The Climb to Fight Cancer


How far would you go to help someone? How much time would you dedicate? Would you just write a check or be a boots-on-the-ground kind of philanthropist? How does climbing over 11,000 feet up a snow covered mountain in the middle of the night sound? Would you do that?

Well, there is a group of people that is willing to face the snowy heights when they climb Mt. Hood in Oregon to help those with cancer – those who are diagnosed, those who have lost their battle and their caregivers. Mike Leum and his son Hunter are two of those people who, on June 10-11, will be part of The Climb.

“This is my 10th year of being involved with [Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center] but its my fifth climb, ” Mike said. “It’s different every time. They have a variety of mountains to climb.”

Dr. William Hutchinson established FHCRC in the 1970s in the name of his famed baseball player brother Fred who had cancer and died in 1964. The center focuses on the research of a variety of cancers. The work in bone marrow transplantation by one of their researchers, Dr. E. Donnall Thomas, won worldwide recognition and Thomas was awarded the 1990 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine.

The Climb for a Cure is celebrating 20 years.

“A group of individuals climbed Mt. Adams for breast cancer. They had such a good time they invited more people to do it,” said Lisa Carlson with the Climb to Fight Cancer, FHCRC, of the first climb.

The first few years the event focused on raising funds for breast cancer only but as The Climb’s number of participants grew fundraising was expanded to other types of cancers.

Although this is Mike’s fifth climb it is the first for his son Hunter.

“My dad has been doing this for awhile and I have heard the stories of the climb and holding the prayer flags with the survivors’ names on it,” Hunter said of his reason to join. “And it runs along the same lines of LRO [Life Rolls On].”

LRO/They Will Surf Again is an organization that works with volunteers to help paraplegic and quadriplegic people surf. Hunter and his family have been volunteers with that organization for many years.

The Leums are definitely an outdoor family. They surf, climb, hike, four-wheel, bike and the list goes on. LRO gives the family a chance to share their love of surfing with those who would normally not be able to surf.

The Climb allows father and son the chance to do what they love, combining that with a worthy cause. Mike has had family members with cancer, including his mother who died of cancer. As he climbs he keeps those loved ones close to his heart and also brings along prayer flags with names of those touched by cancer. He takes the flags and places them on the summit, allowing those who cannot join him in the climb the chance to still be part of it.

Hunter and his brother Garrett have been raised in a philanthropic family. In addition to the LRO involvement mom Nancy has been very active with Glendale Unified School District, the PTA and PTSA and Mike is a member of the Montrose Search and Rescue team, so for Hunter his involvement is a natural thing to do.

“My goal in life is to help people any way I can …it’s the way I was raised,” he said.

In fact, recently Garrett was visiting Hunter at school and after he left Hunter went out to grab something to eat.

“I saw a biker [with his motorcycle down] on the road,” he said.

The motorcycle appeared to have caught fire. Hunter pulled over to help the biker.

“I went to ask what happened and found Garrett was there [helping],” he said.

But climbing a mountain is not just about the climb; it is also about the training. Anything can happen at that altitude, surrounded by snow.

“When Hunter and I train we specifically try to do altitude training,” Mike said. “Mt. Hood is snow covered and [at times] real nasty. It creates its own weather system.”

There have been some scary times including when friend and fellow MSR member Robert Sheedy fell into a crevasse on Mt. Rainer, and when Mike and another climber got caught in a white-out.

The group will arrive at the mountain on Saturday. They go through a training session as this is the first climb for some. They set up camp on the mountain, then wake up around
1 a.m. to start up the mountain.

“Climbing at night is probably the safest,” Mike said explaining that the ice softens when the sun rises.

The group will summit about seven hours later, then come back down. That is when it gets more difficult.

A lot of people think it’s climbing up, but coming down you are dealing with verticals of 3,000 to 4,000 feet, Mike said.

Hunter is an early riser but has not climbed in the middle of the night before and is looking forward to the challenge.

The Climb is intense but at its foundation is fundraising for cancer research.

The goal of Mike and Hunter is to raise $10,000 between the two of them. To assist in reaching this goal, there is a fundraiser sponsored by The Pilates Studio on April 19. Mike and Nancy take a stretch class from Pilates Studio owner Shannon Schroeder.

“They told me about The Climb and I wanted to do some-thing to help,” Schroeder said.

She put together a special stretch class from 7 p.m. to
8:45 p.m. at the Community Center of La Cañada Flintridge. The class has a suggested donation of $20 that will go to Mike and Hunter’s climb. It is suggested to bring a yoga mat.

Schroeder said the stretch class is unique and although some may not think they like or could do Pilates they can do this stretch class. This is a good opportunity for those to try the class and to help support cancer research.

For more information or to register for a spot, visit or contact Schroeder at
(818) 730-6335. For those who would like to donate to Hunter and Mike’s climb go to and click on
Climb to Fight Cancer 2017, then fill in the Donate to Climber with Mike Leum or Hunter Leum and follow the prompt to donate.