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Mt. Rainier Amazes

September 12, 2017
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Sunrise on Mt Rainier. Photo by Helen Wang.

Congratulations to our Climb to Fight teams on their recent summits of Mount Rainier! THREE Mount Rainier teams made their way to Washington’s highest point this year. Rainier remains the most coveted mountain summit in the lower 48 and one of the most revered mountains to climb in the world.

Those who reside in Washington state are graced almost daily with one of America’s dominant landmarks. Once you’ve stood atop it, you actually feel closer to its majestic presence.

About 10,000 people try climbing Mt Rainier annually and about 50% make it.  Being a member of the Climb to Fight Cancer increases your odds of attaining your personal summit. A summit is as individual and diverse as each climber. To some, it means nothing short of standing on top of a mountain. To another, it could mean joining a team, climbing to base camp, climbing to high camp or helping a climber attain a fundraising goal.

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Summit! Photo courtesy of Paulson Paulrajan.

This year’s teams included a team of Fred Hutch employees, three Bellevue Christian High School seniors, and adventurous, passionate people across the country, stretching from Washington to Florida.

Team member Sarah Barger, of the Hutch’s HICOR group, called the climb “a challenging yet humbling experience that required significant physical and mental strength but imparted so much gratitude, awe and inspiration.”

Through her work, Sarah said she’s come to recognize the “metaphorical mountain” that many cancer patients are forced to climb. “Their stories and experiences have shown me how critical and powerful it is to listen to, support and advocate for our cancer patients,” she said. “And Mount Rainier, with its mercurial weather and dangerous crevasses, reminded us all of our vulnerability and the fragility of life.”

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Recent high school grads on the summit. Photo courtesy of Kevin Smith, Nathan Aguirre & Noah Kreyenhagen.

Whatever mountain you are climbing, be it metaphorical or physical, we want you as an adventurer on our team. Every summer since 1997, ordinary people have done the extraordinary – standing on top of the world’s tallest peaks – all to fund cures for cancer. Over the 20-year history of the Climb to Fight Cancer, more than 1,000 climbers have raised over $8.3 million for research at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

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One Billion Star Hotel. Mt. Rainier at night. Photo by Helen Wang.

Mt. Baker Summits

August 23, 2017

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Mt. Baker is the eye-catching snow-crowned volcano on Northern Washington state’s landscape. The flat football field-like summit resembles something out of a Hollywood movie set. At 10,781 ft, the summit offers views of the San Juan islands, the Picket Mountain range, the North Cascades and into Canada.

Last month two teams of Climb to Fight Cancer adventurers climbed to Mt. Baker’s summit via two separate routes in one day. One team ascended the pristine Easton Glacier route and another ascended the lesser traveled Squak Glacier route. The teams included individuals from varied backgrounds and one full team was from AT&T, captained by Climb to Fight Cancer long time committee member David Kendall. Tiffany Locker, a trained dancer turned mountaineer summited a Climb to Fight Cancer peak for the fourth time! Two Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center employees and another long time committee member rounded out this group of extraordinary individuals.

Climbing Mt. Baker is a full wilderness experience. Climbers carry their food, clothing, tents and share the weight of the group gear. Backpacks can weight 50 pounds. Expertly guided by Alpine Ascents International, guides teach Leave No Trace mountain ethics and point out landmarks and natural features along the route. Most guides welcome any chance to climb in the North Cascades and are as excited as Climb to Fight climbers to traverse this unique mountain.

Summit day dawned with beautiful weather, clear skies and safe passage up the heavily glaciated peak to the summit register on top! Months of training, fundraising and planning came together as both the Easton and Squak route teams summited.

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Adventurer Tiffany Locker taking in one of many Mt. Baker views.

Climbing Mt. Baker is exhilarating and a must-do for anyone wanting to climb their first mountain or sharpen their snow travel skills. It has glaciated peaks, limitless views, a full range of weather and truly beautiful camp sites. Whether it is your first mountain, or one of many, it’s a great place to spend a weekend.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Fred Hutch’s Climb to Fight Cancer – that’s two decades of climbing and fundraising that has been integral in allowing scientists to develop new methods to prevent, diagnose and successfully treat cancer. In those 20 years, the Climb to Fight Cancer has raised and incredible $8+ million to support the innovative research happening at Fred Hutch. Each year brings us closer to the ultimate peak: curing cancer, and we could not do this work without the unparalleled enthusiasm and commitment of each of our climbers.  Please consider joining us in 2018. Registration is open today at http://www.fredhutch.org/climb ~ Climb a Mountain. Save a Life.

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Summit for Rainier 2 team!

August 18, 2017

Recent Bellevue Christian School graduates Kevin Smith, Noah Kreyenhagen and Nathan Aguirre summited Mt. Rainier on August 6, raising over $15,000 for life-saving research at Fred Hutch.  Photos by Kevin Smith.

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Our first Mt. Rainier team of the 20th Anniversary Season SUMMITS!

