Welcome to the Team Survivor Northwest Climbing Program! The mission of the program is to help women gain fitness, strength, and healing after a cancer diagnosis. We believe in the restorative power of nature and the chance to heal both body and mind through hiking, backpacking, and scaling mountains.

We are excited to announce that we will be conquering Mount St. Helens in the summer of 2024! Details will be coming in the spring.

Our 2023 climbers tackled two different overnight climbs: Ruth Mountain (a more strenuous, technical climb) and Chain Lakes Loop – a moderate backpacking trip. Our incredible climbers trained through the summer to prepare for their climbs – putting in countless hours on local hikes to be ready for the big event.

Our first Ruth Mountain team made it nearly to the top, but due to bad weather and low visibility, the guides made the wise choice to turn around. Just like true Team Survivor women, the team stayed positive through it all and had completed the toughest part of the climb, proving to themselves everything they had accomplished over the season. Our second Ruth Mountain team had much better weather and was able to summit!

Our third team spent three days in the wilderness, backpacking the Chain Lakes – located in the same area as Ruth Mountain. In all, 19 members of Team Survivor participated and raised more than $56,000 in the process! We are so proud of this inspiring group of women and volunteers who spent their summer training hard. Go Mountain Climbers!

Summer 2023 Climbs

Option #1: Ruth Mountain

  • Tentatively set for Aug. 15-17 (3 days, 2 nights)
  • Strenuous
  • Glaciated terrain; ice ax and crampons required
  • Will need to carry 35-45 pound backpack
  • Intro to Mountaineering
  • Led by Mountain Madness

Option #2: Chain Lakes Loop

  • Tentatively set for Aug. 15-17 (3 days, 2 nights)
  • Moderate+
  • Will need to carry 35-45 pound backpack
  • For beginner backpackers or anyone seeking a less strenous option
  • Led by TSNW Volunteer Leaders

*For detailed information about each climb (including training schedules and hike locations), check out our 2023 Mountain Climb Program Packet here.


Click on the category to read more details.

Do I need hiking experience to participate?

No. We have many members who are new to hiking with TSNW. We start on easier hikes and build up. We have many different skill levels and when it is helpful, we can divide into groups, so everyone is going at a comfortable pace.

How often are the training hikes? What days of the week? Are they required?

Training hikes are once per week, alternating Saturdays and Sundays, starting in May and culminating in August with Ruth Mountain or Chain Lakes Loop. Because we are a team and teamwork is important in success, participants must commit to 2 training hikes per month with TSNW. If you are not prepared, you will not be able to accomplish your goal. The training we have outlined will prepare you. If you would like additional hiking experience, you are welcome to join the TSNW Midweek Hiking group on Wednesdays.

Can I train independently?

Beyond at least 2 training hikes a month with the TSNW team, you are welcome to do what works best for you. Hiking together not only builds camaraderie within the group, but will also give you helpful tips and a sense of the pace and skill levels as the climb/hike dates approach. If you are unable to commit to 2 training hikes a month with TSNW, we invite you to look at other TSNW outdoor programs.

What if I start but decide to drop out? Is there a deadline for dropping out?

With the exception of illness or injury, please do not drop out later than three weeks before the climb (July 25th), otherwise we will lose the money we spent on your guide and climbing pass and will not have time to offer it to someone else, in which case you will need to cover the cost. Before 3 weeks is alright and happens for all sorts of reasons. You will still have benefited from the exercise, friendships built during training, and have a sense of whether you want to try again another year.

Could the climb be cancelled due to COVID-19?

At this point in the pandemic, canceling due to COVID-19 would be highly unlikely. However, we will continue to follow the advice of public health officials and the TSNW Board of Directors.

How difficult is it to climb Ruth Mountain? Will there be snow?
Ruth Mountain is a good introduction to mountaineering. The top is glaciated terrain with some crevasses. For that reason, we will pay expert guides from Mountain Madness to escort our climbers to the top. There will be snow at the top. Anyone planning to climb Ruth is required to participate in the Camp Muir hike where will have the chance to hike on snow and practice various snow and ice techniques.

This trip involves the following:

  • Back­pack­ing with loads of 35– 45 lbs
  • Overnight camp­ing on the mountain
  • Basic snow and glac­i­er climbing
  • Climbers must be in excellent phys­i­cal condition
  • Able to hike 4-6 hours at a time
  • Capable of managing uneven and steep terrain, unpredictable weather, and some discomfort.
What if I can't complete the climb and must turn back?

We never hike alone. If something occurs and you need to go back, one person would go back with you.

What hiking supplies will I need? Will I have to carry a heavy backpack?

Our training hikes are day-hikes but your final experience will require overnight backpacking. For that reason, you will want to get used to carrying a heavier backpack during your training. We will go over how to build up to carrying a heavy backpack before we start training. For training hikes, you will need good hiking boots, gardening gloves, clothes that are comfortable and protect you from weather (rain/sun), and a day-pack to hold: lunch and snacks, first aid and essential items for the day, a supply of water, and extra clothing layers. Most of our members also use hiking poles. You may be able to borrow items you don’t have from other members or friends, but you will need most of these items for the training hikes as well as for Ruth or Chain Lakes. One of the benefits of the training hikes is that you can see what other people are using and get their tips on gear and clothing. You don’t need everything on day one. Good hiking boots are the most important item to get early so you can break them in and make sure they are working for you. (For more information, please refer to comprehensive supplies list that will be provided by TSNW via email.)

