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Fundraising climbs make charity a peak experience

The American Lung Association of Oregon is taking fundraising to new heights with a multi-state event that puts climbers on the summits of some of the most spectacular peaks in the West.

Called "Reach the Summit," the fifth annual event offers a once-in-a-lifetime chance to take a guided climb on Mount Hood, Mount Jefferson, Northern California's Mount Shasta, Washington's Mount Adams or the Grand Teton in Wyoming.

Climbers raise funds then summit the mountain of their choice to support the Lung Association of Oregon's efforts to promote disease cures, clean air and smoke-free kids, says Jennifer Baldwin, spokeswoman for the state chapter.

Seventy-five people participated in the 2007 climbs and raised $267,000 for the Lung Association, Baldwin says. The ages of the climbers ranged from 17 to 59, and the summit success rate was 92 percent. Women made up 53 percent of the climbers, and the average fundraising amount was $3,651; 17 climbers raised $4,000 or more.

"Almost everybody last year had never climbed a mountain before," says Baldwin, who notes that the event is branching out to the Medford, Bend and Eugene areas this year. "This is designed for people who've always wanted to do it."

Five teams will attempt to summit Mount Hood June 17-22; one or more teams will scale each of the other mountains. The other scheduled climbs are: Mount Jefferson, July 14-16; Mount Shasta, July 18-20; Mount Adams, Aug. 4-5; and Grand Teton, Aug. 7-9.

Fundraising goals are highest for Grand Teton — participants must raise a minimum of $4,500 to try to tackle the 13,770-foot peak. Mount Hood rises 11,239 feet, and participants must raise at least $3,250 for that climb. Climbers have a goal of $3,500 for Mount Shasta (14,162 feet) and Mount Jefferson (10,497 feet). The lowest fundraising total is $3,000 to climb 12,276-foot Mount Adams.

Training for Portland Metro area participants includes guided conditioning hikes in Mount Hood National Forest, the Columbia River Gorge and the Oregon Coast Range, led by volunteers and past participants.

For outlying areas such as Medford, Baldwin says the Lung Association will suggest a list of conditioning hikes, but will link participants with certified trainers if there is enough interest.

Timberline Mount Guides Inc. of Bend will lead the climbs in Oregon and Washington. Jackson Hole Mountain Guides will lead the Grand Teton summit.

David Cressman, president and co-director of Sierra Wilderness Seminars in Mount Shasta City, Calif., says his guides are slated to lead two Mount Shasta climbs, one on the north side and one on the south side. He says participants should expect a tough push to the top.

"We did a feeler trip last year (for the ALA), because it's a totally different climb than Mount Hood," Cressman says. "It's a very challenging climb. This is mountaineering."

As an added incentive for fundraising, side trips with guides and outfitters are given to those who reach their goals and then go the extra mile, Baldwin says.

On the Net: Sierra Wilderness Seminars, www.swsmtns.com; Timberline Mountain Guides Inc., www.timberlinemtguides.com

Fundraising climbs make charity a peak experience