Lake Highlands High 2014 graduate Chandler Frumin has always been athletic. She played soccer for the Lady Wildcats and was an all-conference rower at the University of Tennessee. Climbing Mt. Rainier, though, was never on her radar.
Frumin returned to Texas to pursue a master’s degree in sports management from UT and began working part-time at REI in downtown Austin. There, she noticed a flyer inviting employees to apply for the company’s annual Climb for a Cause campaign. Just 14 employees in REI’s national network would be selected to summit Mt. Rainier.
“I definitely did not think I was going to be chosen,” Frumin told me by email after a month in June spent training in Peru. “It was a total shot in the dark. Kind of like a ‘why not?’”
Frumin was, indeed, chosen, and her climb begins Aug. 2. Before she departs, she’s preparing for the challenge and fundraising for the cause. She hopes to raise $2,500 for the Washington National Park Fund.
Why did you apply for the campaign?
I knew it was going to be an incredible experience if I got selected. As someone who grew up in a very flat, urban Texas landscape, mountains have always been somewhat of an obsession for me. After reading Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air a few years back, the thought of summiting a mountain sounded like a surreal experience — something I knew I eventually wanted to accomplish but didn’t have enough knowledge or experience to make happen by myself. When this opportunity presented itself, I couldn’t just let it go by.
When did you take up climbing and why do you love it?
I’ve never truly climbed a mountain the way I’m going to in August. Luckily, the program will teach us the basics once we arrive, and we’ll have professional guides leading us. I’ve always loved hiking and being outdoors, though. Once my sports career ended and I was no longer a student-athlete, I still wanted to stay active but didn’t really know what I wanted to do. After spending all of summer 2018 in coastal northern California at a camp, I knew that being outside with good people makes me very happy.
Are you nervous about taking on such a big, and clearly dangerous, project? Did anyone try to talk you out of it?
Of course that thought is always in the back of your mind — will I make it back? Mountains and the weather at such a high elevation tend to be quite unpredictable. At this point in my life though, I haven’t taken many risks — I’ve always played it safe, done the right thing, followed the plan. This is so outside of anything I’ve ever done and I’m so eager to conquer it. But it’s a calculated risk. I want to stop waiting for my life to have exciting moments and go create them myself, you know? Having adventures is very important to me. REI’s motto is “A life outdoors is a life well-lived” and I truly believe in that. I have incredible support behind me. I didn’t really tell anyone that I applied, though, because I truly didn’t think I was going to get it. I actually got the acceptance email while I was out grocery shopping on a Sunday night and returned home utterly shocked. I remember thinking: “is this real? Did they seriously pick me?” My parents and girlfriend were equally surprised when I told them. All of my coworkers have been so happy for me.
What do you think you will learn about climbing? About yourself?
It’s hard to say — I think that’s what’s so special about new experiences. Sometimes what you expect to learn is not actually what you learn. I know it’ll be an adventure and I’ll probably learn a lesson in discipline and patience. I’m really excited to meet the other climbers and spend some time in Washington. Also, nothing’s ever going to beat waking up on a mountain and seeing unforgettable sunrises.
How can people support you?
Training tips, words of encouragement and good ol’ LH support are great. Any climbing gear would be awesome, too (laughing). Donating to the Washington National Park Fund (WNPF) through my fundraising page would be even greater. All of the money goes directly to the foundation.
When she returns, Frumin will begin her new job as Social Media Coordinator for the UT Athletics Department.