The Big Climb Seattle


The “Big Climb” Seattle is one of my favorite local fundraisers, and also might be one of the most sought after non-for-profit events in the PNW!

If you aren’t familiar, the Big Climb is a stair climb hosted at Seattle’s Columbia Tower, where participants race to the top of the tower to raise funds for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society. The race goes on throughout the day, declaring a winner based on who did the 1,311-step, 788-foot vertical climb the fastest. Many teams enjoy the race as a group, and even Seattle-local fire departments participate competing against each other.

There are tributes posted along the way as you climb, giving you motivation to reach the top as you go. The race ends in the Columbia Tower Club, where you can grab a water or coffee and enjoy the view before heading back down.

This event is actually surprisingly exclusive… due to the fact that the race is hosted inside a building, there are strict capacity limits! The event sells out ANNUALLY! To me this is a little bit of a shame since SO MANY people want to participate, but it is what it is. If you are learning about this event too late to join, you can always donate to a team, or volunteer your time the day of the race.

Big Climb 1
My sister and I standing outside the Columbia Tower with nervous faces. We weren’t sure what we were getting ourselves into!
Big Climb 2
Terrible picture, I know! Flexing once we got inside and picked up our race packets…
Big Climb 3
Met up with some co-workers who were climbing as well for moral support!


Back Story: 

In 2012, our family suffered one of the deepest tragedies, where we lost my grandfather to Acute Leukemia. My grandfather was the absolute patriarch of our family. He was the symbol, the glue, the person, that embodied us and somehow kept us all together without trying.

My grandpa was totally awesome.

Leukemia is not awesome.

My grandfather was diagnosed with it about a year before it claimed his life. It all happened so quickly. At about 8 months after diagnosis, things began to escalate, and he was given new options for treatment. My family told me the prognosis of the treatment plan the second week of November. They told me they would come to visit him for New Years in Florida. I told them I felt I needed to visit now. A week later I was there. 48 hours later, he passed away at home.

It all happened so fast that we were quite shocked, and as a family felt strongly that his memory at the very least deserved our participation in something in his honor. For the sake of our grieving too, my sister and I specifically wanted to do something that felt positive to help us heal.

In searching Seattle-area events I came across the big climb not knowing what a ‘deal’ it was out here. We registered, and my sister flew out from D.C., my cousin from Florida to participate with me, for grandpa Ellison.

I would participate in this event every year if I could! It has started selling out much more quickly over the years, so I will have to be on top of my game for next year! I sadly missed out this one.


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