Skip to content

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

IMG_8403

MT SHASTA SUMMIT

July 9, 2018
IMG_7305

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.

IMG_7330

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.

IMG_7347

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.

IMG_7362.jpg

Saying goodbye to the mountain.

EVEREST BASE CAMP TREK GRATITUDE

July 9, 2018

img_1951

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

img_1965

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

 

IMG_7219

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.

IMG_7214

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.

IMG_7216

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.

IMG_7210

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

EVEREST SUMMIT

June 26, 2018

Luke Timmerman looks back on his summit of Mount Everest

Seattle biotech writer returns from his epic Climb to Fight Cancer for Fred Hutch
June 25, 2018
By Sabin Russell / Fred Hutch News Service
Luke Timmerman on Everest

Luke Timmerman stands at Camp 4, on the South Col of Mount Everest, after he returned safely from the summit. Behind him is the South Summit, a 28,704 foot landmark that shields the view of the summit, which is 300 feet taller. Photo courtesy of Luke Timmerman

On May 22, Luke Timmerman was standing on the summit of Mount Everest.

One month later, he was back home in Seattle, sipping a latte at an Eastlake Avenue coffee house, reflecting on what he had done.

Not only had he just climbed the highest mountain in the world, he used his adventure to raise $339,000 through Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center’s Climb to Fight Cancer program. He came home to television interviews and hundreds of supporters in awe of his achievement, grateful for his fundraising prowess and relieved he was safe.

“Now I am getting back into the swing of things, with my family and my work,” Timmerman said. “I am reintegrating.”

That means spending all the time he can with his wife, Tracy Cutchlow, and their 6-year-old daughter, Geneva; and returning to the helm of Timmerman Report, an online newsletter he founded to cover the biotechnology industry, which he first wrote about as a business reporter for The Seattle Times.

“He is such a strong guy. I can’t imagine he could have done anything more to prepare for this,” Cutchlow said after her husband had returned safely to basecamp. “There was no doubt in my mind he could make it.”

Camp 4 South Col

The stark beauty of the Himalayas as seen from Camp 4, on the South Col of Mount Everest. Photo countesy of Luke Timmerman

His half-hour stay on the peak of Everest will always be etched in his memory.

At 29,029 feet, the summit is a small pyramid of trampled snow studded with weather-beaten prayer flags left by previous climbers. It was 6:30 a.m. when Timmerman, Alpine Ascents expedition leader Ben Jones and three others were the first of their group to reach the top. The wind — which roared at 80 to 100 mph on the high flanks of the mountain in the early days of May — was a just a gentle breeze. In the bright morning sun, the snow-capped Himalayas were spread beneath and around them. With the clouds far below the summit, visibility was at least 100 miles.

“It is exhilarating to know you are finally there, after all that effort,” Timmerman said. “It was years of prior climbing, months of training, and two months on the mountain itself, where your patience is tested.”

To avoid the “traffic jams” of queued up climbers who want to head for the summit as soon as the weather permits, Jones had delayed his expedition’s summit push to May 22, almost to the last day of their climbing window. So in addition to perfect conditions that glorious morning, the Alpine Ascents expedition team had the mountain to themselves.

They had time for high-fives, backslapping and mugging for the cameras. Timmerman and the others could even take off their oxygen masks, and breathe unassisted the cold thin air.

“Luke was fantastic on this climb,” said Alpine Ascents guide Eric Murphy. “He displayed tenacity through a few tough moments, was steadfast in his commitment to the team and offered his friendship, support and a sense of humor to everyone.”

Indeed, there were times when Timmerman was not so certain he would reach the top. On summit day, the challenge was the bitter cold. As they set out for the peak, the temperature at Camp 4 was about 20 degrees below zero.

“We made in up in just shy of eight hours,” Timmerman said of the summit day. “My feet were numb a good six of those eight hours.”

‘At what point does frostbite set in?’

As the team climbed through the wee hours of the morning, their route lit by their headlamps, Timmerman kept trying to wiggle his toes. “I was concerned about my feet,” he said. “At what point does frostbite set in? At what point should I tell the guide?”

