Twin Cities man summits Everest for Mental Health Awareness Month

Ryan Rivard knows a thing or two about staking out goals. As a teenager, he set the goal of reclaiming his life.

20 years later, he has claimed Mount Everest.

"I did successfully make the summit," said Rivard fresh off his trip back to the Twin Cities. "It’s pretty fantastic. It’s quite amazing."

The views gained from the rigors of climbing Everest are still fresh from the comfort of his back yard patio.

"The emotions just kind of hit me a couple of days later," he recalled.

For Rivard, this has been a journey two decades in the making. 

At 19, he nearly lost his life to a heroin overdose.

He sought treatment through the Hazelden Betty Ford Teen and Family Program and he’s been sober ever since.

In almost every respect he turned his recovery into personal and professional success. He and his wife have four children and a thriving marketing business.
Rivard says recovery has taught him to seize life’s moments and adventures.

During two previous expeditions to Nepal in 2022, Rivard summited both Lobuche and Amadablan. But on the horizon was the biggest of them all — Everest.

"For me, Everest is the pinnacle of human endeavors," said Rivard about symbolism of his summit attempt when he talked to FOX 9 in March. "I feel like if I can show what I was before, and then climbing up as I go, then reaching the highest point, it’s a metaphor.  It’s a symbol of that kind of hope and resilience."

He dedicated his trip highlighting Mental Health Awareness month and has been raising money to fund scholarships to recovery and mental health programs.  

Rivard traveled to Nepal in early April after months of strenuous training at Life Time Fitness in St. Louis Park.

Working with a team of experienced Everest expedition leaders, Rivard and about 20 other climbers waited at base camp for their summit window in mid-May.

When their slot arrived, it took five days to reach the summit.

"I thought about my family, first and foremost," said Rivard about the moment he reached the tallest point on Earth. "I brought a picture of them with me."
All of that work and training lasted only a short while.

"I found out that I actually spent about 45 minutes," recalled Rivard of his time at the summit.  "It was quite a long time."

And the view on the way to the summit made the work and extreme risk all worthwhile.

"It’s breathtaking," said Rivard, describing what no pictures can truly capture. "I mean, it really is one of the most remarkable things you will ever see. The clouds are so far below you, and they seem like pillows of snow that you could walk across. And just the visibility is spectacular."

However, the path to the top of the world is just half of the journey. Once there, climbers have to get back down.

"75% of our crew really started to struggle," said Rivard of the descent from the summit. "Coming down is really the challenging part because you are so exhausted at that point, and you’ve run out of food and supplies."

By the time they got to camp four on the mountain, some of the climbers were running out of oxygen and succumbing to frost bite.

"Many of the people were then slid down by ropes, carried down, to get to camp two where they then could get a helicopter rescue back to Katmandu," said Rivard.

He safely made it down on his own and quickly arranged to fly back home to his family.

Posting on his Facebook page, he wrote, "We have one life and it goes fast. Get living."

"There’s never a better moment to have kids, to do a new job, to climb a mountain. It’s just now," said Rivard.