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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.

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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.

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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.

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MOUNT SHUKSAN

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.

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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

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MT SHASTA SUMMIT

July 9, 2018
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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.

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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.

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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.

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Saying goodbye to the mountain.

EVEREST BASE CAMP TREK GRATITUDE

July 9, 2018

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By Michael Heathfield, Team Namaste

I’ve been home for two months from my Everest Base Camp Trek, my seventh and final fundraising climb for the Climb to Fight Cancer, benefiting Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

This Spring, Team Namaste, the team I created with my first Climb to Fight Cancer, included Jeff Fryer. I have known Jeff since the 1980s; he was my first “technical” climbing partner. img_2026

 

The entire trip was almost a month long.

We started the trek in Lukla, Nepal, hiking through the extraordinary Khumbu Valley to Everest Base Camp (17,600 ft) and back; a total of 77 miles round trip.  We conservatively gained and lost over 40,000 ft of elevation. Jeff and I summited a peak along the trek, Kala Pattar (18,300 ft). Five of our twelve team members made the early morning climb. It was Jeff’s altitude record and our last big adventure together.img_1890

Partway into this trek, I realized that once I set foot in the Khumbu Valley, I was not merely trekking. This was truly a pilgrimage. It was total immersion in Buddhism, big mountains, and the beautiful home of the kindhearted Sherpa people. I cannot fully explain the experience that I had. I encourage each of you to go yourself and fill in the blanks…The experience is life-enhancing.

Thank you all for your humbling generosity and your support of these fundraising climbs. As a single climber (Rainier, Hood, Denali) and with my Team Namaste (Shasta, Hood, Baker and Everest Base Camp Trek), together we have raised over $150,000 for breakthrough, life-saving cancer research at Fred Hutch.img_1976

Think about that $150,000 accomplishment for a minute or two.

Your donations really make a difference. Scientists at Fred Hutch count on private support to fund their pioneering, innovative research. You have saved lives.

I thank every climber I have had the privilege to participate with on these climbs; it has been such a pleasure getting to know them.

Also, I cannot thank Lisa Carlson and her staff at the Climb to Fight Cancer enough. She’s been guiding me since 2006 when I signed up for my first fundraiser, Mt. Rainier, in honor of my sister-in-law and friend, Verna.

For everyone who has, or has had, friends and family battling cancer, my heart is still with you in this fight.

Finally, heartfelt thanks to Lora and Hunter (Heathfield) for all the support, not only of these fundraising climbs, but also for allowing me to pursue the climbing life.

Namaste…live, life, peace and love.

Michael Heathfield

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Editors Note: Dear Michael, “Guiding” you has been a highlight of my role at the Climb to Fight Cancer. I am forever thankful that our paths crossed and to have been given the gift of working together toward funding a cure for cancer these past twelve years. Meeting Lora, Hunter and your many friends has been an honor. I am better for knowing you. Thank you for your dedication to cancer research and the special brand of peace you’ve shared with every climbing team. Your presence is a reminder of why we are all here. Namaste, friend. LJC

Photos courtesy of Michael Heathfield.

Mount Hood

June 28, 2018

 

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Walking on clouds. Photo by Kevin Smith. 

Mt. Hood is a special place — for its geography, geology and the special people who gather every June on her flanks beginning the Climb to Fight Cancer domestic season.

This year was a reunion of longtime friends, a meeting of new kindred spirits and an opportunity to catch up with our fantastic guiding partners, Timberline Mountain Guides.

Cancer and research bring people together who may not otherwise cross paths. This climbing team had participants from New Jersey, Washington, Colorado, California and New York.  Their professions are as diverse as their neighborhoods. Several had climbed before but for many this was their first time stepping on a volcano with the assortment of mountaineering gear required to ascend Oregon’s high point (11,237 ft).

Day one is “snow school.”  The team practices snowfield travel, rope techniques and self-arrest with an ice axe. Following snow school, the team travels to historic Silcox Hut (7,000 ft) in a snow cat piloted by Steve Buchan, the Timberline Lodge “hut master” of many years. Climb to Fight Cancer team members are treated to Steve’s good humor, tasty cooking and impeccable service.

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Taking a quick break to put on crampons in-between wind gusts and sips of water. Photo by Kevin Smith.

The groups got an early alpine start and strongly kicked steps up the mountain in almost two feet of new snow while being pelted by 50 mph wind gusts. For climbers who have been on Mt. Hood before – this was a first. This was the first time in fifteen years the guides have recommended climbers leave the hut in three layers of pants (long underwear, soft shell and Gortex layer).  Along with an array of challenging weather, the temperatures were unseasonably cold and climbers were wearing every layer they packed to stay warm.

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Kicking steps in fresh snow. Photo by Kevin Smith.

After ascending to the Hogsback (10,500 ft), the guides determined that with the massive amounts of new snow, high winds and lack of visibility (ie – no visibility) it wasn’t safe to climb the last 700 feet of rock and ice. Everyone danced around to stay warm before descending together. Those who had come together as strangers were now friends – sharing hard candy, GU shots and laughs.

These unexpected “non-summit” climbs provide humor and bonding that sometimes there isn’t time for when you make it to the top as planned.  There is extra time to share personal stories, to make plans to climb together again, and talk about how impactful private support is to curing cancer at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

Climb to Fight Cancer teams share a goal and a purpose greater than touching a summit.

Standing on top is always intended and special, but mountain weather, like health, is unpredictable. Just as someone battling cancer experiences uncertainty; mountains throw curveballs that require a quick response.  Safety is always primary.

A Mt. Hood team will return next year, climbing to honor loved ones and support cancer research.

Thank you to all who donated, followed, cheered, supported and honored this amazingly dedicated Climb to Fight Cancer team.

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity.” ~ John Muir.

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Dedicated fundraisers from all over the US. Photo by Kevin Smith.