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Cristin Bailey of Center Sandwich plans to climb Mount Shasta in California in June to raise money for the Breast Cancer Fund's "Climb Against the Odds." (COURTESY)

Climbing a mountain to trample on cancer


When Cristin Bailey turns 40 in June, she's looking to avoid feeling over the hill by standing atop a mountain.

Bailey, a Center Sandwich resident and member of the U.S. Forest Service, has climbed mountains around the world and reached dozens of summits, but this June, she's ready to take on a new challenge: climbing for a cause.

Bailey, 39, will join 20 other climbers from June 15 to 20 in climbing Mount Shasta in northern California to raise money for the Breast Cancer Fund's "Climb Against the Odds." Organizers of the fund hope to raise at least $180,000 through efforts by each individual climber.

Bailey had already reached her initial minimum fundraising goal of $6,000 before adding more than $3,000 at an event Friday.

"I've decided to up my goal now to $10,000," she said.

Bailey is making the climb in memory of her grandmother who died of breast cancer.

"I was just 13 when she passed away, so I didn't get to build the type of relationship I wish I had with her before she was gone," said Bailey. "This whole experience of getting ready for the climb and training has been great for me, but it's also brought my family together. My mother and sisters and I have enjoyed time together sharing stories about my grandmother. It's been a really good experience for all of us to relive it. Every time we talk about it, the easier the stories are to tell. I love hearing them."

Bailey said she will carry with her a prayer flag with her grandmother's name on it to place at the peak of Mount Shasta. Anyone who donates at least $100 to her fundraising effort can also have a custom prayer flag made to honor the memory of a loved one, which she will also carry to the summit.

Bailey says she expects to reach the summit of Mount Shasta - 14,179 feet above sea level - on June 18, the same day she turns 40.

"I expect it to be an uplifting experience," said Bailey. "I hope there is a moment to take it all in, to reflect on the whole journey."

Bailey said she is the only person from New Hampshire on the team, and she has yet to meet any of her fellow climbers.

"We'll all get to know each other pretty quickly when we're strung together, relying on each other to get to the top," said Bailey. "Some of them are breast cancer survivors, and when you think about the mountains they have already faced in life, I am honored to be a part of that team with them. The fact that you go in as strangers on this journey is what makes it so unique."

The first Climb Against the Odds expedition took place in 1995, when Breast Cancer Fund founder Andrea Martin accepted a challenge to face mountains, both the metaphoric and real kind, by climbing Mount Aconcagua in Argentina with 16 other breast cancer survivors. Since then, more than 400 climbers have undertaken 13 Climb Against the Odds expeditions, most of them on Shasta.

"This climb is something I have wanted to do since I first learned about it in college when I attended a presentation by a climber in Maine," said Bailey. "To say she inspired me is an understatement. It's taken me 15 years to finally sign up, and her inspiration is still with me."

Bailey has been training for the climb by playing soccer in Tilton and hiking trails with the Forest Service. She says she recently realized the timing of her climb is even more special.

"My daughter is 9, and I'm about the same age my mother was when my grandmother died," said Bailey. "And now my mother is a grandmother to my daughter. Our family story has come full circle."

Bailey is writing a blog about her fundraising efforts and preparing for the climb at http://cristinbaileysclimbagainsttheodds2014.blogspot.com.

Information on how to donate in her name is included in the blog, or go to http://goo.gl/7ngzEM.

pfeely@unionleader.com

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