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Seventh Generation Team Member Juliet M. is climbing Mt. Shasta in California with the Breast Cancer Fund to raise awareness about the environmental causes of breast cancer.

What an adventure!

On Sunday, to get a flavor for the mountain, the trail conditions and the altitude, a small team and I headed to Horse Camp on Mt Shasta. Horse Camp is located at approximately 7,950 feet elevation at the lower end of Avalanche Gulch, the most popular climbing route on the mountain.  My mom was hesitant to climb but the spirit of adventure got the best of her and with no hiking or climbing experience, she decided to go for it and she was marvelous.  She made it to the camp and everyone showered her with praise for getting outside of her comfort zone and challenging herself to experience something new.  It was really lovely to see her proud as punch and also to experience the supportive nature of my fellow climbers. The landscape on the mountain was absolutely glorious with towering pines, views of the Cascade Mountain Range behind us and a snow covered, towering Mt. Shasta before us.  It was breathtaking and not just because if the lack of oxygen.

Sunday was the day all of the climbers arrived and our first time meeting as a group.  In the evening there was a meet and greet, a ceremony, and then a dinner.  It was all smiles at the meet and greet, people were hugging and introducing others and themselves, reminiscing about training experiences, past climbs with the Breast Cancer Fund, and discussing snow conditions on the mountain.  The audience was then introduced to the members of the BCF staff, and Jeanne Rizzo, the President of the Breast Cancer Fund.  Jeanne shared how she became involved with the BCF and about the mission of the BCF -- to help expose and eliminate the environmental causes of breast cancer.

Jeanne is a powerhouse speaker; passionate, informed, direct, and engaging.  She is a driving force for demanding transparency from companies, demanding they eliminate toxic chemicals from their products and educating all of us about ways to make informed choice in our lives.  To hear Jeanne speak yourself, check out the video below. It is from a different event but worth watching. She is wonderful.

Next up was Cat, who has volunteered as a guide and photographer on BCF climbs for the last eight years.  She talked about a talisman that is honored in the BCF community of climbers.  It is a necklace with a piece of jade on it.  The tradition began a few years ago when a breast cancer survivor brought it on a Climb Against the Odds expedition and it as far as she could up the mountain. When she could go no further, she passed it on to another climber, who did the same.  Finally it was handed off to a third climber who brought it to the summit. It is a team effort to get up that mountain and two of those necklaces were given out this evening. I was moved to tears when the two Betsys (my climbing and training companions) were each awarded the honor of carrying one up the mountain.  I am so proud of them.

Next, all 85 of us made a circle and surrounded a table with a large flowerpot on it, ringed by seeds.  We were asked to plant a seed in honor of someone.  The seeds are planted to symbolize hope.  We were also asked to plant a seed in honor of the person or people that we dedicate our climb to.  Many of us said we were planting seeds for loved ones alive and dead, old and young.  Some women planted seeds for themselves because in addition to climbing this mountain, they are also fighting breast cancer. There were seeds of gratitude planted for the passionate work of the BCF and for the climbers. Seeds of hope were planted too; for healthy children, babies and loved ones, with a wish that they never have to experience cancer.

It was an incredibly moving experience and despite the tears and the loss that was shared in that room, when we finished there was hope too.  Hope, optimism, compassion, and determination that was so fierce that we could all taste it at dinner.

With thoughts of all of you,

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Juliet used to work at Seventh Generation.