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January 31, 2019

misty morningTrip report by Climb to Fight Cancer climber Jeff Fryer

Following an extraordinary trek to Mt. Everest Base Camp in Nepal as part of the Climb to Fight Cancer, benefitting Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, I eagerly anticipated another adventure. On January 8, I departed Arusha, Tanzania with Alpine Ascents International (AAI) to tackle and hopefully summit, Uhuru Peak in Kilimanjaro National Park – otherwise known as Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest point in Africa at 19,341 feet and one of the “Seven Summits.”

It was extremely important to me to do this with the Climb to Fight Cancer. I lost both of my brothers and my father to cancer. As a result, I felt a desire to do something to help eradicate this horrific disease.  This is what called me to join the Everest Base Camp team last year and fueled my desire to continue to meld my love of backpacking, hiking and trekking with an opportunity to raise critical dollars for cancer research.

Our trek began at the Machame Gate at the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Climbing through the Cloud Forest (or the Rainforest Zone) was surreal, culminating with a well-earned rest at Machame Hut camp.  Day two we hiked higher, through the Heather and Moorland Zone, to Shira Caves camp.  Days three, four and five we traversed the mountain through the Highland Desert Zone, with a brief overnight stay at Kosovo camp in preparation for summit day. Summit day was on day six, Sunday, January 13, 2019.

We were unable to actually see our goal until halfway through day five. Mt. Kilimanjaro had been “socked in” with a stubborn weather pattern for two weeks.  Fortunately, the clouds briefly lifted in the afternoon of day five and we were excitedly able to view our ascent route.

the ascent route

On summit day, we left Kosovo camp at midnight and slowly worked our way toward the roof of Africa. Watching the sunrise was breathtaking. It was sheer beauty and magnificence.

summit morning

Fourteen of the fifteen climbers successfully summited by 7:00 a.m.  Woo hoo!


The blessings I have been so fortunate to receive through these experiences are immeasurable. Hiking through the Khumbu Valley, spending two nights at Mt. Everest Base Camp and summiting Mt. Kilimanjaro were adventures that weren’t even on my bucket list. Next up . .  .  Aconcagua!

Blessings do, indeed, abound, you simply need to look around . . .Jeff Fryer.

All photos courtesy of Jeff Fryer. 

the 'ol man

The Volcanoes of Mexico – Two Summits!

January 7, 2019

By Chris Kesler, Lydig Construction


Dustin Shelton and Chris Kesler raising a banner for cancer research on the summit of Itza, the 7th highest mountain in North America at 17,159 feet.

When I first considered this expedition one of my thoughts was, do I really want to travel five hours on a plane to another country to find out if I can successfully climb at high altitude? Is this a realistic climbing and fundraising goal?

How was I to face my fear and uncertainty of attaining summits above my previous mountaineering experience? I settled this internal struggle when I remembered that this is exactly why I climb for Fred Hutch. I choose to push myself for people cancer has given no choice.  Friends, family members and colleagues with cancer climb physical and emotional mountains they haven’t chosen. I choose to help fund life-saving research and the innovative scientists at the Hutch. With this realization, I decided to extend myself far beyond my comfort zone.

The Volcanoes expedition includes ten days in beautiful Mexico – two travel days, six days of climbing, and a couple of days of inter-country traveling with cultural experiences. Pretty straight forward, right? It was so much more.

Soon after arriving in Mexico City all nine climbers exploded the gear bags on the lawn of our hotel for our mandatory gear check with our two Alpine Ascents International guides, Stuart Robertson and Dylan Cembalski.  Both Stuart and Dylan have guided many Climb to Fight Cancer expeditions. Our group’s ages ranged from 29 to 59. This gear check meeting began the bonding of our shared experience. Once we commenced we were joined by Arnoldo, a Mexico City native who would be our local tour guide, van driver, storyteller, legend interpreter and man of history.