About three hours into the climb, he hollered to expedition leader Jones that he had a problem. Jones, on his fifth trip to the Everest summit, advised a series of leg swings to boost circulation to his feet. At a rest point at 27,500 feet, Jones instructed one of the Sherpa guides to raise the setting on Timmerman’s oxygen bottle a notch, temporarily boosting his oxygen flow to the highest level. That seemed to help. Then Jones also began slapping Timmerman’s boots. At this cold, desolate and dark spot known as the Balcony, it was a morale boost. “I felt like I was on a sports team, and the coach was slapping my back,” Timmerman said.

Once on the summit, even though the temperature was a few degrees below zero, Timmerman’s worries abated. He was aware that most accidents occur on the way down from the top, but was fully confident the most difficult part was over. “Those who get in trouble use every ounce of energy just to get to the top, and then they’ve run out of it. I knew I had plenty left,” he said.

Timmerman in Seattle

Luke Timmerman founded the biotech newsletter Timmerman Report and is the author of “Hood: Trailblazer of the Genomics Age,” a biography of Lee Hood, co-founder of Seattle’s Institute for Systems Biology. Photo by Meryl Schenker

Timmerman returned from the trip with all his toes intact, not even a toenail discolored. Although free from frostbite, he still experiences some numbness in his right foot, which his doctor thinks will continue to improve with time.

Earlier in the trip, Timmerman said he struggled with the thin air. “I had one sleepless night at Camp 2 (21,300 feet),” he said. “When you wake up gasping for breath, it feels kind of like you are drowning. It gets scary. Negative thoughts get into your head, like, “How will I ever climb tomorrow?’”

Thoughts about cancer patients seemed to pull him out of it. “I did think about the folks at home, and not wanting to let them down. I told myself this is hard, but other people have it harder,” he said.

A moment of ‘tremendous possibility’

Safe in Seattle, Timmerman said he was humbled to learn that Hutch scientists had been closely following his climb. His day job as a biotechnology writer had convinced him that cancer research had reached a pivotal stage, and he saw his climb not only as a way to raise money for such research, but also to affirm “at this moment of tremendous possibility,” the importance of science itself.

“People told me they were inspired by it,” he said. “I’m just fortunate to have partnered with the Hutch on this. It was a very rewarding experience. I’m thrilled it raised the money it did, and that it raised awareness of Fred Hutch on a national level.

“Everybody has some goal, some dream in mind that seems out of reach; but deep down a lot of people know that if they apply themselves, they could probably do it,” he said. “It’s what animates so many people.”

Now that he is back at sea level, Timmerman will have plenty of time to parse the meaning of his adventure, but already he has placed it in context:  “It’s certainly the most visible thing I ever achieved in my life,” he said, “but special moments — getting married, the birth of your child — they rank higher.”

You can Climb to Fight Cancer

Would you like to raise money for Fred Hutch by joining one of this season’s Climb to Fight Cancer expeditions? Averaging 60 climbers per year, Climb to Fight Cancer trips are led by experienced guides trained to take even first-time climbers to the top of popular peaks on four continents. There is still time to sign up for this season’s climbs, or you can whet your appetite for climbs to come in 2019.

Editor’s note: Luke Timmerman will throw out the ceremonial first pitch at Safeco Field on the evening of Thursday, Aug. 2, when the Seattle Mariners host the Toronto Blue Jays.

Luke Timmerman at summit of Mount Everest

At the top of the world, Luke displays a banner for Fred Hutch’s Climb to Fight Cancer program. He also shows banners for two corporate sponsors, Sanofi and 10X Genomics, whose donations covered the cost of his expedition.Photo courtesy of Luke Timmerman

Sabin Russell is a staff writer at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. For two decades he covered medical science, global health and health care economics for the San Francisco Chronicle, and wrote extensively about infectious diseases, including HIV/AIDS. He was a Knight Science Journalism Fellow at MIT, and a freelance writer for the New York Times and Health Affairs. Reach him at srussell@fredhutch.org.

Are you interested in reprinting or republishing this story? Be our guest! We want to help connect people with the information they need. We just ask that you link back to the original article, preserve the author’s byline and refrain from making edits that alter the original context. Questions? Email us at communications@fredhutch.org

 

Where do you want to go today?

March 30, 2018

Best_-134.jpg

Lydig Construction does a Climb to Fight Cancer training hike this weekend ~ gearing up for Mt. Baker 2018.

February 20, 2018

IMG_1631