How Alison Levine Reached the Summit of Everest and Business

Chronicling an Inspirational Leader's Ascent

Into The Void: Alison Levine drags her sled toward the South Pole.
Erick Phillips, IceTrek
Into The Void: Alison Levine drags her sled toward the South Pole.

By Curt Schleier

Published January 24, 2014, issue of January 31, 2014.
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Her family was “not very observant as far as attending services. I would say we were more culturally Jewish than religious.

“But we had family dinner. You were expected to sit at the table with the family every Friday night. That’s very funny, because my parents weren’t very strict about many things. We didn’t have curfews in high school when most kids did. We were going to midnight movies when we were 14 or 15. We did a lot of things kids [our age] weren’t allowed to do, but one thing that was always enforced was you will sit at the table Friday night and we will have a family dinner no matter what.”

She was not a bat mitzvah. “My mom gave me a choice: a bat mitzvah or a wedding and I made the mistake of choosing the wedding, and of course I’m 47 and single.”

She attended the University of Arizona, worked in the pharmaceutical and medical device industry both in the States and in Asia.

The experience overseas encouraged the entrepreneurial spirit in Levine, who thought she might found an adventure travel company. She had the experience overseas and in marketing, but recognized that she lacked the financial background necessary to run a company. So she enrolled in the MBA program at Duke University.

She quit her job two months before classes began “to do something I’d never done before, something different.” As a youngster she’d been intrigued by “the stories of the Arctic explorers and mountain climbers. After my second heart surgery, a light bulb went off. I wanted to know how Reinhold Messner and Edmund Hillary did it. I needed to get out on the mountain.”

So she headed for Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, hired a guide and headed for the top. It was as easy as that, she explains. Kilimanjaro requires no technical climbing skills, only stamina to go up the trail to the top.

“All kinds of guides and porters are at the base of the mountain waiting to be hired. For a few hundred dollars you can get someone to take you up.”

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