Meet the PAFletes: Alan Rousseau

Before Alan Rousseau disappeared into the mountains for a month-long trip, he was kind enough to spend a few precious minutes in Ladakh responding to some questions via email. Our exchange is below:

First, you were given the 2013 Lyman Spitzer Cutting Edge Award. Please explain what that award is and how it came to influence your climbing.

The Lyman Spitzer award was the old name for the AAC cutting edge award. This is a grant that funds climbers for expeditions that are attempting to push the modern standard in alpine climbing. In 2013 Tino Villaneuva and I received this grant to try the west face of Tengi Ragi Tau in the Rolwaling valley of Nepal. This is a huge fin-like mountain that is nearly 7000 meters tall. We walked below it the year before while nabbing the first ascent of Langmoche Ri (6611m) in a seven day push from the village of Na. Getting the grant made it possible for us to return to the Rolwaling. It was our first experience trying to solve a puzzle of this scale. We were turned around real high up on the face, about 1000 feet below the summit. We could not find a spot to sleep without subjecting ourselves to serious objective hazards. We rappelled 6,000 feet in 8 hours to get off the face only leaving 40 feet of cord and a few stoppers. After this experience I took a couple years off from climbing in Asia, not because it was a bad experience, but because I saw the gap in where my climbing was, and where I wanted it to be to set myself up for success on these big committing
features. Last year in 2017, Tino and I returned to the Himalayas and completed the first peak ascent of Rungafarka (6495m) via the 50-pitch north ridge (VI M6 A0 WI4+).

Second, you were given the 2018 AAC Cutting Edge Award. Please explain what that award is and how that also influenced your climbing.

It’s a bit too early to say how it influenced my climbing as I am in India now about to head on the expedition we received the funding for. It feels like we are in a good place, after our success last year, we are hoping to apply a similar formula to the objective this year. For me getting a grant is a big motivator. I know lots of other people applied, and it makes me want to do everything in my power to be as ready as possible for the objective. I don’t want to feel like I wasted an opportunity.

Third, as someone who is clearly at the front of the pack in terms of changing climbing, where do you see the new frontiers of climbing being?

This is an interesting question largely because I don’t see the climbing I’m doing as changing the sport. I have always aspired to be a well-rounded technical climber, to apply a diversity of skills into completing large alpine objectives. As a result I’m not leading the sport in any single technical aspect. My hardest redpoints are 5.13 and M10. I see kids warming up on these grades! My only reasons for success have been 1) I try really hard, and 2) mentally I have been able to climb near my limit in the alpine. I’m just taking a relatively moderate skill set and applying it to big terrain.

Perhaps that means I’m one of the people changing the modern culture of alpinism. However, I see the future of alpinism in the climbing gym. When I see a 15-year-old kid tie in, casually talk about who has a crush on who, while floating 5.13, it makes me think there will be very little aid climbing done in the future. The hardest traditional ground up routes completed in the alpine from a technical standpoint are easy for most adept young guns. With a reduction in aid comes a faster ascent. The end result is a bigger route completed with a smaller kit required.

Fourth, as climbing is moving forward into new ways of thinking about what climbing could become, in your mind, is there any danger that we are losing something, maybe a connection to the past? In your own experiences, what is that link between the past and the future of climbing?

On this I have somewhat of a limited perspective. I’m 32 years old and my introduction to climbing was only 15 years ago. I don’t think there is much of a danger in losing the past. I think there will always be respect and intrigue for what each generation accomplished with the equipment available at the time. Skill sets will evolve, equipment will adapt, but at the end of the day the goal remains unchanged: climb the hardest thing you can and get down safe. As long as people remember what was done to get the sport to where it is today, I believe the connection to the past will remain strong.

Fifth, talk a little about the role that technology impacts your climbing. With the advent of social media, the proliferation of beta, and the continual evolution of the equipment itself, what do you see to be the general trajectory of the sport?

Even when I started climbing, I didn’t think technology (other than equipment changing) would play much of a role in climbing. I think the online information sharing is incredibly valuable to the progression of our sport: conditions updates, access issues, new route development, better directions, rack recommendations. I think they are all great. The end result is we all climb more. I know for myself I find enough adventure on route. I don’t need to get lost on the approach and descent to get my fill of uncertainty for the day.

Social media is another facet of this realm. A lot of info sharing does happen here as well. As does a spread of stoke and stories (I swear more people like ice climbing in July than January). Stories of climbing have always been told, in one form or another. I hope as social media’s presence continues to shape modern society, climbers continue to tell stories with an emphasis on authenticity, and not ‘how should I frame this to get the most likes’. I think social media presents a very interesting example of intrinsic motivations pitted against the human desire for peer validation.

Finally, talk about your process. How do you work to create a consistent evolution for your climbing such that it is always progressive.

I think I’ve always been good at setting goals and finding out what work I need to do to obtain them.

The first time I remember doing this, I wanted to run a sub-seven-minute mile while I was seven years old. I remember my dad working with me on pacing, logging laps on the track, eventually hitting a 6:55 and being totally stoked. I think that has stuck with me. The work you put in is what you get out. I approach my climbing goals with this same mentality, although breaking down an unclimbed face in the Himalayas is a bit more complicated than calculating split times in a mile. I also get bored when things feel stagnant, or like I’m at a plateau. I think this has motivated me to keep pushing my limits, as well as exploring new styles of climbing.

Now, some really “important” questions

Tacos or burritos. Which one do you prefer and why?
Burritos. When it comes to food and drinks, I have always been a quantity over quality kind of guy.

Head to toe or head to head sleeping in a tent and why?
Head to head. My feet smell waaay too bad.

Name a totally bone-headed mistake you made when climbing. Can you laugh about it now?

When I was 19, I climbed Mt. Hood. I forgot my sleeping bag in the car, and at the first break managed to drop my puffy jacket after putting it in a compression sack. It flew down the mountain.

That was a cold trip for me. And yes I can laugh about that as well as just about every other “bonehead” move I did at that time.

Knickers. They’re old school. Some have tried to bring them back? Defend them or ridicule them!

They seem pretty silly to me. Maybe if I were “Portland hip” and could grow a sweet moustache, I would embrace them!

Are you stoked? Head on over to portlandalpinefest.org to get tickets to see Alan at The Summit on Nov. 16 at the Melody Center, and/or check out his clinics & seminars.


Meet the PAFletes: Marcus Garcia

This will be Marcus' second time as a PAFlete. His energy last year was infectious and we knew we had to have him back for PAF18. This year you have the opportunity to learn more Marcus in his clinics: Good Enough Anchors, Movement, Rigging for Photos, and Better Crack Climbing. He's also teaching our first ever kids climbing clinic (ages 9–14)with Dawn Glanc.

If you’re looking for the definition of an all-around climber, Marcus Garcia may very well be your man. From an impressive list of more than 200 routes put up all over the USA and Mexico to a spot on the UIAA Youth Commission pushing to bring competitive ice climbing to the Winter Olympic Games, Marcus’ ambitions don’t stop at “simply” projecting a new, difficult line. As his climbing career evolves, he finds himself undertaking a new era of mentorship. In this interview, we get a brief glimpse into the mind of someone whose commitment to the climbing world goes beyond establishing hardcore 5.13 trad routes.

Can you put a finger on the moment when you felt the transition from student to mentor happening? Was it one moment or more of a slow transition?

