They gear up carrying 20 pound training packs in preparation for an inspiring, but intimidating adventure ahead.
“I'm not afraid of it, but I do have a sober respect for it. It's dangerous,” said Ryan Frederick.
Frederick, along with three friends, are training to reach the top of Mount Rainier together this August. They’re doing it to honor Ranger Margaret Anderson, who was murdered on the mountain New Year’s Day, and Nick Hall, who died last week while trying to rescue a group of stranded climbers.
“On the mountain there are calculated risks, but in Nick's case there are unfortunate events that happen that are completely out of your control,” said group leader Michael Rowley
The young men are training at Tacoma's Point Defiance Park. The work is tough, the dangers of their climb very real.
Jeff Marsh knows that all too well. His dad was a ranger on Rainier when he was growing up. The ascent will be Jeff's first attempt at conquering the beautiful but unforgiving behemoth, where half the people who try to reach the peak fail.
“It means a lot to us to know we can go to a place like that and know that people are giving their lives to keep it safe for us,” he said.
From parking lots to steep wooded trails, to even steeper wooded trails, the guys have been training for four months now. Each step toward their goal gets tougher and tougher. They do it, though, to remind everyone of the sacrifices made by those who pledge to keep our mountain safe.
“It's impossible to set foot in that park and not think about the people who went before us,” said Marsh.
“We just want the families to know that there is a community out here that cares about them," said climber Bradley Castaneda.
The climbers have established a non-profit called the 14,4 Foundation. They’re asking people to donate 10-cents for every foot that they climb up the 14,410-foot mountain. The original goal was to help with a college fund for Margaret Anderson’s two children. They’re now expanding that to help Nick Hall’s family as well.
You can learn more about how to donate to the cause by visiting http://fourteenfour.org/