This past June, after a year of preparation, Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center launched its first Big Climb to Conquer Cancer. This is a unique and unprecedented PR tool for raising awareness about the challenges of cancer research which was built on the similarities between cancer research and, not just climbing, but climbing an unclimbed objective. The unknowns, tedious hard work, sometimes overwhelming challenges and occasional successes all combine with the broader simile of knowing right where one wants to get, but not exactly how to get there. Whether the goal is finding a cure for cancer or standing on a virgin summit the path is full of dead ends, unsuspected complications, surprises and you may end up somewhere you didn’t anticipate.
The climbing team consisted of four guides, two whose home base is in Washington state and two from back east, Madison, NH. Dawn Glanc, who just won the Ouray Ice Comp, and Matt Farmer, an IFMGA mountain guide and rock solid climbing partner comprised one rope team. Kevin Mahoney, another IFMGA guide and accomplished alpinist, and I formed the other. In the end, we bailed off our route due to snow conditions, loose rock and lack of anchors. We had gotten to within a few hundred feet of the pyramidal top of the mountain known only as 8290′, and although we would have loved to stand on that summit, realty set in and we had to adapt. As is the case for cancer researchers, who in their massive task of finding a cure for cancer are faced with unforeseen complications and simply must, on occasion, start over. In either case, however, lesson are learned that may help in the future.