The moment I felt the transition from student to mentor was after losing my mentor in a climbing accident. I was ready to quit climbing altogether. After mourning the loss, a friend asked me to climb a big ice route. I was off the couch and had not swung a tool in a while. That year, the first pitch was steep, really steep. I chose to start the route. Soon, I found myself pumped and run out. Too steep to stop and place an ice screw. So I calmed myself down and remembered what my late mentor taught me: “Enjoy the movement.” I just focused on the climbing and topped the pitch. At that moment, I realized I have something to teach others, just as I was taught myself.

You’ve put a lot of emphasis on mentorship and coaching. There are plenty of excellent, world-class climbers out there that never take the leap from student to mentor. Why do you think that is?

To be a mentor for some means putting aside personal goals as a climber and focusing on helping others achieve their goals. I feel this scares most climbers, as climbing in itself is a selfish sport when you look at it as a whole. Mentoring is a lot of work and a lot of challenges. It takes a lot of dedication to be a good mentor and some world-class climbers are just not ready to let go of their goals. Nothing wrong with that, it is just not their time. I was there and now I have learned to balance my goals and blend them into how I mentor others.

What is your personal drive to offer mentorship to younger, up-and-coming climbers? Why is it important?

Over the years, balancing my goals and mentoring had to become one. My goals became what I learned by watching the mentees grow into their full potential, not only as a climber but as a young human being. Along the way, I realized I, too, am still the student. As the years go by, I am still learning how to be a great mentor. Everyone I encounter is different in learning how to climb. What is important to me is watching the growth of an individual. This can be during a 4-hour clinic or it can be watching one of the youth members graduate from high school, travel overseas, and become their own person. To me, that is the most rewarding feeling a mentor can have.

How is the bid to bring climbing to the Winter Olympics coming along anyway? What are the next steps to continue to bring the sport to the ultimate world stage?

Unfortunately, the 2018 Winter Olympics in Korea did not choose to host an ice climbing exhibition during the games. The next steps are to grow the sport here in the USA and focus on the youth side of it, as I do, because they are the future of the sport. We need more US support from brands and the climbing community. We need to put on more ice climbing competitions that showcase the physical challenges of this sport and educate the climbing community to take time and teach it to people.

You’ve put up numerous routes during your long career as a climber that involve using all sorts of equipment. During this time, you must have seen trends in climbing gear come and go. What are some of the pieces of equipment or methods you are glad did not stand the test of time? What about old technology or methods that have been used for decades and are still around today that you find yourself using over and over again? 

As far as ice climbing, the days of the straight shaft ice tool are gone. They were notorious for the bashing of knuckles. Also, the ridiculous forearm pump you got came from from holding onto the slippery handles with a strap around your wrist that restricted the much needed warm blood flow. Even with all the latest training techniques around, nothing beats the good old basic dead hang. And focus on good technique. Footwear has changed but it does not replace good footwork or understanding how to climb using the least amount of energy.

How do you find the balance between devoting time to mentorship and still pursuing your own personal climbing endeavors? 

There lies the most challenging quest. My time between teaching others and still pursuing my own visions has been merged into the same goal. My goal is to be a great mentor and if I get to go out and chase my own objectives from time to time, then that is a bonus. To do this I had to develop a workout that keeps me in top form so that when I do get out, I am ready. That is easier said than done. But having a great climbing partner and the kids I coach keep me motivated.

Now that you’ve begun this “master” stage of your life (as opposed to student), what do you envision for your future? Is there another step beyond mastery or mentorship?

Over the years, I have been asked if I would write a book. I really never thought of being a writer. This year I took the next step and began writing and putting together about 20 years of research copied in journals into the computer. I wrote a little workout for Rock and Ice and loved the process. So now to find the time. Early mornings and dedication, just like I would if I am training for a goal, have become the norm.

Looking backward, what do you feel is your most significant achievement (either as a climber or as a mentor)? Looking forward, what is the thing you most hope to accomplish?

Looking back over the years, I find myself thinking about the times I have helped other world-class climbers achieve their goals while at the same time helping young, up-and-coming climbers find their own path. In 2017, I was able to achieve some of my biggest achievements as a climber. One was helping a strong Chelsea Rude find herself in trad climbing. Then, during the same week, establishing a FFA in Yosemite, a place that has been a stepping stone for many climbers. But to be able to leave my own mark in a place that had done a lot for me is a highlight. This was only to be topped a few days later by free climbing a big wall as a mentor, photographer, and climber in a day with Jon Cardwell and Sasha Digiulian. Leaving the valley after giving back to the climbing community will be one of my favorite times. What I hope to accomplish now is to watch my protégé chase their vision as a young climber.

And the question that I ask everyone: What is the one food that you crave the most after a few long days in the mountains?

Over the years, for some reason the food I crave most is Thai noodles covered in peanut sauce washed down with Thai iced tea without ice. Yes, without ice. Funny, I do not like ice in my drinks, nor do I like plain chocolate.

Get to know more about Marcus and sign up for his clinics at portlandalpinefest.org.


Meet the PAFletes: Quinn Brett

Quinn Brett is teaching and speaking at the Portland Alpine Fest, from Nov. 12–18 in Portland, Ore. She is a co-instructor for Fast & Light Alpinism, instructing the seminar Trip Planning: Rock Climbing, co-leading an Advocacy seminar, and one of our keynote presenters at the premier event of the festival, The Summit, on Friday, Nov. 16 at the Melody Center. Get Quinn's full itinerary here.

An Interview with Quinn Brett

Let’s start with some easy questions to warm-up: burritos or tacos?

Depends. Am I in the mood for eggs wrapped up or am I in the mood for open-faced fish? That sounds unintentionally kinky. HA!

Would you rather be buried under pile of puppies or kittens, and why?

Kittens? Yes, question mark. I think cats do a better job of cleaning themselves, so maybe less chance of poo in the face.

Climbing knickers. Defend them or ridicule them.

Wear them with class and style and pride, unless its an off-width then whine about how my ankles will get shredded.

Alright. Let’s get down the nitty-gritty. Our theme for the series of interviews is the future of climbing and where each of the athletes thinks that the future lies. So...Talk about your vision for America’s public lands. Obviously they are necessary for all Americans, but for climbers, the issue is particularly salient. What are your hopes, dreams, fears? 

My hope is that climbers trend a more selfless habit of giving back. I know we all want/need to get our fix outside but it is equally important to look further than the next project. Enlighten yourself with the how and why these lands were set aside. Share your experiences with others about these spaces but also invite others to experience them...infecting them with the same bug, with hopes that they will continue to be, yes used, but more importantly preserved and untrammeled.

For many of our readers, your fall on El Cap in October of 2017 is the primary way you are known. So I think that it is worth addressing in a few ways. Until the modern era, there was the maxim, “The leader shall not fall”, and then for a long time, the leader whipped at will. As climbing is being pushed into new frontiers, that statement has become true again, at least as an overarching principle, as climbers seek to move faster over the same terrain. Talk about your perspective on this issue.

As I learned to climb, I worked my way through the grades....trying to do every climb without a fall, usually first try. I didn’t like falling and I don’t think I had my trad. leader fall until I was well into climbing 5.10’s and testing the 5.11 waters. Even sport climbing, I was timid, scared of falling. I think falling, like climbing, should be practiced. Obviously, falling on certain terrain or using certain tactics, is less than ideal...but then again, accidents happen.

Your recovery seems to be teaching you about grit and hope and patience. Compare these lessons to those that you have learned on some of your hardest or scariest climbs.

Patience. Ha. Yup. I sucked at projecting climbs, I didn’t start gaining interest of enough patience to do so until the last few years. Inevitably, I would cry during the project process pin-pointing the one move that was shutting me down. Negative thoughts of, “I can’t, I will never make that move.” With patience and continued effort, eventually the move would unlock and the climb would relinquish her difficulties, sometimes the send would feel oddly effortless! I can’t wait for the day to arrive, and gosh I hope it comes, when I feel that effortless feeling regarding my mind and this seemingly permanent sitting position, also for nerve pain relinquishing to peace.

