Citlaltépetl Media

We appreciated the media coverage from the TwinCities NBC’s affiliate Kare 11 full story at this link

Read about the post climb meeting of the patients and students and see the Kare11 News Coverage

 Kare11 News Articles

Climbing a mountain for cancer research

Dr. Christopher Weight led a group of up Mexico’s tallest mountain, Pico de Orizaba, in an effort to raise funds for cancer awareness and research.

MINNEAPOLIS – Have you ever climbed a mountain and turned around? Hiking can be quite the challenge.

“Actually none of us made it to the very tip-top,” explained Dr. Christopher Weight, an assistance professor at the University of Minnesota and a specialist in Urologic Oncology.

Weight led a group of juniors and seniors from the School of Environmental Studies in Apple Valley up Mexico’s tallest mountain, Pico de Orizaba.

“As we climbed, we would measure vital signs, blood pressure, oxygenation levels and we also did some mental tests and we kept track of how our bodies adapted as we got higher and higher,” he said.

In addition to learning more about how the body adapts to lower levels of oxygen, the students were on a mission up the mountain.

“We had each student matched up with a patient who has cancer and they were climbing in honor of that patient,” Weight said.

Eleven people were in the group and were climbing for 12 patients.

“We have been climbing for patients and raising awareness for kidney cancer, research and raising funding for about five years,” Weight added.

The goal is to raise $3,500 to create a scholarship for medical students.

So in the end, it wasn’t about reaching the summit.

“You know sometimes you win, sometimes cancer ends up changing the course and even if you give it your best, you don’t always get the goal you want. But, you always end up in a better place if you’re going after a valiant project,” Weight said.

It’s the journey that matters most.

“I think the most touching part to me was to see these young people interact, they reached out to the patients, called them, emailed them or got a sense of what it’s like to battle cancer,” Weight added.

If you would like to learn more about the hike or donate to the cause, click here.

Students climb mountain to support cancer research

Billy Koenig, one of two teachers at the School of Environmental Studies in Apple Valley who attempted to climb Pico de Orizaba in Mexico, the country’s highest point, to raise awareness for kidney cancer.

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – Billy and Laura met for the first time Saturday night, but they’ve already been on quite the journey together.

“That is an actual rock star right there,” Billy says about Laura.

Billy Koenig, one of two teachers at the School of Environmental Studies in Apple Valley who attempted to climb Pico de Orizaba in Mexico, the country’s highest point, to raise awareness for kidney cancer. Each person, including eight students on the climb, carried the picture of a patient battling the disease.

“Diagnosed stage four over seven years ago,” Laura says when asked about her diagnosis.

Laura’s picture was with Billy every step of the way.

The two joined a handful of students and patients Saturday night at Vertical Endeavors in Bloomington to officially meet and look back on the climb. Also, a $3,500 check raised by students was presented that will go towards a kidney cancer research scholarship at the U of M.

Annie Weight, a senior at the School of Environmental Studies, says having that picture with her on the climb sure put things into perspective.

“Imagining the pain she had gone through, not by choice, and how much deeper and more emotionally draining that was than what I was going through, even though what I was going through was the hardest physical thing,” Weight reflects.

The group didn’t quite make it to the top of the mountain back in February like they hoped, but that is part of the lesson in this story.

“We didn’t make it to the top, but we are better than what we were when we started the journey,” Billy says.

It’s a reminder that it isn’t always about where we end up, but enjoying the view along the way.

“Make the most of it, because you never know when things are going to change in an instant,” Laura says.

There is also a nice story from the Sun Current

Dakota County’s Leading News Source

SES students prove summit is unnecessary for success

Leaving the Bold North in February for a trip to Mexico, one might expect an escape to a warm, sunny, white-sand beach. A group of students and teachers from the School of Environmental Studies, however, recently spent a week in Mexico braving sub-zero temperatures as they climbed the side of a snow-capped volcano.

In conjunction with a high-altitude physiology class, eight students and two teachers from SES set out to climb one of the world’s largest volcanoes. This excursion was more than an end-of-the-trimester adventure. Through Climb 4 Kidney Cancer (C4KC), the students raised money for kidney cancer research.

Dr. Christopher Weight, assistant professor in the University of Minnesota’s Department of Urology and parent of one of the participants, is one of the organization’s founders. He helped connect the school with the nonprofit and accompanied the class on their journey.

The trip began on Feb. 14 with a day of training. The students and teachers practiced taking vital signs such as respiratory rate, pulse, oxygenation percentage and blood pressure. They learned that during their climb they’d have about half as much oxygen available as they are used to breathing.

On Feb. 15, the group left for Mexico at 2 a.m. They spent the next several days learning about climbing, taking acclimation hikes and traveling farther up the mountain. On the seventh day of their trip, they woke up at 2 a.m. once again with their hearts set on summiting the volcano.

Rising 18,491 feet above the ocean, the Citalaltépetl Volcano, or the “Star Mountain,” is the highest peak in Mexico and the third highest point in North America.

As the students climbed, they carried with them a picture of a kidney cancer patient. Most of the team had zero climbing experience; the techniques, equipment and strategies were all new. When the going got tough, the students thought of the patients they carried with them and how they were also facing new and challenging circumstances every day.

The volcano’s Spanish name is Pico de Orizaba, and the SES students studying Spanish had many opportunities to practice their language skills as they communicated with guides and accommodation hosts.

All students got a lesson in physiology. Although they’d taken classes on the topic, they learned most when they experienced lower levels of oxygen with each elevation increase.

“As we went farther up the mountain, it was harder to breathe,” senior Shali King said. “It was hard to eat — it was hard to think.”

By 4 a.m. on summit day, the large group had split into smaller groups. Some of the students experienced symptoms of acute mountain sickness, and were forced to turn around for their own safety.

“The symptoms are nausea, headache, fatigue and dizziness,” senior Sarah Peterson said. “If you are experiencing one or two you can keep going. We were each experiencing three or four symptoms.”

The majority of the group kept climbing. Five reached the glacier, and three continued on toward the summit.

“We learned about perseverance and strength,” senior Annie Weight said. “You learn to push yourself just the right amount, and how to communicate as a team and cooperate efficiently.”

Eventually, one had to descend, and soon after poor conditions and fatigue forced the remaining two to stop. The guides reminded the students that the mountain will always be there, so their safety was the most important thing.

“We were both really set on summiting that day, but we knew no one else had made it to the top in a while, so through the day, our hopes weren’t crazy high,” senior Alex Dyson said.

“Being able to see that there was only a small stretch left to the summit — seeing how close we were, but not being able to get to the top — is a little saddening, but it was still worth it.”

For senior Nolan Bessler, the challenge, adventure and lessons learned made the journey just as valuable — summit or not.

“Having this partnership with the organization is super vital,” he said. “Having us, as students, have this incredible opportunity to go out and have this transformative experience helps us put into perspective the monumental challenges that kidney cancer patients face. It’s shown us how important it is to help them with their challenges.”

In the coming weeks, the students are hoping to meet the people who motivated them during their climb — the cancer patients each student carried with them. They are looking forward to swapping stories of the different challenges they’ve faced, and finding ways to further support kidney cancer research.

At press time, the SES students had raised $2,686 of their $3,500 goal. Although the climb is over, people can still make donations at All of the money raised will fund scholarships for kidney cancer researchers at the University of Minnesota.

To learn more about C4KC, visit

Contact Amy Mihelich at