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December 12, 2003

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Publication Date: Friday, December 12, 2003

Scaling Everest for ailing coach Scaling Everest for ailing coach (December 12, 2003)

Twisters holds climb-a-thon for instructor with terminal lung disease

By Jon Wiener

Stacey Collver knew something was wrong. The Mountain View resident and rock-climbing instructor at Twisters Gym was scrambling her way to a second place finish in the women's 35-39 year-old age group at the Phoenix Bouldering Competition, an international event held this spring. But even as she was reaching the pinnacle of her climbing career, she was getting hints of the obstacles that lay ahead.

"I didn't know I was sick, but I could only hike to the closest rocks," said Collver, 36. "It took me an hour just to get to the start."

While out for a walk in August, Collver was struggling to catch her breath at the top of a short hill. Her friend, who also happens to be a pulmonary specialist at Stanford, suspected something worse than the severe asthma Collver's doctor had diagnosed. A CT scan of Collver's lungs confirmed the worst: she had developed lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM), a cancer-like disease that blocks the lungs, blood and lymph vessels. The disease is terminal, and the only known treatment is a lung transplant, for which most wait two years. These days, Collver cannot go anywhere without a tank of oxygen. She has had to quit her job after six years of coaching the Twisters Youth Climbing Team and managing the climbing gym. She has yet to receive a disability check from the government and is facing mounting medical expenses, spending $150 each month on oxygen alone.

Collver's friends from the climbing world have come to her aid, setting up a fund called the Wind Song Foundation. "Wind Song" is the translation of Collver's Chinese birth name.

It's an awkward position for the 85-pound native of Taiwan, depending on others for help. The woman who once organized charity events herself and climbed and rode her bike to raise money for the sick, will have to sit and watch this Saturday, while the youngsters she taught to climb race up the walls at Twisters to raise money for their former coach.

Several elite climbers will join the Twisters Youth Climbing Team in an attempt to climb the height of Mount Everest, 29,028 feet, in a seven-hour period. Each climber will have one hour to reach their goal of 1,000 feet, or approximately one trip up the 25-foot wall every minute and 30 seconds.

Scott Cory, at 13 the youngest person to climb El Capitan at Yosemite National Park, will be a special guest climber at the event.

Ian Humphreys, a Palo Alto resident and a three-year veteran of the climbing team, is excited to participate in the event. "Stacey has dedicated a lot of time to coaching, and she deserves all the help we can give her," said Humphreys.

Twisters is the latest in a string of climbing gyms to hold a climb-a-thon to benefit Collver. She is also benefiting from the support of a program called Summits for Stacey, sponsored by SheClimbs, Inc. Collver founded the Bay Area chapter and served as the president of the national organization until recently. Collver said the lessons she has learned from climbing are buoying her spirits as she faces a battle more daunting than any ascent.

"To get through things you have to have confidence. If you're unsure of yourself, if you hesitate, if you're really scared, you're not going to do it," she said. For information about Wind Song Foundation and Summits for Stacey, visit windsongfoundation.org. Anyone interested in sponsoring a climber for Saturday's Mt. Everest Climb-a-thon at Twisters Gym can contact Stacey Collver at 776-8629 or Stacey@windsongfoundation.org.


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