Heather Triumphs to the Summit 2022!

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Hi there!

This is my second year hiking with Triumph to the Summit and raising money for Triumph Cancer Foundation. This non-profit has been instrumental in my recovery post-cancer treatment and facilitated my return to the activities I love (e.g., hiking, ice hockey). 

I've set my fundraising goal to $1,500. This amount will cover the cost to allow one future cancer survivor to participate in the 12-week program at no cost to them. Each week, I will hit the trails and work on conditioning for the final summit hike at the end of the summer. Our sights are set on Thunder Mountain off Highway 88. The group was unable to do many of the hikes in the Sierras last year due to the Caldor Fire. Please keep your fingers-crossed for no or less fires this season.

I am deeply appreciative of your support.You can donate now and by hitting “Give Now” on the upper right. You can give with any major credit card. 

Thank you for helping me and other cancer survivors. 

Much love to you,


Thomas Barrett
So glad you found this group and are paying forward to help someone else !
Katie Valdivia
To helping others fulfill their dreams!!
You are awesome. Can’t wait to see pictures of you at the summit.
David and Kerry $50.00
Joe Tuscano
An amazing women supporting an amazing cause
Alex Fruehsamer
So proud of you Heather and grateful that you are continuing to recover and inspire. Hope to hike with you soon!
Theresa Harris
You are so inspiring, Heather. Thank you for sharing your journey.
Eileen Grady
Happy hiking, Heather! Keep up the good work! Best wishes from a grateful 2019 hiker, Eileen
Bowman’s $25.00
Strong work! Glad Jess could break in those new boots on that beautiful hike with you!
Jessie's hike donation
Barry Moline
Heather Pica is a whirlwind of positivity. Thanks for stepping up!

September 25, 2022 5:38 PM

Hike #9

This Saturday the conditions were finally conducive for the group to summit Thunder Mountain. I’ve wanted to do this hike for several years and I’m so glad I was finally able to. All and all, it was over 8 ½ miles with almost 2,000ft elevation gain.

The first mile or so of the trail was in the burn scar of the Caldor Fire. Even with all the charred and burned trees, there was still great beauty in the area. In the morning on the way up, there was a bit of haze in the air. On the way back down, that haze completely cleared and the ski was vibrantly blue. The contrast of the charred trees, along with areas of pine needles that were burnt orange but not disintegrated created a beautiful palette of colors. Several of the trees looked similar to the Tree of the Dead (Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow reference) and the black and orange reminded me of Halloween – my favorite holiday!!

Once out of the tree-line, the landscape is sparse of vegetation and is replaced with giant volcanic boulders. And the word “giant” doesn’t really do these rock structures justice. The sheer size of these formations cannot be captured in their entirety, they must be experienced first-hand. Another unique feature about these rocks is that they are volcanic. Their coloring and texture is so vastly different than the prominent granite boulders that reside on the North side of Hwy 88 and are typical for this part of the Sierras. It is really neat to think about what the eruption(s) must have been like to form such monumental structures many, many years ago.

Another fun part of this trail is that we got to hike along side the ski border of Kirkwood. I’ve never seen the area up close without snow. It was nice to see the terrain where “the Wall” is located. I had some fond memories of snowboarding come back to me looking at the mountain. The group found a fun sign that warns of the hazardous terrain with and without snow. In the summertime, you must be careful of the slippery and steep cliffs that reside on either side of the trail. In the wintertime, there are varying degrees of avalanche risk. Of course we had to take a picture in front of said sign and pose accordingly.

September 4, 2022 5:44 PM


This past Saturday the group was back in the mountains off highway 50. We hiked to three different lakes: Grouse, Hemlock, and Smith. This was definitely the most difficult hike we've done so far. The terrain was much more steep with lots of switchbacks and slippery stones on the trail. It was an out and back trip at roughly 7 miles and just under 1,700 ft elevation gain.
The views were spectacular and the alpine lakes never disappoint. The trailhead is located at Wright's Lake and we took part of the same trail as Twin Lakes. After about a mile in, there is a trail marker that if you continued straight, you'd go to Twin Lakes. This time we took a right that took us practically straight up the south side of the mountain to our destination. All along the trek up the views of the valley were awesome. At one point, we could see all the way out to Ice House Reservoir and a bunch of other smaller lakes.
I could not have asked for better weather. It was so cool in the morning I had to keep my hands in my pockets and had full layers on the top and bottom. As we ascended the trail, the temperature slowly increased and a refreshing breeze picked up. When we made it to our final stop, Smith Lake, the wind was pretty steady and it was still cool. I even took my boots off an stuck my feet in. It was so brisk, but felt great on my tired feet from the trip up.
The terrain around the lake had massive boulders similar in size to ones I've seen in Yosemite. There were sections with solid, singular formations surrounded by tons of smaller pieces. Even though these stones were smaller, they were still massive in size. They were perfect to scramble up on and hop across. We didn't go all the way to the top of the peak, but I took note of it for a future trip. That would be a fun backpacking trip to scale the mountain and then get to rest and head back down after a night of sleep. </p>
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August 21, 2022 3:12 PM

Hike #7

This Saturday the team ventured over to the Sierras of highway 80 and took on the Donner and Judah summits. The hike was pleasant throughout. There is a good blend of the trail that is protected under the trees along with fully exposed sections. The variety in landscape was also nice, we even got to scale some rocks to get to the top of Donner.

