Melissa Arnot Reid- First American to climb Mount Everest

Melissa Arnot Reid first american female climber to summit mount everest

Who is Melissa Arnot Reid?

Melissa Arnot Reid is an American female climber to summit Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen for the second time.

She is America’s best high-altitude female climber who has inspired many people, especially women, to be fearless.

Melissa is also a philanthropist and a motivational speaker.

She is highly regarded in the mountaineering community, and there is so much more to learn about her.

Hop in to find out all about Melissa Arnot.


Melissa Arnot Reid- the only American woman who climbed mt everest
Melissa Arnot Reid- the only American woman who climbed mt Everest

On December 18, 1983, Melissa Arnot was born in Colorado, United States.

Her father, Jim, was a ski patroller at Purgatory Resort and her mother was an administrative assistant. Later, her father opened up a construction business, but unfortunately, he broke his back when Melissa was five years old. After that, he began working as the director of the reservation housing authority for Volunteers of America.

Melissa grew up on the Southern Ute Indian Tribe Reservation in Ignacio, southeast of Durango. Her family’s financial status was low, and the thought of mountaineering did not even come to her mind when her pocket was empty.

When she was 12, Melissa and her family moved to Whitefish, Montana. There, she started as a freshman in high school.

Her time in Montana’s high school proved to be one of the roughest times as she became a target for the bullies. Why, may you ask? Her family’s financial status was weak and could not match the Whitefish’s wealthy resort community. So in high school, the students made fun of her clothes and her lack of branded outfits.

By the age of 13, she started cleaning hotel bathrooms for money. Then, at the age of 16, she graduated high school and moved out of her parent’s house.

In 2000, she earned a scholarship at the University of Iowa, studying literature and creative writing. She also earned a degree in Business.

Check out our price and itineraries for Everest Base Camp

Personal life

Melissa Arnot Reid

Melissa Arnot was first married to Jon Duval in 2012, but sadly, they ended their three-year marriage in 2015.

Later in 2016, she married Tyler Reid– a guide himself. Currently, they live together in the Methow Valley of Washington State and carry out their respective guide works.

Melissa and Tyler have trained together and have attempted oxygen-free attempts to Mount Everest.


As much as Melissa is known as an American mountaineer, surprisingly, she had not started climbing till she was 19 years old. Shocking right?

First Encounter with the Mountains

After graduating college, Melissa was heading back to Montana when a friend invited her to climb the Great Northern Mountain– a non-technical 8,705 feet peak outside Glacier National Park. It was her first-time mountain climbing, and that experience widened her horizons about what mountain climbing could offer her.

So she began to save money to climb mountains by living out of her car. She pursued a career in medicine and guiding and got certified as a Wilderness First Responder. She also became a certified EMT in Montana.

In 2001, she climbed Mount Rainier for the first time, which became her “watershed moment” (Currently, she has climbed Mount Rainier more than 100 times). After the climb, she decided to learn how to climb mountains while working as an EMT. She also worked at a health club in Montana.

In 2002, she began working as a guide on Mount Rainier with Rainier mountaineering, Inc.

In 2004, RMI expeditions hired her as a guide for Mount Rainier; by 2006, she was a lead guide.

Till 2008, Melissa Reid led clients’ to Mount Everest.

Mount Everest Without Supplemental Oxygen

Melissa’s career peaked as she started attempting Mount Everest WITHOUT OXYGEN! Her first attempt to climb Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen began in 2009. Sadly, she failed on her first try.

She began plotting and designing a masochistic training regimen to make her mentally strong. The training included depriving herself of food and water, working out all day, running three days per week, and hiking three days a week.

Melissa’s summit attempts in 2014 and 2015 failed due to an avalanche at Mount Everest.

On May 23, 2016, all her hard work paid off as she became the first American woman to climb Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen. Before her, Francys Arsentiev, another American woman, had reached the Summit without oxygen in 1998. But, sadly, she could not survive the descent.

Until today, Melissa Reid has summited Everest six times, making her the second woman in history to have done so without oxygen. Lhakpa Sherpa, a Nepalese mountaineer, has accomplished seven summits.

  • Melissa has completed the first ascent of Mustang Himal in the Mustang region of Nepal. Click here to learn more about Mustang.
  • She has guided many ascents of Aconcagua, Kilimanjaro, Ecuador Volcanoes, Colombian Andes, and various trekking peaks of Nepal.
  • Melissa and her companion Maddie Miller completed the ’50 Peaks Challenge with the highest record time: 41 days, 16 hours, and 10 minutes.


Record with the most summits controversy

Upon reaching her fourth oxygen-free Summit in 2012, Melissa Reid achieved the record with the most summits and was promoted as one on her website and media by her sponsors.

However, the claim was false as Lhakpa Sherpa- a Nepali woman had a record of six summits. This scenario led to controversy and criticism despite her achievements.

False accusations over mountaineering skills

Her talent and hard work are evident; however, the mountaineering community has accused her of having benefited from her good looks and lacking technical mountaineering skills. 

Her achievements said otherwise, showing the scrutiny female athletes often face.

The brawl

In 2015, Melissa played a peacekeeper’s role in a fight between the Sherpa team and some of the world’s top Alpinists in Everest Base Camp.

The issue was the Sherpas felt disrespected by Jon Griffith, Ueli Steck, and Simone Moro. As a result, they threatened violence against them. It was then that Arnot Reid stepped in and tried to maintain peace.

She reached that level of influence because of her reputation in the Everest region. As a mountain climber and a paramedic, she assisted Sherpas on the mountain and developed friendships with Sherpas. Not to mention “The Juniper Fund,” which she co-founded with Dave Morton to help families of Nepali mountain workers who died on the job.


Melissa Reid is not just a mountaineer lover; she loves giving back to the community. Some of her renowned philanthropic activities are:

  • In 2008, she became an Everest Team member and Jeff Dossett and David Morton to promote HIV/AIDS awareness and Microsoft and Dell products by supporting Project Red.
  • In 2010, she guided groups of celebrities and influencers to climb Mount Kilimanjaro to raise awareness of the global clean water crisis. The ‘Summit on the Summit’ event included stars like Jessica Biel, Isabel Lucas, Lupe Fiasco, Santigold, Kenna, and many scientists and activists.
  • Melissa co-founded ‘the Juniper Fund ‘in 2012 to provide financial aid to the families of deceased local workers killed in Nepal’s mountains. She established this fund after her climbing partner, Chhewang Nima Sherpa, died on the verge of climbing Baruntse in 2010. After meeting with his wife and family and seeing their suffering due to the breadwinner’s death, she decided to help them.


  • Female recipient of the Henry P. Iba Citizen Athlete Awards, 2015.
  • Recipient of the Excellence in Climbing Awards for starting ‘The Juniper Fund.’


Melissa is currently spending her days running her guide services and sharing her learnings from the mountains with others.

She has been actively involved with ‘The Juniper Fund’ and works to grant financial support to families of local workers who die in Nepal’s mountains. Melissa also is a motivational speaker at Bespoken Bureau.

Eddie Bauer sponsors her- American adventure apparel, footwear, and gear company. She is one of the original six mountain guides (Peter Whittaker, Ed Viesturs, Dave Hahn, Seth Waterfall, and Chad Peele) who have developed products for the first ascent brand.

Moreover, Alpina Watches, Tasc Performance, Leki, and GoalZero sponsor her.

Social media

Melissa is very active on social media; you can find her on all social handles. You can also find her on LinkedIn as Melissa Arnot Reid.

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