Cason Crane will be the first openly gay person to summit the highest mountain on each continent. Last time we checked in on the 20-year-old, the Rainbow Summits Project was just a dream. Today, Crane has already climbed five of the world’s tallest peaks and is currently gearing up on Everest’s base camp. His trek to the top of Mount Everest will include waking up at the crack of dawn, drinking melted butter to stay warm, overcoming altitude sickness, enduring a lack of oxygen, and putting one foot in front of the other for two months of one of the most difficult challenges known to man.
Many people have reached the top of Everest before, some even younger than Crane. What makes Crane’s expedition so special is his intention to gather funds for The Trevor Foundation, raise awareness of LGBTQ teen suicide, and to inspire hope in his fellow LGBTQ youth who may be struggling with getting through another day.
“Getting to the top of a mountain requires overcoming a lot of obstacles, just like being an opening LGBTQ person requires overcoming a lot of obstacles,” Crane explains in his video for The Rainbow Summits Project. “Sometimes it’s the weather, sometimes it’s your teammates or yourself, but eventually, you get to a spot where you look back and you can say, ‘Wow. I did that! I made it through that and now look where I am. I’m on top of the mountain. I’ve reached my goal.’”
Crane decided to dedicate The Rainbow Summits Project to LGBTQ youth after being touched by bullying in his own life. The out young man experienced his fair share of bullying as a teen and truly realized the need for change when a good friend of his committed suicide during his junior year of high school and when he read the story of Tyler Clementi.
“I had never been exposed to the issue of LGBTQ youth suicide before,” he told Anderson Cooper on Anderson Live. “At that moment, I knew I need to make a difference on this. And really The Trevor Project is the only organization that is doing such amazing work on this issue.”
The young mountaineer hopes to raise $250, 000 dollars for The Trevor Project by the time he climbs all seven of the world’s largest mountains. All the while, he wants to inspire his peers to ask themselves, “What is your Everest?”
“I think for a lot of LGBTQ people, life might be difficult sometimes and it can feel impossible to just make it to tomorrow or make it to next week,” his video affirms. “So whatever the challenge is- whether it’s making it to the summit of Mount Everest or coming out to your parents, you will eventually get to a place where you can just look back and say, ‘Wow. I did that and now I’m so much happier as a result.’”
Crane will begin his climb up 29,029 feet today. You can read updates of his journey on his blog, follow him on twitter, and donate to the cause on his website RainbowSummits.org. All donations go directly to The Trevor Project.