I’ve been doing little work-outs here and there but this last Sunday was my inaugural training hike for the Mt. Shasta climb. With little backpacking experience and after a long winter, I am slowly working my way to being ready to ascend 5000 feet to Shasta’s 14,179 summit.
Three weeks ago I was given the opportunity by Osprey to be part of this year’s Breast Cancer Fund “Climb Against The Odds” expedition. Osprey is a long time supporter of this amazing program and this is the first year they’ve put an Osprey team member on the climb. Being one of the newest Osprey employees, it seemed like a great way to be involved. After saying yes to the chance to be a part of this, reality struck and I started to process what getting ready for a climb like this means. There’s the fundraising aspect and then there’s getting in shape but more importantly, I needed to learn more about what this climb was really for. I needed to learn about breast cancer.
In the United States, a woman’s lifetime risk of developing breast cancer is an alarming 1 in 8, and no more than 1 in 10 women with breast cancer has a genetic history of the disease. A growing body of scientific evidence points to toxic chemicals and radiation as factors contributing to the high rates of breast cancer.
Founded in 1992, the Breast Cancer Fund is the leading national organization focused on eliminating the environmental risks, including toxic chemicals and radiation, associated with breast cancer. Their aim is to stop this devastating disease before it starts. They do this through aggregating and analyzing the scientific evidence, and through educating and mobilizing the public in support of policy initiatives, corporate accountability campaigns and other innovative programs that promote breast cancer prevention. In other words, the BCF is not your average pink ribbon philanthropy. These folks are getting to the bottom of what causes breast cancer and taking action to stop it.
The Climb Against The Odds expedition is one way in which the BCF raises awareness but also raises money to support their cause. This is the only national breast cancer non-profit working solely on the prevention of breast cancer. Even more so, they are going about fundraising and awareness through unique and amazing adventures such as the Mt. Shasta climb and many others. If you are interested in helping support this climb (and helping me reach my fundraising goal of $7500 by June 1st) click on this link: www.breastcancerfund.org/10climb/shburke to take you directly to my fundraising website.
My brand new Ariel 75 arrived at my desk on Friday afternoon. I haven’t been backpacking since the summer of ’96: Memories of rain, blisters and black flies still haunts me fourteen years later, but that’s a story for another day. I loaded up with weight bags from the office and headed to Backcountry Experiences in Durango to try on hiking boots. With amazing skills in boot-fitting, Ben at the shop set me up with a pair of Lowa mid-sole boots and custom fit orthotics and told me to have realistic expectations (read: don’t expect them to be comfortable on your first hike.)
Sunday morning arrived and I filled my pack with thirty five pounds of weight, added a lunch, two water bottles and sneakers. We drove out 15 miles to the Sand Canyon trailhead. The 9 mile loop is part of the Canyon of the Ancients; a 164,000-acre monument containing the highest known density of archeological sites anywhere in the United States. My feet were done after the first mile and a half. Pathetic, I thought, but then remembered Ben’s advice of bringing the extra sneakers knowing new boots would take awhile to break in. It was nice to have a shaded spot underneath an ancient cliff dwelling to change shoes.
By mile three I was concerned that we were less than half way. By mile seven my body started telling me that I should have taken less weight for my first time out with a pack. Forty pounds feels like a ton when you are tired and out of shape. By the last mile, my body was done! My hips hurt, my knees hurt, my back was yelling at me. I kept repeating how grateful I was to get this type of suffering out of the way now instead of on my way up to 14,000 feet.
As I reflect on my first day out with a pack I am even more excited to be part of this experience and to be part of a group of men and women across the country who are on the same trek. These are folks who are survivors or supporters who are out their training, raising money, getting ready for one of the biggest trips of their lives physically and emotionally. Although this was only day one, there will be plenty more great experiences leading up to Shasta’s summit on June 15th.