The Survivor Series
Becky Gray on Mt. Cube – with the Dartmouth ‘77 Team
2,909 ft. 4 miles
The Prouty Mountaineering Program
(the first Prouty Challenge Event benefitting Dartmouth-Hitchcock Norris Cotton Cancer Center)
October 28, 2012
The Prouty Mountaineering Program is dedicated to people dealing with cancer – patients, care providers, families and friends. This is the second in a series of blogs about cancer survivors who come out to celebrate being alive, climbing in the mountains of New Hampshire and Vermont. The survivor series is about a very special group – cancer survivors sharing their stories and a day hiking with us in the Hills.
Becky Gray starting the climb of Mt. Cube
Victory in cancer is normally measured in 5 year survival, and by that measure Becky Gray is a Triple Crown winner – a 15 year survivor of breast cancer. But “survivorship” is different than really being alive – and Becky is one of those people who is really alive every hour of the day. Becky is a dedicated outdoors-woman; expert bird hunter, fisher and author of 11 cookbooks about cooking wild game. She recently served as an expert editor for the 75th anniversary edition of The Joy of Cooking. She has written for publications including Saveur, Town & Country, Playboy, and Attaché, and is the author of 11 books on food including her bestselling Eat Like a Wildman and her latest release American Artisanal: Finding the Country’s Best Real Food, from Cheese to Chocolate. Check out some of her publications: food writer and cookbook editor
Unfortunately, the long-term effects of cancer treatment – particularly radiation and chemotherapy – include osteoporosis, and last year Becky shattered her ankle. She is fully ambulatory at this point, but just starting to get her legs back under her. We were both delighted – and a little terrified – to have her out on the first hike post-accident.
The team preparing for the summit push
This climb is part of the Prouty Challenge Event Series, and Becky has been a critical player in getting the Kilimanjaro trip off the ground. She joined the Norris Cotton Cancer Center in ‘09, and has helped the team build the main bicycling/walking event into a tremendous event – both financially and in building participation and awareness. Becky has been a dedicated co-conspirator of mine in building an outdoors program in the Prouty, and has done a terrific job in getting the details squared away for this year’s Kilimanjaro trip.
Martha Chapman and Becky near the summit of Mt. Cube
This should not come as a surprise as she and husband Ed (D ’67, T ’71) built and ran Gray’s Sporting Journal, including a vibrant associated sporting travel business. There is a major point of reinforcement building between folks interested in the Prouty and the outdoor oriented Challenge Events – and the promotional and web based support generated by Becky. Consider that all of the hikers in the photo below are multi-year participants in the Prouty.
Prouty veterans on the Mt. Cube hike
My preferred route up Mt. Cube is from Baker Rd. in Orford, NH up the cross Rivendell Trail. This starts out on Baker Road on the track of the old Appalachian Trail. The Appalachian Trail was re-routed to the south and east several years ago, and the local folks built a foot-trail across the Rivendell School District, utilizing part of the old trail through Orford. Rivendell was originally the fictional refuge of elves in J. R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Rivendell, is derived from the words meaning split valley, and applies to a school district which lies in both New Hampshire and Vermont. This is particularly appropriate moniker for states habitually split by the Connecticut River, political affiliation, fiscal policy and geological origin – Vermont is part of the North American Plate and New Hampshire part of the European Plate.
This hike was supported by the Dartmouth Class of 1977 in general, and the erstwhile brothers of Theta Delta Chi in particular. We were joined on the hike by class President, Nancy Vespoli, a veteran of Kilimanjaro as well. Theta Delta Chi has had the pleasure of being a great supporter of the Prouty, led by a terrific group of undergraduates captained by Tommy Patek D’13, and including Ed Gray (Becky’s husband), Dr. Mark Israel (Director of NCCC) and all of the guys in the photo below.
Dartmouth ‘77’s preparing for Mt. Cube
Homecoming brought most of the team into town
Becky showed up ready to climb, and did a great job getting up through the rubble of quartzite boulders on the west slope of the Hill. Always ready to engage in a little wild food foraging, she brought along tools and an encyclopedic knowledge for a little wild mushroom hunting. I’ve been a dedicated hunter my whole life, but this was something wonderfully new – and quite enlightening. We broke through the Valley fog around 2,000 ft., and got a strange view between the cloud layers. Becky made it to a few hundred yards from the summit, and wisely turned around prior to the steep and slippery glacial polished quartzite slabs in the last quarter mile.
Becky Gray on the quartzite ledge near the summit
Nancy Vespoli, Gary Rogers and Pete Volanakis at the summit
The author at the summit with his canine fan club
This hike was a great opportunity to kick off the day prior to the football game – which turned out to be a study in frustration. The summit team reunited on the descent, and bumped into an unexpected tribute, carved in a fallen beech tree. This was a terrific day with a dedicated outdoors-woman, and a wonderful cancer survivor.
The work of a secret admirer
I have the privilege of leading a team of climbers – including a number of cancer survivors – up Mt Kilimanjaro this December. If you have someone that you would like to honor at the top of Kilimanjaro, please let me know who, how you would like them honored, and especially if mountains and natural beauty were important to them – to do this job right, it really helps to know the story (send to firstname.lastname@example.org). If you want to donate directly, please see the Prouty page at http://reachforthepeaks.kintera.org/faf/search/searchTeamPart.asp?ievent=1019697&team=5181015.
Please make a donation as you see fit – all amounts great and small are really appreciated. Anything that we can do to support people in active treatment we will try to accomplish – signs, poems songs – you name it. Amazingly, there is good cell service on areas of the mountain and we will get photos, audio and video out for the support of patients in active treatment ASAP.
In the meantime, if you would like to come along on a Prouty prep hike, just drop me a line at the email above – we are out almost every weekend, and we really enjoy meeting new climbers.
Remember, it’s all about people.
All the Best from Kilimanjaro