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Breast Cancer Survivors and Supporters Complete Expedition of Mt. Shasta

Braving a spring storm that delayed summit attempt, 27 climbers take part in Breast Cancer Fund’s Climb Against the Odds to promote prevention

For Immediate Release: June 20, 2013
Contact: Rebecca Wolfson, 321-2920 or Shannon Coughlin, 415-336-2246,

MT. SHASTA—Twenty-seven cancer survivors and people touched by the disease successfully completed their expedition on Northern California’s 14,179-foot Mount Shasta in the name of breast cancer prevention. So far, the Breast Cancer Fund’s Climb Against the Odds 2013 has raised about $400,000 to support the organization’s work to prevent breast cancer by eliminating our exposure to toxic chemicals and radiation linked to the disease.

The team arrived at Hidden Valley base camp (9,400 feet) on 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.

With near-perfect climbing weather once the storm passed, 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. As the sun rose, the team enjoyed near-perfect conditions, though they did brave unseasonably cold temperatures.

Each climber reached new heights on their journey (16 reached the summit), and each had very personal motivations to climb—to honor their own or loved ones’ experience with cancer. All climbers share a commitment to breast cancer prevention.

Joe Williams‐Nelson, a thyroid cancer survivor from St. Louis climbed to honor her daughter’s friend who died from breast cancer in her twenties.

“She was diagnosed and died within 4 months, and that was just devastating because she was so young and had her whole life ahead of her.”

Williams-Nelson says she appreciates the Breast Cancer Fund or taking up its mission of identifying and eliminating the environmental and other preventable causes of breast cancer, and plans to be a life-long supporter of the organization.

For Leslie Vanoni, of Sonoma, Calif., Climb Against the Odds is about her own recuperation after two breast cancer diagnoses, which has required physical strength; emotional support from friends, family and community; and mental stamina. She attempted to summit Mt. Shasta last year with the Breast Cancer Fund shortly after treatment, and made it 13,000 feet.

This year, she felt stronger, and came with the support of her 16-year‐old daughter, Bridget, and her good friend, Nick Corzine. All three of them summited the 14,179-foot mountain.

“Doing it a second time and having my daughter with me was amazing and the people were amazing,” Vanoni said. “I felt stronger, I felt more prepared. I felt carried up by my teammates.”

An alarming 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, and only half of these cases can be tied to traditional risk factors like genetic inheritance, diet and reproductive history. More and more scientific evidence is linking breast cancer to the chemicals in our everyday environment—chemicals in our food, our products, our air and our water. More than 80,000 synthetic chemicals are registered for use in the United States. Fewer than 10 percent have ever been fully tested for their health effects. The Breast Cancer Fund is the only national breast cancer organization focused solely on breast cancer prevention through working to identify and eliminate the environmental causes.

“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, R.N., president and CEO of the Breast Cancer Fund. “We apply our courage and faith that anything is possible, if taken one step at a time. And we do it all as part of a team, knowing that there is more that we can achieve together than apart.”

Sponsors of the Climb are LUNA, Clif Bar Family Foundation, The North Face, Klean Kanteen, Ahnu, Osprey Packs, Seventh Generation, Ibex, Adventure Medical Kits, Leki, Smartwool, Outdoor Research, Sterling Rope, Princeton Tec and Autodesk.

This climb follows in the tradition of the Breast Cancer Fund’s past expeditions: Mt. Aconcagua, Argentina (1995); Mt. McKinley, Alaska (1998); Mt Fuji, Japan (2000), Mt. Rainier, Wash. (2005), and Mt. Shasta, Calif. (2003-04; 2006-12).

Read the hour-by-hour account of the climb at

Donate to support the climbers, learn more about the 2013 team or sign up for next year’s Climb Against the Odds at


The Breast Cancer Fund is the leading national organization working to prevent breast cancer by eliminating our exposures to toxic chemicals and radiation linked to the disease.