Tuesday, May 27 2008
Climbers planning to scale Rainier, increase climate change education
By Alaina Abbott for the Missoulian


Trekking through snowfields and traversing glaciers with crampons can be more than the remote adventure of an avid outdoor enthusiast.

This summer, the Climb for Climate is using mountain climbing as a medium to boost climate change education.

“We want to engage the media, engage the public and try to bring attention to climate change through a new lens,” said Brett Klaassen, creator of the Climb for Climate.


Klaassen, a sophomore at the University of Montana from Puyallup, Wash., has been organizing the first Climb for Climate to raise awareness for climate change. The climb to the peak of Mount Rainier in Washington state will take place Aug. 15-17.

“I felt like being proactive and being part of the solution rather than part of the problem,” Klaassen said. “As a climber, I decided to create the Climb for Climate.”

The 12 participants in the event include current and former UM students from across the United States and three people from Seattle. They plan to raise thousands of dollars for Climate Solutions, a nonprofit organization based in Seattle. Climate Solutions works regionally in the Northwest to promote greater energy efficiency through education and policy changes.

Klaassen feels confident in the success of Climate Solutions. He has been learning about climate change through classes, research and discussion, and he wants to ensure that the Climb for Climate collaborates with a reliable organization.

The choice of Mount Rainier as the site for the climb resulted from the mountain’s prominence and its transformations due to climate change.

“I picked Mount Rainier because it provides an iconic image of climate change which is visible by thousands of people,” Klaassen said.

He has witnessed some of the effects himself.

“When I was growing up, I remember the ice caves, and now many of them are gone,” Klaassen said.

Klaassen grew up about an hour’s drive from Mount Rainier and spent quite a bit of time hiking up to Camp Muir, which sits at an elevation of 10,000 feet.

Camp Muir will be the location for acclimation on the Climb for Climate. The climbers will spend a day and a half getting used to the elevation at this site.

On the day of the climb to the 14,410-foot summit, the group will begin at 1 a.m. to reach the top by sunrise. Safety dictates the time of the climb because the sun melts the ice and causes rockfall.

From the summit, Klaassen said the group hopes to call media and news outlets in addition to taking photos and video.

Klaassen sees more opportunities for the climb to contribute to climate change education after the group returns. They will be armed with material to enhance the Climb for Climate Web site. They will also create slideshow presentations about ways in which students can be involved with climate change, encouraging students to organize their own projects such as the Climb for Climate.

Before any of that happens, though, they must complete the climb.

While some of the participants in the climb have been to the top of Mount Rainier, others will experience tallest peak in Washington for the first time.

“Never even seen it,” said Patrick Colleran, a sophomore majoring in environmental studies at UM who will be in the Climb for Climate.

Although Colleran has not so much as glimpsed Rainier, last summer he trekked to Everest Base Camp at an elevation of more than 17,000.

The participants in the climb will train this summer for both cardio endurance and technical skills. Running, biking and hiking will comprise the core of the workouts.

Getting into proper shape only makes up part of the participation in the Climb for Climate. Fundraising is a leading priority this summer for the group. Each person is expected to raise $1,500.

To kick off the fundraising, Climb for Climate set up at Caras Park for Earth Day and sold T-shirts that the group designed. Klaassen and the others also used it as an opportunity to bring attention to the Climb and climate change in general.

More fundraising events will follow this summer, including the traditional raffle and barbecues.

The Seattle Patagonia store has already donated more than $1,500 worth of gear to the Climb.

Colleran also plans to contact his family and friends to raise money. He said he will return to his hometown of Boise, Idaho, for about a week this summer. While there, he hopes to rally support for the climb to “make it a little bigger than Missoula.”

“I hope that this (Climb for Climate) will inspire other people to do other things,” Colleran said, “and I hope the money we raise for Climate Solutions will help with climate change legislation.”

To get involved

• Make a monetary donation on behalf of a climber at www.climbforclimate.org

• Donate gear and other items to be raffled off

• Watch for fundraising events this summer for the Climb for Climate

• Consider signing up for the next Climb for Climate in the summer of 2009

• Support the cause by walking and biking instead of driving

Alaina Abbott is a journalism student at the University of Montana.