To climb Mt. Rainier, the largest mountain in the Cascades, be prepared to navigate trails, snowfields, some small rock fields and massive crevice scarred glaciers.
To reach Mt. Olympus, the largest mountain in the Olympics, you’ll have to walk in about 17 miles with a 50 lb pack on your back. Most of the trek there is on level ground.
To climb Glacier Peak, you’ll have to do both. And much of the approach hike is uphill.
Last week, a team of nine climbers and three superb guides from Alpine Ascents headed out on the Mountain Loop Highway to the most remote strato volcano in Washington – one covered with more glaciers than any other mountain in the continental United States, but so tucked in among the north-central Cascades, that it’s only visible from I-5 at the Highway 2 exit in Everett – even though it’s practically as high as Mt. Baker.
Glacier Peak is not in a National Forest or a National Park. It’s in a federally designated Wilderness Area. There are no ranger stations on it or near it, no rescue shacks, in fact, no climbing rangers or personnel at all that we could see. Once you hike up to White Pass (it intersects with the Pacific Crest Trail), and head east for the mountain, you are unlikely to encounter many people. We saw maybe a dozen, mostly from a distance, over three days from our camp at the base of the melting White Chuck Glacier.
When I say “remote”, I mean it literally. Glacier Peak Wilderness, at 570,000 acres, is 10 times larger than the city of Seattle. The vastness is astounding. Smaller peaks, spires and hills roll out in front of you looking south until crowned by Mt. Rainier. To the northwest lies Mts.Baker and Shuksan. Further to the west is the Pacific Ocean and Canada. Over to the East, well hidden beneath other peaks, Lake Chelan.
Glacier Peak offers the most complete mountaineering experience available in the Northwest. You will hike, backpack and eventually climb through trails, rocks, boulder fields, snowfields, soft soils and glaciers. It is not easy – our group covered about 38 total miles over parts of five days, and much of it with weight on our backs, but it was all the more rewarding for the effort required to make it.
And make it we did – all of us, thanks to some superb guiding assistance from our head guide Devin Bishop and his team from Alpine Ascents. First was his decision to have us hike a little further than initially planned to set up camp on Day 2, with an eye to having us attempt a sunset summit. It was a smart move, and it helped all of us summit by giving us extra time on summit day. Oh, what a view!
There is a special esprit de corps that drives the participants from the Climb to Fight Cancer, and it was present in climbers who battled illness, altitude nausea and exhaustion to make it to Glacier Peak’s 10,541 elevation. It strengthened a sense of camaraderie that develops from a shared experience marked by exertion and sacrifice. We ranged in age from mid-20s to early 60s, some urban, some suburban, some from the hills, some of us experienced climbers, some occasional alpinists, and one on her first ever climb. But we shared a personal connection to cancer, and deciding we needed to do something – anything – to help eradicate it in our lifetime. Progress is being made, but much needs to be done. So another peak will soon beckon.
We eagerly await the call.
~ By John Carlson
Photos by Michelle Miller
All three Climb to Fight Cancer teams summited Mt. Rainier this summer.
When climbing Mt. Rainier, there are times your mind takes you to your aching muscles, tired heartbeat and possibly blistered feet. Once you take your footsteps onto the upper mountain above Camp Muir (beyond 10,000 ft), the vast beauty is overwhelming.
There are times when ascending Mt. Rainier that I expect mystical creatures or a chorus to appear, the surroundings are just that grand. Everything appears bigger in reality than it looks on postcards or social media. The crevasses are wider, the seracs taller and the sunsets deeper. It is a true accomplishment to even *contemplate* climbing Mt. Rainier, let alone raising over $5,000 for Fred Hutch and squeezing into a pair of mountaineering boots. Having myself been on the receiving end of Mt. Rainier’s harshness when an ailment strikes, I know the mountain can feel as remote as the moon.
July 15-17 marked the summit of the entire Insight Global corporate team. Insight Global and their partners and employees raised over $40,000 for breakthrough cancer research at Fred Hutch. These individuals were a true team, supporting one another in fundraising, training and on their rope teams.
August allowed for two more Climb to Fight Cancer teams to summit, August 6-8 was Lydig Construction (Yippee – Congratulations!) and repeat climber JP Spicer-Escalante who has climbed with us before on Mt. Hood and shared his touching connection to cancer research.
