical, and if you have determination and you go SLOWLY so that you don't get altitude sickness, you have a high probability of success. But weather at the top can be tricky. Winds were high enough to knock me over...

Maryland1731 karma

For some getting into mountaineering/rock climbing, what books do you recommend for technical instruction? Thanks for all you do and good luck to you.

Alison_Levine3 karma

Mountaineering: the Freedom of the Hills is my Bible. There is so much great info in that book, it is amazing. And good luck to you too!

Flashtoo1 karma


Alison_Levine3 karma

Raynaud's sucks. there is no way around that. but what i do to try to minimize the problems it causes is i pop handwarmers into my gloves as soon as I wake up in the morning (even if my hands do not feel cold), just to try to PREVENT my fingers from going numb.If i lose my ability to grip an ice ax or ski pole, i am in trouble.

red_sundress1 karma

Which of the Seven Summits gave you the greatest sense of accomplishment?

Is there any that you really want to climb again? Any that you would never attempt again?

Alison_Levine3 karma

this answer might surprise you -- but kilimanjaro gave me the greatest sense of accomplishment -- and of course it is the easiest one! but i loved it because it is where i first learned that i could push myself past that point where i felt like i could not go on any further...and then you take one more step...and then one more after that...etc etc. and i would go back to ANY of them again. Any of them!

red_sundress2 karma

Thanks for answering!

The Seven Summits has always fascinated me. The highest I've ever been in Everest Base Camp, maybe one I'll take up climbing and go higher.

Alison_Levine4 karma

base camp is pretty damn high!!! if you made it up there, you can totally do Kili and Elbrus for starters -- you could!

beausuf1 karma

How did you find Mount Kosciuszko in Australia? The reason I ask is that I did Kosi in late June this year and it was the first summit climb that I've ever done. I didn't find it too demanding although I was there early season and the snow wasn't too heavy. My question being, how did you find it in comparison to all others? I don't want to sound niave but I personally didn't find it too hard and it got me thinking about trying other peaks, although in saying that a young man was missing and most likely dead in the area when I did the climb. I went with a guide who led me via compass and he was on the search party for the man that was missing [an apparent experience climber and had military survival training] so I got a little inside scoop on the whole ordeal, although it didn't comfort me at all heading into the fog up a mountain for the first time.

EDIT: My guide also told me that because it's quite flat in comparison and significantly smaller than all others that some people underestimate the climb and that's where people have been caught out. I don't think the death rate is all that high but he told me a few people usually die in the area each year, mainly back country ski/boarders.

Alison_Levine1 karma

hi - i did carstensz pyramid, so have not been to kosciuszko.

theextremist041 karma

I don't know what she did for sure, but my guess is that she did Carstensz Pyramid, as Australia is usually included in Oceania now.

Alison_Levine1 karma

yep. good guess!

StalinWasCholo1 karma

Which is mentally more challenging: Climbing Mr. Everest or dealing with the academic politics at West Point?

Alison_Levine1 karma

ha! because I am just on the part-time faculty I have not been exposed to any of the politics there. I am sure they exist, just like at any other institution, but I am not part of the "inside circle."

Bajowski1 karma

Scariest moment that ever happened?

Alison_Levine1 karma

going thru the khumbu icefall on the south side of Mt Everest and having 10,000 tons of ice collapse just a few feet away from me. CLEAN-UP ON AISLE FOUR!

twinspired21 karma

Hi Ms. Levine! I climbed Mt Whitney this summer and now I'm hooked on climbing! Any advice for a twenty-something girl looking to lead a life of adventure?

Alison_Levine2 karma

find cool friends who will go out and play with you in the mountains/outdoors. because no matter how bad the weather gets or how cold and miserable you might be at a given time, if you have great tentmates, they'll keep your spirits up and will make you laugh.

metastasis_d1 karma


Alison_Levine1 karma

yes. got certified in '95, but have not done a ton of it. i do like it, but it's just that when i do have time off from work, i usually head to the hills.

Lucidleaf1 karma

Are you having a great day?

Alison_Levine1 karma

now i am. you?

anitanit1 karma

I have no questions to ask but I am inspired by your journey so far! I am a (very) amateur hiking and this has all been very motivational!

Alison_Levine1 karma

that's really really nice of you to say. thank you.

The_Pastmaster1 karma

To which two of the eleven poles of the Earth have you been to then? (Yes, there are more then two.)

Alison_Levine2 karma

geographic north and south

spamgobbler1 karma

Yes. But have you done the Seven Summits Trail near Rossland, BC? It's pretty cool.

Alison_Levine1 karma

I must check it out!

david-me-5 karma

Your title is very misleading. My Mother has never heard of you.

Alison_Levine14 karma

oh, mother has never heard of you either.