Break me into bigger pieces, so some of me is home with you.

The 2012 Cancer Climber Kilimanjaro Team

I thought it would help in the retelling of the trek to provide background on my Kilimanjaro team-mates.  After all, they’ll be in plenty of my pictures and stories and are all pretty awesome people.

Don Bray

From Colorado as well, Don is an avid hiker and outdoors enthusiast.  He wasn’t always, however.  Don only began hiking four or five years ago, but fell in love with it and made fast friends with other hikers in the Denver area.  He participates in a number of charitable causes and that’s how he got on this trip.  Don is a keen observer and throughout the trip had a way of pointing things out that I hadn’t seen or heard.  I look forward to doing some 14ers with him when we get back to the states.

Kyle Bingham

Having just left the slopes of an unsuccessful attempt on Mt. Rainer, Kyle was very prepared for this trip.  From Seattle, climbing and hiking is Kyle’s passion and it shows.  We were tent-mates, so Kyle and I got to know each other pretty well during the trek.  Our philosophies on life are very similar:  if you have the opportunity to do something, do it.  Not everyone gets the chance, so use yours wisely.  He has aspirations of climbing Everest in a few years and has his sights on Denali for the same season as I do.

Becca Gwin

“Congratulations on graduating, your grad gift is a trip up Kilimanjaro!”  Okay, maybe that’s not exactly how it went, but Becca has just graduated and is headed to Purdue this fall.  We dubbed Becca “The Punisher” because of her endurance and ability to grind out tough days.  She never descended into a bad mood or low spirits and loved trail riddles.  Her youthful exuberance always pulled us out of the hiking doldrums.  She was great to have on the team.


The mother of Becca and a powerful team member, Melissa kept a light energy in the crew.  She’s a very friendly and soft-spoken individual, but had this terrific way of putting people at ease.  Melissa’s nurturing and gentle nature made her a great asset in such harsh and brutal climates.  I think this mother-daughter team received more satellite phone texts than any other team member.  The love was obvious and a welcome addition during our expedition.

Carol Stewart

Carol is an incredibly strong woman.  She lives in Seattle and is a cancer survivor as well.  Her grit and determination impressed me day in and day out.  Often times I would over hear her saying things like, “Well, Garrison is wearing his shell, so I’m going to put mine on, too.”  I tried not to take advantage of this, but considered throwing my down jacket on in the hot and humid rainforest to see if she’d follow suit.  I have immense respect and admiration for Carol, because she really jumped into this thing head first and had the determination to see it all the way through.

Terry Swarner

You can see where Sean gets it.  Terry’s tenacity and determination is obvious and from the moment you meet her, you can see a fire behind her eyes.  Unfortunately, I think the mountain sickness hit her the hardest, but it didn’t stop her from fighting hard each day.  The motto on the mountain is “pole, pole” (p-oh-lay) which means slowly, slowly, and Terry helped us keep our eager team members (me, maybe?) to a reasonable speed.  You can’t summit this mountain fast.

Sean Swarner

The man who brought us all together.  He’s a two-time cancer survivor, has one lung, was the first cancer survivor to summit Mt. Everest, has completed the Seven Summits, runs marathons and competes in Iron Mans.  …what am I missing…Oh, and established an amazing organization called Cancer Climber, which you should definitely check out and give to generously.  He made this trip a reality for me and gives inspiration to countless survivors.  Seriously, this guy is the Bill Gates of inspiration (he has lots of it.)

We all meshed immediately.  The team was strong day in and day out.  I’m glad to call each and every one of these people my friends.  Keep climbing!


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