The last time climber Simon Prosser attempted to ascend Manaslu—the eighth-highest mountain in the world (26,781 feet), nicknamed “The Widowmaker”—his group had to turn back only 1,000 feet from the summit due to extreme weather conditions.
Manaslu is “not a kind mountain,” Prosser told me, but last year, it was “especially evil.” Multiple people in his party died, including a sherpa, which Prosser witnessed firsthand. When you face a tragic experience on the mountain, Prosser says, you have to “modulize.”
“A lot of people throw in the towel and don’t climb anymore,” he said. But that’s not an option for Prosser. As a mountaineer, is he motivated to return to Manaslu and finish what he started? Sure—but it’s not the true purpose of his endeavor.
Manaslu represents the third mountain in Prosser’s ongoing quest to to summit four Nepalese peaks—6,000 meters (Lobuche), 7,000 meters (Putha Hiunchuli), 8,000 meters (Manaslu) and 9,000 meters (which doesn’t exist, but Everest, at 8,849 meters, is the closest thing)—to raise money for his foundation, Summits4Sight, and help eradicate age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Prosser departed for his rematch with Manaslu on September 1. Before he left, we chatted about his training regimen and the driving purpose behind his climbing, which began as a childhood hobby and has since become a professional pursuit—all in the name of eye disease research.
“It was one of those strange pathways you never imagine,” Prosser said of his track to the ophthalmic medical device space, an industry he’s now been in for 25 years.
Born in the United Kingdom—where his father, a technical climber, took him along on rock facing climbs—and spending his formative years in Germany, Prosser got his start in the automotive field as as electrical engineer. When his company sold to Shell, Prosser—who’d always wanted to be a helicopter pilot—moved to Las Vegas to get his private and commercial license.
A friend of a friend was working in the medical space in St. Louis for Synergetics (now part of the Bausch + Lomb group) and was looking to hire someone with an engineering background who had a good knowledge of European markets and spoke multiple languages. (Prosser speaks five—English, German, Italian, Spanish and Dutch.)
After building up Synergetics’ European business, Prosser moved to the Dutch Ophthalmic Research Center International, then Vitreq. He began to sharpen his focus to devices treating eye disease, leading him to Eye Tech, a company developing eye-tracking systems for people with disabilities.
There, he met Ocutrx CEO and founder Michael Freeman, whose father suffered from AMD. In 2020, Prosser moved to Ocutrx as its global director, surgical applications, and began working with AR
Now settled into a position that matched his passion, Prosser began looking into ways he could begin giving back to the community through philanthropic endeavors. He had the thought of combining what was still at that point a hobby—mountaineering—with a fundraising element to raise money to restore vision to AMD patients. Prosser founded Summits4Sight in 2020 and began to put together a plan to turn climbing into a revenue stream.
“Throughout my career I’d been quite successful in developing new medical devices and techniques and helped so many different people with different eye disorders,” Prosser said. “A group of patients suffering from advanced stage AMD began to lose their vision, which is quite horrific for a number of reasons—quality of life issues; they can’t read, can’t watch TV, can’t recognize in clear context faces, can’t recognize their grandchildren. Nothing out there pharmaceutical or otherwise managed to help these people in a practical sense. I thought, ‘There’s got to be something we can do.’”
Prosser—who, to this point, had never climbed anything over 5,500 meters—reached out to some people in the professional mountaineering scene to seek advice on how he could create a revenue stream from climbing.
From there, he devised the plan to climb the four peaks in Nepal—and given the steep acceleration in height and technicality, he started taking courses, such as ice wall climbing, and doing preparatory climbs in Colorado. With the plan in place, Prosser set out to find corporate and private donors to create a revenue stream.
While the pieces were coming together, Prosser, who is 56, increased the intensity of his training regimen considerably. In the offseason, when he’s not training for a mountain, he works out at home for one hour four to five times per week. Since his training started for the four peaks, he works out two and a half to three hours a day at a minimum, and over the last two months he’s been logging four hours a day, up to 3 hours without pause.
“The main part of my training is cardio-based—treadmills, stairmasters,” Prosser said. “The wear and tear on your joints is tremendous, and it was preventing me from doing the training I wanted to do.”
