URI freshman to climb Mt. Rainier to raise funds for charity serving urban youth

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KINGSTON, R.I. – February 26, 2013 – University of Rhode Island freshman Ryan Wichelns has spent five years trying to reach the summit of all 46 Adirondack mountain peaks greater than 4,000 feet. When he accomplishes the feat this summer, he plans to celebrate by climbing one of the tallest mountains in the Lower 48, Mount Rainier in Washington.

“I’ve always loved being outside — I’ve been going on family camping trips forever – and I love the physical and mental challenge of hiking and climbing,” said Wichelns, a journalism major from Stillwater, N.Y. “I’ve progressed from hiking to climbing in the Adirondacks and now to wanting to do larger mountains.”

Wichelns is climbing the 14,409-foot Mount Rainier to raise funds for Big City Mountaineers, a Denver-based charity that takes underprivileged inner-city youth on hiking, backpacking and paddling trips, providing many of them with their first taste of the great outdoors. He said he values the experiences he has had in the Adirondacks and wants to help others benefit from similar opportunities. Wichelns is half way to his $10,000 fund raising goal.

“Rainier is the foremost mountaineering mountain in the continental U.S., and a great first mountaineering peak for me,” said Wichelns, who will climb the mountain with a group of other climbers raising money for Big City Mountaineers. “I’ve done a little mountaineering, some ice climbing and rock climbing, but Rainier is putting it all together in one package. It’s the most glaciated volcanic peak in the U.S., so it’s more than anything I’ve ever done.”

The URI student describes the climb as “a two-day sprint up the mountain” that requires technical skill and great physical fitness to achieve. He admits to being a little nervous about the climb, in part because he has never spent time at such a high elevation, but he claims the biggest challenge is meeting his fundraising goal.

If everything goes according to plan, Wichelns will reach the top of Mount Rainier on August 11.

A member of the URI rowing team, Wichelns said that workout sessions with the rowing team should put him in good shape for his summer of mountain climbing, but he won’t be resting after the semester is over. He and a friend plan to hike 200 miles across the Adirondacks over three weeks in June, leaving them a month to continue to workout and prepare to climb Rainier.

Wichelns enrolled at URI after spending annual family vacations in the area for most of his childhood. “I fee like I know South County like I know my hometown,” he said.

He has had a lifelong interest in writing, and he hopes to combine a degree in journalism and his passion for climbing into a career.

“I’d love to write for an outdoor publication,” Wichelns said. “I like the news aspect of journalism, too, but ideally I’d like to continue climbing progressively larger mountains and share those experiences in stories I write for an outdoor magazine.”

Those interested in supporting his Mount Rainier fundraising campaign for Big City Mountaineers can visit his website at www.adirondacktraverse.org.

Photo submitted by Ryan Wichelns