Luke Timmerman summits Everest for cancer research

Seattle biotech writer at the top of the world, raising money for Fred Hutch

Luke on the summit
Luke Timmerman displays the Climb to Fight Cancer flag on the summit of Mount Everest, which he reached on May 22 at 6:30 a.m. Photo courtesy of Alpine Ascents

Well, he made it!

Luke Timmerman, the Seattle writer who vowed to scale Mount Everest and raise money for Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, climbed to the top of the world early Tuesday morning in Nepal and has safely returned to Kathmandu, that nation’s capital.

On Friday, Timmerman posted from Kathmandu a photo of him at the summit. He was displaying a flag for Climb to Fight Cancer, the mountaineering program that raises money for the Hutch through sponsored expeditions around the world. In a dispatch he wrote, “Reached the summit of Mt. Everest, highest mountain in the world, at 6:25 a.m. on 5/22/18.”

Fred Hutch President and Director Dr. Gary Gilliland hailed the achievement. “Climbing Everest is a colossal goal and I am in awe of Luke’s accomplishment. We are honored that he dedicated his expedition to inspire others to support our work,” he said.

descending everest
Luke Timmerman's team led by Alpine Ascents International descends on Tuesday after successfully reaching the summit. Photo courtesy of Alpine Ascents

Everest expedition leader Ben Jones, of Seattle-based Alpine Ascents International, posted from the mountain on Tuesday that the team had departed for the eight-hour final push on Monday at 10:30 p.m. Nepal time. After climbing under the stars, the first of eight expedition members and three guides reached the 29,035-foot summit at dawn. They stayed for about an hour and then began their journey back down.

“Everyone ascended and descended in great time and style today,” Jones wrote. “We had perfect weather, only one other team on the route ahead of us and the summit all to ourselves.” There was almost no wind and the skies were sunny, making the climb “the best of my five times to the top.”

After a day of rest at Camp 4, the high camp from which the summit push was made, the team members worked their way down the mountain in stages, staying first at Camp 2 (21,300 feet) then down to Everest Base Camp (17, 600 feet). From there, Timmerman and the rest of the expedition members flew by helicopter to Kathmandu, from which they are now preparing to fly home.

Timmerman is expected to arrive in Seattle on Tuesday, May 29. In his dispatch from Kathmandu, he thanked “the amazing Sherpa support team and guides” from Alpine Ascents, Fred Hutch, and business sponsors including Sanofi and 10X Genomics.

It was more than an adventure of a lifetime for Timmerman, 42, who publishes Timmerman Report, an online biotechnology newsletter: He tied his quest to reach the top of the world with a vigorous, eight-month effort to raise money for Fred Hutch.

To date, according to his fundraising page, he has pulled in more than $338,000 for Climb to Fight Cancer at Fred Hutch.

Timmerman has been training for the expedition since October, a regime that including carrying a backpack loaded with books and stones up and down Seattle staircases, hiking popular mountain trails in the Cascades and biking to and from work.

The biotech writer said prior to his trip to the Himalayas that he was motivated to help Fred Hutch because he sees it as a leader at a crucial moment in cancer science.

“Their pioneering research is helping people with many types of cancer live longer and lead better lives,’’ he said. “They’re also trying to cure cancer! That’s a Mount Everest-type goal if you are a scientist.”

Sabin Russell is a former staff writer at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center. For two decades he covered medical science, global health and health care economics for the San Francisco Chronicle, and he wrote extensively about infectious diseases, including HIV/AIDS. He was a Knight Science Journalism Fellow at MIT and a freelance writer for the New York Times and Health Affairs. 

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