He runs up and down the 55 floors of his building -Marina Heights- for about four hours every day with a backpack filled with water. “We might not have mountains in Dubai, but there are high-rise buildings!” says Atte, training for his next and highest challenge so far: Mount Everest.
The Everest is the fifth mountain the Finnish-born mountaineer is planning to challenge in order to pursue his broader goal of climbing the seven highest summits of each continent, something that has been done by 336 people so far, he tells.
“I have been climbing for 10 years and it gives me a [different] experience each time I visit a new country. However, I felt the need to create a goal. Climbing the seven summits is a unique challenge, and I would be the first Finnish person to accomplish this goal,” Atte says.
“My wife is very accommodating. She is a climber herself, so she completely understood why I wanted to do this.” Atte recalls how the two have climbed many mountains together, the last one being the Carstensz Pyramid in Indonesia.
“This mountain rises in the middle of a jungle, between local tribes of people wearing no clothes and eating spiders. It is technically the most difficult mountain and circumstances are not easy.”
Atte anecdotes how after his wife had felt unwell and they had asked mine workers about the nearest hospital, they were taken by military men and kept in a small room for two days, before they were given the right direction.
“Besides a challenge for mountaineers, mountains are also a source of minerals and that makes them interesting for many. In Indonesia, mining access is contested by many, as we found out.”
The summit in Indonesia was the third highest continental summit he climbed, after which he decided to make the list complete. “I wanted to have a break from work, do something unusual. I took a year off so I could put all efforts into this project.”
Now the highest summit of the world is awaiting him, Atte is becoming aware of new confrontations, such as the death zone, the part of the mountain above 8000 metres high.
“There is an unwritten rule among mountain climbers, that when somebody is unable to walk in the death zone, he cannot be rescued as circumstances are too harsh. This is something I find hard to prepare myself for, as I am a caring person in nature and wonder how I would feel to leave behind another human being in such a condition.
“From time to time I do scenario planning, imaging what I would do in such and such situation,” Atte says. “It can be a real challenge to think objectively as many people are known to suffer from ‘summit fever’ once they see the top lying in front of them. All they can think of is getting up there.
“I fear weather conditions most.” On the Everest, weather conditions are a real challenge, as there is only a period of ten days in mid-May when the conditions are ideal for the climber to go up, Atte explains. “This is something outside our control which may tell us to return. I hope I will be able to judge such situation objectively.”
Only ten days after returning from the Nepal summit, Atte will continue to Alaska, where he will climb Denali, the last of the seven summits. “This summit is best to climb in June, and I did not want to wait for another year to finish this project.”
The last summit on Atte’s list is known as the coldest and deadliest summit of the seven summits, due to crevasses, or very deep cracks in the thick ice of a glacier. “These have cost many lives,” tells Atte.
However, Atte is sure to always prioritise safety. “I never climb a summit without the presence of someone who has climbed it before and I carefully select the people I work with. I do want a two-way ticket to that summit,” he says.
When asked what is next, the Finnish mountaineer comfortably says: “I have no idea.
“I will probably continue climbing, but I do not necessarily need to accomplish a bigger goal each time. Maybe I will have children, go back to work, or ski to Antarctica. It really does not occupy me right now. I am focusing on what I am doing now.”
The seven highest summits of each continent, listed by height, are:
Mount Everest, Nepal – 8,850 metres
Aconcagua, Argentine – 6,962 metres
Denali – Alaski – 6,194 metres
Kilimanjaro, Kenia – 5,895 metres
Elbruz, Russia – 5,642 metres
Vinson, Antartctica – 4,897 metres
Crarstensz Pyramid, Indonesia – 4,884 metres