Issaquah father and son take on the Big Climb and each other

March 13, 2012

By Tom Corrigan

Bill Ramos (left) and son Max have a friendly wager over who can reach the top of Seattle’s Columbia Center the fastest during the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Big Climb on March 25. By Tom Corrigan

Bill Ramos has taken the challenge 22 years in a row.

Max Ramos, 18, has been taking on Columbia Center in downtown Seattle since he was 8.

This year, on March 25, the Issaquah father and the son will once again take part in the Big Climb, a fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

The event challenges participants to sprint up the 69 floors of the Columbia Center, the tallest building in Seattle. Runners go up 1,311 steps and cover 788 feet.

Bill and Max have done the event together previously. Bill wanted to do something a little different this year. So, he decided to make the climb a competition between him and his son. They are fighting it out not only to see who can get to the top first, but just as importantly, who can raise the most money.

What’s at stake?

“This is for bragging rights for the next year,” Bill said.

If his son starts to pass him on the climb, Bill added he already has made it clear he will not hesitate to throw an elbow or two.

For his part, Max is a bit quieter about the whole thing. At over 6 feet and a trim 170 pounds, the Issaquah High School senior said he’s just not worried.

How to help

Donate to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Big Climb at Click “donate” and then type in the name of the person you want to support.

“It’s pure science people,” Max wrote in a fundraising email, comparing his age and size to that of his father’s. At one point, he wrote about his father’s “meek and sore old body.”

Bill is 55 years old and several inches shorter than his son at 5 feet 6 inches. There is only about a 5-pound weight difference between the two. Bill’s best time for the Big Climb is 10.5 minutes.

Of course, he noted that was 10 years ago. Max’s best time is about 11 minutes.

In the long run, while Bill talked about bragging rights, what’s clear is that his main objective is to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. No one in Bill’s family has been directly affected by leukemia or lymphoma, but he said he knows people who have.

“They have treatments they did not have 10 years ago,” Bill said, adding he knows people who have come through leukemia, people who, without recent discoveries, might not still be alive.

A regular jogger, Bill said he did his first Big Climb for the physical challenge of it. And he’s kept going back for essentially the same reason.

“It’s something that once you do it, you’re never going to do it again or you want to see if you can do it faster,” he said. “It’s just deciding you want to do something that crazy.”

The Big Climb has become somewhat of a family affair for the Ramos clan. Bill’s daughter did the run a few times before bowing out. At age 70, a cousin made it up the stairs in about 35 minutes. Max said he decidedly remembers climbing the skyscraper for the first time. He would yell out the floor numbers as he and his dad went up, something which apparently eventually got on the nerves of some other runners.

While each person entered in the event does his or her own individual fundraising, there are teams that make the climb. No Vacant Stares is the name Bill has given his squad, which includes Max and numbers about 31 team members this year. The team has had as many as 40 or more in the past. Every year, Bill buys breakfast for every team member who makes it to the top. Last year, No Vacant Stares brought in $14,000. Bill’s goal this year is $15,000.

Only so many participants can take part in the Big Climb each year and the 2012 event is sold out.

Tom Corrigan: 392-6434, ext. 241, or Comment at

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