While at the top of Donner, we discovered what looked like an old ammo box underneath one of the rocks. It was jam-packed full of notes, doodles, snacks, and mementos from prior hikers. The box had a distinct smell that provided some good laughs as I discovered the source. As I mentioned, there were all kinds of items left behind for the next traveler to discover and use if needed. Keeping in form, a few of us left notes and a few choice items for the next explorers to discover.

I can’t believe that we only have three more hikes before we take on Thunder Mountain. I’m not sure where the time is going and it feels like life is moving faster and faster. But when I make time to remember why I’m doing this, I become more centered and grounded. More than a handful of people on the hike this week asked us about our shirts and the cause. These hikes and these posts are opportunities to get the word out there about this non-profit that helps cancer survivors and their communities.

On our final hike, we Triumph hikers carry with us ribbons on our packs in honor of and in memory of people in our lives who have been touched by cancer. At the top of the final summit, we have a moment of silence as a gesture of our love and support.

I would be honored to carry a ribbon for someone in your life touched by cancer. Let’s rally to show our love and support; to let them know just how much they matter. It’s a small gesture but it can have a huge impact. Truly. Send me names and ribbons I will add.

I am not asking for donations to carry a ribbon for someone because I want this to simply be a labor of love.

As part of my Triumph to the Summit participation, if you are able to donate to support my journey on the trails and to help fund others through Triumph Fitness as part of their cancer recovery, that would be deeply appreciated and so awesome!

Much love to you!

August 18, 2022 8:24 PM

Hike #6 update
This weekend the group and I were back up in the mountains. We hiked the Round Top loop, which covers the area around Lake Winnemucca. Several of the group members have Apple watches and each one reported a slightly different length. As far as the total distance, I’d say we traveled about six miles. The temperature was perfect for hiking and the cool breeze in the afternoon was delightful. 
I had a powerful moment while driving through the burn scar of the Caldor Fire that morning. While looking at the areas that were burned and the various stages of logging, I felt something. For those who have not seen the area first-hand, there are vast spans where all vegetation was destroyed. The ground is charred, nothing has started to grow back and where once large full trees stood, nothing but spindly black coal spires remain. However, there are other areas completely untouched by the fire. Additional variations include trees that burned but more developed skeletons remain. 
The areas that most interested me were those that had partially burned, as in some of the tree was charred black but there also were sections of the same tree completely untouched by fire. This dichotomy was strange but I found it beautiful as well. I saw in these trees a connection to what my body must have experienced while undergoing chemotherapy. Some of the cells (e.g., mostly the cancerous ones) were charred and destroyed, while others were spared. In the areas that had partially burned, the signs of new life and new growth was striking. Large patches of wildflowers and green shrubs have begun to carpet the forest floor. This struck a deep chord within me. Even in all the devastation, life finds a way to begin again. I don’t know if all lessons can be learned through observing the natural world, but in that moment I felt deeply connected with and comforted by nature. 
The day started with more intense thoughts and feelings. It only seemed fitting I should squeeze some silliness in there to provide some balance. The pictures on the rock particularly come to mind. I felt a little like a beached walrus as Kelley graciously and patiently took many pictures until we captured a few that made the cut. Lol I wanted to capture the change in the length of my hair since I hiked the trail last year. My hair is almost long enough to style in a side braid, which I am excitedly counting down the days. That might seem trivial, but it is something I really miss not being able to do with my hair and I see it as a milestone on my journey.
Amidst the silliness, I shared with the group deep wisdom from the inner packaging of my turkey jerky stick that read: “never forget to be thankful for what you’re capable of today.” Who knew turkey jerky would share such things? Lol It reminded me of a similar message I heard a few years back that revolved around the concept of meeting yourself where you are in the current moment. It is easy to get stuck in a line of thinking where you compare prior versions of yourself and often criticize the present. I may have been able to run six miles at one point in my life but that doesn’t mean I can do that right now. I suppose the turkey jerky was a bit of a nudge to be grateful that I am alive. A reminder to be grateful I was well enough to be hiking in the mountains and enjoying the company of others. All that said, I was still in a bit of a mood, so my inner voice channeled my brother who often replies to such comments with, “don’t tell me what to do!” 
The team is over halfway through all the scheduled hikes this season. We still have our sights set on Thunder Mountain for September 10. I am raising money for the Triumph Cancer Foundation and could use your help. Please consider donating. All the funds raised will go towards providing future cancer survivors the equipment needed and opportunity to participate in Triumph Fitness classes. Thank you for the consideration. Much love to you!

