By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News
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The five-day trip to Mount Olympus is one in a long series of fundraising climbs.
The 100 members of the Fred Hutchinson stable of climbers have climbed mountains around the world, including Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Mount Elbrus in Russia and Mount Denali in Alaska.
“They've been asking for a Mount Olympus climb for a while,” said Lisa Carlson, Climb to Fight Breast Cancer spokeswoman.
At 7,980 feet, Mount Olympus is the highest peak in the Olympic Range.
The ascent includes crossing several glaciers, in addition to a long hike through the Hoh Rain Forest.
On Wednesday morning, seven climbers and guides from Alpine Ascents International began the ascent to Mount Olympus from a trailhead in the Hoh Valley.
Members of the Mount Olympus climb are from New Jersey, Colorado, California and Washington, and all have a friend or family member who has been affected by breast cancer.
Six members of the group met Tuesday in Forks for a send-off dinner at Taqueria Santa Ana.
Some have climbed together before, but all have been in contact in preparation for the climb.
The group laughed and teased each other, jokingly comparing their climb to movies such as “The Eiger Sanction” or “Cliffhanger.”
Mount Olympus is considered to be one of the easier climbs, they said, but still rigorous, requiring participants to be fit and prepared for mountaineering.
Chris Awad, 27, is the youngest member of the group and a girls fencing coach.
Awad is from New Jersey and at the send-off dinner joked with the group of climbers about his thick New Jersey accent.
The Olympus climb is his second climb ever — in honor of two opposing coaches who died of cancer last year.
“I did the first climb when she [one of the coaches] was sick,” Awad said.
After the climb, that coach died, and the second climb is in her honor, Awad said.
Climbing for mom
Seattle resident Jeff Hazeltine, 43, began climbing for his mother-in-law, a breast cancer survivor.
Last year, Hazeltine's wife, Alicechandra, was also diagnosed with breast cancer and is cancer-free today, he said.
“My motivation for the year was my son, Liam, who is a very spirited 3-year-old,” Hazeltine said.
“I wanted him to be able to grow up in a world where the women we love are not threatened with this terrible disease,” he said.
Time in the mountains, hiking and climbing with others whose lives are affected by the disease also provide a kind of support group to the friends and family.
“You realize you're not alone; you can talk about those not-so-fun issues,” Hazeltine said.
The fundraiser is in its 14th year and has raised $5.1 million for cancer research, Carlson said.
In June, the first all-survivor group summited Mount Hood, she said.
Climbers pay most of their own travel and equipment expenses and must raise at least $3,000 in donations to go on the organized climbs.
“Many greatly exceed the $3,000 mark” Carlson said.
Marybeth Dingledy set her goal at $6,000 and raised $7,122.24 for cancer research for the Olympia climb.
Dingledy, 42, of Bothell, is the only woman on the Mount Olympus climb.
In 2003, Dingledy tested positive for the BRCA 2 breast cancer gene, she said.
Three years later, in 2006, she attended her first climb, an ascent to Mount Baker.
Since then, Dingledy has summited Mount Rainier, Mount Iztaccihuatl (Mexico), Pico de Orizaba (Mexico) and Mount Kilimanjaro and has raised thousands of dollars for cancer research.
Climbing and dealing with the heights is not always fun, Dingledy said.
“It scares me, but it's a good reason,” she said.
For more information on Climb to Fight Breast Cancer, visit www.fhcrc.org/climb.
Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-417-3535 or at email@example.com.