JOIN US in 2017 as we Celebrate 20 years of the Climb to Fight Cancer, and more than 7.9 million raised for breakthrough, life-saving research
To climb Mt. Rainier, the largest mountain in the Cascades, be prepared to navigate trails, snowfields, some small rock fields and massive crevice scarred glaciers.
To reach Mt. Olympus, the largest mountain in the Olympics, you’ll have to walk in about 17 miles with a 50 lb pack on your back. Most of the trek there is on level ground.
To climb Glacier Peak, you’ll have to do both. And much of the approach hike is uphill.
Last week, a team of nine climbers and three superb guides from Alpine Ascents headed out on the Mountain Loop Highway to the most remote strato volcano in Washington – one covered with more glaciers than any other mountain in the continental United States, but so tucked in among the north-central Cascades, that it’s only visible from I-5 at the Highway 2 exit in Everett – even though it’s practically as high as Mt. Baker.
Glacier Peak is not in a National Forest or a National Park. It’s in a federally designated Wilderness Area. There are no ranger stations on it or near it, no rescue shacks, in fact, no climbing rangers or personnel at all that we could see. Once you hike up to White Pass (it intersects with the Pacific Crest Trail), and head east for the mountain, you are unlikely to encounter many people. We saw maybe a dozen, mostly from a distance, over three days from our camp at the base of the melting White Chuck Glacier.
When I say “remote”, I mean it literally. Glacier Peak Wilderness, at 570,000 acres, is 10 times larger than the city of Seattle. The vastness is astounding. Smaller peaks, spires and hills roll out in front of you looking south until crowned by Mt. Rainier. To the northwest lies Mts.Baker and Shuksan. Further to the west is the Pacific Ocean and Canada. Over to the East, well hidden beneath other peaks, Lake Chelan.
Glacier Peak offers the most complete mountaineering experience available in the Northwest. You will hike, backpack and eventually climb through trails, rocks, boulder fields, snowfields, soft soils and glaciers. It is not easy – our group covered about 38 total miles over parts of five days, and much of it with weight on our backs, but it was all the more rewarding for the effort required to make it.
And make it we did – all of us, thanks to some superb guiding assistance from our head guide Devin Bishop and his team from Alpine Ascents. First was his decision to have us hike a little further than initially planned to set up camp on Day 2, with an eye to having us attempt a sunset summit. It was a smart move, and it helped all of us summit by giving us extra time on summit day. Oh, what a view!
There is a special esprit de corps that drives the participants from the Climb to Fight Cancer, and it was present in climbers who battled illness, altitude nausea and exhaustion to make it to Glacier Peak’s 10,541 elevation. It strengthened a sense of camaraderie that develops from a shared experience marked by exertion and sacrifice. We ranged in age from mid-20s to early 60s, some urban, some suburban, some from the hills, some of us experienced climbers, some occasional alpinists, and one on her first ever climb. But we shared a personal connection to cancer, and deciding we needed to do something – anything – to help eradicate it in our lifetime. Progress is being made, but much needs to be done. So another peak will soon beckon.
We eagerly await the call.
~ By John Carlson
Photos by Michelle Miller
All three Climb to Fight Cancer teams summited Mt. Rainier this summer.
When climbing Mt. Rainier, there are times your mind takes you to your aching muscles, tired heartbeat and possibly blistered feet. Once you take your footsteps onto the upper mountain above Camp Muir (beyond 10,000 ft), the vast beauty is overwhelming.
There are times when ascending Mt. Rainier that I expect mystical creatures or a chorus to appear, the surroundings are just that grand. Everything appears bigger in reality than it looks on postcards or social media. The crevasses are wider, the seracs taller and the sunsets deeper. It is a true accomplishment to even *contemplate* climbing Mt. Rainier, let alone raising over $5,000 for Fred Hutch and squeezing into a pair of mountaineering boots. Having myself been on the receiving end of Mt. Rainier’s harshness when an ailment strikes, I know the mountain can feel as remote as the moon.
July 15-17 marked the summit of the entire Insight Global corporate team. Insight Global and their partners and employees raised over $40,000 for breakthrough cancer research at Fred Hutch. These individuals were a true team, supporting one another in fundraising, training and on their rope teams.
August allowed for two more Climb to Fight Cancer teams to summit, August 6-8 was Lydig Construction (Yippee – Congratulations!) and repeat climber JP Spicer-Escalante who has climbed with us before on Mt. Hood and shared his touching connection to cancer research.
August 15-17 brought the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department’s Montrose Search and Rescue team. This team climbed their first Climb to Fight Cancer mountain in 2007; it was the Emmons route on Mt. Rainier. In the last nine years, they have raised over $129,000 while climbing Mts. Rainier, Hood and Baker. Their partnership with the Climb to Fight Cancer has saved lives and changed lives.
Whenever I’m asked what my favorite mountain is, I always reply, “whichever one I’m on.” This is always true in the moment but I secretly know my favorite is Mt. Rainier. It stares at those of us who reside in western Washington and provides excitement when the views are particularly surreal. It is the welcome mat when you fly into SeaTac airport and the view is a reward after multiple days of rain.
I’ve loved standing on top of it, and also treasured the trips where I didn’t summit.
Thank you to all our 2016 Mt. Rainier participants and the donors who support them. Mt. Rainier teams raised nearly $110,000 toward life-saving research.
Climb a Mountain. Save a Life.
Pictured: Montrose Search & Rescue members Mike Leum on Mt. Rainier; Mike Leum and Robert Sheedy at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center on August 11, 2016.