Student hopes to conquer Seven Summits

Olena Rypich
University Communications intern

Western sophomore Kristen Burrows is on her way to meeting a lofty life goal: reaching the “Seven Summits,” the highest mountains of the seven continents. This isn’t just a hobby: with every peak she climbs, she is also doing her part to help cure breast cancer.

After climbing Mount Elbrus (Europe) in 2009 and successfully summiting Mount Kilimanjaro (Africa) in 2008, Burrows has just conquered Mount McKinley (also known as Denali; it is North America’s highest peak), her third summit of the big seven. Left to go are Aconcagua (South America), Everest (Asia), Kosciuszko (Australia) and the Vinson Massif (Antarctica).

On July 1, after 20 days on the mountain, she and her team summited Denali as part of the Climb to Fight Breast Cancer challenge, raising $75,000 for Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, a world leader in cancer research. Burrows is in good company; her team of five includes her father, Chris Burrows, who has already summited all seven peaks.

Kristen, a Kinesiology major, enjoys working out and being healthy and fit, and she loves getting people outside and sharing that passion.

Having worked as the Associated Students Outdoor Center’s Western Outdoor Orientation Trips (WOOT) guide for the past two years, she will return as a WOOT leader in the fall.

Growing up in Seattle, Burrows spent a lot of time skiing at Crystal Mountain and started mountaineering with her dad in 2007. In 2008, she teamed up with her two siblings and parents for her first Fred Hutchinson climb to Mount Kilimanjaro.

“My dad has been such a great inspiration, and my mom has been behind me the whole way,
she said. “I grew up in such an active family.”

After a close friend recently succumbed to cancer (although not breast cancer), Burrows was even more determined to continue climbing for such an important cause.

She said she is certain that as soon as a cure for one type of cancer is found, it might be easier to find cures for other types.

In 15 years, Fred Hutchinson has raised more than $5.5 million for breast cancer research through the Climb to Fight Breast Cancer. Burrows started fundraising last July, almost a year before her climb. She was determined to go above and beyond to raise as much money as possible, so she wrote letters asking for donations from everyone she knew and did everything from bake sales to waxing skis.

Burrows’ individual goal was $12,500, and she exceeded it, raising more than $13,300.

“It was a huge effort, but it was worthwhile,” she said.

Burrows was responsible for paying her way through the trip, and all of the funds she raised will go toward breast-cancer research.

To prepare for the climb, she underwent rigorous training, working out for from two to three hours a day, six days a week. Her routine included carrying weights on the Stairmaster, weightlifting and running.

“I try to over-train; the more I train, the more I enjoy my climbs,” she says.

The team’s estimated arrival on Denali’s summit is July 3, and Burrows plans to continue climbing and raising money for worthy causes.

“I love doing things to help people,” she said, “It’s meant a lot for me to do something to help fight breast cancer.”

Thursday, July 5, 2012 - 12:37pm
Western sophomore Kristen Burrows enjoys the view on a recent trip to Camp Muir on Mount Rainier. An avid mountaineer, Burrows is currently participating in the Climb to Fight Cancer on Mount McKinley, which benefits the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Ce

Western sophomore Kristen Burrows enjoys the view on a recent trip to Camp Muir on Mount Rainier. An avid mountaineer, Burrows is currently participating in the Climb to Fight Cancer on Mount McKinley, which benefits the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Ce