Team Survivor Northwest

Earlier this week I was fortunate to guide a group of woman who were all cancer survivors on the 2 highest shield volcano in Washington State, Mount Adams.  The group was called Team Survivor Northwest and it involved a group of courageous woman who had spent the last year training for this climb.  Myself (Eric Remza), along with two other guides (Rodney Sofich and Tico Allulee), were hired through the Northwest Mountain School (owners Olivia Cussen and John Race) to lead these woman in a 4 day ascent of the Mount Adams South Side Route.

Team Survivor Northwest provides a broad range of fitness and health education programs to enable women cancer survivors, in any stage of treatment or recovery and at any fitness level, to take an active role in their ongoing physical and emotional healing.

We met the team for the first time at the Trout Lake Valley Inn and did a final gear check on the nice grassy lawn in the early morning sun.  Then it was off to Mount Adams Ranger Station to obtain our volcano passes which cost $10 a person for a weekday climb.  Finally, we all made the 45 minute drive to the Cold Springs campground (elevation 5600′) to begin our initial approach up South Climb trail #183.

Our first camp was at an elevation of 8000 feet and involved an elevation gain of 2400′. The second day of the approach involved a 1360′ elevation gain to our lunch counter high camp at 9360′.  Summit day began with a 4am wake up and a 6am departure.  The group topped out together (9/10) on the 12,276′ summit at noon and we were all back at high camp at 2:30pm with a total round trip time of 8.5 hrs.

A big help in this group effort came from guide Tico Allulee, who lead a group of support porters on our first day to the 8000′ camp.  Tico and the 4 volunteers carried all the food, fuel, stoves and tents.  It was smiles all around when Rodney and I, along with the woman, arrived into camp to find the tents all  set up for us, plus a Nalgene water bottle filled with vino!  Much thanks had to go to Monica Strasen: Team Survivor Northwest program coordinator and volunteer porter,  and I believe the lovely angel who stashed the wine.

Tico preformed a tremendous effort by carrying a huge porter load and  assisting the volunteers in and back out safely.  Tico then got up early on the following morning and hiked back up to our group by 8am.  He then did two load carries up to our high camp on the lunch counter and had the tents set up for us by the time we arrived into camp.  Tico is the man.

In summary, this was not guiding a über technical climb like the Arete des Papillons in the Alps or a high altitude beast like Mount Everest. But for these woman of Team Survivor Northwest, this was an amazing test of fortitude on a path that most of us have been fortunate and blessed to avoid thus far in our lives.  It was a guiding project that ultimately provided an experience of immeasurable proportion and I was proud to have assisted in a small and humbling manner.  It also allowed me to personally realize that any climbing accomplishment that I have surmounted thus far really paled in comparison to the journey these woman have taken on in their daily lives in living with or becoming survivors of cancer.


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