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Guest blog by Dana Cook, BCPP Climb Against the Odds Volunteer Climber 


Life often surprises us with unexpected challenges and opportunities. For me, agreeing to climb a mountain seemed utterly out of reach, a decision clouded by self-doubt and personal struggles.

Battling weight gain, depression, and enduring the tumultuous symptoms of menopause, I sat at my laptop working 14-hour days. I spent my few moments of free time scrolling social media. I stumbled upon a post calling for climbers to ascend Mt. Shasta as part of a fundraising effort for breast cancer prevention. It spoke of adventure, self-discovery, and a chance to contribute to a meaningful cause.

The idea of embarking on an arduous climb was laughable. But the cause hit close to home, having witnessed the trials of three friends and family members currently in the breast cancer battle. Despite my reservations and lack of physical prowess, the pull to participate was strong.

Seeking a reality check, I turned to my husband, expecting a dose of reason. “I think you should do it!” he replied.

Dana at the summit with prayer flags

“This is either the best or worst decision of my life. Please send me the application,” I said to the event organizer. Thus, mission #Sofa2Summit launched.

Fundraising Fears

My first hurdle was the daunting task of fundraising. Armed with determination and the tools provided by BCPP, I leveraged social media and engaged my neighbors. In exchange for payment for digging out a neighbor’s ice-and-snow-encased driveway, I requested a donation. This simple request led to three more donations when he shared my mission with his family members.

I printed my fundraising information on a recipe I handed out at a potluck. I offered inscribed prayer flags for donations of $150.

I donated each training hike to a donor who earned a prayer flag. I posted a summit photo of myself holding the inscribed prayer flag with words of dedication to the donor. These popular posts quickly spread awareness and were a conduit for others to share their stories of cancer’s impact on their lives.

These simple acts made me an early fundraising leader. And took next to zero effort!

Physical Feats

To enhance my training, I joined a local hiking group. I steadily increased my fitness by climbing the foothills and mountains in my surrounding area. The core group of women became not only friends, but they also became my tribe – providing support, encouragement, and donations!

Despite following a training program provided by BCPP, I realized my fitness level was far from adequate for the daunting ascent of Mt. Shasta. I was worried about being the weakest link and being the sole team member who did not summit. Liberation came when a climb team guide emphasized the unpredictability of nature and the absence of a guaranteed summit for anyone.

I shifted my focus from reaching Shasta’s pinnacle to embracing the process and elevating the cause through my fundraising efforts.

Dana at summit with prayer flags

The Main Event

The climb began the day after a welcome dinner where the team met for the first time and exchanged stories of our connection to cancer, whether as survivors or witnesses.

Navigating through snow to base camp, I struggled to keep pace with the team. Supported by an encouraging guide, I pushed through. After dinner and snow school, I crawled into my sleeping bag, determined to attempt the summit with my team.

Finally, at 10,400 feet, I acknowledged my limit and chose to descend. Yet, at that moment, as the sun rose, surrounded by the majesty of the mountain, I found a sense of accomplishment and peace.

That afternoon, the jubilant atmosphere of victorious climbers contrasted with the heartfelt conversations among survivors. Their battles dwarfed any mountain ascent. I, too, realized that my own personal summit transcended the peak of Mt. Shasta.

In retrospect, my #Sofa2Summit mission yielded profound transformations:

  1. Reclaimed Health: Shedding 30 pounds and regaining vitality.
  2. Mental Renewal: Escaping the grips of depression, finding purpose anew.
  3. Unforeseen Bonds: Forging lasting friendships and cherished memories.
  4. The Ultimate Triumph: Raising nearly $8000 for breast cancer prevention.

While I may not have conquered the mountain’s peak, the journey reshaped my life, empowering me to overcome personal barriers and contribute meaningfully to a cause close to my heart.

Ultimately, it was never just about reaching the summit; it was about the climb, the lessons learned, and the lives touched along the way. The mission taught me resilience, and the cause taught me purpose. From my sofa’s comfort to Mt. Shasta’s heights, this journey was nothing short of transformative.

I’m reminded that the most extraordinary adventures sometimes begin with a simple, daring ‘yes’ to the unknown.

Dana with dog in front of prayer flags
Dana's mountain climbing pack and contents with prayer flags

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