Lessons Learned from an Extreme Climb 


Climb for a Cure Stories
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An almost 9-year stage III colon cancer survivor diagnosed at age 34, Andy Musser planned an overnight backpacking trip with his buddies. Over three days, Andy and three friends would backpack the 31-mile Pemi Loop Trail in the White Mountains (New Hampshire). 

Ironically, a few weeks after planning his backpacking trip, Andy saw Fight CRC’s Climb for a Cure across his social media feed.  

In a lightbulb moment, Andy decided to turn his backpacking adventure into a Fight CRC fundraising mission. Andy’s three friends were supportive of him melding their hiking trip into a fundraiser for colorectal cancer research

Andy Musser and Two Friends on Pemi Loop Mountain

“Part of my goal for this quarter was to raise money for a cancer organization. It was like the stars aligned.”

–Andy Musser, stage III survivor 

Not all Climbs need to be extreme 

Fight CRC’s 2023 Climb for a Cure season began Memorial Day Weekend and extends through Labor Day. Not everyone wants to climb a mountain, and you don’t have to! You can bike, hike, swim, walk, or do yoga – whatever is comfortable and doable for you.  

But Andy wanted to climb mountains.  

Although an adventurous spirit by nature, Andy hadn’t been overnight backpacking in a long time. He enjoyed overnight backpacking and day hikes when he was younger.  

So, when Andy's friend initially talked to him about the Pemi Loop Trail expedition, Andy was all in.

Andy and his buddies Pemi Loop Trail

The best laid plans 

Originally planned as a trip of four buddies, one friend from Virginia drove up to meet Andy in Pennsylvania and continue on to New Hampshire. There, they would meet their two other friends, one of whom is a mountain guide, and together, they would overnight backpack the Pemi Loop Trail. 

Unfortunately, the best laid plans went awry. 

Two days before the trip, Andy’s buddy, the mountain guide, had to cancel due to a pre-existing back injury flare up. Undaunted and unfazed, Andy and his two other friends forged ahead. 

However, the journey was more challenging than Andy and his friends anticipated. 

Andy and his two friends crossing a bridge at Pemi Loop Trail

Starting off strong

The trail head was 60 degrees and sunny when they embarked, and Andy and his two buddies started off strong. However, the weather took a turn as they were halfway up the mountain.  

It started to lightly rain. The climb became steep. The rain picked up. Their gear became soaked.  

Despite watching the weather days ahead and packing for rain, it wreaked havoc on their hike. As equipped as the group was for June weather, their GORE-TEX boots, rain jackets, and backpack covers could not shield them from the unseasonably cold temperature and elements.  

The three friends became concerned about the temperature drop and the potential for hypothermia as they climbed the second mountain peak. Soaked to their bones, they made their way to shelter about a mile past the other side of the mountain. At that point, Andy felt pain in his knee. 

Thankful to reach a tented, covered shelter, Andy and his buddies set up space, stripped off their drenched clothing, and attempted to dry and warm up.  

Before they knew it, 10 people joined them in the stark and bare shelter that lacked warmth and comfort. Andy had a padded area to sleep on. His two friends had packed hammocks with no trees indoors to hang them from. It was a long night. 

By the next morning, with no end to the rain in sight, the three buddies headed back in the direction they came. Andy’s knee was in pain from the day before, and his friend had twisted his ankle.  

They continued walking the 4- to 5-mile span of flat ground with wet blistering feet. It was a painful last few miles, but they finally made it back to the trailhead, which ironically was 70 degrees and sunny.  

That’s where Andy’s Climb ended. Despite not hiking the 31-mile loop, the group walked about 24 miles total.   


Andy’s group hit two of the eight to 12 peaks they anticipated hitting throughout the entire hike. Despite not completing the loop, Andy said the experience was valuable.  

Andy learned a lot about his gear and also how much he could take mentally and physically. At one point, he was worried that things were getting very serious, very quickly, and it reminded him of going through his colorectal cancer diagnosis and treatment

Competitive by nature, Andy was somewhat bitter about not being able to complete the loop. Physically, he was fit and prepared for the adventure. Mentally, he felt equally prepared. He says that not completing the hike was bittersweet.  

While he learned a lot, he thought a lot about how he combined the hike with fundraising for Climb for a Cure, and it felt completely appropriate that it ended the way it did. Andy said this hike was a good reminder that people can only prepare themselves to a certain extent for anything in life. A person might be living their best life according to their five-year or 10-year plan. Then out of the blue, a cancer diagnosis pops up and rips the rug out from under them. 

Andy’s Pro Tips 

“Life constantly throws curveballs. What’s important is how you react, and what you learn from the situation.  

You can never fully prepare yourself for that battle. You must adapt, and you must find your reason; your ‘why?’ Then you have to get to safe ground. So, keep fighting. Keep climbing.  

You think, and you hope, that every day is going to be a bright clear day out on the trail. But it doesn’t always happen that way. And that’s life.

Take valuable lessons learned from it. And take those lessons to other people who need it. Whether it’s as simple as backpacking or dealing with cancer: There’s a lot of value to share with others.  

You don’t need to climb mountains to make an impact. You can go for a walk down the street. Just get outside and get active.  

It takes an army to support someone going through this. Don’t feel like you can’t make an impact. If you’re a single individual going through this, it’s so important to share our stories, to find others out there. I needed to see there are survivors. I needed to see these survivors are people climbing mountains or even walking down the street.  

Live. Enjoy your time on earth because life is short.  

Go on a journey. Go on a great adventure. Because we all need it. We’ve got to live this life.” 

What’s up next? 

Andy fully expects to conquer the Pemi-Loop Trial. We don’t doubt him for a second. 

Register today!  

If you’re ready to get active, raise funds for research, and connect with a community of Relentless Champions of Hope in the fight against colorectal cancer, Climb for a Cure is for you! Register to claim your spot today!   

Climb for a Cure season kicked off Friday, May 26, 2023, and continues through Monday, September 4, 2023. If you want to Climb, you can participate in one of our three featured events in New York, California, and Colorado, or you can host or attend an event in your own community!   

Visit Fight CRC.org/Climb for more information or to register. Visit Community.FightCRC.org for virtual support and to bond with the Climb for a Cure community all summer. 

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