Any time a climber is injured while climbing, there is inevitably a chorus of voices who speak out against the perceived stupidity of the actions undertaken at the time. How can this conversation be moved forward so that the real issues are framed in a more productive way and that a true dialogue is achieved?

These questions are difficult to answer. Personality and opinions are a part of life. If we all would just take a deep breath, remembering patience perhaps we would all have better success at responding instead of reacting. I think if we are compassionate with our time, even just a single moment, we give space to remember that we are all flawed. We all make mistakes. Accidents happen.

Lastly, we need to address the elephant in the room. Talk about your handstands. Are they just a metaphor for your life, or am I misreading them?

Handstands? Get upside down, change your perspective. Having trouble focusing, stuck in a rut, memory failing, trouble finding your balance (literally or figuratively), need a minute to breathe or are you always in control afraid to be vulnerable? Practice more inversions in your life.

Get tickets to the Portland Alpine Fest now at portlandalpinefest.org!


Quinn Brett is an adventurer and record setting athlete.  Tying herself to Estes Park, Colorado for the last fifteen years, she strives to push mind and body to the limits.  She holds numerous speed climbing records in Yosemite, Zion and Rocky Mountain National park, is a competitive triathlete, and an eclectic tight wearing handstand master.

Professionally Quinn worked during the summer months as a climbing ranger in Rocky Mountain National Park---essentially medical and technical first responder .  She was the only female in this highly coveted position.  To compliment the rescue and medical component of this job, Quinn taught Wilderness Medical Courses with Remote Medical International during the winter months.

Last fall, she sustained a spinal cord injury from a fall while climbing on El Capitan in Yosemite.  Although her life is undergoing some drastic changes, unable to walk, climb, run and handstand, Quinn is pushing forward with hope.  Wilderness experiences, before her accident, provided Quinn with perspective, growth and appreciation of life and others.  She hopes to find new ways to enjoy physical endeavors and the therapeutic ways public lands provides.

Learn more about Quinn at quinnbrett.com



Darrin Gunkel outside his van down by the Alaskan Highway, with a pug.
Photo: Karin Hedlund. 

by Jonathan Barrett

As a parent of a small child, I have a deep, almost primeval, fear of vans. As a child of the 80’s, after school specials and public service announcements warned me against people who called out, “Hey kid! I’m a professional photographer. Come with me to my van, and I’ll take your picture.” As a result windowless van is the first place I am going to look when my son’s face appears on the back of the milk container. The problem is that now, all these vans are filled with beautiful, half-dressed Athleta models and Patagonia ambassadors. Since when did prAna start hiring transients as marketing influencers?

As a result, I find the whole #vanlife thing really confusing, as does my kid. For example, I brought my son, Liam, to Smith last fall. We got out of the car in the bivouac parking lot, and there was a man sitting in the open door of his black Sprinter. Liam grabbed my hand a little tighter and said fearfully, “Daddy, don’t let him take me!” I turned to him and replied, “Don’t worry, son. He has a trust fund. He can’t hurt you.” Liam looked really confused. This man’s fingernails were black. He was barefoot. His beard was thick, but artfully cut. He was shirtless. In his fingers was a funny smelling cigarette. “Daddy, why is he smoking?” Liam asked. “Well, son. Sometimes adults have a hard time coping with reality.”

“So he’s doing drugs?”

“No, that’s why he bought the van. The cigarette is just cloves.”

That evening when we returned to the parking lot, there was a man standing on the roof of a ‘96 Ford Econoline. “Daddy, is he fixing his roof?” Liam asked. I looked at him skeptically. Was he messing with me? The dude was doing downward dog in the fading sunlight. My son had seen me doing yoga in the our privacy of our basement before. He knew I kind of hated it. In his mind, no one would ever do it in public. “Maybe he is looking for a hole that water is coming through,” he offered thoughtfully. The shirtless man in $100 shorts moved gracefully into tree pose. “Oh no!” Liam said. “He’s going to fall off!” A lithe woman appeared on the ground next to the van. “Maybe she will catch him.” She took out her iPhone. “No, wait I think she is going to take his picture. Daddy, why is she taking his picture?”
The rainbow is not Photoshopped. Photo: Darrin Gunkel

“Well, son. Sometimes when you live in a van, it’s hard to stay connected to people. Always moving around. Not being in the same place all the time,” I said. Vanlifer was now doing Pungu Mayuransana, wounded peacock, and the girl continued to take pictures of him. Secretly I wondered: if a climber falls off a van roof in the woods, can anyone hear him scream?

“So, he’s homeless. We should give him something to eat. He can have my apple. I still have it from our hike.” He started to reach into his bag.

By this time the man had finished his poses and was climbing down off the roof of his van. He took a long swig from his Hydroflask. “Honey!” he called to his partner, “Can you check the Goal Zero batteries? There is a crack in the solar panel cable. It might not be charging.”

“‘Scuse me,” Liam said. “Here. You can have this.” He held out his apple in a gesture of sincere concern.

“Is it organic?” he asked. Liam looked at him blankly as the man took it to inspect the sticker.
“Thanks kiddo, but I am really careful with my body. You can keep it,” he said as he handed it back.

As Liam and I walked back to the car, he shook his head. “What’s the matter, bud?” I asked.

“That guy. He makes bad choices. Maybe that’s why he’s homeless.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“He said he wants to take care of his body, but he was being very unsafe on the roof. And look,” he said as he pointed back in the direction of the van where the man was walking across the parking lot in his bare feet. “He should put some shoes on so he doesn’t cut his foot.”

Back at our friend’s house in Bend, Liam climbed into their truck-bed camper which served as guest quarters when we visited them. It was 8 p.m, his regular bedtime. “Daddy,” he said. “I’m really glad that we live in a house.”

“Why is that, bud?” I asked as I tucked him in with his stuffed moose, Mary.

“Because I’d miss my friends if we were always moving around, like that guy we saw today.”

“Well, I suppose that’s a fair point,” I said. How could I explain the fact that these people likely have many friends and acquaintances spread across the West, people that they regularly meet at Indian Creek or in Squamish. How could I explain that much of their community was online and digital? That even though they can open their doors and make a parking lot their new front yard, they can’t always know who their neighbors will be from one day to the next. That they are sacrificing a degree of regular, in-the-flesh human contact for space and mobility.

I pulled the fleece blanket up against his chin. “Well. They have friends online who like to see their pictures. They can share their lives that way,” I said.

“Oh,” Liam said. “Well, I like knowing that Owen is just up the street. And that he’ll always be up the street. He’ll never move away.”

“Yeah, kiddo. I don’t think that I would want to live on the road like they do, either.”

“What’s it like to live in a mobile home?” he asked as I was just opening Captain Underpants to read the next chapter to him.

“Well, actually it’s not really a mobile home,” I said.

“Oh, I mean RV.” I put the book down. How was I to explain that it was their home but not a mobile home. That old people live in RVs and go to national parks, like Yosemite. That young people live in vans and ... go to national parks, like Yosemite. But it’s not the same.

“It’s a van, son. Let’s just read some of the book so you can get to sleep on time.” Somehow the world of an ill-tempered grade school principal who transforms into a superhero made more sense to him in that moment than the subtleties of #vanlife.

