John Waller’s Aconcagua Climb for Future Survivors of Medical Setbacks

By: Abigail Scott

Upon receiving a diagnosis of stage IV colorectal cancer, John Waller decided that now, more than ever, he had to squeeze the juice out of life and help others do the same. Warrior, poet, adventurer, photographer, badass – John has cautioned his community not to define him with only inspirational identities but to also recognize that while his journey may be inspiring, he, himself is just a man – fallible, scared, curious, bumbling. In spite of his human nature, or maybe because of it, he’s trying to make the most of the cards he was dealt. Here’s how John is doing just that. 

In January 2023, Waller posted from an Oregon hospital room “…what kind of mad dream is this, that finds me sitting here on the 11th floor of OHSU looking to an IV bag of chemotherapy to extend my life from a “terminal” cancer diagnosis…”. Weeks after that, he had a final round of chemo before taking off to climb Aconcagua. He cites the journey as being centered on two main goals. The first – to return, to physically and mentally challenge himself, to “close the loop” on a trek he did two decades before in his twenties, prior to any cancer diagnosis. The second and more important, to raise money for cancer survivors to chase their own wild dreams. In collaboration with Project Athena (@projectathena_foundation), John has set a fundraising goal of $22,837 – the height in feet of Aconcagua. 

From where we’re sitting, his climb looked incredible, challenging, soul crushing, and soul defining. It took two weeks for John and a group of other mountaineers led by Embark Exploration Co. to trek up the Americas’ highest peak. “It was beautiful, exhilarating, and a harsh grind in one of the more desolate and barren landscapes I’ve ever encountered. I’ve got lots of thoughts and photos to share in time… for now, it’s shower, nap, gelato, and repeat.”John finished the climb just a few days ago and fundraised past his initial goal. Follow him on IG @uncage_the_soul to learn more about his remarkable journey. We recognize that he is only human, but humans can do incredible things. Thanks for being a rising tide, John. Thank you for sharing your story with all of us.

To continue filling the pot, donate here.

Photos by John Waller