Mount Shasta doctor is latest to 'Climb Against the Odds' to support women with cancer

Skye Kinkade
Mount Shasta Herald
Mount Shasta naturopathic doctor Christina Caselli was the local climber in the 2020 Climb Against the Odds.

As a naturopathic doctor, Christina Caselli has both the unfortunate task of informing someone they have breast cancer, and the good fortune to guide her patients to the next steps in their care. So it's only natural she'd feel inspired to participate in an event that supports Siskiyou women dealing with the physical, emotional and financial impacts of the disease.

Caselli, age 42, was the local climber in last weekend's Climb Against the Odds on Mt. Shasta. Although the event – sponsored for the past 15 years by Breast Cancer Prevention Partners – was postponed a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and despite unexpected wintry weather that prevented the climbers from summiting, Caselli said spirits were high.

How Dr. Caselli supported Siskiyou County women with breast cancer

Led by Shasta Mountain Guides, the climbers all raised money to support BCPP, but as the local climber, the nearly $10,000 Caselli collected will go to local women through Breast Cancer Services of Siskiyou County. This organization provides funds for local women going through breast cancer treatment for fuel costs, lodging, prescriptions not covered by insurance, the “Be Strong” program (which provides free gym memberships for women fighting cancer) and hospice services.

“Such programs are essential for the cancer patients in our small and underserved area,” said Caselli, noting that some of her own patients have taken advantage of the nonprofit's services.

Oncology nurse is next to 'Climb Against the Odds'

Climb Against the Odds: camaraderie, tech and a rescue

The group took the Clear Creek route and camped at 8,000 feet. The highest anyone in the group climbed was about 12,400 feet, Caselli said. They were unable to reach Mt. Shasta's 14,179 foot summit due to high winds and ice.

"But it's not about summiting," she noted. "It's about getting out there and climbing for a cause."

So far, Caselli has raised $9,683 – just short of her $10,000 goal. One of her biggest contributors was Tom Driscoll, who donated $5,000 in honor of his wife, Nancy Driscoll.

The window to complete fundraising for the 2020 climb doesn't close until December, so those moved to donate to Caselli's climb can do so at this link.

Dr. Christina Caselli on one of her hikes on Mt. Shasta. As the local climber in the 2020 Climb Against the Odds, Caselli raised nearly $10,000 for local women facing a breast cancer diagnosis.

Inspired by her father, Caselli's an avid outdoorswoman

Caselli said it was her dad, Tim Robinson, who inspired her to get outdoors, teaching her how to surf when she was growing up in Southern California. Robinson of died of melanoma when Caselli was 12.

"So that's my own personal connection to cancer," said Caselli. "Because of my dad, I'm always trying new outdoor sports," including backcountry split boarding, hiking, mountain biking, rafting and surfing.

Caselli pointed to her husband, Shasta Mountain Climbing Guide Nick Caselli, as her main supporter.

"He really inspired me to do my best in the climb, and in all things," she said. Caselli also called attention to the people who helped her with fundraising, including past climbers Brett Waite, Paul Engstrom, Alisa Johnson and Linda Chitwood, as well as Jenn Carr from Shasta Mountain Guides.

Snow, wind can't stop Climb Against the Odds

Tessa Montgomery will climb Mt. Shasta 'for those who can't'

Caselli said she was inspired to become a doctor through her own struggles and health journey, which led her to seek the help of a naturopathic doctor.

"She changed my life," said Caselli. "Not only did she help me get better, but she taught me how to be healthy by focusing on my diet and exercising more diligently. I also wanted to help as many people as I can."

Caselli said the Climb Against the Odds is dear to her heart, "as my job is helping women make informed decisions on how to limit exposures that may contribute to cancer in the first place."

Other locals who raised money with Climb Against the Odds

Local climbers have raised more than $150,000 in past years for Breast Cancer Services of Siskiyou County. They are:

2003: Terry Thompson, Jenn Carr and Nancy Swift

2004: Annie Bowles

2006: Melinda Barnes 

2007: Anna Antonowich

2008: Hillie Crowfoot 

2010: Karen Pautz

2011: Paul Engstrom

2012: Alisa Johnson

2013: Jen Bray

2014: Tessa Montgomery

2015: Paul Engstrom and Brett Waite

2016: Shalonda Gerdes 

2017: Andrea Shanti

2018: Heather Mason

2019: Sarah Nova

2020: Dr. Christina Caselli

Calm before the storm: Mt. Shasta on the morning of Jan. 26, 2021. A storm is forecasted to hit the area this afternoon, bringing up to two feet of snow to the area.

Looking for local climbers in 2022 and beyond

Caselli urged anyone who wants to "climb the mountain for a cause" to consider becoming the 2022 local climber. 

"It's a volunteer position, and we need climbers every year," she said, even offering to be a surrogate climber for a person who feels motivated to fundraise for the event, but doesn't feel physically capable of scaling the mountain.

To get involved, contact Jenn at Shasta Mountain Guides or a former climber.

Skye Kinkade is the editor of the Mt. Shasta Area Newspapers and the Siskiyou Daily News. She is a fourth generation, lifelong Siskiyou County resident.