August 15-17 brought the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department’s Montrose Search and Rescue team. This team climbed their first Climb to Fight Cancer mountain in 2007; it was the Emmons route on Mt. Rainier. In the last nine years, they have raised over $129,000 while climbing Mts. Rainier, Hood and Baker. Their partnership with the Climb to Fight Cancer has saved lives and changed lives.
Whenever I’m asked what my favorite mountain is, I always reply, “whichever one I’m on.” This is always true in the moment but I secretly know my favorite is Mt. Rainier. It stares at those of us who reside in western Washington and provides excitement when the views are particularly surreal. It is the welcome mat when you fly into SeaTac airport and the view is a reward after multiple days of rain.
I’ve loved standing on top of it, and also treasured the trips where I didn’t summit.
Thank you to all our 2016 Mt. Rainier participants and the donors who support them. Mt. Rainier teams raised nearly $110,000 toward life-saving research.
Climb a Mountain. Save a Life.
Pictured: Montrose Search & Rescue members Mike Leum on Mt. Rainier; Mike Leum and Robert Sheedy at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center on August 11, 2016.
Seventy two hours out from summit day…
This is my sixth climb for the Climb to Fight Cancer in nine years. My first climb was Mt. Rainier in 2007. I climb for my sister-in-law, Verna, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006. I had no thought going forward after the Rainier climb, but before it was over I was hooked.
I have been joined by over a dozen friends in this endeavor over the years, but this year was special in that my nephew, Andrew, joined me for his third Fred Hutch climb and my friend Marcus’s son, Skylar Fenton, joined me too. Two twenty-something guys on board trying to make the world a little gentler place.
I was honored to climb with some strong women, Heather and Kate, who are all in with Fred Hutch and have been climbing a mountain every year for cancer research. Also we may have converted two Alpine Ascents clients, Bill and Katherine, to join us moving forward. Our Fred Hutch team was rounded out by Chris, who shared some private and beautiful life moments with me. It seems we all have lost at least one person close to us to cancer. This is why I climb, this is why WE climb for Fred Hutch. Kevin, from Salt Lake City like me, rounded out the client side of the team. Make no mistake, when we strapped on the crampons we were ONE team, climbing to fight.
Many thanks to the awesome guide team that Alpine Ascents International put together – Jangbu Sherpa, Pasang Lhamu Sherpa and Patrick Chu. I was most excited that we had Pasang Lhamu Sherpa with us, one badass woman climber who just summited K2. I was fortunate that on summit day I was at the end of our rope team and had Pasang right behind me, leading her rope team, singing Nepalese songs as we made our way up Mt. Baker. It was beyond magical.
Mt. Baker is a must do for those of you yet to climb her. It is the real deal: steep, snow, ice and lots of glacier travel. The crevasses and seracs are wonderful…our “sunset summit” was perfect…I can’t wait for 2018 and I hope to be joined by this crew again. What an amazing group of humans…my life was truly enriched.
~ By Michael Heathfield. Michael lives in Salt Lake City with his beautiful wife, Lora, and son, Hunter. Hunter joined Michael on his Mt. Hood Climb to Fight Cancer. Michael is a tremendous ambassador for Fred Hutch and makes the world a brighter place every day. He captains his climbing team every two years, aptly named, Team Namaste. Team Namaste has climbed Mts. Rainier, Hood (twice), Denali, Shasta and Baker for cancer research. Namaste to you, Michael.
Photos courtesy of Kate Roll.
MOUNT SHUKSAN, Wash — Facing treatment for cancer can seem like trying to climb a mountain.
This analogy is one reason people choose to join the Climb to Fight Cancer: to raise money for research, honor those fighting it now, or remember those lost.
KOMO’s Denise Whitaker first joined the Climb to Fight Cancer in 2005 and just made her 11th climb for the Fred Hutchinson Center Research Center and its Climb to Fight Cancer.
The North Cascades can provide some interesting weather and the Shuksan team experienced much of it, with rain, thunder, fog, wind and even sunshine during the course of the three-day climb.
The team of three women, three men and four guides from Alpine Ascents, shared their time together on the mountain, thinking about how cancer’s touched their lives, while raising more than $18,000 for cancer research at the Hutchinson Center. Denise Whitaker’s had a number of women in her family survive breast cancer, together with many friends, among them Lynn Lippert.
Check this out; KOMO 4’s Kelly Koopmans says she’s ready to join the fight and take on this challenge next year!
Right now you can be a part of the cure, by making a donation. ~ story courtesy of KOMO 4 news by Denise Whitaker.
Denise is a journalist, adventure seeker, mountain climber, motorcycle rider and a creative cook.