Prior to attempting our first climb on Iztaccihuatl “Itza,” the seventh highest mountain in North America, we spent time visiting the Museum of Anthropology, then driving to a remote area as we acclimated to the increasing altitude. On day three we did an acclimatization hike to elevations of 12,000 – 14,000 feet.  This was finally my chance to see how I felt being at the equivalent of the summit of Mt. Rainier, my mountaineering elevation high point to date. The following day we donned full backpacks and began our climb of Itza in earnest. It was a big but manageable day and we reached our high camp of 15,000 feet. We were treated to an unbelievable sunset and spent the evening telling stories. img_7267I was filled with excitement and if I’m honest a little apprehension for what was ahead. I was trying to sleep, manage a slight headache and thinking about what I’d eat. The night before any climb can keep a mind racing, and I was nervous about how I’d do at these higher elevations. Could I really climb to over 17,000 feet?

In the pitch black darkness of the early morning we begin our ascent. The rhythm of my breathing settled me. As the morning awakened, we could see our objective. We slowly completed the final push up the spine of the mountain and before long I was standing with my teammates on the summit of Iztaccihuatl at 17,159 feet, my new elevation high point. The air was crisp, the skies clear, and the feeling rewarding. After a short time we descended, packed up camp, and made the long trip to Puebla, Mexico.  The warm food, drink and hot shower were all greatly appreciated.

The time spent in Cholula (yes, the home of the hot sauce!) and Puebla was awesome.  We visited some of the oldest sites in the Americas including pyramids, libraries, cathedrals and many other historical landmarks. It was serendipitous for sure. We left this beautiful area and headed to the solitude of the slopes of Orizaba, our second objective.

We drove to the Orizaba mountain guides facility. We were treated to a delicious lunch and we loaded our gear into 4×4’s.  Nearly two hours later we were above the tree line and in the sage brush decorating the flanks of one very big volcano. This was our base camp – Piedra Grande at 13,800 feet. Our camp had a cooking hut and a separate group eating tent. We spent the balance of the day hanging out together.  We slept late the following morning and eventually geared up for another acclimatization hike. We worked our way up to somewhere near 16,000 feet while enjoying the rugged beauty of the moraine we were traversing.

All too quickly we headed back to our camp and the anticipation of our upcoming summit attempt in the pre-dawn hours filled my head. The time period from my oatmeal and cider, to packing up and leaving camp is still suspended in time for me. We spent hours in the dark sky, our crampons crunching the firm snow, our head lamps bobbing, the sounds of our steady, deep breathing, and the comforting cadence of climbing. I felt like I belonged there. We roped up as we came onto a massive snow field. We were sensing the first signs of light. This is always the coldest time on any mountain.

The sun brings out the magic of the alpine environment. The peaking of the first light, the silhouettes of other climbers become visible, and ultimately the shadow the volcano casts itself over the landscape below.  It never gets old.  Three+ hours on the ice and I was even more focused on breathing and maintaining a solid rhythm.

We reached the crater rim bathed in full sunlight. The summit was thirty minutes away via a ridge walk toward what appeared to be an endless blue sky.  Along with my teammates I absorbed all the doubt and fear that had lived in the back of my brain for months. I was climbing for those I love and for those I have never met. I was actually doing it.

The hugs and handshakes were satisfying, but nothing compares to the feeling of doing something bigger than myself. As my friend Kelly says, “Love them all, let their spirits flow.”  As I crested the summit of the third highest peak in North America, I did.

We are filled with so much gratitude for these two summits and the journey that brought us here.

Thank you.

Chris Kesler.


Volunteer, climber, fundraiser, blog author and explorer Chris Kesler takes in the view.

My crux

In mountaineering, the crux is the most difficult section of a route. This is why I train.

In cancer research the crux is the most difficult obstacle to overcome that leads to a breakthrough, or the place where the greatest viability lives. This is why I climb.

In planning a route, it is important to know how far it is before the crux is reached, because cruxes can only be overcome with sufficient reserves of strength. This is why I train.

In traveling the path towards discovery, it is important to know how far it is before the crux is reached, because cruces can only be overcome with sufficient reserves that support where the trail leads…towards cures.  This is why I climb.