How will I know details about each practice climb?

You will receive an email with specifics about the next practice climb approximately 5 days before each climb. We will also host a private Facebook group for anyone with a Facebook account.

Which dates will people be climbing? How many people will climb together?

We will need to wait to confirm number of participants but there will be no more than 9 participants with 3 guides in each group for both Ruth and Chain Lakes. Both trips are tentatively set for Aug. 15-17.

Will we have guides leading us for Ruth Mountain?

Yes. Mountain Madness will lead Ruth Mountain. They are paid, professional guides. We are also excited to announce that Lisa Thompson, one of the world’s best climbers, owner of Alpine Athletics, and a member of Team Survivor Northwest, will provide fitness plans to each individual climbing Ruth (at no cost). Lisa will also join us for some training hikes!

Who will lead Chain Lakes?

Chain Lakes will be led by experienced TSNW climbers and leaders who are volunteers. These are folks with a wealth of experience being out in the mountains. You will be in good hands.

What should I expect from the Chain Lakes Loop?

Chain Lakes Loop is located in the same area as Ruth and will have similar views and beauty. However, this trip will be less intense and more accessible to first-time outdoor enthusiasts. Not only will you have a chance to backpack for two nights in Chain Lakes, but you will climb some of the smaller most iconic peaks in the Pacific Northwest during your training. This is a once in a lifetime experience for a beginning hiker!

The highest point on Chain Lakes Loop is 5,400 ft. Elevation gain is 1,820 ft. Length is 6.5 miles round trip.

This trip involves the following:

  • Back­pack­ing with loads of 35– 45 lbs
  • Overnight camp­ing on the trail
  • Hikers must be in good phys­i­cal condition
  • Able to hike 3-5 hours at a time
Will we need to stay overnight anywhere?

We will provide details for both trips as we get deeper into the summer. Obviously, some car travel will be involved.

What are the total costs that I need to cover?

Climbers/hikers pay for their motel room (if necessary) and any transportation costs (gas). Scholarships are available upon request.

Are we required to raise funds for our climb and for TSNW?

No. We would never want fundraising to stop someone from joining the summer mountain climbing program. However, this is a big expense and our participants have traditionally raised money for TSNW programs, which benefits women cancer survivors who are not at the same point of recovery. See more in the fundraising section. Reminder that limited spots will be prioritized for individuals who are fundraising. If you choose not to fundraise, you can still be considered for an open spot should any be available.

Why are the training hikes so early in the morning?

Ascending a mountain and backpacking out in the wilderness generally requires the ability to get on the trail early. This is particularly the case in climbing a mountain. The summit often starts before dawn. We understand that not everyone is an early riser. If you are one of those people, we apologize, but our training hikes start early, sometimes by 8 am. With travel, this start time makes for some early mornings. But we promise — it’s incredibly worth the commitment!

Why are the training hikes all in the Seattle/North Bend area?

Apologies to anyone living a boat or car ride away from the Seattle/North Bend area. At this time, the training hikes are offered in this area to accommodate the large number of volunteers needed to make this program possible. As noted, you are welcome to train elsewhere if you also hike with us at least twice a month.

Is it worth it?

Absolutely! Our climbers walk away from this experience with new friendships, improved health, and the feeling that they can accomplish anything. It is life-changing.


Due to restrictions of the size of each climbing/hiking team (9 participants, 3 guides for both trips), anyone who is fundraising will be given priority. For those who choose NOT to fundraise, remaining open spots will be filled in the order registered.

Below are some of the ways that we will work with you to make fundraising a positive experience:

why fundraise?

Team Survivor Northwest’s mountain climbs have always been a great personal challenge and a rewarding experience for our members while getting back to fitness. They have also been important fundraisers for TSNW.

Cancer treatment is tough, and you got through it. Now you are getting back your life and reaching for the mountain top. We are proud of you, amazed that after all you have gone through, you’re doing this. We want you to celebrate your experience, and we want your friends and family to join you and support you in your celebration. 

If you are willing to raise funds and support other programs that will allow more women cancer survivors to get to the point that you are in your journey, THANK YOU!

Set your own goal.

You decide what feels right for you. We recommend starting with a goal in the $2,000 – $3,000 range to cover your own cost and support programs. Many climbers are surprised how quickly they pass their goal.

Use our new platform.

We will set up a campaign on Click&Pledge with your own personal link so you can easily request donations, track your progress, receive personal notes from donors and work as a team to achieve something great!

Pair up with a sponsor.

For those who are interested, TSNW will try to pair you up with a sponsor company or organization who will support you with your individual goal. If you have a relationship with a potential sponsor (employer, friend, business), feel free to reach out on your own!

though appreciated, fundraising is not a requirement.

There are obstacles and challenges in training for a climb, but TSNW does not want money or fundraising to be one of them. If you are hesitating because the fundraising seems too onerous, or because you’ve asked your family and friends before, or for any other reason, please know we would like you to join the climb regardless.

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