August 18, 2022 8:21 PM

Hike #5

Six of us made it up to Round Top Lake starting at Carson’s Pass. We passed by Winnemucca Lake and had lunch in the same spot we did last year. The weather was great and the wildflowers were spectacular. Similar to last year, the skies were clear until early afternoon. The clouds steadily built and the weather forecast had a 24% change of thunder storms, so we quickly descended to avoid getting caught in a possible storm. I thoroughly enjoyed the moody skies and Dia from last year’s hiking group and rocked a PB&J sandwich. Hope to see ya on the trails sometime soon!
At the end of the hike, Kelley and I stopped by the Ranger Station and asked about the trails up to Elephant’s Back and the Sisters. These three mountain peaks tower above the lakes we hiked to. All three have pretty gnarly, rocky switch-backs. The peak at Elephant’s Back is 9,500+ ft and the Sisters is just over 10,100ft. I image the view from the Sisters is likely epic, as Kirkwood ski resort is on the backside and at that elevation, I would image you can see Lake Tahoe from there as well. Ricky and I might take one of those hikes later on in the season. 
I’m hiking this summer to raise money for Triumph Cancer Foundation. Even when gyms closed due to the pandemic, this non-profit quickly pivoted to continue to provide the services and equipment needed to help cancer survivors. I was part of the first round of virtual classes and a recipient of all the equipment needed to complete the exercise classes at home (see picture). Each participant of virtual Triumph Fitness receives a Triumph on the Go pack, which costs $125. Any donation amount is greatly appreciated and will go towards helping other cancer survivors. Thank you for the consideration and much love to you!

August 18, 2022 8:20 PM

Hike #4

I did a repeat of the PCT to Showers Lake hike (AKA Meiss Lake) with my best friend Jess this week. With the extra side trails to check out the cabins and impromptu photo-ops, we covered 8 miles with roughly 1,000 ft of elevation gain. Being up in nature always brings such peace and rejuvenation for me. It was extra special this time spending it with my best friend I've known since middle school. </p>
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August 18, 2022 8:18 PM

July 10th

Ricky and I went on vacation traveling around the Western states and into Alberta, Canada. We left at an ungodly hour on Wednesday July 6th so that we could make it to Thayne, WY in one go. There, we stayed with my dad and got to see the headwaters of the Grey's River. We also go to explore the backside of the mountain range that serves as the back-drop of Star Valley. I've never seen so many wildflowers and the views are just spectacular. We also took a short David for the food recommendation - the sandwich was pretty tasty! After a short stop, we continued on until we landed in Helena. We drove through a pretty awesome thunder storm and the rain was a refreshing change from the heat of California. The next morning we checked out some local trails and decided upon Mt. Helena. We picked the Powerline trail, which follows the power lines up to the Summit. It was a vertical climb of over 1,000ft! To give our knees a break, we took the 1906 Trail on the way back which was much more gradual. This trail also provided a different view of the giant valley and the area where people can rock climb. At the base of the rock face, there is a cave there that is called the "Devil's Cave." Round trip the hike was probably 3-4 miles.
Even though I am not hiking with the Triumph to the Summit group these next couple weeks, the Triumph Cancer Foundation helped me to build back my balance, strength, and endurance so that I could resume the physical activities I love. I tried exercising post-chemotherapy and my body had totally changed. It didn't respond the way I thought it would and the Triumph Instructors helped me to safely incorporate rigorous fitness back into my life. 
If you are able to, I encourage you to help someone else experience this amazing program as they work to pick up the pieces after a cancer diagnosis. Maybe you know someone who is in active treatment or is no longer with us. There are many reasons to give. Your money will go towards a cause that makes a positive and life changing difference. I personally can vouch for how much this non-profit has and continues to help me. This link will take you to my fundraising page, but you can donate to the whole group as well. Thank you for the consideration.

August 18, 2022 8:15 PM

July 2nd update

The group completed hike #2. At Carson Pass we hopped on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) to Meiss Lake. We didn’t go all the way to the shore of the lake but we did hike in to where we could see it. All in all, we covered 7.5 miles at 8,000ft+ with about a 1,000 ft of elevation gain. There were so many different wildflowers and the views were awesome! The hike had many different landscapes and numerous water crossings. Some of the peaks still had snow on the Triumph Cancer Foundation. If you can and feel inclined, I encourage you to donate and help someone else experience this opportunity and amazing program in their recovery post-cancer treatment. I’ll continue to post updates on my progress and journey all summer long. Thank you for the consideration.

Much love to you! </p>
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