Matt Leggett is willing to climb mountains in the fight to cure cancer.
So next month he plans to climb Africa's tallest peak, the 19,334-foot Mount Kilimanjaro.
The Hanford High School drama teacher has been doing a lot of hiking up and down Badger Mountain the past several months to prepare.
"I've also been lifting weights, swimming, biking and (last) winter I ran the stairs in the Hanford High auditorium," Leggett said. "My brother Mark and I are doing this to raise awareness, and funds, for the research being done at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center to cure cancer."
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Leggett has raised $10,000 in donations so far for the research center in Seattle and said he hopes to add to it before he leaves for Africa on Aug. 9. The climb begins Aug. 12.
He, his brother, who lives in Burien, and five other climbers from the Northwest paid for their own airfare, immunizations and climbing gear for the trip, and the research center kicked in money for their mountain guide, Leggett said.
Preparing for the major climb has been the biggest test of his endurance, he said.
"In the beginning, the training nearly killed me," he joked. "But I feel really good now. My brother and I went on an eight-mile hike in the Snoqualmie pass area (last week), climbing almost 4,000 feet in four miles."
The two also set out to hike to Camp Muir on Mount Rainier, Washington's highest peak, Friday.
Mount Kilimanjaro is about 5,000 feet higher than Rainier. It's in east Africa in Kilimanjaro National Park. The park website says the mountain is the highest freestanding mountain in the world, and one of the world's most accessible, which makes it a popular place for climbers from around the world looking for adventure.
None of that intimidated Leggett too much, but he does plan to give the mountain the respect it deserves.
Climbing Kilimanjaro isn't as dangerous as climbing Mount Rainier because it doesn't have the same extreme weather patterns and subfreezing temperatures, he said.
"But it can get cold at the top, zero degrees, so we'll be packing some warm clothing," he said.
The biggest threat, he added, is the chance of developing pulmonary edema, an abnormal buildup of fluid in the air sacs of the lungs triggered by the thinner air of high elevations.
"It's more rainy on Kilimanjaro too," Leggett said. "Where Rainier can get socked in by unexpected blizzards and has glaciers, Kilimanjaro is much wetter."
It also will be more difficult climbing up the mountain than coming down, Leggett said.
"It takes five days to climb up, and only two days to get down," he said. "I'm really excited to do this. I pushed hard in my training and I'm ready."
Leggett's motivation to make the climb for cancer hits close to home. His mother, Lillian Leggett, and sister-in-law, Kari Leggett, both of Richland, are breast cancer survivors. His oldest brother, Dean, died of throat cancer last year.
"Both Mark and I feel strongly that the money raised is going to a good cause; the treatment and possibly a cure for breast cancer," he said. Donations to the Hutchinson center can be made online at fhcrc.org or by calling Leggett at 943-2922.