Friday, August 12, 2005

EI climbs every mountain

Breast cancer research supporters tackle Idaho's highest peaks

Express Staff Writer

Members of EI's 'Five Peaks in Five Years' reach summit of Borah Mountain in August 2003. From left to right: Joan Swift, Courtney Kapp, Russ Merrill (back), Jan Voit, CC Crenshaw, Nicole Hallen, Tara Armistead, Lisa Kapp and Diana Kapp.

Diana and Courtney Kapp, sisters-in-law in a large extend and matriarchal family, are mothers, climbers, patrons, and, in Courtney's case, a survivor. A year after she'd been diagnosed and treated for breast cancer, she found herself at the door of the Expedition Inspiration Fund for Breast Cancer Research in 2002.

Expedition Inspiration was founded in 1995 by the late Laura Evans to fund breast cancer research. Evans and 17 other breast cancer survivors had climbed Aconcagua in Argentine in 1995 thus beginning a tradition of climbing great peaks while raising money and awareness of Breast Cancer. Though she died in 2000, her legacy has continued to inspire others to climb to new heights.

"The Kapp family live in all corners of the U.S. but convene here," Courtney Kapp said recently at the EI offices in Ketchum. She was joined in a round table discussion with her sister-in-law Diana Kapp, EI Director Katie Powel and EI Program Manager Carol O'Loughlin. "To find an organization devoted to Breast Cancer and fund research is a great marriage for our family, We love the hiking."

Indeed, the hiking is one reason why the Kapps and family were ensconced in Ketchum. Three of the family will climb Hyndman Peak in EI's "Five Peaks in Five Year" program on Saturday, Aug. 20. This is the third time a group has taken on one of Idaho's 12ers, or peaks that surpass 12,000 feet.

These hikes are fundraisers for EI. Each participant helps the cause by donating or raising funds above and beyond the actual costs of the adventure, which is $150 per climber. EI's Medical Advisory Committee then allocates these funds to projects in breast cancer research, education and patient support. Everyone is invited to join the 12-mile hike. Hyndman Peak, at 12,009 feet, is the ninth highest peak in the state. The climb is a 5,000-foot vertical ascent.

"It's a long day, though not technical, with Sawtooth Mountain Guides," Kapp said. "We have lunch and a celebratory dinner later. We have tribute flags, and write names on them to leave at the summit, and Laura is always with us."

"Five Peaks has a structure," Katie Powell said. "People can plan ahead, both men and women. You want to complete the cycle. And we'll just keep going."

"It's flexible, because you can plan it really only a few days before," added Kapp. "It's not about the summit. It's about the support and the climb, where to loaf and where to push it. There isn't much pressure."

"It's the journey, not the summit," O'Loughlin said.

"EI is such a viable non-profit. It's for the local community," Kapp said.

"Every one has been touched by breast cancer," Diana Kapp said. A new mother for the third time, she has also been on each climb. "We can reach out to these people so they can give and give locally. There always seems to be a family connection. We write letters to friends and family to donate just $25."

"Maybe it takes a survivor to call and say get out of bed and do it," Kapp said. She's induced her sisters, sisters-in-law and friends to join the climbs. Her friend, Sallie Castle, a valley resident, has also done all three of the climbs.

"We really encourage people to sign up. It's not to late," Powell said. Late joiners can plan to fund-raise after the climb, she added.

"My kids have a lemonade stand. Even they've raised money to donate to EI," Kapp said.

"We're off to the races," Powell said. "We've got this five-peak initiative. We make it more about Idaho. We get up at 4 a.m. and in 24 hours climb a peak and are back home rather than flying to Argentina. It's about camaraderie and fun

Kapp became involved in promoting this five-peak challenge and is now on the EI's Advisory Board. "We have kids, demands, "said Kapp, who is an architect and lives in Philadelphia. "It's a challenge but doable. It's just great to have a focus and goal. It's one eight-hour pocket of time for a cause and for empowerment. It means a lot. Those who love you come in. In eight hours you can raise $20,000 to 30,000. It goes to fund the (Laura Evans Expedition Inspiration) Symposium for Breast Cancer Research."

"We've had a direct affect on research," Powel said.

In fact, the money raised from this fundraiser, as well as others in Los Angeles and San Francisco, has helped support the symposium and provide direct grants for research at a number of centers, including the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, and Mountain States tumor institute in Boise.

Next year the climb is on Ryan Peak, then Castle Peak in 2007 and Mount Borah in 2008.

To pre-register or get Expedition Inspiration details, call 726-6456, or e-mail

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