The Roof of Africa ~ Mt. Kilimanjaro

October 8, 2018

IMG_4726It’s impossible to spend time in East Africa and not be changed, even ever so slightly, for the better.

Mt. Kilimanjaro stands at 19,341 ft, the roof of Africa, cascading her shadow over the relatively flat fields, cities and villages of Tanzania.  This land has everything – the loveliest people, scenery to steal your heart, and volcanoes to make your boots sing.

The Climb to Fight Cancer celebrated fifteen years on Mt. Kilimanjaro with this season’s climb there. Kilimanjaro was the first international and first big fundraising peak climbed by Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center volunteers. Since then, survivors, 7-summiters, families and philanthropic adventurists have ascended her flanks, raising life-saving dollars for cancer research.

As with most mountains, but especially this one, our daily ascent was planned one day at a time and as climbers, our focus was one hour, or one footstep, at a time.  Those afflicted with cancer have described their treatment the same way, moving one day to the next, hoping for the best, nervous about what their next steps may bring.  We had many friends and family members on our minds and hearts as we slowly ascended this peak for them.

IMG_3645The photos of this magnificent corner of the world tell the story better than any words ever could. If I had a paintbrush I would not be able to create the wild inviting colors stretched across the skies every morning and night.  Even in the high elevations we awoke to birds and our porters singing in Swahili. Kilimanjaro takes seven days to climb and a lifetime to process.

Your donations, prayer flags and well wishes propelled us and fueled us. The Climb to Fight Cancer crested $9 million dollars in lifetime fundraising this year. Those dollars are funding lives saved, cures and hope.  Thank you for taking these footsteps with us.


September 21, 2018 – SUMMIT of KILIMANJARO


Disappointment Cleaver Delivers – Mt. Rainier

September 4, 2018

IMG_0901Mt. Rainier is a special mountain no matter when you are on it, who you are with, or who is guiding you. No other peak in Washington state has strangers marvel to one another, “the mountain is out” when she shines any time of year. Lifelong Washingtonians and new residents alike never tire of her gaze.

This summer, three separate Climb to Fight Cancer teams, benefitting Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center,  ascended Mt. Rainier in July and August with their hopes pinned on pioneering, innovative cancer research and a chance to touch the most coveted summit in the lower 48 states.

Climber Bill Brower, who climbed for pancreatic cancer research, writes ~ “As you can imagine the mountaineering community has no shortage of extraordinary people in it. My summit team consisted of an astrophysicist, orthopedic surgeon, recovered alcoholic who had destroyed his life dozens of times over, professional tri-athlete and professional marathon runner…the list goes on. We were brought to the same level, humbled by the scale of the mountain and the extraordinary challenge it throws at you. For me this challenge was focused on raising money and awareness for cancer and inspiring strength for those battling. This mountain has captivated me from moment I saw it and I am lucky enough to have it in my backyard. Back at home so quickly, you realize that the simplest things in your day are such a privilege…being warm, a soft place to sleep, running water and warm food. When you’re out there you tend to think about those things frequently but when you’re back you miss the visceral experience of not having them. The sounds of ice cracking and falling at night, echoing around you, the feel of cold fresh air, the feeling of squeezing on cold boots with raw feet and the intense focus on rest-stepping your way up higher and higher. This is certainly not for everyone and not for the faint of heart but for those who are hungry for something challenging this may be it…it’s magic.”

If you would like to test your hiking feet on Mt. Rainier next summer, while raising money science at Fred Hutch (donations stay at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center), we would love to have you on our team. Dates include July 19-21, August 8-10 and August 14-16, 2019.

This year’s teams consisted of half men and half women and ages ranging from 15 years old to much older…

Thank you to all who participated for the awe-inspiring, remarkable season in the mountains.

Next up: Mt. Kilimanjaro September 13-27, 2018 and the Volcanoes of Mexico December 1-10, 2018

Climb a Mountain. Save a Life.





Twenty-Seven climbers SUMMIT MOUNT BAKER!