July 18, 2017

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Mt Shasta ~ Third Time will be a Charm

July 17, 2017
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Mt. Shasta started for me six years ago as my first ever mountain and first mountain with Fred Hutchinson Cancer Care Center. I chose carefully. This climbing business was brand new to me, I didn’t know any climbers (or for that matter many hikers!) and I wanted to choose something that I thought was within reach for me skills wise. Though topping out at just over 14,000 ft., Shasta is an excellent mountain for a novice climber. I learned in my research that ‘hard’ didn’t really have to do with just elevation gain, rather it’s a full spectrum of variables that one must consider. 
 
Shasta’s Avalanche Gulch route was a challenge and though I was recovering from bronchitis, I persevered. I met some fabulous people along the way including a Hutch Climb legend, Lynn Lippert. She said, “You’re with us, kid.” I learned a lot of tips and tricks from her on that trip. Shasta is a sassy minx of a mountain and creates her own microclimate. Gusts up to 70 mph took out our summit day and we returned to town to feast at the Brown Bear Diner. I knew I had to come back. 
 
Six years later, I returned having climbed a few more Fred Hutch mountains and with several Fred Hutch friends to take on the West Face route. We started our trip in Medford where some silly rental agency thought it was a good idea to give ME a full size Dodge RAM 1500 instead of a Nissan Sentra. Yee haw! Little did they know how much I love trucks and mud! Off-roading dreams aside, we arrived at our favorite hotel and met the team for a culinary feast at Yak on the 5. The owner was excited that some of us had clearly stalked and salivated over the menu (ok, namely me!) and brought us many delicious items to try including their famous cinnamon rolls. Holy smokes, we died and went to heaven!
 
The next day we fueled up at Black Bear Diner and met  our fantastic guides from Shasta Mountain Guides and off we went to Bunny Flats Trailhead at about 6,900 ft. We headed northwest, up through Horse Camp for a water stop and then across several snow fields to our camp at 9,200 ft. To say it was windy was an understatement! In fact, we lost one tent that had been stowed for us! We set-up camp and secured each tent with huge rocks to ensure we didn’t lose our own tents. We did a quick training to brush up on basic mountaineering skills including self arrest and glissading technique. Dinner was delicious and we headed to our tents to sleep in hopes of an alpine start around 2am for the summit. The howling wind kept many of us up despite ear plugs and our guides swung by at 2 am to let us know that gusts at summit were up to 115 mph. The summit was a no go. Despite being inside our tent and sleeping with my buff over my eyes, a fine powdered sugaring of dust covered each of us … a testament to the wind howling around us. The guides said to go back to sleep and perhaps we would have a new plan at 6 am. With a few more hours under our belt, we decided to make for neighboring peak Shastina’s summit. We donned crampons and harnesses and off we went! 
 
20045737_10155664665137922_8681558826226359930_oMt. Shastina was a fantastic climb. The wind was high at 60 mph and we were all excited to glissade down the mountain. It’s so funny how quickly you descend all the feet you carefully labor up! As we descended, I reflected on how much I had learned in six years and how much more confident I felt. We arrived at camp, rested and relaxed, ate dinner and went easily to sleep. With the morning came a new sound … quiet. The wind had finally died down, but it was our day to return back to reality. So, we packed up camp and quickly descended to the trailhead. We ate a huge, delicious meal at the local bistro and parted ways with the team. We had some time to kill, so we decided it was only appropriate to take our truck to Lake Shastina for a quick dip since we were kind of smelly. We emerged looking like climbing swamp beasts and meandered our way back to Medford for milkshakes and a flight home. 
 
So, back to Mt. Shasta – I must go for round three as this mountain and I have unfinished business. In the meantime, I’m fortunate for my friendships with fellow climbers, the laughs and adventures we share and the knowledge that our work raised over $30,000 for cancer research at Fred Hutch and that is ultimately why we do what we do – the summit is just the cherry on top. Climb a Mountain. Save a Life.
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~ by Kris Rietmann.  See more of Kris’s story here.  Kris works as a communications professional helping people every day.  She has also climbed Mts Hood, Baker and Adams to benefit Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. 
~ All images by Michelle Miller. 

Mt. Hood kicks off 20 years of Climb to Fight!

June 30, 2017

IMG_0281You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it. ~ Benjamin Mee

The Climb to Fight Cancer has been ascending the world’s most beautiful peaks for 20 seasons. That is 20 seasons of life-saving dollars raised for Fred Hutch, 20 seasons of unique landscapes, 20 seasons of generous donors and 20 seasons of the most kind-hearted, dedicated and resilient people you will meet in any walk of life.

Even in poor weather and challenging conditions, it is easy to feel blessed when surrounded by goodness. The Mount Hood team kicked off the 20th anniversary year of the Climb to Fight Cancer. This team included search and rescue volunteers, a sheriff, a pediatrician, non-profit professionals (representing more than one non-profit) and those on their first mountain adventure. It takes a strong mind to pick climbing Mt. Hood as the second time in your life you are ever seeing snow. Our guides join us in climbing for their loved ones.

