Family tackles Everest … for mom |

Family tackles Everest … for mom

Charles AgarAspen, CO Colorado
Brian Oestrike is climbing Mount Everest in honor of his mother, who died of cancer. (Contributed photo)

ASPEN Everyone has their own way of handling grief, but when their mother died of lung cancer in 2006 the Oestrike family decided to climb the tallest mountain in the world.

“This is how we dealt with our mourning,” said Katie Oestrike, 25, an Aspen resident who will work as support staff for her older brother, Brian, 27, and friend Justin Hewitt in their Everest summit attempt this spring.”I didn’t know anything about lung cancer,” Katie said about when her mother, Jackie, found out she had the disease. But in those harrowing six months before she passed away in June 2006, the Oestrike kids – Katie, Brian, Andy and their father Henry – learned a lot. And after their mother’s passing decided to learn more, honor their mother’s memory and make a difference.Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, the Oestrike kids are well-traveled and are scattered across the country – Katie settled in Aspen after visiting town with her Colorado State roommate, Rachel Rankin, a graduate of Basalt High School.Katie and Rankin became fast friends and enjoy life in the mountains, Rankin as an employee at the Ute Mountaineer and Katie a ski instructor.And Rankin will join Katie on the adventure of a lifetime this spring.Katie’s brother Brian, an accomplished climber and mountaineer, took the whole family on a climb up Mount Raineer shortly after the death of their mother, and that’s where he proposed the plan: To climb Everest to honor their mother, increase awareness about lung cancer and support Lungevity, a nonprofit raising money for cancer research.”We all said ‘yes,'” Katie remembers, and since then the family has been on a mission to get Brian and Hewitt to the top of the world’s highest peak, without oxygen if possible.

Katie has done some high altitude climbing in South America in preparation for her role in the ascent, and she and Rankin will travel first to Nepal, then Tibet, to act as support for Brian and Hewitt.

The two women will climb as far as the advanced base camp, at 19,000 feet, to bring supplies and offer radio support (they’re going without Sherpas) and are busy these days not just raising funds and organizing gear, but training for the effort.The permit to climb from the Tibetan side cost $6,000 to the top of Everest, and $3,000 for support staff as far as the advanced base camp. And while the climbers are covering the cost of their flights to Nepal as well as their own climbing gear (with a little help from some sponsors) the team hopes to raise enough money to cover the permits and raise money for Lungevity.Their benchmark goal is $50,000.Oestrike and Rankin are busy selling T-shirts around town (you can spot them in their “Climb for Cancer” shirts on any given day) as well as Tibetan prayer flags people can sign and climbers will carry to the top of the mountain.

And on April 13th, they’ll hold a fundraiser at 6:30 p.m. at the Tavern in The Little Nell. With live music by Lauren Storall and Kory Krahl and a silent auction, the women hope the place will be packed and the $65 admission tickets will raise money for the effort.On April 28, the climbing team – which are bolstered by family and friends nationwide – will hold a “satellite adventure” where donors can support various teams doing anything from hiking from Aspen to Crested Butte, paddling long distances, or to what Hewitt’s mother is doing: walking a distance of 29,141 feet (just under six miles), the height of Mt. Everest.”The whole process has been so exciting,” Katie said. Both envision trials, like the long overland trip from Nepal to Tibet, and Katie joked that it will be interesting spending five weeks with her brother, but the well-traveled pair say they’re ready.”I’m always so excited to travel … but the summit moment will be the best … I just envision that moment,” Rankin said.”We’ve had some great connections,” Katie said, and thanks to generous support they’ll be documenting their adventures on video and streaming live feeds to their website as they go.

To follow the trip, visit and read about the two climbers now on the ground in Nepal acclimatizing and making preparations for the ascent this spring.For information about Lungevity, visit for more information about the fundraiser, contact Rachel Rankin at (970) 690-7190, or Katie Oestrike at Agar’s e-mail address is

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