HOLDEN — “A lot of people can see big mountain climbing as being very selfish,” said Mark Parella, a Holden native and seasoned mountain climber with Mount Everest and Ama Dablam, both in the Himalayas, under his belt.
He has been on a mission to change that.
“I kind of wanted to change that persona and make it for more than just myself, so I started Climb Against Cancer,” he said.
Climb Against Cancer was started in 2017 when Parella decided it was time to give back to the community that had supported him when he needed it most.
“I had a fiance who was diagnosed with leukemia and it was really scary,” he said.
“We had nowhere to turn.” The pair then stumbled upon what is now known as the Cancer Support Community of South Bay, California, an organization dedicated to helping and educating those affected by cancer.
Inspired by the support, Parella armed his passion with a cause, collecting donations that would all be given to the Cancer Support Community.
“We raised a couple thousand the first year for the center,” said Parella, on his first attempt of Mount Denali in Alaska.
However, the experienced climber has had a jaded past with the Alaskan mountain.
“The last few times, I haven’t made it on Denali,” he said. “Weather beat us down and kicked us off.
“I can remember in 2018, when I failed for the second time, just how badly it hurt.”
Third time a charm?
Flooded with disappointment and
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adrenaline, he called his mother to tell her he wasn’t going to make it to the top and broke down in tears.
But the mountain hasn’t seen the last of Parella. In fact, he recently announced that his next expedition will see him tackling the mountain for the third time.
He will be climbing on the U.S.-Nepal Friendship Team along with seven Nepali Sherpa, many of whom have set records in mountaineering.
Parella, though, knows them in a more intimate sense.
“I’m very proud to do that and climb with my Nepali brothers over here in the United States,” he said. “One of them was my guide on Everest on Ama Dablam. Without him, I wouldn’t have made it. I really wouldn’t have.”
What is even more meaningful is that the group is set to depart in June in order to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee, the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Nepal and the United States.
Until then, though, Parella has to prepare his body for what he will undergo while summiting the mountain.
He has devoted his time to clean eating, hiking and working out at the gym at least two to three hours a day all in preparation for the expedition. As he gets closer to the actual climb, he gets into training specific to the terrain he will find on the mountain.
Despite all the work that goes into the expeditions, and returning to a mountain that has been met with some difficulty in the past, Parella is determined to get back out there and try again.
“The fact that I failed twice on this mountain really actually motivates me and excites me more than focusing on the failure itself,” he said. “I think that failure is very important because without it, you know, people don’t really truly succeed in life.
“It’s a way of life,” he said. “Getting up there is absolute freedom.”