We all remember the Chris Farley SNL sketch where he admonishes David Spade and Christina Applegate to get their lives in order, otherwise they will be, “living in a van down by the river.” Maybe my point of view needs to shift. Maybe there is nothing wrong at all with childless men living in a van down by the river. After all, if my son becomes one of them, I know where to find his picture.


Book Review: The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative

Author: Florence Williams; Reviewer: Brian Goldman

Have you ever wondered what compels hikers and climbers to endure fatigue, insect bites, blisters, and cold? Is there something about immersion in nature that we inherently need? Are we collectively suffering a “nature deficit disorder?” Do some countries have better national policies of improving health by providing access to nature? Florence Williams, author of The Nature Fix, traveled the world to uncover studies in neuroscience, medicine, and big data about the restorative influence of nature on our physical and mental health. In short, informative, and witty chapters, Williams displays a gift for clearly explaining the science behind nature’s positive effects on our brain and health.

In Japan, where they’ve coined the word karoshi—death from overwork—the government is creating over one hundred forest therapy sites for people to engage in shinrin yoku, forest bathing. Williams visited Yoshifume Miyazaki, a physical anthropologist whose research found that when people take forest walks, there is a 12 percent decrease in cortisol (your body’s main stress hormone), a 7 percent decrease in sympathetic nerve activity (which governs fight-or-flight behavior), a 1.4 percent decrease in blood pressure, a 6 percent decrease in heart rate, and a better mood and lower anxiety. In a country with a high suicide rate and tsukin jigoku—commuting hell—where workers shove you into a train during rush hour, nearly 25 percent of the population now walk forest therapy trails yearly. As Miyazaki explains, “we’ve spent 99.9 percent of our time in nature, a feeling of comfort can be achieved if our rhythms are synchronized with those of the environment.”

Immunologist Qing Li, a collaborator with Miyazaki, has studied natural killer (NK) immune cells, a type of white blood cell that can send self-destruct messages to tumors and virus-infected cells. Sure enough, three days of hiking boosted these NK cells by 40 percent for an entire week. Although not completely confirmed, Li suspects that NK cells are boosted by phytoncides, otherwise known as “nice tree smells.” These are essential oils emitted by evergreens and other trees. Li himself uses a humidifier with cypress oil in his house since he found that those who sleep inhaling a cypress scent experience a 20 percent increase in NK cells and less fatigue.

In Korea, where forest bathing is called salim yok, the Forest Agency has established dozens of healing forests with dominant cypress trees. Scientists in Korea confirm the medicinal aspects of phytoncides as antibacterial and capable of “reducing stress 53 percent by lowering levels of cortisol and blood pressure 5–7 percent.” The soil also contains geosmin, which holds streptomyces bacteria, a key to many antibiotics. Two other studies looked at eleven- and twelve-year olds who suffer from “borderline technology addiction” (BTA). After two days in the forest, researchers found lower cortisol levels and improvement in self-esteem. Armed with this research, Korea has planned a National Forest Plan “to realize a green welfare state, where the entire nation enjoys well-being” through work and school programs.

In Finland, economist Liisa Tyrvainen tweaked the experimental design of Miyazaki and concluded that Finns have elevated measures of restoration, vitality, and creativity when walking outside, but they must be in nature at least five hours a month. If you’re outside even longer, “you will reach a new level of feeling better and better,” she concluded.

Singapore is considered one of the top “biophilic cities” in the world. Almost half of the country’s 276 square miles are under some sort of green cover. The population has grown by 2 million; however, the percentage of green space has increased from 36 to 47 percent. Although many of these green spaces are gardens, greenhouses, paths with green corridors, and parks with constructed nature, the government’s vision has succeeded in making this country an oasis in SE Asia. Studies have shown that mortality rates are lower near urban parks.

Other positive health effects of nature: Williams uncovered research in Ohio, Singapore and Australia suggesting that being outside in sunlight stimulates the release of dopamine from the retina, which prevents the eyeball from getting too oblong, thus preventing myopia (nearsightedness).

Awe: According to the author, Irish philosopher Edmund Burke may have understood the effect of transcendent experiences in nature. He traipsed the countryside and found that for something to be “awe-inspiring” there must be “vastness of extent” in which our senses find it difficult to make sense of it—which in turn inspires feelings of humility and a more outward perspective. Dacher Keltner and colleagues at UC Berkeley have found that experiencing awe was the only emotion to significantly lower levels of IL-6, a marker for inflammation. Lower levels are better; higher levels are linked to depression and stress. Keltner also suggests that the emotion awe causes us to reinforce and share emotional connections. Ever wonder why you take those pictures on your cell phones and send them to family and friends?

The book continues by showing how military veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) have diminished symptoms when rafting or backpacking, and how exercise and exploratory play among children increases verbal and math ability, lowers impulsivity, and leads to a threefold decrease in Attention Deficit Hyperactivity (ADHD) symptoms.

Could the positive effects of immersion in nature apply to our educational systems? Yes, indeed. The author states that Germany has more than 1,000 forest kindergartens called Waldkindergarten, where students are out in all kinds of weather. In one instance, after a large tree fell during a storm, the teacher launched a nature-based curriculum in which children sawed off branches to make the tree safe for climbing. In so doing, students practiced dexterity, teamwork and learned about cause and effect. In Scandinavia, 10 percent of preschoolers spend their entire days outside. In Finland, students have recess outside 15 minutes out of every hour. In contrast, two-thirds of the students in this country are Vitamin D (the sunshine vitamin) “insufficient.” In both the U.K. and the U.S.A., rickets, a disease caused by a lack of Vitamin D, has quadrupled in the past 15 years.

The Nature Fix confirms that even small amounts of exposure to the natural world can improve our creativity and enhance our mood. Williams shows how time in nature is not superfluous but is essential to our species. As our modern lives shift dramatically indoors, spending more time in nature is more urgent than ever. As the author succinctly states, “Go outside, often, sometimes in wild places. Bring friends or not. Breathe.”


ICS Spouse Survival Guide

by Becky Nelson

The author, right, and her husband Harry Colas.
So your loved one is considering the Mazama Intermediate Climbing School (ICS).
When my husband announced his intentions last year to apply for the ICS I wasn’t surprised—but I was a little worried.

We had made a Faustian bargain the year before: he would agree to move to my favorite city, Portland, if and only if I would sign up for a basic mountaineering course with him, which of course turned out to be the Mazama Basic Climbing Education Program (BCEP). At the age of six, I floated a similar bargain to my parentas: I would agree to move to Arizona if and only if they bought me a hamster. Six weeks later, in Scottsdale, Busy Bob entered our lives. Despite a debilitating fear of heights and a distaste for anything remotely athletic—coordination is not my strong suit—I figured BCEP couldn’t be half as bad as owning a pet hamster so we shook on it, moved to Portland, and six weeks later jumped into BCEP.

And we had a total blast! But while I loved my BCEP experience, ICS felt like another beast altogether: a big, scary, massive time suck of a class colorfully illustrated by intense photos, secondhand tall tales, and snarky warnings (including my favorite, “BCEP is where you find a partner, ICS is where you lose them.”) If I wasn’t ready to take the plunge myself, I was even less enthusiastic about watching my partner do so. Harry, on the other hand, was fearless. So I watched him apply, ace the test, and get accepted with trepidation in my heart (trepidation, of course, requiring very little coordination).

The author, right, and her husband Harry Colas at Smith Rock.
But we made it through the nine months of ICS and I’m happy to report, at least for us, the worry and the warnings did not come to fruition—we are even still married! So if you find yourself weighing whether to wholeheartedly support or wholeheartedly sabotage your loved one’s application, I encourage you to consider the five simple survival tips below. Follow them closely for a happy, productive, and dare I say enjoyable nine months as the spouse of an ICS student.