August 13, 2018

Lydig baker summit-37Unsure of the time, only knowing it was getting lighter outside, I laid in my tent waiting for the alarm to go off. At 5:30am, I would start the day I’ve been excitedly preparing for since last year. As I waited for the alarm, I thought about the training we received the day before in snow school – how to walk in crampons, how to use the ice axe, how to execute a self-arrest. I mentally reviewed my pack inventory to make sure I had everything I needed and knew where it was. I was so thankful it would be considerably lighter than on the hike to basecamp the day before.

When my alarm finally went off, I was already out of my tent getting ready for the day. I’m glad I woke up early because I witnessed a beautiful sunrise and got to watch camp slowly come to life as climbers emerged from their tents to get ready. Our guides were already up and boiling water for coffee and getting breakfast ready. At breakfast, we got a recap of the plan discussed the night before.  Group one would leave the Easton Glacier first, group two would then leave Crag View and our group (group three) would follow about a half-hour later.  If all went to plan, we would all meet up on the summit around the same time.

Mt. Baker beautyOnce group 2 started to fade into the distance, our team began our summit bid. We decided that instead of hiking down and over to the Squak Glacier, we would climb up and over the rocks that separated it from camp. While this may sound simple, this was my first time climbing in mountaineer boots, which are rigid and unforgiving, and the rocks were sharp and unstable. This was Baker’s first challenge. With trepidation and determination, I slowly crossed the rocks repeating in my mind “don’t fall and hurt yourself 200 feet from camp!” Finally, I hopped off the rocks and onto the glacier.

On the glacier, we strapped on our crampons, got out our ice axes, and broke into three rope teams. For the next 4,600+ vertical feet, me, Rays (the guide), Weston, and Eric would be tied together; required to communicate and work together to ultimately be responsible for each other’s safety. We were instructed not to be more than 25 feet apart, to not step on the rope, and to remember snow school. With that, it was time to climb.

And climb we did. We climbed for hours. I learned that when you’re hiking in snow, it Lydig baker summit-24can seem like you’re going nowhere quickly. With 25 feet of rope separating you from your teammates, you have a lot of time to think about how you’re going nowhere quickly. Thankfully, our guides were awesome.  They broke up our ascent into hour chunks. Every hour on the dot, we would stop to rest, eat, and hydrate. After making sure we were all in good shape, we would put on the packs and continue to climb.

While climbing in the snow was tedious, Mt. Baker is one of the most amazing and beautiful places I’ve ever been in my life. Crevasses are everywhere, some just a foot wide, but deeper than you can see. Others are giant and help shape the mountain façade you see from sea-level. The views of Sherman Peak (false summit) and the surrounding ranges were breathtaking. The Sherman crater, where we took our final break before summiting, appeared to be alive and emitted a strong sulfur smell unlike anything I’ve seen.

Lydig baker summit-50After leaving the crater, we headed to the Roman Wall. A section of the climb I’ve been worrying about since I began training. It just sounds intimidating. One foot in front of the other, we began to ascend. This was the final obstacle Mt. Baker had for us before the plateau to the summit. As we made our way up, a group was coming down. It was one of ours – they had all made it! We moved aside, perched on the Roman Wall, and congratulated them all as they passed. They returned words of encouragement.  We began again and not 20-minutes later, we stepped aside for another group. It was group 2 and they had also all made it!

You can rightfully assume that after learning the two other groups had successfully summited, we were fired up to summit. We needed the morale boost, too.  It was almost 2pm, the sun was beating down, and the snow was slushy. Our goal was in sight, this Roman Wall and these conditions were our crux. Again, we stepped back on the path and pushed forward.

Finally, after emerging over the wall, I saw the plateau and the bald top of the summit. Just a few hundred yards away was the geographic point I’ve been thinking about since last year. The spot I told my family, friends, colleagues, clients, and anyone who’d listen, I would stand on and wave a banner for Fred Hutch. Even though my legs were tired, my pace quickened. Up one last hill and we were there.  We dropped our packs and celebrated. I opened mine and pulled out the Climb to Fight Cancer banner and prepared it to wave where it belonged, at the top of a mountain.

