Man Jumps into Lakes for Cancer Patients

Inspired by Mt. Everest explorer Sir Edmund Hillary, Marc Ackenbauer finally completed his ten-year quest on Sunday, he says, "because I said I would"

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Dennis Macdonald / Getty Images

St. Mary Lake, Glacier National Park, Montana

Marc Ankenbauer has spent a surprising amount of time jumping into “freezing cold lakes for charity,” as his site puts it. Several years ago, Ankenbauer had what he rather bravely calls a “brief bout with cancer,” as though having cancer could ever be called a bout, and as though even the briefest cancer experience could really feel all that brief.

The way he describes his activity of lake-jumping may seem at first a vague euphemism for something else, but Ankenbauer does precisely what his website claims: for the past decade he has traveled through the back hills and the off-trail woods of  Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park (comprised of Glacier National Park in Montana and Waterton Lakes National Park across the border in Alberta, Canada) and has been jumping in every one of its 168 lakes, using any publicity to solicit donations for an organization that offers programs for cancer patients.

There’s something brilliant in the way Ankenbauer approached his mission. His goal was simple—he wasn’t skydiving, base jumping, or anything so irresponsibly brash that everything he did was covered by a blanket of self-aggrandizing showboat machismo to overshadow his actual cause. He did something that was by no means easy (getting into the lakes is only half the battle—actually finding them in a huge international park is a feat on its own), but jumping into the frigid waters of lakes in Canada and Montana is endearing and in the spirit of the organization he was supporting (Camp Mak-A-Dream).

Marc finished his grand adventure of lake-jumping Sunday Sept. 8th, although he probably isn’t refusing donations to his site, Glacier Explorer, if you can take a hint.

The downside of the final lake jump on Sunday is that now Marc, who literally spent all his free time for ten years hiking the park and jumping into lakes, doesn’t have such a big mission on his mind. Perhaps he will take on something new soon. But it is important to keep in mind that the moral of Marc’s story can be examined in layers: the first, and more obvious, is that one can never do too much for a charitable cause, and the second, more complicated moral is that one should try to stray from any bigger life goals in case they either never come to fruition, or in case they come to a successful end and leave a big void in your life, and agenda. Complacency and immobility are the best ways to ward off the crushing effects of successfully reaching a lifelong goal.

(MORE: Man Rescued After Clinging to Utah Quarry Cliff)