Survival Tip #1: Learn the Lingo

It can be tough to get your spouse’s attention when he is full-throttle ICS, all the time. If you’re finding that real life pales in comparison to Defeating the Plaquette or Escaping the Belay, learn to compete by becoming fluent in mountaineering jargon. Imagine the excitement involved in Evacuating the Dishwasher, Exterminating the Dandelions, or Expurgating the Bedlinens!

Survival Tip #2: Anticipate Needs

After about 30 minutes with an ICS assistant, your partner’s definition of basic human needs will expand to include not just food, shelter, and water, but also things like a pink tricam and a second ice tool. This is great news for you! Not only will buying your spouse the random $8 carabiner bring profane amounts of irrational delight, but you are set up for the most straightforward holiday shopping season ever (spoiler: you’re going to be buying those yellow La Sportiva boots.)
Also you’re going to need an air freshener for the car. Just trust me on this one. One of those pine tree jobbers will help make your partner (and her new dirty mountain friends) feel right at home.

Survival Tip #3: Practice Patience 

It’s the defining truth of ICS abandonment that your partner will be out of the house a lot. Take advantage of this absence by teaching the dog, cat, or kid—your choice!—where his loyalty should lie. My dog and I had a great nine months hiking, snuggling, eating table scraps, wrestling on the upholstery, pooping on the lawn, burying bones under my husband’s pillow ... you get the idea.
The author, right, and her husband Harry Colas.
I also recommend watching the trashiest options available on your partner’s Netflix account, thereby completely ruining the algorithm for all time.

When you do see your partner, chances are good that you will be climbing. Prepare for a change in your typical climbing day. Pre-ICS may have consisted of a leisurely breakfast burrito, six solid hours of climbing, and a leisurely burger and beer before heading home. Post-ICS, you should come to expect a leisurely breakfast burrito (save half for lunch, the most valuable advice given in ICS), five hours and forty-five minutes of intense discussion about the climbing anchor, fifteen minutes of climbing, a fraught burger and beer over which there is more intense discussion about the climbing anchor, and guess what? More discussion on the drive home. Pack headphones.

Survival Tip #4: Accentuate the Positive

A few ICS hacks I learned this year: 

  • ICS is the perfect time to challenge your partner to a footrace with high stakes. Their confidence is high, their physical fitness incredibly low. For a course about mountaineering, there is very little actual mountaineering (or hiking, or really even walking) being done.
  • ICS is also the perfect time to suggest a visit from your in-laws. Not only will there be no free weekends during which your partner can take you up on this very kind, oh-so-thoughtful, just the sweetest offer, but your guest room will also more closely resemble an REI garage sale staging ground than an actual room that actual people could sleep in.
  • Your spouse’s baseline for “fun” will drop precipitously, and include things like intentionally falling off tall climbing walls, laying maimed on a snowy mountain for hours during first-aid scenarios, and drinking lukewarm Starbucks Vias. Dinner with your friends or seeing the latest Marvel monstrosity will seem positively rapturous by comparison. 

Use these hacks to your advantage.

Survival Tip #5: Don’t Keep Score

It may be framed as a year of sacrifice for the spouse that’s been “left behind,” but there are actually many benefits of ICS that will come to you through the hard work of your partner.
Though he will be eating, sleeping, and breathing ICS, he also will be weirdly paranoid about failing his tests. By quizzing him, you are not only improving your lingo fluency (see survival tip #1), you are also essentially auditing the class for free. When you inevitably apply for ICS, you will be way ahead of the game.

You will inherit, through very little effort on your part, cool new friends who have gone through nine months of serious vetting.

And, most importantly, it is extremely likely that the beneficiary of all this newly minted rescue expertise will be you. After a year of hard work, your spouse will still not be able to pull herself out of a crevasse. But she will be able to pull your lazy bones out of a crevasse, or lower your broken bones down a pitch, or CPR your unresponsive bones back to life, or at the very least prevent the dog from burying any bones under your pillow. She will work hard all year to learn skills that will benefit all of her future climbing partners, including you.

So it turns out that your loved one’s nine months of intense mountaineering training away from home really ends up being a selfless act of love and protection, and there’s no room whatsoever for resentment or regret.

Of course the best way to pay that forward, or perhaps exact your revenge, is to apply for ICS yourself. (Learn more about ICS)

Author Bio: Becky Nelson has been a member of the Mazamas since 2016. In addition to this, her Bulletin debut, she writes several emails a day.


A Legacy on the Landscape

by Mathew Brock, Mazama Library and Historical Collections Manager

Place names are integral to our knowledge and understanding of Mazama history. The nomenclature of Pacific Northwest geographic features, more often than not goes unrecognized and is often forgotten. Unknown to most, the Mazamas and its members have influenced the names of many places around the Northwest. The story begins, as many recountings of Mazama history does, with our founder William Gladstone Steel.

William Steel, Mt. Hood, and Mt. Mazama

Besides founding the Mazamas and helping to establish Crater Lake National Park, the nomenclature place names fascinated Steel. He worked for many years to compile a catalog of over 40,000 place names. It seems only fitting then that Steel Cliff on Mt. Hood honors him. Steel is also responsible for the naming of Mt. Hood’s Illumination Rock and Mississippi Head. In 1887 he organized and led a party that carried 100 pounds of red fire up to the mountain’s top and set them alight as part of that year’s July 4 celebration. Anyone who could see the mountain that night could see the fire atop Illumination Rock. In 1905 Steel named Mississippi Head for that state’s delegation to the National Editorial Association, who held their annual convention in Portland that year.

While on the subject of Mt. Hood, the Mazamas have either named or have influenced the naming of several other prominent features on the mountain. In 1901 the Mazamas named Reid Glacier for Professor Harry Fielding Reid of Johns Hopkins University to honor his work studying glaciers. Others include the naming of Glisan Glacier for long-time member Rodney L. Glisan and Leuthold Couloir for Mazama Joseph Leuthold. In the late 1990s, the U.S. Forest Service renamed the Cathedral Ridge trail the Mazama Trail to recognize the organization’s long association and history with the mountain.

All this pales in the satisfaction Steel must have felt when, in 1896, the ancient mountain whose caldera now holds Crater Lake was named Mt. Mazama in honor of the organization he founded. Steel loved Crater Lake and worked for seventeen years to have the area declared a National Park. He later served as the park’s second superintendent.

Columbia River Gorge

In 1914 the State Highway Commission asked Mazamas to recommend names for some of the places along the Columbia River Highway. The council sanctioned a committee to study the issue and make recommendations. In 1915 the committee submitted their proposals to the Mazamas and the Highway Commission. The commission accepted the majority of the recommendations. We know them today as Metlako Falls, Munra Point, Ruckel Creek, Tumult Creek, Wahclella Falls, Wahe Falls, Wahkeena Falls, Wuana Point, Elowah Falls, and Yeon Mountain. Don Onthank, a long-time member known to many as Mr. Mazama, gave the name to Bruin Mountain and the Rock of Ages Trail, both in the Gorge. And for a short while, there existed a Mazama Mystery Trail in the Gorge in the vicinity of Saint Peter’s Dome.

