Alison Levine’s life reads like a movie script starring a heroine who is beyond belief. She’s intelligent, attractive and has a good sense of humor.
She overcomes a debilitating heart condition and then decides to climb mountain peaks throughout the world and ski to the North and South Poles.
And then she becomes as popular on the lecture circuit as former presidents and movie stars.
But right it is. Levine, 43, is truly a woman of achievement and so a great fit for the YWCA’s annual fundraiser of the same name.
She will be in town Wednesday to deliver the keynote speech in an event that honors women who go above and beyond for the betterment of their community.
Here’s a snapshot of Levine’s life, culled from articles written about her and from a recent e-mail interview.
Early years: Born with a congenital heart condition, Levine couldn’t drive or even walk up stairs easily. But she did complete a communications degree at the University of Arizona.
Two surgeries fixed the heart condition, and so at 32, before going to Duke University for an MBA degree, she took a month off to travel. Her girlfriends were supposed to go with her to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. The girlfriends did Club Med instead. Levine went to the mountain alone.
Does she ever regret forgoing the Club Med trip?
“It would never have entered my mind to go,” she said. “Doing something like that is not even on my radar screen.”
Achievements: Levine has climbed the highest peaks in seven continents. She led the first American Women’s Everest Expedition in 2002. She later skied 100 miles across the Arctic Circle to the North Pole and in 2008, she skied and walked 574 miles across Antarctica to the South Pole.
Before becoming a full-time consultant and inspirational speaker, she worked as a Wall Street investment banker and as deputy finance director for California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s campaign.
In her spare time: She created the Climb High Foundation, which helps women in developing countries make money in trekking and tourism.
“They reinforce my belief that when it comes right down to it, the only things we really need in life are food, water, shelter and a feeling of community,” Levine said.
“All the other stuff is completely unnecessary. The (women) taught me that when tackling any kind of challenge, willpower is the most essential piece of equipment.”
Any downside? Levine doesn’t have a whole lot of time for a personal life. Her popularity on the lecture circuit means few nights at home in San Francisco.
“Whenever I am feeling burned out on travel, I just think about the fact that there are slower times of the year when I don’t have to get on a plane, and during those times I have the freedom to do whatever I want to do – like take seven weeks to ski across Antarctica,” she said.
“And that makes it all worth it.”