By Mike Boisvert.

GO member Cason Crane finished climbing the highest summits in each continent [seven] on Denali July 6th to become the first openly gay man to do so!!! During his quest, he has been raising money and awareness for gay youth suicide prevention. Did we mention he is only 20 years old? GO to the end of this story for the updates we posted as he climbed Mt. Everest and Denali.  

I am excited that Cason has become the first openly gay mountaineer to climb all seven summits. He is the founder of the Rainbow Summits Project, which ties together his passion for climbing with his advocacy for the Trevor Project, an organization which seeks to stops suicides for LGBTQ youth. The Rainbow Summits Project hopes to raise awareness and funds by climbing the highest peak on each continent, commonly referred to as "the seven summits". Cason told OutSports, "I'm so lucky to have had such a positive experience and I'm doing this project for kids like this who have had a much tougher time, who deal with this every day." Cason will be the first openly gay person to accomplish this feat, in addition to becoming the fifth youngest person ever to climb these mountains. 

Having unsuccessfully trying to reach the summit of Aconcagua in Argentina twice and the summit of Denali once in Alaska [both listed on the Seven Summits], I personally know the difficulty of this quest. I have nothing but respect for Cason. I look forward to reading and following his quest in the months to come!

Cason wrote on his personal blog, " I hope my adventure will serve as an inspiration to young people like me to be true to who they are and to know that they are not alone. It's also my hope that calling attention to this rampant problem will help kid's parents, families, and friends be there for the young people in their lives as they discover and embrace who they are."

The Rainbow Summit Project was born from tragedy. As a junior in high school, one ofCason's friends committed suicide. He was further shocked in 2010 by the suicide of Tyler Clementi at Rutgers, someone he did not know but whose story touched him. "Confronted by the tragic deaths of my friend and Tyler and witnessed daily the trails and tribulations facing LGBTQ youth, I felt compelled to work to make things better for these youth," he wrote in an essay on his blog. Climbing mountains to raise awareness was his contribution to the Trevor Project, as are the more than $105,00 in donations he has raised for the group [you can donate here].  

His parents are able to financially support his climbs, which allows all the money raised to go directly to the Trevor Project. When Cason climbs, it's always with a guide service he has paid for. The climb is a team effort that can be as many as nine other climbers plus guides, all of them strangers. OutSports asked him how he brings up the fact that he is gay and what his mission is. "I'm pretty obviously gay, I'll tell you that," he said laughing. "My pink compression socks and rainbow flag definitely confirm things for people who are questioning. Seriously, there are a sizable minority of climbers who are doing these climbs for a cause and it's one of the first things that comes up. And once the rainbow flag comes out, everyone on the mountain knows."

Cason has already reached the summit on five of the seven mountains. He arrived in Nepal April 1st and is currently at the Mt. Everest Base Camp training on the Khumbu Icefall as he begins preparations for climbing Mt. Everest, the world's tallest mountain and hopes to finish by mid-May. Then in mid-July, if all goes according to plan, Cason will stand on the summit of Denali in Alaska, the tallest mountain in North America, mission accomplished. He will have climbed the tallest peak on all seven continents, becoming the first openly gay climber to do so and in the process raise money and awareness for teen suicide prevention.

The peaks of the Seven Summits are: Mount Everest in Nepal [Asia]; Cerro Aconcagua in Argentina [South America]; Denali in Alaska, also known as Mount McKinley [North America]; Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania [Africa]; Mount Elbrus in Russia [Europe]; Vison Massif [Antartica]; Carstensz Pyramid in New Guinea [Australia].  

Being a competive athlete, Cason is no stranger to training and he is focused now on being in the best shape possible as Everest and Denal loom. At  6 feet tall and 158 pounds, he wants to add a few pounds since all climbers lose weight due to a lessening of the appetite at high altitude and rigors of the climb. The physical aspects are the easy part, he said.

Cason told OutSports, "It's really, really, is so much more mental than physical. If you looked at the best climbers of the world, they would be fit but they're not going to look like Michael Phelps, they're not going to look like Rafa Nadal, they're not going to look like David Beckham. Our sport doesn't require chiseled abs. What it really, really requires more than anything else is mental fortitude to just put one foot in front of the other for six, seven, eight hours a day for weeks at a time. Overcoming obstacles ~ physical, mental, emotional ~ thinking you won't ever be able to make it, thinking you won't make it up the mountain and just somehow committing until you get up to the top safely and back down safely." 

When he was young, he used to dream of climbing to the top of world. As he grew older, this fascination and passion developed into the love of the outdoors and hiking. When he was 15, he climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa at 19,340 feet, with his mother. When he crested the Stella Ridge on Summit Day, he knew that climbing mountains was something he wanted to do with his life. So when he began a gap year at Choate, he decided he would try another mountain. So when he began training with Lydia Bradey [the first woman to summit Mt. Everest without oxygen] in New Zealand, he decided he would commit to doing the Seven Summits, and to do it for a good cause.

The scariest thing that has happened to him was the descent from the summit of Mount Aconcagua. The team had to make the summit day push a day early to avoid a huge five-day storm that was sweeping in, and the weather began coming in when we were approximately an hour from the top. He kept going despite the weather and made it to the summit before the weather had deteriorated too much, but the weather got much worse very quickly. His visibility on the descent was less than 1 meter. The winds were blowing 70+ mph and whipping his face with snow. It was rough. That was when he learned that getting to the top was great, but you're only halfway done when you summit. Getting down safely ~ if not more ~ important. And it's often harder, in his opinion.


Denali [Mount McKinley Update [6/20/13]

The team is camped on a broad glacier, with spectacular views of Denali, soaring 12,500′ above them.  They traveled about five miles up glacier from Base Camp to reach this site and today they began employing a strategy called “double carrying,” which is designed to help them move their mountain of supplies and equipment, as well as aid their acclimatization.