Mt. Adams, Mt. Baker, and Mt. Rainier

The Mazamas influence extends beyond Hood and the Gorge. Mazama and northwest mountaineer Claude E. Rusk is the namesake of Rusk Glacier on Mt. Adams. On Mt. Baker, the Mazama Dome honors the organization, while the Mazamas named Roosevelt Glacier in 1906 for U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt.  The Mazamas is the namesake for the Mazama Glaciers on both Adams and Baker. The Mazamas petitioned in 1948 to have the Mazama Glacier on Mt. Adams renamed to honor five-time Mazama President Charles Sholes, but the request was denied. Mazama founding member Fay Fuller is the source for Fay Peak, on the slopes of Mt. Rainier.

Forest Park

Closer to home, the Mazamas advocated for the creation of Forest Park. For their efforts, the city allowed for the establishment of the Mazama Forest inside the park. Now all but forgotten, this area was overseen by the Mazamas. Besides planting thousands of trees, the Mazamas sourced various types of rhododendrons from around the region and transplanted them. The Hardesty Trail leading to the forest honors Mazama President William Hardesty.

Mount St. Helens

Until the summer of 1967, all the glaciers on Mount St. Helens were nameless. In May of 1966, Keith Gehr, a frequent Mazama climb leader and then head of the Mazama Outing Committee, set out to rectify the situation. Over three months Keith worked the phones and wrote countless letters to determine why there were no given names. Keith’s search turned up an ally when he contacted Dr. Mark Meier, a glaciologist for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). After getting assurances from the USGS that the 11 permanent ice bodies on the mountain were, in fact, actual glaciers, Keith and Mark set about researching and submitting names for them. Keith wrote, “After much research in the Mazama library on the early history of the Mt. St. Helens area, particularly as it is related to climbing, a set of names was proposed. Differences of opinion between the Mazamas, Forest Service, and Geological Survey were quickly resolved in across-the-table meetings.” The eleven names recommended were: Forsyth, Nelson, Ape, Shoestring, Swift, Dryer, Talus, Toutle, Wishbone, Loowit, and Leschi. In November of 1967, the Board of Geographic Names, based in Washington D.C., approved the Mt. Saint Helens glacier names based on recommendations from the Mazamas.

Three of the names—Forsyth, Nelson, and Dryer—honored individuals. Charles Forsyth led six companions in the first rescue on St. Helens during the 1908 Mazama Outing. Over a grueling 48-hours, he led north-south and south-north traverses of the mountain to bring an injured climber to safety. Lorenz Nelson, a pioneer of Northwest mountaineering, 50-year Mazama member, and a two-time president is the namesake for the Nelson Glacier. Thomas Dryer was the founder and first editor of the Oregonian newspaper and a member of the party that first climbed St. Helens in 1853. The remaining glaciers took their names from either their shapes or from Native American heritage. Unfortunately The 1980 eruption vaporized Wishbone, Loowit, and Lesch glaciers and significantly reduced Nelson, Shoestring, and Forsyth glaciers.

Diligent searches through almost a hundred years of Mazama Bulletins has turned up many other places named for or by the Mazamas and its members. To name a few of the more interesting and unique: Lost Park in Beaverton; the Mazama Campground at Crater Lake; Sahale Peak near Washington’s Lake Chelan was named for the organization’s motto; Mt. Thielsen’s Lathrop Glacier, for Mazama Theodore Lathrop; and finally the small seasonal lake that appears atop South Sister was named Teardrop Lake by three young Mazamas on a hike.

While this recounting of place names around the Northwest is in no way comprehensive, it provides a glimpse into the influence the Mazamas have had on the nomenclature and the history of the region. Place names are anchors by which the Mazamas are tied to the mountains, valleys, glaciers, and ridges and act as markers of where the organization has traveled, climbed, and camped. As the Mazamas enter into their 124th year, the places named for and by the Mazamas are a proud reminder of the organization’s long and deeply rooted legacy on the landscape.


Off the Beaten Backpack

Three Fantastic Backpacking Trips for the Discerning Backpacker

by Matt Reeder

So you couldn’t get a permit for the Enchantments or the Wonderland Trail? Maybe you’ve done the Timberline Trail several times and want a new challenge? You aren’t alone. Every year I hear from my friends in the outdoor community about the difficulty of securing permits to cherished spots like the Enchantments, and the desire to find backpacking trips that aren’t completely overwhelmed with people or require complicated planning stretching over several days.

Thankfully there are many other places to backpack. Great places! I’ve spent the last several years researching my three hiking guidebooks: Off the Beaten Trail, 101 Hikes in the Majestic Mt. Jefferson Region, and PDX Hiking 365. I’ve had the opportunity to do some truly amazing backpacking expeditions, from short overnighters at nearby lakes to longer treks through remote and forbidding wilderness areas. Presented here are three relatively obscure trips sure to satisfy all of you who can’t or don’t want to backpack the Timberline Trail, the Wonderland Trail, or the Enchantments.

Big Slide Lake.

Big Slide Lake and Bull of the Woods

While it isn’t full of the kind of alpine splendor found on Mt. Hood or Mt. Rainier, the Bull of the Woods Wilderness is a peaceful and inviting destination for backpacking, from one-day trips to longer loops that touch all of the highpoints of the area, both literal and figurative. The only issue with visiting this area is that many of the trailheads are at the far end of long, winding gravel roads that test the patience of many drivers. This long but rewarding trek to Big Slide Lake and up to Bull of the Woods is easy to find, easy to follow, and leads hikers to a beautiful lake deep in the wilderness. Hikers desiring a mountain view can continue 2 miles to the summit of Bull of the Woods, where the view stretches from Mt. Rainier to the Three Sisters.

Beginning at the trailhead, follow the Dickey Creek Trail on the remains of an abandoned road for a half mile. The trail then descends steeply into Dickey Creek’s deep canyon, leveling out in a classic cathedral forest of ancient Douglas fir. The trail meanders along the valley bottom, passing a pond, until it reaches a crossing of Dickey Creek at about 3.5 miles from the trailhead. Make your way across the creek, which is generally easy in summer, and begin gaining elevation on the far side. The trail climbs up the forested slopes of Dickey Creek’s upper canyon, crossing a huge talus slope at the base of Big Slide Mountain’s cliffs. Reach a short side trail to Big Slide Lake at a little over 6 miles from the trailhead. Take the short spur trail down to the lake. Big Slide Lake is shallow but beautiful, with a lovely green color and an adorable island in the middle of the lake. The best campsites are on the lake’s west side, where you should be able to find a place of your own with space and privacy.

Bull of the Woods wilderness.
Once you’ve set up camp, take the time to hike 2 miles uphill, turning right at every junction, to the Bull of the Woods Lookout, where the view is magnificent. Some exploration on the summit will reveal different vantages, a historic outhouse, and views down to Big Slide Lake. The lookout tower, no longer used and closed to the public, is in poor shape—use caution when walking along the platform at the tower.

Hikers desiring a longer backpacking trip have many options, but a lack of trail maintenance has made some of these options a less attractive idea. Perhaps the best idea is to continue west from Bull of the Woods to a pass above Pansy Lake, and then descend the Mother Lode Trail 4.5 miles to beautiful Battle Creek Flats, at its confluence with Elk Lake Creek. Making a loop is possible either by hiking up the Elk Lake Creek Trail to Elk Lake and returning via the Bagby Trail and Twin Lakes, or by hiking downstream along Elk Lake Creek and returning via the Welcome Lakes and West Lake Way Trails to Bull of the Woods. This latter option to Welcome Lakes is among the worst-maintained trails in the area and is not recommended. Consult a topographic map if you’re planning on making a longer loop here.


