Persevering through peaks and valleys: Maddie and Melissa’s journey

Through determination, planning, and technology, Melissa Arnot, Maddie Miller, and their team achieved a world record in the 50 Peaks Challenge.

The challenge: 50 peaks, in 50 states, in 50 days

In 2016, Melissa Arnot became the first American woman to summit Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen. Back on solid ground after that record-breaking trip, she dove into planning and preparation for her next climb (her next 50 climbs): summiting the highest points in each of the U.S. states alongside her mentee, Maddie Miller.

With help on the ground from long-time friend and business manager Christine Hass, as well as Microsoft technology, the wheels were in motion for a life-changing experience for everyone involved.

The first obstacle (of many)

The plan was simple: the two women would start in Alaska summiting Denali, before moving on to the highest point in Florida and the other 48 states in the weeks after. Complications hit almost immediately when Melissa discovered early in the trip that a cold-related injury from her recent Everest climb would prevent her from climbing Denali—the tallest and most challenging of the peaks. That meant Maddie would climb alone, testing the education she’d received from Melissa over the years.

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The obstacles continue

As they advanced throughout the country, forest fires, midnight climbs, and van breakdowns delayed their progress. But their shared goal kept the team moving forward. Maddie shares how hard the first part of the trip was, saying: “I was worried I wasn’t going to be able to adapt and that it was just going to be too hard for me mentally. And I did adapt—I changed my attitude and changed my whole way of operating.”

Being able to do this trip required a team. It’s the only way it was possible to achieve something so utterly ambitious.

- Melissa Arnot

How they overcame

After 41 days, 16 hours, and 10 minutes, Maddie didn’t just complete the mammoth 50 Peaks Challenge—she set a world record, too. Her inspiring journey is proof that when you dream big (and have a dream team by your side) you can do anything. Melissa couldn’t be happier: “I had the opportunity to help Maddie achieve one of her biggest dreams and goals. I immediately saw this was my opportunity to give back the gift that I was given.”