Updated: Aug 31
Lily Toepfer began her 13th birthday underneath the pre-dawn glow of Mt. Baker. She was accompanied by her mom Diana on a SheJumps Fundraising Climb. For a quick celebration, the guides brought out a small brownie with a singular candle before the long trek up the mountain began. Thousands of steps later, Baker became Lily’s first summit of a Northern Cascade Volcano–but far from the last.
“Her goal was to climb all five Washington volcanoes by the time she graduates high school,” said Diana. “I always tell her to dream big and go for her goals. And to not be afraid.”
The entire Toepfer family found a passion in the outdoors and hiking uphill. That summer Lily tackled Mt. St. Helen’s and Mt. Adams along with her mom and 11-year-old brother (who lovingly wishes there was a HeJumps). These aren’t small volcanoes to summit, Mt. St. Helen’s is 8,363 feet tall and Mt. Adams is the second highest mountain in Washington at 12,281 feet.
The Toepfer family initially stumbled upon SheJumps when looking for fun outdoorsy activities to do. “She loves running and snow sports and loves waking up early. She does 10 pull ups before breakfast,” noted Diana. “I don't even do that! I like to sleep in.”
Diana said that Lily enjoys the challenge of a hike and the Fundraising Climb was a natural extension of that. Last winter, they also joined in at Wild Skills Junior Ski Patrol at White Pass Ski Area, and more recently the Bellevue Edgeworks Community Climbing Night.
This year, the mom-and-daughter duo signed up for the Rainier Fundraising Climb that took place two weeks before Lily’s 14th birthday. It was a dream both of them shared and worked for.
“I was struggling with the altitude but Lily could keep up with the other girls, all from Colorado. They were all super strong and used to the altitude, so it was great to be with a group of inspiring and strong women,” Diana said.
The first night, they camped out at Camp Muir, a snow field over 10,000 feet in elevation. It was there that they practiced mountain safety and glacier travel and headed to High Camp for the second night of camping.
“At 12:05 am it was go time. We got our wake up call meaning it was time to gear up and start our climb. It was all a blur from there but as the sun rose and we approached the summit crater I was overwhelmed with emotions!” said Diana. “I gave Lily a big hug on top. Then we descended safely all the way down to the visitor center and headed home safely and all in one piece.”
This left one more Cascade Volcano for the family to attempt in Washington. Glacier Peak, a remote volcano at 10,541 feet.
In order to accomplish that initial goal, two weeks after Rainier the family took a three-day backpacking trip to Glacier Peak on Lily’s 14th birthday. While they didn’t quite make it to the summit, they’re already planning to try a second time.
For Diana, climbing these mountains correlates with breaking the societal barriers she grew up with.
“As a young girl growing up in an Asian family that immigrated here I was often told to slow down, sit still, and be more ladylike,” Diana said. “In school I was very studious but not athletic at all. I sat out in the corner during gym class and felt awkward about my body.”
She stated that after having kids, she weighed over 200 pounds and decided to flip the script and become more active for her kids. “I wanted to play and go on adventures with them," she noted. “Little did I know that they would take me on the most amazing adventures.”
Despite not growing up in a traditional outdoorsy family, Diana said she’s most definitely making up for it now.
“I told some of my friends we summited Rainier and they asked, ‘Aren't you sick of climbing mountains? Are you going to take a break for the rest of the summer?’” Diana said. “And then Lily's replies, oh, there's too many different mountains to climb for me to sit down. So we'll keep climbing.”