  • From Portland, drive southeast on OR 224 approximately 20 miles to Estacada.
  • From Estacada, drive southeast on OR 224 for approximately 25 miles to the old guard station at Ripplebrook.
  • Just past Ripplebrook OR 224 becomes FR 46. Continue straight on FR 46 for 4.2 miles from Ripplebrook to a junction with FR 63.
  • Turn right onto FR 63, following signs for Bagby Hot Springs. 
  • Drive this 2-lane paved road for 3.5 miles to a junction with FR 70, signed for Bagby
  • Hot Springs. Ignore this turnoff and continue straight on FR 63.
  • Drive another 2.1 miles on FR 63 to a junction with FR 6340 on your right.
  • Turn right on this gravel road and drive 0.6 mile to a junction, where you keep straight.
  • Continue on FR 6340 another 2.1 miles to a junction with FR 140 with a sign for the Dickey Creek Trail. Turn left here.
  • Drive this narrow, rocky road for 1 mile to a T-junction. The trailhead is on the right, but the best parking is on the left. There is also room for a couple of cars on the shoulder FR 140 about twenty yards before the junction.

Heart of Jeff Loop

Marion Falls in the heart of the
Jefferson Wilderness
Hikers looking for a multi-day alternative to the Timberline Trail will find few better options than this multi-day backpack around the south side of the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness. As it is impossible to circumnavigate Mt. Jefferson (due to the Warm Springs Reservation, the lack of a trail on the east side, fire damage, and impassible cliffs and gorges, among other things), this circuit hits many of the high points in one of Oregon’s most beautiful wilderness preserves. The time is right so go now—next year a complicated permit system will likely come into effect, making this area much more difficult to visit. 

The trek starts at the crowded Marion Lake Trail, climbing gently 1.7 miles to a fork just before you reach the lake. Both trails go to the lake, but keep left for the shortest and most direct route. At a fork at lake’s edge, keep left and hike along the lake’s north shore. Views stretch across the huge backcountry lake south to Three Fingered Jack. Reach a junction with the Lake of the Woods Trail at 2.5 miles, where you turn left. Follow the Lake of the Woods Trail north to a junction with the Swallow Lake Trail and turn right. This trail passes by Swallow Lake before climbing steeply to the foot of South Cinder Peak at 8 miles. Take the time to follow the short spur trail here to the summit of the peak, where the 360 degree view stretches out to the far horizon, from Mt. Hood to the Three Sisters and everything in between. From here, return to the Swallow Lake Trail and reach a four-way junction with the Pacific Crest Trail and Shirley Lake Trail. Cross the PCT and turn onto the Shirley Lake Trail. Hike north 1.5 miles to Carl Lake, your stopping point for the first day of this trek. You’ll find lots of sites at this deep backcountry lake. 

From Carl Lake, locate the Cabot Lake Trail heading north and follow it as it seesaws through attractive woods. The trail passes under North Cinder Peak’s cliffs, curves attractively around the Forked Butte lava flow and then passes directly by scenic Forked Buttes as it makes its way towards Mt. Jefferson. The trail descends to small Patsy Lake and then gains elevation once more, finally reaching secluded Table Lake at 4.7 miles from Carl Lake. Make Table Lake your second night stop, and spend the rest of your day exploring this beautiful area. While you’re here, be sure to locate the continuation of the Cabot Lake Trail and follow it 1.5 miles north to an incredible viewpoint by the cliffs of Bear Butte. Here Mt. Jefferson towers over Hole-in-the-Wall Park, just four miles away. The trail once continued down to the park but is now lost in blowdown from the B+B fire. 

 South Cinder Peak and Mt. Jefferson. 
On day 3, leave Table Lake. You could hike all the way back to Carl Lake and return the way you came, but this trek is much better as a loop. So hike south from Table Lake 0.2 mile to a meadow, where a very faint trail cuts off west towards the Cascade crest. The trail isn’t easy to find, but is worth the trouble. Once you’ve found it, hike west on a trail that threads between a cinder cone and The Table and then traverses steeply uphill to the crest of the ridge. Once you top out the trail becomes faint again, but from here just continue west 0.1 mile or so to the PCT. When you find the PCT you’re faced with another dilemma—do you turn left and head south to wrap up the loop, or do you turn right to make a longer loop by heading into the burned forests west of the PCT for more lakes and a longer hike? The PCT continues south 4.7 miles to the Shirley Lake-Swallow Lake-PCT junction mentioned above, offering fabulous views and easy hiking. If you’re up for the longer loop option, turn right at this junction and soon arrive at a junction with the Hunts Creek Trail. Follow this trail as it climbs slightly and arrives at a rocky ledge above beautiful Hunts Cove, with Mt. Jefferson looming just across the valley. After 1.7 miles, reach a junction with the Lake of the Woods Trail. 

North leads down into Hunts Cove (a limited-entry permit area), but for the loop, keep left. The Lake of the Woods Trail continues south, soon entering burned forest. You’ll pass Lake of the Woods and finally reach a junction with the Swallow Lake Trail at 9.8 miles from Table Lake. Continue 1.7 miles to Marion Lake. At this point you’ve hiked 11.5 miles on Day 3—but you’re only 2 miles and change from the trailhead. If you’re wiped out, consider camping at this lake and spending the next morning exploring before hiking out. Explorations around the lake reveal fantastic lake shore viewpoints of Three-Fingered Jack and Mt. Jefferson as well as huge and impressive Marion Falls just below the lake. If you’ve got a bit of extra energy you can scramble up the talus slope on the west side of the lake (along the peninsula) to a fantastic viewpoint on top of a rock pile that looks out across the lake to Mt. Jefferson and Three-Fingered Jack. But if you reach Marion Lake and are ready to be done with this loop, follow the trail west of the lake a little over 2 miles to the trailhead. 

  • From Portland, drive south on Interstate 5 to Exit 253 in Salem, signed for Detroit Lake and Bend. Leave the freeway here and turn left onto OR 22. 
  • From Salem, drive OR 22 east for 49.2 miles to Detroit.
  • Continue on OR 22 another 16.2 miles to a junction with Marion Road (FR 2255), just opposite the now-closed Marion Forks Restaurant.
  • Turn left here and drive this one-lane paved road for 0.8 mile to the end of pavement. Continue another 3.7 miles of excellent gravel road to road’s end at the Marion Lake Trailhead.
  • There are many places to park but come early—this is an extremely popular hike and the trailhead is often full by mid-morning on summer weekends.
  • NW Forest Pass Required. A limited-entry permit of some sort will likely be required in 2019. 

Mt. Adams Northside Traverse

Mt. Adams rugged north side.
Like Mt. Hood and Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams features a trail that circumnavigates it. Sort of. The Round The Mountain Trail takes hikers three-quarters of the way around Mt. Adams, eventually ending on the far east side of the mountain, deep inside the Yakima Reservation—and from this point hikers must hike off-trail through forbidding terrain to complete the loop at Bird Creek Meadows. It is a fun adventure but a difficult one—and with Bird Creek Meadows closed this year, scratch it off your to-do list.

Thankfully, much of the finest terrain on Mt. Adams is open and gorgeous, and this traverse is probably the nicest backpacking trip in the area. The best place to start, in spite of lousy road access, is the Killen Creek Trailhead. Here you avoid the ubiquitous fire damage found further south and west on Mt. Adams, opting instead to just hike straight into wondrous alpine terrain on the north side of the mountain. It’s just all good here, almost right from the start. Begin on the Killen Creek Trail and hike steeply uphill on a trail that charges up the hillside. Thankfully the bad times don’t last long, and soon you’ll begin traversing glorious wildflower meadows with views south to the heavily glaciated north side of Mt. Adams. Meet the PCT (which here is also the Round the Mountain Trail) at a junction at 3 miles. The longer trip turns left here, to continue heading east around Mt. Adams. If you’re looking for a spectacular detour or a closer place to camp, turn right and immediately locate the spur trail to High Camp 100 feet to your right. Turn left here and climb this steep trail uphill 1 mile to High Camp, a plateau at nearly 7,000 feet of elevation, 4 miles from the Killen Creek Trailhead. This is among the most spectacular places on Mt. Adams, at the northern foot of the mountain near the terminus of the massive Adams Glacier. Views stretch north to Mt. Rainier and the Goat Rocks. There are plenty of campsites dotted throughout the plateau—just expect very cold nights, even in summer. If you’re just stopping by, return to the PCT and head east to continue hiking around Mt. Adams. 

