Cancer climbers triumph on Mt. Shasta

Paul Boerger
At base camp before the ascent, climbers gather with prayer flags inscribed with the names of those lost to breast cancer. The flags were carried to the top of 14,162 foot Mount Shasta. In a extraordinary success, 31 of the 33 climbers made the top after an all night ascent.

Cheers and tears made for an emotional gathering as the Breast Cancer Fund Climb Against the Odds celebrated the end of the event at the Mount Shasta city park last Thursday.

The recreation hall resounded with applause, hoots and hollers as the climbers, guides and supporters were honored for their efforts in raising $530,000 for the BCF’s efforts in combating breast cancer.

The 33 climbers, who came from throughout the United States and several foreign countries, raised funds through pledges. Unlike past years, where often only a handful of the participants made the 14,162 foot summit, 31 of the 33 climbers made the top.

Tears of remembrance and sorrow were shed as many of the participants came to grips with the deaths of family members and loved ones lost to the disease that BCF executive director Jeanne Rizzo called an “epidemic.”

“It’s the reason we are here,” Rizzo said as the participants held hands and called out the names of those felled by breast cancer.

The BCF says it’s primary goal is “identifying the environmental causes of breast cancer and preventing the disease” through research, education and legislative action.

Rizzo noted the BCF has successfully guided regulatory legislation at the state and federal level that identifies and curtails the use of toxic chemicals in many products including children’s toys.

“They are in the food we eat, the air we breathe and the ground we grow our food in,” Rizzo said.

The BCF says breast cancer strikes more women in the world than any other type of cancer. This year, an estimated 1,150,000 women worldwide will be diagnosed with breast cancer, and 411,000 women will die from the disease.

Breast cancer survivor Hillie Crowfoot was the officially designated BCF climber. The money she raised stays local, going to Breast Cancer Services of Siskiyou County. Crowfoot fought her way to 11,400 feet before turning back because of leg problems and blisters.

“I’m happy. I did better than I ever did in my whole life. I felt that if I went on I might put the other climbers at risk,” said the 64 year old Crowfoot. “The other climbers congratulated me. I did good for an old broad.”

Guide Linda Chitwood praised Crowfoot.

“Her spirit was wonderful,” Chitwood said. “She just smiled through everything.”

The other climber from Mount Shasta, Dr. Shan Hong Lu, made the summit.

“It was wonderful. I felt a spirit from the mountain I had never felt before,” Lu said. “You had to be ready to receive the love and energy. This group makes you open to receive that love.”

Shasta Mountain Guides, co-owned by Jenn and Chris Carr, guided and coordinated the climb. Jenn said the number of climbers that made the top was “wonderful.”

“They had all the heart in the world. There were high winds and cold,” Jenn said. “They had to work for it. It was impressive.”

Every climber was acknowledged with an introduction and personal history by Rizzo. There were daughters and sons who had lost mothers, survivors of the disease, and some with breast cancer.

Rizzo noted that one man said the climb allowed him to “finally say goodbye to his mother.”

In urging the crowd to fight breast cancer Rizzo said, “Ask, act and give.”

The BCF says the environment is an important factor in breast cancer.

“No more than 10 percent of breast cancers are genetic, and science increasingly points to toxic chemicals and radiation as factors in the sharp rise of breast cancer incidence,” the BCF says. “Through public education, policy initiatives, outdoor challenges and other innovative campaigns, the Breast Cancer Fund mobilizes the public to secure the changes needed to stop this devastating epidemic.”

Each year, the BCF publishes a State of the Evidence report detailing their findings on the potential causes of breast cancer. For more information, visit the website at

Breast Cancer Services of Siskiyou County provides a resource center with a substantial assortment of books, videos, tapes and CDs, donations to hospice programs, raft trips for cancer survivors, yoga classes, consultation planning service, and financial help to cover the cost of medications and treatment. Call 926-1573 for more information.

Climbers Mount Shastan Hillie Crowfoot, left, and Margaret Burks of Santa Cruz Ca. didn’t make the top, but they share a well deserved hug for their efforts at the after climb celebration. “ I did better than I have in my whole life,” Crowfoot said.