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The Annual Flagstaff Climb to Conquer Cancer

I've lived in Flagstaff, AZ, since 2003, where I'm an active member of the Coconino County Sheriff's Search & Rescue team and an avid hiker.

Photos of our fathers on the Climb to Conquer Cancer t-shirt

Photos of our fathers on the Climb to Conquer Cancer t-shirt

A Fun Fundraising Event From the American Cancer Society

Our fathers met before we did—in the waiting room of the Northern Arizona Cancer Center. Years later, soon after Jeremy and I met, we showed each other photos of our fathers, both of whom had passed away in 2007, and I immediately recognized the man who would have become my father-in-law.

I'd taken my dad to his appointment and was sitting in the waiting room with him when, as always, he struck up a conversation with a man sitting nearby. They chatted for at least 15 minutes—talking sports, as I recall, which was a passion for them both, and laughing—until my future husband's father was called by the nurse.

In 2012, as Jeremy and I walked up the mountain with thousands of others during the Climb to Conquer Cancer, we talked about that day our fathers met in the waiting room, wishing they could have been there to meet again after Jeremy and I became a couple. We've often talked about how much our dads would have enjoyed each other's company. Sadly, cancer took them both, just months apart.

These days, it's extremely rare that a person doesn't know someone who's been affected by cancer, whether it's a relative, a friend, a coworker, or they've actually had some form of the disease themselves. Most of us know someone who's fighting cancer or have lost someone to it. Unfortunately, it's a common bond most of us can share and empathize with.

And that's true in a big way among the huge crowd of people who turn out each year for Flagstaff's Climb to Conquer Cancer, when we all wear our brightly-colored t-shirts, which this year were a bold orange, and walk 7 miles up Snowbowl Road.

While it's a personal occasion for us all, it's also a fun shared experience (and good exercise too!), which takes place mid-August each year. Here, I'll tell you about the climb and show you some photos from this year's event, which raised over $238,000 for the fight against cancer.


About the Climb to Conquer Cancer Event

Come one, come all....

Whether you want to walk as an individual or join as part of a group of 8 to 15 people, you're invited to do the Climb to Conquer Cancer.

Each year, the Flagstaff event begins at the bottom of curvy Snowbowl Road, which climbs 2,200 vertical feet to the ski resort of the same name in the San Francisco Peaks. Along the way, there are numerous drink and snack stations sponsored by local businesses and radio stations.

At the top, after you pass through the big inflated arch and rows of cheerleaders, you can go have lunch at Hart Prairie Lodge, provided each year by Outback Steakhouse.

You'll receive ahead of time the event t-shirt in the chosen bright color of the year. You'll also receive a ticket for lunch (although I lost mine, and they let me through, no problem). If you're with a group of 12 or more, you can get your company or other group logo on the back of your shirt.

A free shuttle is provided for the ride back down to the parking lot at the bottom of Snowbowl Rd. and to Flag High in any of dozens of school and city buses. Except for the shuttles and emergency vehicles, which slowly pass in the right lane, the road is closed to regular traffic until 11am. Until then, beginning at 7am, the left lane is for those on foot, on strollers, and in wheelchairs.


Walk With Me

Set your alarm for 5:30 on Saturday

That's what time we get up because we need some time to let the dogs out before we go. But as long as you're ready to leave by 6:00, we'll wait.

There's plenty of parking in the big field at the bottom of Snowbowl Rd. and lots of volunteer parking attendants to keep things orderly, but we like to get there early.

There is no big send-off at the beginning of the climb, as there is for a race event. People basically just start walking when they're ready, but the "official" start time is 7am. I did see orange shirts heading up the road before that, though, and lots of people started much later. But given that the road re-opens to traffic at 11:00 and also the fact that this can still be thunderstorm season—which it started doing right about 11am today, the day of the climb—we like to be finished walking before prime storm time without having to rush.

You might be doing some gaspin' in the aspen if you aren't used to the altitude.

You might be doing some gaspin' in the aspen if you aren't used to the altitude.

A High-Elevation Walk

The city of Flagstaff sits at 7,000 feet above sea level, and your Climb to Conquer Cancer will begin higher than that and take you up to over 9,000 feet at the end at Hart Prairie Lodge. So, if you're not from Flag or somewhere else at significant elevation, you're probably going to feel it as you walk.

Regardless, there's no need to speed walk. Take your time, enjoy the scenery and the company, and stop for a rest, a drink, and a snack whenever you feel like it. This is definitely no race; although it's certainly an accomplishment.

FYI: There are plenty of port-o-potties along the way, so don't be afraid to drink as much as you need to. You won't have to detour for a walk in the woods if nature calls.

There are water and snack stations more than every mile, with portable bathrooms nearby.

There are water and snack stations more than every mile, with portable bathrooms nearby.


We Made It!

You're not far from the finish here at the entrance to Snowbowl. Just a little further and you'll pass under the arch, greeted by cheers for a job well done. Then head on over to pick up lunch—it's been chicken Caesar salad, bread and butter, and fruit for years now—grab a seat and hang out with some live music in the background.

When you're ready, get in line for a shuttle back down the long and winding road you just climbed. (Strollers and wheelchairs are welcome on the shuttles.)

If the weather holds up, you can extend your day on the mountain with a trip up to Agassiz Peak—the easy way—on the Scenic Skyride. Take the ski lift up to 11,500 feet, where you can enjoy awesome views and information from an interpretive specialist. Visit the Arizona Snowbowl Scenic Skyride page for more information.

The ride, beginning here along Snowbowl Rd, is about 25 minutes each way. Tickets are available at the lodge. See the peak is in the distance.

The ride, beginning here along Snowbowl Rd, is about 25 minutes each way. Tickets are available at the lodge. See the peak is in the distance.

A Message From the American Cancer Society

Details, Registration, and Fundraising Information

Other Annual Climbs to Conquer Cancer

All of these events are fundraisers for the American Cancer Society. To find events of all kinds in your area, look here:

Feel free to leave information in the comments about other ACS fundraisers or similar events to raise money and awareness for the treatment and hopefully someday cure for cancer of all kinds.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2013 Deb Kingsbury

Do you know someone affected by cancer? And have you ever participated in a cancer fundraiser?

lesliesinclair on August 19, 2013:

Yes, me, twice, but I've not done a fundraiser yet. If I find one with as beautiful country as the one you feature I might join in.

Renaissance Woman from Colorado on August 19, 2013:

This is a walk I could see myself doing. I've always loved participating in walks, runs, or bike rides for worthy causes (especially cancer research). I think it is extraordinary how your parents met in that waiting room. Like you, I do wish your fathers could have continued to develop a friendship, and to be around to enjoy celebrating your relationship with Jeremy. You asked about cancer. My mother is fighting three different cancers. My niece (brother's daughter) just fought a difficult battle with a lung cancer. And my brother has been recently treated for skin cancer. Can't wait for the day we find a cure.

amosvee on August 19, 2013:

What a great story. (And nicely done lens!) Lost my dad in 2011, and often think "I wish Dad could be here to see..." a new grandchild, a marriage, etc.

Gregory Moore from Louisville, KY on August 18, 2013:

Yes, I know several people that have been affected by cancer, and several that ultimately lost their lives to it. I am happy to support any event that helps to promote research to fight this disease.