A climb for charity

Some people like to mix up their cross-training; a bike ride instead of tennis, a jog instead of racquetball games, and so on.

Laurie Stewart? She's climbing Africa's tallest peak - Mount Kilimanjaro.

The president and CEO of Sound Community Bank - a six-branch regional community banking business - Stewart is aiming at topping the 19,000-foot-plus tall peak in Tanzania for Climb to Fight Breast Cancer.

The program benefits research at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

Stewart has raised funds for years for various charities.

"For the last several years I have challenged myself by participating in half and full marathons as a member and mentor for the Arthritis Foundation's Joints in Motion program," she says. "This year I decided that might have become routine."

When Stewart's husband, Ken, died, several family members and friends made contributions to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. That got Stewart reading its quarterly publication, where she stumbled onto Climb to Fight Breast Cancer.

Says Stewart, "I thought, 'Why not really step up for a big challenge?'"

Big for anyone, but particularly for Stewart, who notes she has little climbing experience beyond hiking to Mount Rainier's Camp Muir - a strenuous day hike to be sure, but not a multiple-day climb beyond 10,000 feet.

Kilimanjaro is not a technical climb by any stretch. Climbers familiar with the mountain say that most trekkers who fail to make the summit do so because of altitude sickness rather than lack of physical stamina or lack of climbing know-how.

That's the part that Stewart is wary of heading into the trip, slated for Aug. 12-18.

She says her fundraising goal is $12,000.

A Sequim native

Stewart was born in Port Angeles and moved to Sequim as a very young child. Her mother and two sisters still live in town. Her father owned Duke's Automotive, a fixture on the east end of town for several years.

Stewart graduated from Sequim High School in 1967 and though she works in Seattle, she visits Sequim often, appearing in the 2010 Irrigation Festival parade.

Stewart was named president and CEO of what was then known as Associated Grocers Employee Federal Credit Union in 1989. That same year, the credit union's board of directors and senior managers applied to become a state-chartered credit union. Two years later, representing more than 450 small businesses, the credit union changed its name to the Credit Union of the Pacific. In 1997, the Sequim branch opened, the businesses' fourth in the 1990s.

In 2003, Credit Union of the Pacific became Sound Community Bank and opened a branch in Port Angeles in 2009.

Stewart now oversees six branches and more than $300 million in assets.

Climb to Fight Breast Cancer offers challenging new peaks

Mount Shasta in California and Denali in Alaska are new additions to the Climb to Fight Breast Cancer benefiting Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

The expeditions, offered for the first time in 2010, expand the opportunity for participants of all skill levels to have fun and be challenged in honor of those who have battled breast cancer.

Mount Shasta, located in northern California near the Oregon border, rises 14,179 feet; Alaska’s Denali is a soaring 20,320 feet. Also offered this year is a trip to central Mexico to ascend Pico de Orizaba (18,850 feet) and Ixtaccíhuatl (17,343 feet), known together as the "Volcanoes of Mexico." Additional Climb to Fight Breast Cancer peaks are:

• Mount Adams in Washington (12,276 feet)

• Mount Baker in Washington (10,781 feet)

• Mount Elbrus in Russia (18,510 feet)

• Mount Hood in Oregon (11,237 feet)

• Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania (19,340 feet)

• Mount Rainier in Washington (14,411 feet)

The "Volcanoes" climb takes place in October; the rest of the expeditions are scheduled for the spring and summer months.

Professional guides from Alpine Ascents International will lead expeditions to Denali, the Mexican volcanoes, Mount Elbrus, Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Rainier and Mount Baker. Shasta Mountain Guides leads the trek up Mount Shasta, and guides from Portland Parks & Recreation will lead teams up Mount Adams and Mount Hood. A full schedule of peaks, climb dates and routes can be found at

Each climb will have a limited number of team members – generally nine or 10 – as established by the guide services. Each participant commits to a fundraising minimum of $3,000 to $12,500, depending on the mountain.

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer and the second most common cause of cancer death among women in the United States.

Scientists at the Hutchinson Center study many aspects of the disease, including preventive measures, risk factors and early detection. Details can be found at

For more information or to register for the Climb to Fight Breast Cancer, visit or e-mail

A quick look: Mount Kilimanjaro

Elevation — 19,340 feet

Location — Tanzania, East Africa

First ascent — Hans Meyer, Yoanas Kinyala Lauwo and Ludwig Purtscheller, 1889

Name means — unknown; scholars translate part of name to “white,” “spotted” and “freedom”

Other — Highest mountain in Africa … fourth-tallest of “seven summits” (tallest mountains on each continent) … considered tallest freestanding mountain in world, rising 15,100 feet from base to summit … has 2.2 square kilometers of glacial ice, 82 percent less than it had in 1912 … fastest ascent time recorded was by Bruno Brunod of Italy in 2001, climbing to the summit in five hours, 38 minutes.


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