IMG_0195After the team photos were done, we ate quietly and took in the breathtaking views. I looked at the personal flag I brought with me and thought about my friends and family who have fought cancer and succeeded, and I thought about my friends and family who fought and did not succeed. A bit overwhelmed with emotion, I found solace in the hope that my small contribution to this team effort to help the Hutch would help save more lives.

After about 30 minutes, it was time to pack up and head back down to basecamp to camp for the night. We had about 5 more hours of climbing ahead and the promise of camp stove macaroni and cheese waiting for us. When we finally got there and recovered from the climb, we celebrated with our teammates.  The atmosphere was jubilant knowing we achieved our goals – 27 successful summits and over $133,000 raised for life-saving research at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. After sharing stories and seeing photos of the day, we all turned in early. After an entire day of climbing, we all slept great that night.IMG_0967

– By Bill Michie, Lydig Construction

Editor’s Note – THANK YOU Lydig Construction. Over two mountain climbs (Mt. Adams 2012 and Mt. Baker 2018) you have raised $250,000 for breakthrough, pioneering research at Fred Hutch. You have our heartfelt gratitude.  

Photos by Kevin Smith and courtesy of Bill Michie.

Lydig baker summit-103


July 18, 2018

IMG_8402By David Kendall

Mt. Shuksan is one of the most beautiful and most photographed peaks in the Cascade Mountain Range. It is an iconic peak within the North Cascades, overshadowed by its giant, and more visible, neighbor to the north – Mt. Baker. Climbing it is even more spectacular with its varied terrain, scenery, and a stunning traverse up onto the mighty Sulphide Glacier.

Mt Shuksan was recently added to our list of peaks. It has quickly established itself as a favorite peak. Many of our climbers have come back again and again to experience this hidden gem. While only 9,131 feet, it provides both an accessible high mountaineering experience as well as a rock scramble up a pyramid face to the summit.

Our team this year consisted of four climbers and two guides from Alpine Ascents International. All our climbers had climbed together before which made this climb even more enjoyable. Jeff Hazeltine (AKA White Cheddah) was our veteran Shuksan climber coming back for his third ascent among many other summits over the years. Chris Roberts (AKA Icy Intellect) caught the climb bug last year with his first ascent of Mt. Baker on a Climb to Fight Cancer team. The challenge and view of Mt. Shuksan convinced him to come back again this year. David Kendall (AKA The Mangler), a veteran climber since 2005 with over 20 climbs, was on his first try at Mt. Shuksan. Andrea Towlerton (AKA #Hashtag) had so much fun with Jeff, Chris, and David on Mt. Baker last year that she jumped in at the last-minute for more mountain madness.

As many of you know, the guides make these mountaineering adventures even more enjoyable with their deep knowledge and passion for the outdoors. Our senior guide was Craig Van Hoy. He is a veteran guide with an incredible climbing resume including over four hundred ascents of Mt. Rainier by nineteen different routes. He holds several records and first ascents on that mountain. He’s also climbed the Seven Summits (including Mount Everest) as well as numerous other significant peaks throughout the world. His favorite mountain of all is the one in his own backyard – Mt. Shuksan!

Our second guide, Patrick Chu, is equally impressive. Patrick left the warm sandy beaches and ocean air of California for the mountains. He’s climbed rock, snow, and ice throughout the Sierra Nevada, Cascades, Patagonia, Alaska, and British Columbia. He’s also is a certified EMT.55267274909__CE167430-93E4-4B8A-9400-BB3652F1FEEC

The weather on Friday for the hike into high camp was perfect. We had a cool, slight breeze, and the somewhat overcast skies made for a relaxing hike. We left the trailhead (2,500 ft.) late morning and hiked up the valley to Shannon Ridge at 4,500 ft. From there we looked across the valley to the immense south flank of Mt. Baker. We then made our way up through a narrow gap traversing over onto the Sulphide Glacier and high camp (6,400 ft). We quickly set up our tents in an amazing high mountain amphitheater before the punishing wind and rain hit us. The weather transition was fast.

