Climbing for a Cure

On May 21, Seattle writer and entrepreneur Luke Timmerman summited Mount Everest in an effort that raised almost $340,000 for cancer research.

Forty-two-year-old Luke Timmerman started climbing in the Cascades recreationally when he was in his late 20s: It was something fun to do with his friends on the weekends and had little to do with his job as an author, editor, and writer. For the Seattle-based biotech journalist, who has written about advancements in cancer research for 15 years, there was never much of an overlap between the articles he wrote and the mountains he climbed.

Five years ago, however, Timmerman summited Denali, the highest peak in North America, and he started to consider the possibility of taking on Everest, a feat that would ultimately prove to be surprisingly intertwined with his background in biotech. When the idea first came to mind, though, it was nothing more than a pipe dream. “It felt so far away and remote,” said Timmerman. “It was one of those things that you would talk about over a beer with a friend, but not take too seriously.”

But last summer, Timmerman did get serious about the idea — and serious about making the focus of the climb bigger than himself. “I was well-positioned to make the climb a public campaign  because of my role as a journalist — I have a big network of biotech connections.”

With this idea in mind, Timmerman chose Fred Hutchinson’s Cancer Research Center as a cause worth supporting. Fred Hutch is not only a leader in the search for cancer cures, but also has a well-established fundraising effort: Climb to Fight Cancer. Since 1997, climbers have used their mountain-summiting efforts to raise more than $8.3 million for cancer research through Fred Hutch. None of these climbers, however, ever summited Everest.

With the discovery of a perfect fundraising platform, the pieces fell into place for Timmerman. His hobby of mountain-climbing would become a main supporter to his long-time advocacy for, and interest in, cancer research. And by tackling the world’s tallest and most well-known peak, his particular Climb to Fight Cancer was likely to have a certain excitement built up around it, making it all the better for raising money.

“I was thrilled that there was a way for me to participate in the strides that have been made in cancer other than through my writing,” Timmerman said. He set an ambitious goal to raise $175,000 and started training.

A year later, the results of his climb could not be more impressive. Not only did Timmerman successfully summit ­— and come down from — Everest, he also raised $338,000, almost twice as much as he originally set out to achieve. What’s more, he took special care to ensure every penny went toward research — sponsorships covered his climbing expenses, and he covered his personal ones.

Beyond this huge monetary contribution, Timmerman’s climb raised awareness about the cutting-edge cancer research at Fred Hutch. He was the first climber to summit Everest as a part of a fundraiser for the organization. When Timmerman summited the 29,029 feet on May 21, he unfurled a Climb for the Cure banner, proudly representing a cause that can and should be more well-known.

After having returned from his adventure, Timmerman hopes that he has encouraged other people to show up for cancer research in some way.

“Even if just a few people decide that they’re motivated to contribute, whether through their own climb or through the Fred Hutch Obliteride annual fundraiser, that would be amazing,” said Timmerman. “I hope that my high-profile campaign can and does inspire people to participate in the mission to cure cancer.”

To donate to Luke Timmerman’s climb, visit his personal fundraising page.

is an assistant editor at 425 magazine.
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