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Climbing Kilimanjaro

Raising funds for cancer research, honoring survivors on Africa's highest peak

Last year Reach for the Peaks founder Wes Chapman carried a yellow ribbon up Mt Kilimanjaro to honor Prouty participant and former Friends of NCCC board member Mark Green. Mark Green's yellow ribbon was one of 60 that honored cancer survivors at the top of Kilimanjaro.

Seventeen-year-old Hannah Green is one of nine travelers who will climb Tanzania's Mt. Kilimanjaro to benefit the Norris Cotton Cancer Center. She is hiking for her dad, Mark Green, who received chemo treatments for brain cancer at NCCC.

It's nine in the morning, the temperature is in the mid-teens, a dusting of sugary new snow covers the ground, and a howling wind bends trees small and large to its determined, frigid will. So it is at the Glencliff Trail trailhead below Mt. Moosilauke on this cold November morning. Nonetheless, an intrepid group of hikers sets out for Moosilauke's bare summit a few miles, and more than 3,000 elevation feet, above.

"Are these conditions what you expect to find on Mt. Kilimanjaro?" I ask the group's leader, Wes Chapman.

"The cold, yes. The wind, no," he says.

Chapman (D'77, Tu '81) and Anna Condino, who will graduate from Dartmouth's Geisel School of Medicine next spring, lead local training climbs like this hike up Moosilauke to help people prepare for a Friends of NCCC climb that they will lead up Tanzania's Mt Kilimanjaro on Dec. 26, 2013. Nine climbers will begin the trek up the mountain this year, the second group to climb the mountain to benefit the Cancer Center. Last year's inaugural climb by five hikers raised more than $35,000 to support cancer research and patient services at NCCC. This year's group will top that figure.

Among the hikers up Moosilauke on this morning is 17-year-old Hannah Green, who admits this is one of the first winter-condition hikes she's ever attempted. But challenges only seem to inspire Hannah: As she ascends the winding, snowy Glencliff Trail, she talks excitedly about next month's trip to Africa to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro – "Kili" – and benefit the Cancer Center in the process.

Each climber raises at least $5k in donations for Norris Cotton Cancer Center
Hannah Green

Hannah Green, the youngest participant to join the Kili climbers this year, is raising funds for Norris Cotton Cancer Center.

"I'm almost done with my fundraising," she says – and that's no small task, as each Kili participant is required to raise $5,000 as a donation to the cancer center plus pay the cost of the trip. "I think it's going to be a great trip. I've never done anything like it before."

More quietly, she talks about her dad as well. Mark Green was diagnosed two years ago with brain cancer. It was an ironic twist for him as he'd just gone off the board of the Friends of Norris Cotton Cancer Center. "He's on his last round of chemo and is doing really great," Hannah says. "We're all really grateful. He's had amazing care at the Cancer Center."

Hannah is the youngest participant to join the Kili climbers who this year range in age from 17 to 58. Athletic and nimble – she's on the Nordic ski team at her high school – Hannah is already shedding layers of clothing a mile up the Glencliff route despite the cold weather. Wes reminds the group that sweat is a climber's enemy on cold days. "I'm feeling great!" she enthuses. "This is so much fun!" Further up the mountain the wind grows colder and fiercer, but Hannah never loses her bright, beautiful smile. Indeed, by the time the group reaches tree line near the summit and the winds roar over Moosilauke at 80 miles an hour, Hannah's still grinning beneath her alpine jacket, balaclava, and goggles. Even with a once-in-a-lifetime climb up Kilimanjaro ahead of her, she won't forget this day on Dartmouth's Mountain.

Hannah and Mark Green

Hannah with her father, Mark Green.

The next day, she's still all smiles. "It was awesome to get another hike in before the big trip, and I don't feel at all sore today - a big improvement from last time," she says. "I'm feeling pretty ready for Kilimanjaro."

Climbing to help create a world without cancer

"With wonderful young people like Hannah involved this year, it's going to be a very special climb up the Hill," says Wes, referring to Kilimanjaro by the nickname he enjoys giving to big mountains. "Mountains are very special places – particularly very high mountains. The beauty, the isolation, and the simple elevation combine into a unique spiritual experience."

Hannah agrees. "This is for my dad," she says. "It's also for anyone's dad who has cancer, or mother or sister or brother. If I can climb a mountain to help create a world where there isn't any cancer any more, then I'll keep climbing until it's finally gone."

To learn more about how you can honor cancer survivors at the top of Kilimanjaro, or support Hannah or any of the remarkable people climbing Kili to benefit NCCC, go to http://dhmcalumdev.hitchcock.org/reach-for-the-peaks-home and click on the yellow ribbon icon or on Mt. Kilimanjaro - "Get Involved" button.

By Steve Bjerklie

December 09, 2013