News Releases

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center announces the first-ever expedition to an unclimbed mountain in the name of cancer research

The inaugural Big Expedition for Cancer Research will follow four professional U.S. mountaineers' quest to tackle a never-before-climbed mountain in Alaska

NEW YORK — Sept. 27, 2007 — Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center today announced the launch of a unique expedition to an unclimbed mountain in the name of cancer research. Never before has a cancer-research center mounted such an expedition in the name of cancer research.

The inaugural Big Expedition for Cancer Research — Unclimbed Mountains to Conquer, performed by a team of four professional mountaineers, will take place next June in Alaska. The specific location of the mountain, chosen by the Big Expedition's Mountaineering Advisory Committee, will be announced this winter.

Tackling an unclimbed mountain is analogous seeking a cure for cancer — the route is often unknown, there are setbacks, but achieving the goal is paramount. Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center has put together this expedition to an unclimbed mountain to symbolize the enormity of the task ahead.

"We are not a hospital, but a research institution committed to eliminating cancer and related diseases as causes of human suffering and death," said Carl Behnke, past chair of the Hutchinson Center's board of trustees. "Reaching that seemingly insurmountable goal is a long and arduous journey much like climbing a mountain. It is thousands of steps, taken one at a time."

The Center has carefully selected a team of four professional mountaineers who will use all their knowledge and skills to achieve this goal. The expedition team — consisting of Matt Farmer, Dawn Glanc, Kevin Mahoney and Bayard Russell Jr. — is a group of talented and goal-oriented mountaineers who reflect the bold, innovative nature of the researchers at the Hutchinson Center.

"The scaling of an unclimbed mountain is a good metaphor for cancer research — the challenges are unknown until you are in the middle of it and no one wants to turn back," said Lee Hartwell, Ph.D., president and director of the Hutchinson Center. "Through the efforts of these four mountaineers, we hope to build awareness for the critical need to support cancer research."

The first Big Expedition will take place in one of our national parks in Alaska.

"As stewards of our parks, the National Park Service makes it possible for us to have this adventure because of the care that is taken to preserve our wild places," said Jim Ireland, chief of Visitor Services at Kenai Fjords National Park. Ireland is covering NPS-Alaska issues temporarily as a special assistant to Alaska regional director Marcia Blaszak while a new Washington liaison is being recruited.

A group of renowned mountaineers, expedition leaders and adventurers comprise the Expedition's Mountaineering Advisory Committee: Phil and Susan Ershler, the first couple to climb the world's "Seven Summits," the highest peaks on each of the seven continents; John Harlin, a noted climber and editor of American Alpine Journal; Eric Simonson, leader of the historic Mount Everest expedition that found the body of George Leigh Mallory; John Roskelley, a public servant, conservationist, author and revered American Himalayan climber; and Jim Wickwire, a climbing legend and Alaska mountaineering expert who was the first American to climb K2, the second-highest mountain on Earth.

"When I first heard this project was looking for an unclimbed mountain, Alaska immediately came to my mind," according to Wickwire. "We have focused our efforts on the parks of Alaska and have identified a couple of peaks that are worthy of this effort. We are not announcing our decision today because there is still some work to be done. We want to thoroughly vet these opportunities with the expedition members involved."

The public will be able to follow the mountaineers step by step during the planning stages and then through the expedition itself on the Big Expedition Web site. It is hoped that those following the climb will gain an appreciation for the parallels between the quest to scale an unclimbed peak and the groundbreaking research being conducted at the Hutchinson Center that will be noted on the site:

Media Contacts
Dan McConnell
DDB Seattle
(206) 819-9211

Kit Herrod
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
(206) 229-4997

# # #

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
At Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, our interdisciplinary teams of world-renowned scientists and humanitarians work together to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer, HIV/AIDS and other diseases. Our researchers, including three Nobel laureates, bring a relentless pursuit and passion for health, knowledge and hope to their work and to the world. For more information, please visit