Curing cancer one foot at a time


The Mirror

Steve Bley doesn’t really qualify as a mountain climber.

Before last year, the 54-year-old Federal Way business owner had only one peak in his climbing bag and that came over two decades ago. While in his early 30s, Bley had a few friends that were heavily into mountain climbing and talked him into taking on the task of conquering the biggest peak in the Pacific Northwest.

“I climbed Mt. Rainier back then,” Bley said. “I had a wonderful time, but I never really did anything after that. I went to Nepal and screwed around a little bit, but nothing technical.”

Things changed last year while Bley was thumbing through an issue of Outside Magazine and came across a blurb advertising the Climb to Fight Breast Cancer. The fundraiser benefits the Seattle-based Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

It hit very close to home for Bley, who owns Kinetic Construction Inc. His mother-in-law was diagnosed with breast cancer a few years ago and was battling the disease. Her cancer has since been in remission, but that hasn’t stopped Bley.

“It kind of got me motivated to do this,” he said. “It is for a great cause.”

So Bley signed up for the 2006 Climb to Fight Breast Cancer and completed a three-day trek to the summit of Mount Baker last summer. And he will go for his second summit as part of the fundraiser in July, when he will try and tackle 12,276-foot Mount Adams in southern Washington.

“They gave me some training on the climb last year and want you to take a mountaineering class and do some glacier training,” Bley said. “I had a wonderful time. Getting to the summit was a great experience. We did it on a nice day and you could see forever. You could see the (Puget) Sound and (Mount) Rainier.”

The climb involved three full days of hiking and climbing. Bley and 24 others took off from a parking lot at 9 a.m. on a Friday morning and spent about six hours hiking up to a base camp at about 6,500 feet, where they spent the night. Saturday involved hiking onto a Mount Baker glacier for some training before heading for the summit at around 3 a.m. Sunday morning.

“We made it to the top at about 11 a.m. and then we had to head back to camp, pack it up and hike out about seven miles,” Bley said. “So basically we were pretty much going from 3 a.m. to 9 p.m. I was pretty sore the next day, that’s for sure.”

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Climb to Fight Breast Cancer and since its inception, the event has raised more than $2.25 million. And with more than 100 confirmed participants this year, the 2007 climbs are expected to raise a minimum of $500,000.

During the months of June through September, the guide services of Portland Parks and Recreation and Alpine Ascents International will lead this year’s teams to the summits of Mount Adams, Mount Baker and Mount Rainier in Washington, Mount Hood in Oregon, Mount Elbrus in Russia and Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa.

A bulk of the ascents require climbers to raise at least $3,000, except for Mount Elbrus and Kilimanjaro ($10,000 each) and Mount Rainier ($5,000). Bley’s climb of Mount Adams will take place July 20-22.

“This is just a once-a-year deal,” Bley said. “Like I said, I’m 54 and if I was younger I would probably do it more. But my motivation is the fundraising.”

Casey Olson: 925-5565,

Fred Hutchinson climbs: For information on its “Climb to Fight Breast Cancer” program, go to and click on “news and events.”

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