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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.


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

We still have space on Rainier, Baker and Shasta!

April 17, 2017


Look who is turning 20?

April 2, 2017


Something new adorning Fred Hutch

February 26, 2017


TWENTY YEARS ago this summer ~ The Climb to Fight Cancer began….

February 4, 2017


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.