The Mt. Hood team arrived at Timberline Lodge (6,000 ft) in a wind tunnel with blowing, sideways snow and several inches of snow falling. The team encountered windburn and pounding sleet during Saturday’s snow school. Following snow school, a snowcat transported everyone to historic Silcox Hut (7,000 ft) for an evening of catered food (thanks Steve!), a roaring fire and exceptional company. Everyone was lights out by 8 pm with a midnight wake up.

All members of the team were climbing by 2 am (two separate teams departing one hour apart). Ascending Mt. Hood in fresh snow was a new experience for even those who had climbed Mt. Hood before. It was windless, star-filled, heart-stopping cold – and yet there is nowhere else anyone would want to be. Everyone worked pretty hard to stay warm with dance moves and brisk steps!

After cresting the Hogsback (10,600 ft), it was apparent to our professional mountain guides that the snow conditions on the upper mountain were avalanche prone. While there is certainly disappointment when a team is unable to safely summit, it was truly the most beautiful sunrise we had ever seen. The clouds and colors were other-worldly. We were content knowing Timberline Mountain guides did everything they could to get us to the summit and that the mountain wasn’t opening her gates that morning. While those afflicted with cancer or suffering from disease have peaks and valleys in their treatments without their futures guaranteed, no mountain summit is ever guaranteed.

We will be back to Mt. Hood next year to climb for our family members, colleagues and those in generations behind us.

Thank you to everyone who donated life-saving dollars, adventurers who never stop pushing forward, Timberline Mountain Guides and all who keep our teams in your hearts.

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Everest Base Camp Trek Success

May 3, 2017

17861633_10155170004894664_4745602353677102859_nI’ve been back from my Everest Base Camp trek for the Climb to Fight Cancer for two weeks. It feels like a lifetime. I’m happy to have creature comforts, great work, delicious food, friends and family to come home to, but the pull of the mountains is strong and the memories of the trek will last a lifetime. As I reflect, there are many things that made this journey notable.

Going with the Climb to Fight Cancer. To share this experience with climbers from the Climb to Fight Cancer was special. Each of us are united by a common bond to fundraise for a cure to cancer. Each of us has watched someone we love suffer, fight, win and sometimes lose their battle. There were tears as we reflected on the people we love, but there was laughter too. To climb in their honor was … well, there are no words actually.

17973467_10154651506928137_8180041864475949348_oThe people. The Nepalese and Sherpa are beautiful people. As we passed thru villages, I couldn’t resist taking candid photos of the young, playful children saying “Namaste” in sweet, quiet voices as we passed. The pursuit of high peaks in this region would simply not be possible without the grit, strength and kindness of the Sherpa. As porters passed our team with their heavy expedition loads, I reflected on the challenge that altitude presents and simply couldn’t fathom carrying those loads on my own back. The tea houses greeted us with hot tea and simple, good meals and a warm stove. Life, especially as you get higher, gets simple; basic even. It takes the support of many to climb and trek safely.

17883824_10155387395141833_4190394638323583234_nThe team. Teams are like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re going to get! Our team was a delightful mix of people hailing from different countries and backgrounds. Each of us had a reason to be there. We took good care of each other, traded hilarious stories and shared tiger balm when our colds got worse. In a short time, you become a mountain family of sorts.

The guides. Going with experts provides an incomparable level of skill and comfort. Carole and Vern Tejas with Alpine Ascents International (AAI) bring countless years of experience at high altitude. Beyond that, their relationships with Sherpa families are clearly dear to them. Trekking does not come without risk, but knowing that skilled guides walk beside you with the full weight of AAI and their network behind them really is a comfort. It’s good to know that despite how incredibly remote you are, they are trained to spot altitude sickness, know what to do to treat you from blisters to bronchitis and know what to do and who to call if you need to get out quickly.

17862636_10155387057616833_9003049542549002176_nThe experience. It was tremendous. Each day we walked closer and closer to peaks that seem to touch the stars. The landscape changed daily. The sun was bright and the sky vivid blue. At moments, I thought … Am I really here doing this? My favorite moment was waking to snow-covered Tengboche. The sun made the landscape sparkle like diamonds and the air was fresh, cold and crisp. It was a perfect morning in a perfect place.

I write this as the climbing world reels from the loss of Ueli Steck. As I reflect upon my own journey, I saw firsthand what draws people to the heights of the Himalaya. I am truly humbled to have walked on trails that tell the stories of those that have walked them before as they follow their dreams to the summit.

~ by Kris Rietmann ~ Climber, philanthropist, transportation specialist, communications professional and adventurist.

Editors Note: Special thanks to Monica Mercer, Lori McColl and Kris Rietmann for climbing to such great heights to fund life-saving research at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. 

All photos courtesy of Kris Rietmann, Monica Mercer, Lori McColl and Tracy Friezer Fives. 17903954_10155387058276833_7988472761535360643_n