Double carrying means that they basically load up half of their total “stuff” (food, fuel, extra clothing, equipment that they won’t need immediately, etc) and carry it up to, or near, their next camp.  They dig a deep hole in the snow and bury the equipment and supplies, making a cache that they will later retrieve.  We bury our caches to protect them from the very determined ravens that have learned to enjoy the food of lazy climbers!  After making their cache, they dropped back down to camp at 7,800′ for the night.  This process of climbing high and sleeping low helps their bodies ease into the higher elevation of their next camp.

The plan is to move up to a beautiful basin at 11,200′ tomorrow and set up camp.  This is a long, hard day of about 4.5 miles and 3,400′ of elevation gain.  They will spend at least three nights at the next camp.

Denali Climb Update [7/1/2013]

Cason is at the big basin 14,400' camp. The team is sitting in camp, acclimatizing and hoping that the weather above will mellow out a bit and allow them to go higher. The extreme high temperatures of Alaska last week have been replaced by snow and wind. The forecast is a bit unsettled for the next couple days, but one thing you can always predict, the weather will always change...  

Mount Everest Climb Updates

On April 16th and 17th, Cason was at the ice fall training station, honing his skills in order to move efficiently and swiftly through the Khumbu ice fall when the time comes for his first trip up the mountain. An April 18th he climbed up to Camp One of Mt. Pumori, providing not only a great view of their route up the South Col of Everest, but also of the North Col of Everest over to China. He will be leaving early tomorrow morning to go through the ice fall.  

Mount Everest Climb Update 4/28/13

Cason and the climbing team left basecamp at 2AM on Wednesday and began their ascent through the Khumbu Icefall when the freezing temperatures glue ice blocks in place and arrived at Camp 1 [19,000 ft.] On Friday they made their way up the Western Cwm [bowl] to the base of the Lhotse face and reached Camp II [21,300 ft.] Cason is warm, happy and resting well. 

Mount Everest Climb Update 5/5/13

This past week Cason went back down to Base Camp to rest for a couple days and then went from Base Camp to Camp 2 in a day, no stopping at Camp 1.

This is the second rotation up the hill, and team aims not to stay at Camp 1 any longer. 

Cason Crane and his Sherpa Tenzing were first to Camp 2! He was followed by the others who were spread out between Guides Ang Dorjee and Dean Staples and Thomas's Sherpa Ang Gelu.

One of the challenging factors was the tremendously cold wind - some of the team  wearing all their clothes (two down jackets plus a goretex jacket, but not down suits) walking to Camp 2 in the sun! [Cason is on the left in the picture below in Camp 2]

Their objective today [5/5/13] was to touch Camp 3 that sits on a small ledge [24,500 ft] and return to Camp 2 to sleep. They were toying with sleeping up there but the weather forecast was for very high winds. It seems that so far the winds have been mainly focussed on the tops.

Their amazing hard working Sherpas have commented on very cold high winds on the South Col.

Very sadly, this morning a Sherpa from another team passed away at Camp 3 just before descending. We send our sincere condolences to the expedition and to his family. The rescue team did an exceptional job of lowering his body down the Lhotse face; safely and professionally.

Tomorrow they are having a rest day at Camp 2 then leaving early in the morning to descend past Camp 1 and the icefall to Base Camp.

Mount Everest Climb Update 5/12

This past week Cason went back down to Base Camp to rest before the final climb to the summit itself. There may be many rest days depending on the weather. 

One of the most difficult things on an expedition to a Himalayan giant is the WAIT. Sometimes, once the climber is acclimatized it is only a matter of a few days rest before they can go up the mountain and make a bid for the summit. This is where the daily weather forecast from Switzerland is essentially the highlight of the day...will the forecast show the winds abating up high? Will the projected summit window move an earlier  or later day? Hopefully not a later date. 

LOTS of meetings and conversations today, and even a party!

The Everest summit day team now consists of seven climbers, three climbing guides, and probably at least 15 – 18 Sherpa including Thomas and Cason’s private Sherpas, Ang Gelu and Phurba Tenzing respectively. Oxygen has to be supplied to Camp 3 for sleeping then travelling to Camp 4 (South Col), then for sleeping at South Col, then another four bottles for the summit day climb. Each bottle when full weighs at least 3.5 kg, then you have a regulator and mask for each person plus of course extras… extra bottles of Oxygen and extra masks and regulators.

Yesterday the ropes were fixed properly to the summit of Mt Everest. A member and climbing Sherpas from another team has summitted in very high winds today and apparently he could barely be understood on the radio it was so windy! Now the ropes have been fixed teams will be able to climb Everest over the next week or so, and in windy conditions smaller teams will be able to make their way up, logistics and management being easier with a small team than with a big team. The more summit windows that exist, this reduces climbing numbers on any day, which is good for us.

Today the Everest team had their oxygen briefing; how to use the masks, regulators and attach them to the bottles of oxygen safely. [Picture is of Cason with his oxygen mask on]. Everyone tried them on with glasses and goggles and hats and helmets (which may or may not use depending upon how dry the terrain is). Keeping the masks warm and the valves clear was also explained.

This was fun and suddenly the reality of climbing to the summit of Mt Everest was made real, and even a little intimidating.

Mount Everest Climb Update 5/26/12

So Cason Crane and the team are back at Base camp!

They were greeted in the icefall with beer, juice, cheers! 

Everyone is in good health, and there are lots of stories being told, most are not appropriate for this story!

There will be plenty more photos posted but here is a photo of Cason at Base Camp to prove all is well. 

Go Cason, it's great to have you back!

Let's party!!!!

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