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 / Updated  / Source: TODAY
By Eun Kyung Kim

For Melissa Arnot, who hopes to become the first American woman to reach the top of Mount Everest without oxygen support, success means having a mind just as tough as her body.

UPDATE [4/26/15, 2:32 p.m.]: In wake of the 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Nepal that has killed more than 2,500 people, including 17 who died during an earthquake-related avalanche on Mount Everest, Arnot and her team said that they are alive and well.

"Thank you all for your support and concern - our team is safe and sound," she said in a statement. "We were down valley when the earthquake and aftershocks hit. Our thoughts are with the thousands that are effected by this devastating tragedy."

On Tuesday, during a phone call from Everest base camp, Arnot told Matt Lauer that more than half of her training for scaling Mount Everest without oxygen support has involved mental preparation.

“A lot of what I’ve been doing is training of being uncomfortable, and pushing myself to maybe not eat for a really long time while I’m training, and if I can make my body suffer and then overcome that suffering,” she said.

"It’s usually about understanding myself and understanding the mountain," said Arnot, 30. "I’ve worked here for the last eight seasons, and I’ve been lucky enough to summit five times and get to know myself at that altitude and try to understand what the challenges are when I take away the help the supplemental oxygen offers."

Glamour magazine has been following Arnot as she scales the mountain and is producing a video series about the journey.

Arnot’s last attempt to reach the summit was interrupted when a massive avalanche last year claimed the lives of 16 sherpas, the local workers who do much of the heavy lifting on the guided climbs. She wants this year's effort to raise money to support local families and inspire others to reach new heights of their own.

In two days, local workers will hold a “blessing ceremony," she said.

“After that, we’re going to be ready to start climbing up to the higher camps,” she said. “We’re going to take about the next three weeks to get acclimatized before we start on our final summit push near the end of May.”

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