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Why I Climb ~ 6 time climber Kris Rietmann

January 17, 2017

Six time climber Kris Rietmann kicks back on Glacier Peak. Photo by Michelle Miller. 

Why climb a mountain for Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center? The answer is because I can.

As an adult, I explored ways to connect my desire to do challenging things with causes that I have a personal connection to. Cancer is the very definition of personal. Too many friends and family have battled cancer and have lost people they love to this ravaging disease. Cancer is ugly, but climbing for cancer research and awareness is a beautiful way to do something positive to bring an end to this devastating disease.

I started climbing with the Hutch six years ago. I’m scared of heights and there’s a persistent, small voice in the back of my head that says, “You can’t do it.” The people who climb for this cause are diverse, amazing humans. We come together united by our desire to do what we can to raise money for cancer research. It’s amazing how close we become and how we support each other in what is often our most vulnerable moments on a remote mountain.

I liken this to what friends and family must do when someone they love gets sick and hears the dreaded diagnosis … “It’s cancer”. The journey to cancer-free is long and hard and fraught with speed bumps. It’s ugly and emotional. There are moments where you want nothing more than to be healthy again and moments where you wonder if you can get there. Your friends and family are that team that supports you so that you can get to the mountaintop, so that you can get healthy.

Whenever I hear that voice on the mountain that says, “I can’t”, I think of everyone I know who has fought cancer. Sadly, there are too many names on that list. As they go thru surgery, chemo, radiation, infusions, the constant appointments and poking and prodding, I know they think at some point “I can’t”. They keep fighting … some until their last breath. In that moment, I take one more step for each of them and I keep climbing because I can. ~ Kris Rietmann


The scenic approach hike to climb Glacier Peak, August 2016. Photo by Michelle Miller. 

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