A very noisy night of high winds and pouring rain spilled over into an entire day of more of the same. Some of us appreciated packing ear plugs for the night. All of us regretted not packing a book, cards, or iPod to relieve our boredom as we remained trapped in our tents. We did catch up on our sleep while safely snuggled in all warm and cozy in our sleeping bags while the storm raged on around us.

Finally, during the evening on day two the clouds broke and we enjoyed dinner while looking out over to the massive peaks of the Picket Mountain Range.IMG_3965

Summit day began with a 1:30 am wake up on day three. We quickly got organized, ate breakfast and headed out around 3:00 am under a cloudless, starry night with a slight glowing sunrise.

One of my favorite parts of the climb is moving out with our headlamps on and slowly making our way up the mountain. We crossed the Sulphide Glacier to the base of the 700 ft. rock summit pyramid.

This is where we needed to turn around. The summit was going to have to wait for another time. We were supporting one another as a team, one with a larger goal than a summit. It’s always disappointing to turn back, but mountaineering is like health. It can be an unpredictable journey.


I participate annually in the Climb to Fight Cancer for the important cause, the commandery of the other climbers, and the unique experience of the high mountains. The summit is one point of the journey, but it is not the goal. The goal is to find a cure for cancer and to experience life to its fullest. We come together to raise life-saving dollars for Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, it is what makes our teams so special and creates the bonds of friendship we carry with us off the mountain.

I hope to see you on the mountains in 2019. I’ll be back on Mt. Shuksan.

~David Kendall, Climb to Fight Cancer volunteer and Committee member

All photos courtesy of Jeff Hazeltine, David Kendall, Andrea Towlerton & Chris Roberts



July 9, 2018

Climber Tim Crowther taking in the peace at Hidden Valley camp.

MT SHASTA – Our second domestic peak of the season is towering Mt. Shasta (14,179 ft), guided by Shasta Mountain Guides.  The team opted for the West Face route, which begins at Bunny Flats (6,950 ft) and sets up camp in beautiful Hidden Valley (9,200 ft).  Hidden Valley camp is as picturesque on Mt. Shasta as the Ingraham Flats on Mt. Rainier.  You get to fixate on the climbing route while eating, drinking and sleeping as your summit day is laid out right in front of you.  It’s also a little like standing on the Mt. Hood Hogsback (10,500 ft) and looking at the last 700 feet of elevation before the summit. You feel isolated in the middle of nowhere with no cell service – nothing but your own voice, birds chirping, and the few fellow adventurers also camping in the area.

The team booted up on Saturday morning and moved quickly during an alpine start, making great progress ascending the West Face. The breeze was strong and the temperatures low given the wind chill.  The weather was perfect to watch the sunrise cast the mountain’s shadow over Northern California and Southern Oregon.


The mountain casting her vast shadow.

The team included survivor Marybeth Dingledy making her 3rd attempt on Mt. Shasta, and multiple year Climb to Fight Cancer climbers Tim Crowther and Lisa Carlson.  The combined climber age was about 150 years old so the team figured as long as conditions remained safe, they could endure a little breeze and discomfort.


Survivor Marybeth Dingledy flies prayer flags from the summit of Mt Shasta.

Once the West Face was crested and the team could see the entire upper mountain, they were able to unrope and switch back to their trekking poles and continue on to the aptly named Misery Hill (13,800 ft). Following Misery Hill they walked the equivalent of a somewhat flat football field before climbing up Mt. Shasta’s unique rock formation on the true summit.

It was quite windy on the summit so it was a quick stop to take photos, drink water and sign the summit register before retreating. The descent allowed for a 4,000 ft safe, controlled glissade.  What a way to descend a mountain!  The team made it back to camp in time for some mac-and-cheese and an early bedtime.

IMG_7353Hiking out after a mountain climb is always a surreal experience. The mountain towers at your back and there is a sense of disbelief (with or without a summit) that you were ever high above. Caffeinating, rehydrating and eating when off the peak is enjoyable and especially with such a tight-knit team.

Mt. Shasta hangs above the landscape like an island. It was a privilege to fly prayer flags in honor and memory of loved ones, in her skies.


Saying goodbye to the mountain.