Monday, January 19, 2009

Big Expedition for Cancer Research

From left to right: Matt Farmer, Bayard Russell, Kevin Mahoney and Dawn Glanc just below their highpoint on peak 8290', Glacier Bay National Park, AK.

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.

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Breaching humpback whale.

Getting dropped off at the head of the Reid Inlet, Reid Glacier in the background. The beginning of the 16 mile approach to base camp.

Dawn hauling one of three loads up onto the ice on our first day.

Grizzly bear tracks.

More grizzly tracks, this time eight miles from the beach.

Taking a break with our objective, 8290', in the background. Its the pointy summit directly above Dawn's head (pink hat).

Farmer skinning up to the col that separated our basecamp from 8290'.

We climbed in relative darkness, so the only actions shots are of the descent. Bayard and Kevin down climbing, Kevin is in the background.

More down climbing, Kevin and Bayard.

The base of the ridge we attempted, 3/4's of us assembled.

Heading home in perfect travel conditions.

Our last night on the glacier was beautiful, Glacier Bay in the background.

Kevin and Farmer relaxing on our way out of the Reid Inlet, starting the fifty mile boat ride across Glacier Bay and back to civilization.


  1. Great pictures! I work here at the Center and we are glad you all were on the team! It was a fun project! Keep climbing!!

  2. It is an awesome blog. I could not ignore those images... it is a good place to go and explore it.

  3. Awesome to make an expedition for medical purposes. I'm in a team where we learn survival techniques. I can't wait to finish this and go to put my knowledge to test.