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Tackling Mount Everest for mom

Charles AgarVail, CO Colorado
Special to the Daily Katie Oestrike, left, and Rachel Rankin, are supporting Katie's brother Brian's attempt of Mount Everest.
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ASPEN – People have their own way of handling grief, but when their mother died of lung cancer in 2006 the Oestrike family decided to climb the tallest mountain in the world.”This is how we dealt with our mourning,” said Katie Oestrike, 25, an Aspen resident who will work as support staff for her older brother, Brian, 27, and friend Justin Hewitt in their Everest summit attempt this spring.”I didn’t know anything about lung cancer,” Katie said regarding when her mother, Jackie, found out she had the disease.But in those harrowing six months before Jackie passed away in June, 2006, the Oestrike family – Katie, Brian, Andy and their father Henry – learned a lot. And after their mother’s passing they decided to learn more, honor their mother’s memory and try to make a difference.Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, the Oestrike kids are well-traveled and are scattered across the country – Katie settled in Aspen after visiting town with her Colorado State roommate, Rachel Rankin, a graduate of Basalt High School.Katie and Rankin became fast friends and enjoy life in the mountains, Rankin as an employee at the Ute Mountaineer and Katie a ski instructor. Rankin will join Katie on the adventure of a lifetime this spring.Katie’s brother Brian, an accomplished climber and mountaineer, took the whole family on a climb up Mount Rainier, shortly after the death of their mother, and that’s where he proposed the plan: to climb Everest to honor their mother, increase awareness about lung cancer and support Lungevity, a nonprofit raising money for cancer research.

“We all said ‘yes,'” Katie said, and since then the family has been on a mission to get Brian and Hewitt to the top of the world’s highest peak without oxygen, if possible.

Katie has done some high altitude climbing in South America in preparation for her role in the ascent, and she and Rankin will travel first to Nepal, then Tibet, to support for Brian and Hewitt.The two women will climb as far as the advanced base camp, at 19,000 feet, to bring supplies and offer radio support (they’re going without Sherpas) and are busy these days not just raising funds and organizing gear, but training for the effort.The permit to climb from the Tibetan side to the top of Everest cost $6,000, and $3,000 for support staff. The team hopes to raise enough money to cover the permits and raise money for Lungevity.



Their goal is $50,000.Oestrike and Rankin are busy selling T-shirts – you can spot them in their “Climb for Cancer” shirts on any given day – as well as Tibetan prayer flags people can sign and climbers will carry to the top of the mountain.On April 28, the climbing team – bolstered by family and friends nationwide – will hold a “satellite adventure” where donors can support various teams doing anything from hiking from Aspen to Crested Butte, paddling long distances, or to what Hewitt’s mother is doing: walking a distance of 29,141 feet, the height of Mt. Everest.”The whole process has been so exciting,” Katie said. Both envision trials, like the long overland trip from Nepal to Tibet, and Katie joked that it will be interesting spending five weeks with her brother.

“I’m always so excited to travel … but the summit moment will be the best … I just envision that moment,” Rankin said.The team will document its adventure on video, which will be streamed on its Web site.To follow the trip, visit http://www.climbforcancer.blogspot.com. and read about the two climbers now on the ground in Nepal acclimatizing and making preparations for the ascent this spring.For information about Lungevity, visit http://www.lungevity.org.


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