Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Climber's Cause

Mana's very own Marie DeJournette!
If you want to donate to the Breast Cancer Fund, click here
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Paia woman pairs her love for heights with a passion to prevent breast cancer.

October 17, 2010 - By KEHAULANI CERIZO, Staff Writer

PAIA - It's for her friends in Hawaii and in California. For her friends' mothers who have died. For others she's heard about but never met. And for individuals around the world who have had, have or will have breast cancer.

People propel Paia resident Marie DeJournette to climb mountains.

Although never faced with the disease, DeJournette said, trekking is her way of showing solidarity with friends and strangers in the fight against breast cancer.

"It's a metaphor I guess," DeJournette said. "Climbing a mountain is like climbing the mountain of breast cancer, like having to deal with the struggle. I obviously think climbing a mountain is a lot easier than dealing with the disease. It's just to show solidarity."

In 2007, DeJournette climbed Mount Shasta in California; in 2008, she trekked to the base of Mount Chomolhari in Bhutan; in 2009, she hiked around Mount Blanc in the French Alps and then climbed it; in July, she ventured through the wilds of Peru to Machu Picchu.

DeJournette embarks on these journeys to raise money and attention for the Breast Cancer Fund, a national nonprofit that works to prevent the cancer. To date, she's raised $45,000, according to BCF, 100 percent of which has gone directly to the organization since DeJournette pays all of her own expense for the trips.

And as National Breast Cancer Month continues, DeJournette is beginning the fundraising for her next trip in April - Mount Everest in Nepal.

DeJournette is training to climb to Everest Base Camp, roughly 17,000 feet, and the peak of Kala Pattar, more than 18,000 feet, with a group of 15 people. They will be about 14 days on the trail, facing one of the toughest regions in the world. Elevation issues are vital to training, and she currently spends weekends running 5 to 11 miles through Haleakala to prepare.

The athlete also swims, takes classes at Upcountry Fitness in Haiku and goes on trail runs through Makawao Forest Reserve. Her training will ramp up to five to six days a week once it gets closer to the trip.

DeJournette traces her love of hiking to childhood. She did her first solo long-distance hike through Haleakala when she was 15, she said. Her brother- in-law dropped her off near the top of Halemauu (switchback) trail and said, "I'll see you at Kaupo," she recalls.

"It was kinda scary," she said with a laugh. "That was like 35, 36 years ago so there weren't any people up there."

The experienced climber doesn't flinch, though, when discussing the knee-knocking elevations of her Buhtan ascent, the barreling wind speeds that forced her group to turn around on Mount Blanc, or the rockfall that could have killed members of her team on Mount Shasta.

"There's generally no turning back," she said.

Each year, DeJournette climbs with a group of about 10 to 15 people led by expert trekking guide Cathy Ann Taylor, founder of Cattara, an adventure travel company based in California. The climbs, called Sacred Treks, are also affiliated with BCF and are by invite only due to the experience involved.

DeJournette said the treks are not extremely technical but are always challenging.

"They're pretty much just slogs," she said. "On Shasta you had to do a snow school. You had to learn how to walk properly without stepping on the rope and pulling your teammates off, and how to use an ice ax and do an arrest with the ice ax. It's precarious, which is why you're roped up, but it's not super technical so a beginner can do it if they're fit."

Much of the footwork to be done now, she said, is outside of the actual climbs. DeJournette approaches friends, strangers and business contacts with information about her efforts to raise money for BCF by hiking in remote locales.

"Fundraising is difficult," said DeJournette, who hopes to raise $10,000 for her Everest climb. "I send out to everybody I know either snail mail or e-mails - friends, family business acquaintances everybody. I make up little business cards that have the donation information, and I give them to everybody I meet."

DeJournette, a Mana Foods purchasing director, credits the north shore healthy food store owners and employees for helping support her treks. She said employers allow her extra time off to travel and connect her with vendors who may want to donate.

Colleague Tara Sellars, Mana health and beauty product buyer, said that many who know DeJournette are uplifted by the work she's doing. Sellars said DeJournette never seems to slow down - both in and out of the workplace.

"Marie is such an inspiration," Sellars said. "It's totally amazing. Whether climbing these mountains, raising money for the breast cancer fund or getting us to go to the gym, she does so much."

Connie George, BCF sponsorship and climb coordinator, also hailed DeJournette's energy. "What I find compelling about Marie and her energy around supporting the Breast Cancer Fund, is that she could go on vacation anytime to satiate her love of the outdoors," George said. "However, she has chosen to incorporate giving back to a cause she deeply believes in with her love and respect for the mountains. Year after year she honors those women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer by raising money for an organization that works to prevent breast cancer."

* Kehaulani Cerizo can be reached at kehau@mauinews. com.

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