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M'ville climber takes on Rainier

Marysville resident Leslie Lauer hasn’t yet made it the top of Mt. Rainier, but she did reach the top of Mt. Pilchuck. - Courtesy photo
Marysville resident Leslie Lauer hasn’t yet made it the top of Mt. Rainier, but she did reach the top of Mt. Pilchuck.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

MARYSVILLE Her husband thinks, she said, that she is a bit crazy, but is still supportive.

Her two children are pretty much in the same frame of mind.

In any case, city resident Leslie Lauer said she is making a second attempt to reach the summit of Mt. Rainier largely in honor of her mother.

Also a Marysville resident, Shirley Richardson suffers from emphysema. Lauer, 51, plans to make her return trip up Rainier as part of the American Lung Association's Climb for Clean Air, scheduled for July 16-18.

"The American Lung Association is a wonderful cause. So many like my mother have lung disease and I wanted to do what I could to help the cause," Lauer said.

A life-long Marysville resident, Lauer also said she has looked upon Rainier with a certain amount of wonder for as long as she can remember.

"You see that mountain standing there so majestically and I just imagine myself standing on the peak," she said.

Accompanied by guides and about 50 other climbers, Lauer's initial attempt to reach that peak was during last year's Climb for Clean Air. In the end, the air, clean or not, turned out to be the group's enemy. Bad weather forced guides to call a halt to the proceedings after the first day of what is a two-day hike to the summit.

"The whole experience was wonderful and very frustrating," Lauer said, quickly adding she is now more determined than ever to reach Rainier's summit.

Somewhat surprisingly, Lauer doesn't consider herself a climber or even a hiker. Still, she's made it to several local peaks, climbs predictably meant as a warm up to taking on Rainier.

Some of the mountains Lauer has conquered include Mt. Pilchuck, Mt. Si and Tiger Mountain.

"Those are much smaller peaks, nothing all that big," Lauer insists. "They all pale in comparison to Rainier."

Lauer said all climbs, but especially the hike up Rainier, become endurance tests. She said you are moving up steep slopes in increasingly cooler temperatures with a 30-to-40 pound pack on your back.

Once again, air, clean or otherwise, also comes into play. Oxygen naturally becomes a more scarce commodity the higher the altitude.

"It just becomes harder and harder to breath," Lauer said.

With 55 people making the trip, this year's Lung Association climb up Rainier is slated to encompass four days. Lauer said the first day is spent in training, relearning some basics of mountaineering. The actual trip up the mountain begins on the second day, during which climbers will spend five hours making their way up Rainier to the spot where they will make camp for the night. That's the point where Lauer's group got turned back last year.

The second day features another five-hour climb hopefully culminating in reaching the summit. Another camp is set up, though not on the summit itself. Climbers will make their way down the mountain in a single hike on the fourth day.

"It's been kind of an interesting learning experience and another benefit is I'm probably in the best shape of my life," Lauer said, adding she definitely feels more physically fit than prior to even last year's attempt.

As the climb is a fundraiser, each climber needed to raise $3,500 for the American Lung Association. Lauer has surpassed that amount, bringing in about $5,200 from friends and family.

Over the two years, Lauer figures she's raised well over $13,000 for the lung association, a number of which she is obviously proud.

Director of communications for the local chapter of the American Lung Association, Paul Payton said this is the 20th anniversary of the Climb for Clean Air. This year's group has raised some $238,000 in total. Over the years, the climbs have involved over 1,100 people and generated approximately $4.4 million, all of which Payton said has gone into local educational and research programs.

Payton said lung disease is the third leading killer in the country, a factor in one in every six deaths.

"A lot of people are personally connected and impacted by lung disease," he added.

If you would like to donate to Lauer's climb or the overall climb, visit the American Lung Association's Web site at www.alaw.org and follows the links labeled "Climb for Clean Air."

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