A Minnesota man is preparing to climb Mt. Everest, but that’s not his only mission

Hazelden Everest climber

Hazelden Everest climber

Ryan Rivard is preparing for the biggest challenge of his life, with some heavy-duty training.  

“It’s definitely something where there’s a lot of emotion to it,” he says.

Rivard, 41, from Wayzata, has been running, rope climbing, and bicycling toward an ambitious goal: to the reach the summit of Mount Everest.

At over 29,000 feet, it’s the highest peak in the world.

“I have a very specific purpose for climbing,” Rivard declares. “So, I want to help continue to create awareness for mental health specifically, and use-recovery as well.”

His journey began when he was just 19- addicted to heroin, prescription pills, and alcohol, after the loss of his grandfather, who died by suicide.

“When I lost him, I really struggled emotionally,” Rivard recalls. “From that, I ended up finding drugs and alcohol as a way to cope with it.”

But after going through detox and taking part in a 30-day Hazelden Betty Ford teen and young adult recovery program, he’s been sober for 21 years.

“That really gave him the foundation to kind of change the trajectory of his life,” says Adam Hannah, Philanthropic Engagement Director with Hazelden Betty Ford. “Ryan is a shining example of someone who has found adversity, changed the direction of their life and is now using what they’ve learned to give back and help others.”

In the years since, Rivard launched his own marketing firm and started a non-profit called ‘Let’s Fuel Growth’, with the goal of establishing scholarships and funding for youth recovery programs.

He also began high mountaineering in 2022.

Rivard says he hopes his attempt at summiting Everest will inspire others in their own lives.

“I’ve done that with getting sober,” he says. “I will do that with climbing this mountain, and hopefully show people that you can also climb your own mountains.”

Rivard says Hazelden Betty Ford is donating about $10,000 to help pay for the trip, about one-sixth of the total cost.

The rehabilitation center will also share his social media about his progress.

“Hopefully, it inspires others to reach out and get help,” Hannah notes. “We all face adversity in our lives, and how do we leverage the power of community and finding resources and asking for help.”

During training, Rivard has been wearing what’s called an oxygen deprivation mask.

It’s to help his body prepare for the high altitudes.

Rivard, and friends who are helping with his training, say conditions during the climb will be difficult.

He says temperatures can drop to minus-forty degrees Fahrenheit, with winds reaching speeds of up to 80 miles per hour.

“Being on the mountains, it’s a different atmosphere. You have to be in the right mindset,” says Ashley Drazkowski, who’s climbed Mount Kilimanjaro twice. “It’s going to get to the point where it’s so hard, ‘I don’t know if I can do this.’ And you have to have the self-talk and the belief that I can do it, and people around me are going to make it happen.”

Rivard has climbed two other mountains in the Himalayas- both near Mount Everest.

His plan is to fly out from Minnesota on April 8th and reach a base camp by the 29th or 30th.

Rivard hopes he and his team will make the summit about two to three weeks after that.

“I’m trying to use that as a metaphor for other individuals to know that whatever mountains they’re climbing in their life, they don’t have to feel alone,” he says. “They don’t have to feel scared or frightened.”

You can read more about Rivard’s ‘Everest Project’ by CLICKING HERE.