Snow, wind can’t stop Climb Against the Odds

Skye Kinkade
Climb Against the Odds participants were forced to stay an extra night at Hidden Valley base camp last week before 16 of 27 climbers made it to Mt. Shasta’s summit. All together, the climbers raised about $400,000 for the Breast Cancer Fund.  Contributed photo

As Paul Engstrom trudged his way to 11,000 feet on Mt. Shasta’s slopes last week during the Breast Cancer Fund’s Climb Against the Odds, he thought about breast cancer survivors Lori Holst, Katy Johnson and Debra King, as well as his friend Roger Kosel, who is battling Parkinson’s Disease after being exposed to Agent Orange while serving in Vietnam.

“I dedicated my climb to those four people, who I greatly admire for their courage,” Engstrom said.

Although unseasonably cold weather forced climbers to spend an extra day on the mountain, the Breast Cancer Fund recorded its 10th successful Climb Against the Odds on Mt. Shasta last week.

Twenty-seven climbers from around the country descended to Bunny Flat Thursday evening to the cheers and encouragement of dozens of family and friends.

This year’s climb raised about $400,000 to support the Breast Cancer Fund’s work to prevent breast cancer by eliminating exposure to toxic chemicals and radiation linked to the disease, according to a press release.

“It went well,” Engstrom said. “It was a great group of people. You really bond up there. And it’s a great cause... I was pleased to raise the money and bring attention to breast cancer.”

Etna’s Jen Bray was among the 16 climbers who made it all the way to Mt. Shasta’s 14,192 foot peak. All the money she raised will stay in Siskiyou County to help local women who are dealing with breast cancer.

“I am honored to be a small part of this great climb,” said Bray. “Thank you to all who helped me reach the summit, again. Peace.”

Also reaching the summit was Yreka’s Johanna D’Arcy, whose mom and cousin are both breast cancer survivors. She also climbed for her friend, Kristy Fry of Burney, who recently passed away from ovarian cancer only 22 days after diagnosis.

This was D’Arcy’s first time scaling Mt. Shasta.

All of Engstrom’s prayer flags were carried to the mountain’s summit by Mount Shasta’s Linda Chitwood, who has climbed the mountain more times than she can count.

The teams arrived at Hidden Valley base camp, at 9,400 feet, Tuesday, June 18 and had planned to attempt the summit the following day. But a late spring storm brought high winds, snow and cold temperatures, forcing the team to delay its ascent until Thursday, said Rebecca Wolfson, spokesperson for the Breast Cancer Fund.

With near-perfect climbing weather once the storm passed, Wolfson said the team began its summit attempt just moments after midnight on Thursday, making their way across the snow with their headlamps and by the light of the moon and stars. They left in small rope teams at staggered intervals and ascended via the West Face route to the summit, guided by personnel from Shasta Mountain Guides.

Engstrom said the unseasonably cold weather made glissading down the mountain impossible, since the snow was frozen. This made descent more difficult than usual.

“The Breast Cancer Fund embraces mountain climbing as a metaphor for the critical work we are doing to prevent the environmental causes of this devastating disease,” said Jeanne Rizzo, president and CEO of the Breast Cancer Fund in a press release. “We apply our courage and faith that anything is possible, if taken one step at a time.”

Funds collected by Bray will go to Breast Cancer Services of Siskiyou County, which was formed in 2003 and is solely supported by funds raised during the climb. The organization helps women with uncovered medical or prescription costs, insurance deductibles and transportation. They also fund visits to local therapists for families and patients diagnosed with breast cancer and memberships for survivors at Mountain Fitness.

Donations can be made to climbers until June 30 at