Courtesy of KOMO 4 and Denise Whitaker.
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SEATTLE — We’re surrounded by mountains here in the Pacific Northwest that many people climb just because they’re there. And there’s a group of people who also do it to advance treatments and cures for breast cancer.
This group just summited Mt. Shuksan in the North Cascades National Park. After a 5-mile trek up to their base camp at 6,000 feet, they spent a night in tents, resting up to go for the summit the next morning.
This part of the trek starts with a full gear-up; sturdy mountaineering boots with crampons strapped on, an ice axe, climbing harness, helmet, gloves, sunscreen, layers of clothing, food and water.
Strapping on her crampons, Lynn Lippert, who drove up from Portland to make this climb, said she felt good, ready to get started.
Lippert is here with six others who signed up for the Climb to Fight Breast Cancer, a fundraising climb that benefits the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
“For me, it’s really gotten personal,” said Lippert.
A lifelong hiker, these days the struggles and grunts to reach the top of a mountain are a cakewalk in comparison for her.
“After chemo, a mountain is just another hill to climb,” said Lippert.
Lippert’s been going through chemotherapy for years now; first it was breast cancer, then a second breast cancer, and now it’s metastasized to her bones.
“And I’m on a new treatment regime with the hope of bringing it down,” she said.
Lippert just had a consultation with a doctor at the Hutchinson Center, who gives her hope she may be able to qualify for a new clinical trial starting this fall.
“Boy, bringing it down to no evidence of disease would be a Godsend,” said Lippert.
This woman doesn’t just fight her cancer; she fights for everyone with cancer. Lippert’s raised more than $200,000 for Fred Hutch researchers since she started doing the Climb to Fight Breast Cancer 10 years ago.
“That feels really good. Almost as good as standing on the top of a mountain at the age of 73, with really wonderful people and life, that’s good,” said Lippert.
Lippert’s cancer has weakened her a bit, so her climbing buddies pitched in on this one, dividing her supplies amongst themselves, carrying her needed supplies up in their backpacks.
She explained that some of the clinical trials underway when she started, are now standard protocols in care.
“The dollars that we’re raising for research are not out for the way out in the distant future, it’s kind of tomorrow and that’s exciting,” said Lippert.
One tough woman inspiring so many and giving true hope to cancer patients.
KOMO 4’s Denise Whitaker celebrated her birthday up on the summit of Mt. Shuksan with Lippert. Join in them in being a part of the cure. Make a donation here.
They arrived in town early to browse the local gear store, go through a complete gear check, buy snacks for the weekend and have dinner in a local restaurant. Unlike most desolate trailheads where you find the world’s most beautiful mountains, Mt. Shasta, California is a bustling small town full of amenities and charm.During their first day on the trail, the Climb to Fight Breast Cancer climbers departed from the Bunny Flats trailhead (6,683 ft) to begin their trek to base camp. They were met with sunny skies and a noticeable lack of snow on the mountain due to the drought in California this year. The group spent several hours hiking past Horse Camp. Having already named themselves “team sausage” they were well on their way. Our Mt. Shasta teams have almost ALWAYS named themselves by rope team or group, with team names generally reflecting a local watering hole in town.
On their second day, they cruised up to Lake Helen (where there is no water so we aren’t sure why it is named that) and pitched their tents for the night. Lake Helen (10,433 ft) hovers around the same elevation as Mt. Rainier’s Camp Muir.
On their third day, after an alpine start they ascended the well-named Misery Hill, then they climbed across the summit plateau, and then stepped on to the summit pyramid at 14,179 ft.
They took photos, signed the summit log, and reflected on the months of training and fundraising that brought them to the top of Mt. Shasta with their Climb to Fight Breast Cancer team.
Whether you are climbing a mountain for the first time or the tenth time, each experience comes with its own rewards and challenges. We appreciate all of the donors who supported breast cancer research at Fred Hutch.
Early Sunday morning while you were sleeping, your spirit had joined with mine. You were climbing Mount Hood with me, encouraging and propelling me.
Our guides woke us (not that we were sleeping) at 11:00 p.m. Saturday night for breakfast. At midnight we began our ascent. The night was clear and dark. A fingernail moon lent little light. There were more stars than Portland ever dreamed of.
I was focused and strong. It wasn’t a gentle start. Nothing gentle about it ever. The first step was up, as were each of all the rest. My headlamp showed the snow at my feet. The only other sights besides the stars were the headlamps of those behind me and those ahead when they might turn their heads.
We snaked up quietly like a ghost might. My thoughts were simple. “One step at a time. Beautiful family and friends are carrying me now. They are lifting me now. They are counting on me now. I will do this now. Now is my journey.” And so went my mantra hour after hour.
At times I stumbled. My pole might slip. My knee would turn out against my will. Locking my knee for a moment of rest with each step. I went on. Steeper and steeper as we went. Time stood still. Not outside of myself, but perhaps outside of this world, I was in a singularly spectacular strange new world. Just visiting, I knew, but for now this was all of my past and all of my future, and of course my only present.
As we approached the famous Hogback at 10,700 feet I struggled badly. My body faltered and feet staggered. One more step…one more step…and then we were there: the Hogsback. It’s flat for the most part. Rest. And the guide began his sobering talk of the dangers of the final ascent. We were now at the base of the summit. There it was – 500 feet above us. Straight up. “If you thought the last section was steep or difficult,” he said, and then he pointed up where the tiniest light of a solo climber’s headlamp glowed, “you do not want to go there. We will be roped up and we will climb the rest of the way with ice axes.” And he held his ice axe up next to his head and made the movement of slamming it into the ice wall. There will be no resting, no food, no water for an hour or an hour and a half. Your safety and your team’s safety depends on you. If you go from here and decide you cannot make it, your entire team will turn back. If you thought the last section was steep or difficult don’t go there.”
I looked around. No one said a word. I raised my hand. “I thought it was very difficult,” I said. “Thank you,” he said. “You should think about stopping here. You have worked hard and done well. You are here which is no small feat. It takes courage to say no to this dream of the summit.”
I stood up, smiled big, looked around at the guides and the remaining 12 other climbers, held my hands up to the sky. “I feel good. I feel successful. As far as I am concerned I am at the top of the mountain. I shouldn’t and don’t need to go further. I am at the top..”
So with 500 feet to get to the summit, I ended my ascent, knowing I had succeeded. I was spent totally. This was the right decision. We took pictures, we hugged. Nine climbers and their guides continued on. Four of us, with two guides began the steep descent. It was hours back down. Slow and uneventful but for the view of the sun rising, casting shadows revealing the intimacy we were blessed to share with the mountain.
At the bottom now. It was grueling. I was spent. As my friend and I walked out of historic Timberline Lodge the following morning I thought about Nancy. How she had struggled and fought her Mountain Cancer for 12 full years. Finally at a plateau, she was spent. She said, “My body cannot do this anymore.” At that moment she shifted her goal from survival to comfort.” She had not failed. She had succeeded in both of her goals. Not that my mountain was anything like hers, but in an instant I felt a special connection with her.
For those of you who asked me to carry names of loved ones to the top, I did that. I was fully aware of the wonderful spirits whose names were in my care. Together, we made it, as far as I was concerned, to the top of the Mountain.”
Congratulations to the 15 climbers and 7 guides who climbed Mt. Hood to rid the world of breast cancer. Thank you for inspiriting, believing and fighting.
Special thanks to our partners, Timberline Mountain Guides.