When Prosser began complaining of knee discomfort, his father advised him to try glucosamine supplements, but Prosser didn’t experience any relief. In doing his own research, he came across physician-formulated supplement company 1MD Nutrition and ordered a bottle of its MoveMD joint supplement.
“Within a couple of weeks, that discomfort had just gone from my knee,” Prosser said. “I’m not a strong believer in taking supplements—I’d take food 100 times over—but I tried it, and it worked. I wrote to 1MD, saying, ‘This is who I am and this is what I’m doing, perhaps we could work together on this.’”
Prosser wasn’t sure what the company’s interest level would be—at that point, he would have been thrilled with some free product, since “whether they gave them to me or not I was going to buy them anyway,” but he met with the marketing team and the chemistry was there from the outset. The 1MD team was interested in supporting Prosser’s quest to climb the four peaks and came onboard as a sponsor, joining Ocutrx as Prosser’s main partners.
Prosser is a big believer in using supplements simply as that—to augment a healthy diet. He rarely eats any significant protein at breakfast, save for an egg, which he’ll have a few times a week. Before he begins food intake, he’ll have a scoop of 1MD’s CardioFitMD daily superfood powder and then fuel his body for his first workout of the day with granola mixed with oats and some almond or oat milk along with one capsule of 1MD’s BreatheMD, MoveMD and VisionMD.
For his first lunch of the day following his first workout, Prosser will have 100 grams of rice, potato or pasta with approximately 150 grams of chicken, turkey or fish accompanied by vegetables. Then, for second lunch—it may sound Hobbit-esque, but it’s much more structured and less indulgent than the meals enjoyed in the Shire—it’s another 100 grams of rice and either chicken, turkey or fish, accompanied by fruit and his second MoveMD and BreatheMD capsule.
After his second workout of the day, Prosser skips a traditional dinner and instead has a light meal usually consisting of one banana with almond milk, chia seeds, whey protein and a scoop of CardioFitMD.
On the mountain, Prosser likes to have PowerBar’s Energize bars and oat cookies (he favors IKEA’s Kafferep Oat Biscuits or Nature Valley’s Oats N’ Honey) at base camp, moving to PowerBar’s Power Gels at higher elevation. Many climbers like to have something sweet, like a Snickers, on the mountain, but that only leads to a blood sugar crash, Prosser warns.
On Friday, Prosser departs for Kathmandu from LAX. After 760 hours of training over 242 days, he’s ready and feeling confident he’ll finish what he started on Manaslu, even though weather conditions are once again expected to be extreme this year.
The desire to not have to return to Manaslu for a third time is strong—“I can’t do mountain four until I ‘ve completed mountain three,” Prosser points out, and mountain four—Everest—is a big pull.
As for the mountain’s reputation as The Widowmaker? Prosser is a single parent; his twin daughters will turn 18 in February. They may be more apprehensive about his impending climb than they let on, he surmises, but they are supportive of his dedication to his training—even if they don’t always understand it.
“Last night they were cooking linguine with lots of cream and other sexy things in there, and they said, ‘Dad, are you sure you don’t want any?’” Prosser chuckled. “I said, ‘You know I can’t.’”
Unlike some other mountaineers, Prosser isn’t looking to set records for speed—though he did, anyway, with his ascent of Lobuche (“The sponsors were very happy thet invested in someone who could do it,” he quipped)—or reaching a given peak without supplemental oxygen.
“I reach my max sponsorship potential when I reach the summit,” Prosser said. “I have paid for extra oxygen; I’m carrying everything myself, not the sherpas, and my girls know that too. I’m not taking any risks. Last year at Manaslu it would have been so easy to keep going on our knees toward the summit…all the effort you’ve put in, to turn back just 1,ooo feet away. But it’s not just for you; it’s about going back to your family and loved ones. It’s also for the sherpas who have paid with their lives—I wish more climbers considered that.”
Prosser remembers well the feeling of reaching the summit on the first two peaks in his series, Lobuche and Putha Hiunchuli. “Once I reach the summit, there’s the glory and the happiness, yes—you normally lose a few tears—but it’s short-lived because at that point, the only mind-set I had left in my mind is ‘I want to get home,’” he said.
“The moment I reach the summit, all I want to do is get back home.”