Helsinki born, Atte Miettinen is 36 years old graduate of the National University of Singapore and Helsinki School of Economics and Business Administration. Since five years, he lives in Dubai with his wife, where they enjoy the sunshine and all other goodies that local life offers. This is what many other expatriates do, providing they have managed to stay afloat after 2008, when the global financial crisis toke down the world’s economy by storm.
Atte’s approach to life is cool and he has laid out strategies for combating crises of different magnitudes. He explains: “Now, when the world’s economy is in a mess, on a personal scale, it is the right time to take some time off before coming back.”
Q.: How did you choose that particular challenge?
A.: I have a passion for new things. During the last 10 years, I have been claiming mountains, many times with my wife. It is something very different to do and when you come back, you can only think where next? Claiming is a challenge!
Q.: How do you prepare physically?
A.: Physical and mental preparation is equally important, together with choosing the right equipment.
I practice every day. What Dubai lacks in mountains, it makes up in tall buildings. We live in the Dubai Marina, in a 55-story building and I claim the stairs with a 25kg backpack three or four hours daily. Claiming stairs is the best exercise. I am also diving, playing basketball and running.
The mental part! Mountains are known for ther uncomfortable environment, such as wet grounds and cold weather. You can aspect to have to sleep on the road. People who are not mentally ready get discouraged easily.
Q.: So, how do you prepare mentally?
A.: I talk to people, read books and watch movies. You have to understand what to expect. You constantly have to remind your self that you are there for a purpose and you have no choice, but to complete the mission. Before starting, I develop in my mind different possible situations and scenarios. Big mountains carry risks of big problems!
Q.: Is a mountain expedition expensive?
A.: It is not cheap. You can go on a shoestring or on a 5* experience. When it comes to safety, I don’t take shortcuts! I hire the best guides, but I can fly with an economy class ticket. When it comes to equipment, I also prefer to get the best available in the market. Studying the weather forecasts and reports is absolutely necessary part of the preparation. I like to stay on the safe site and take calculated risks.
Q.: What type of equipment do you use?
A.: In the mountains temperature difference is broad and you have to take a lot of different clothes. It could be sunny, 35 Celsius down the mountain, but minus 35 on the top. Gloves are very important! Up there, the living environment is poor of oxygen and you need like 3 pairs of gloves to keep your hands warm. Sunglasses and glasses are very important too, because the sun reflects the snow and can blind your eyes. Some people get rescued out, because they become sun-blinded and can’t continue their expeditions.
Q.: Do you use any particular brands?
A.: Black Diamond and North Face are very good, both American companies.
Q.: Is the equipment expensive?
A.: Yes, because it is specialized to protect the body in extreme weather conditions. A special thermal suit could cost in the range of $1000.
Q.: Do you have sponsors?
A.: Currently, my sponsors are Nokia, Fenis TV and HALTI. I think, it is important to get companies involved, because they can capitalize on an unique experience. I can help them also tasting their equipment. Also, I can generate unique content for them, as for example during the upcoming Everest project.
Q.: Tell us more about your upcoming expedition to Everest, the world’s highest mountain.
Q.: Aren’t you scared?
A.: No, I have a healthy respect for the mountain. I am in a good shape and I have a great team. Moreover, I believe in a good luck!
There is an old tradition for mountaineers who are approaching Everest. They must stop at a Buddhist temple and ask a priest for blessing.
The key for success is a good weather. Hundreds of people do not come back from Everest at all. Mental state is also very important. Ambition to reach high is so strong, that many refuse to acknowledge the obvious signs of danger. It is a psychological challenge.
Q.: What is the safety plan in case something goes wrong?
A.: The problem is that the altitude on Everest is above 8000 meters and this is a life threatening. Ideally, you have to rich to the top and come back in one day. But I have a friend who is a guide and have claimed Everest five times, which is a bit reassuring.
Q.: Now in the era of technology, what are the safety measures?
A.: Every year, five to ten people dye on Everest. Only once, to my knowledge, a French pilot landed a helicopter on the top, but he left right away. It can be done! It could be developed as life saving measure, although it is very difficult for a helicopter to fly over the mountain.
Q.: Do you work?
A.: Currently, no. I am focused on completing the Seven Summits project, which would happen most probably by the end of June 2012.
I believe, everyone has a dream. My dream is to reach the highest mountain. I don’t want to remain a dreamer, but turn my dream into a reality! In the process, I learn a lot about my self. You have to believe in yourself!
Q.: What is your next dream, after you complete the Seven Summits?
A.: I am very fortunate that my wife understands me well and respects my needs. My next dream is to have children. I would like to have three of them, same as my parents.
Other than that, I would like to venture in IT and telecom by setting my own company.
Dubai is a very interesting place and the business environment is favorable. It is greatly positioned between the South Asia and Africa.
I love Dubai, but there is no long term plans, as I have learnt to go with the flow!