Foggy Flats.
In a little under a mile, the trail crosses Killen Creek just above a cascading waterfall and passes a glade I lovingly refer to as “Perfection Park”—as in, it couldn’t possibly get better than this. The area is a popular camping spot for folks here, but with some luck you may find a site if you decide you don’t want to go any further. If you’re continuing, follow the PCT until you meet a junction with the Highline Trail (another name for the Round the Mountain Trail). Keep right and hike another 1.8 miles to a junction with the Muddy Meadows Trail. Keep right again and continue about a mile to Foggy Flat, a huge meadow on the northeast side of Mt. Adams. There are a few campsites scattered around the flat, which features a view of the top half of Mt. Adams. For the good stuff, continue on the Highline Trail a short ways past Foggy Flat until the trail leaves both meadow and forest, arriving at the lava flows and barren plains on the northeast side of Mt. Adams. There are a few good campsites here, and chances are you won’t have much competition for them. At this point you’re over 7 miles from the Killen Creek Trailhead, so it’s probably a good idea to stop here. Once you’ve set up camp, grab your pack and some water and continue exploring south along the barren plains. The views of Mt. Adams and its glaciers are tremendous, and continuous—this is truly a special place. 

The trail does continue several more miles south to Devil’s Garden and eventually Avalanche Valley, two of the most amazing places on Mt. Adams—but the creek crossings are difficult, and camping is questionable once you reach the Yakima Reservation. You’ve got options, and all of them are great. 
If you’re looking for a longer backpacking trip, start further south on Mt. Adams. There are numerous trails that reach the Round the Mountain Trail, from the South Climb Trailhead on the south side of the mountain to the Divide Camp Trail just southeast of the Killen Creek Trailhead. Many of these feature easier road access than does Killen Creek, and offer hikers the chance to turn a short trip into a much longer trip. In the absence of a loop trail (at least this year), the best option would be to set up a car shuttle somewhere along the way and hike the circuit one way from south to north. 

  • From Portland, drive east on Interstate 84 to Hood River.
  • At Exit 64 on I-84, leave the freeway and reach a junction at the end of the off-ramp.
  • Turn left and drive to the toll bridge over the Columbia River. Pay the $2 toll and cross the river.
  • At the far end of the bridge on the Washington side, turn left on WA 14.
  • Drive 1.5 miles west on WA 14 to a junction with WA 141 ALT, just before a bridge over the White Salmon River. Turn right here.
  • Drive 2.2 miles to a junction with WA 141. Turn left here.
  • Drive 18.9 miles to the small town of Trout Lake.
  • Continue straight on what is now Mt Adams Road (FR 23) for 1.5 miles to a junction.
  • Keep left (right leads to the south and east sides of Mt. Adams) to stay on FR 23.
  • Drive 23 miles, ignoring all side roads along the way, to a junction with FR 2329 near Takhlakh Lake. The last several miles of this road are gravel.
  • Turn right on FR 2329, following signs for Takhlakh Lake.
  • Drive 1.5 miles to Takhlakh Lake, ignoring signs for Olallie Lake along the way.
  • Continue past Takhlakh Lake, where FR 2329 worsens into a rough, rutted, potholed road that requires patience.
  • Drive 1.9 miles beyond Takhlakh Lake to the Divide Camp Trail on your right.
  • Continue 2.4 increasingly rough miles to the Killen Creek Trailhead on your right.


Ascent: Climbing Explored

Early mountaineering gear exhibit case featuring alpenstock, boots, jackets,
and climbing gear from the Mazama Library and Historical Collections.

An Exhibit at High Desert Museum 

article & photos by Mathew Brock

Chouinard Equipment exhibit case featuring signed ice axe
and catalog from the Mazama Library and Historical Collections. 
A new exhibit recently opened at the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon that is of interest to all Mazamas. Ascent: Climbing Explored showcases the dynamic history, evolution, and culture of climbing and mountaineering in the West. Curated by High Desert Museum staff, the exhibit tells the story of how technology pushed the sport to new heights over several decades, explores the geology of the High Desert region, and shares the vibrant culture climbers cultivated along the way.

Curator of Western History Dr. Laura Ferguson spent the better part of a year researching the sport as she developed the exhibit. “The climbing community has been incredibly generous, and I’ve loved having a chance to learn more about the history of climbing from those who played a key role in shaping it,” said Dr. Laura Ferguson. Over eighty objects from the Mazama Library and Historical Collections are on loan to the High Desert Museum.  A few of the objects featured in the exhibit include an alpenstock, early 1900s women’s climbing boots, and a wide array of summit register containers. Besides physical objects, the Mazama Library also provided many photographs used throughout the exhibit. Jeff Thomas, a renowned climber, author, and Mazama Library volunteer loaned several artifacts from his personal collection, including a complete rock climbing rack used during many first ascents at Smith Rock.

Summit register container exhibit case featuring containers
from Mazama Library and Historical Collections. 
The exhibition takes an incredible journey back in time, tracing modern-day climbing to its early mountaineering roots when people began exploring peaks in pursuit of scientific discovery. It examines the rise in mountaineering expeditions that followed as people started to climb for the sheer joy of it and the development of rock climbing. Along the way, it highlights technical advances—from evolving shoe styles to the advent and improvement of safety gear.

The exhibit also features beautiful artwork and objects on loan from around the region and across the nation, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Oregon Historical Society, and Patagonia. The exhibit highlights the geology of the area, including Smith Rock, which became a national destination in the 1980s. “It’s exciting that Smith Rock, which has played a significant role in the world of climbing, is right in our backyard,” said Dr. Ferguson. The exhibition also addresses the importance of balancing adventure-based, outdoor recreation with environmental stewardship.
Climbing ropes from the Mazama Library
and Historical Collections. 

“Ascent provides a connection between the past and present, exploring climbing from its humble beginnings through the enthusiastic following the sport has today,” said the Museum’s Executive Director, Dana Whitelaw, Ph.D.  “Climbing culture runs deep in our region and we’re pleased to be able to expand our visitors’ knowledge through this exhibit.” The exhibition runs through September 3, 2018.


The Summer Solstice: A Masochist's Thoughts About How to Squeezing the Most Out of the Longest Days

by Jonathan Barrett

Sunshine Route, Mt. Hood. Photo: Greg Simons
Fifteen hours and forty-one minutes. That is the length of the day on the Summer Solstice. Not including the extended light of dawn and dusk. The question is how to spend it. Here are a few ideas to be considered as guiding principles. While not everyone has that Thursday off, these principles would work just as well for the weekend warrior on the previous or following Saturday/Sunday.

Pull-off a really, really long climb

Yes, Infinite Bliss in Washington is fraught with controversy, given that when it was bolted, it ended up being in an established wilderness area. But it is a really, really, long climb and as a result benefits from having a really, really, long day to complete it. One would benefit from having the longest day of the year as a matter of fact. At 23 pitches, it was possibly the longest “sport” climb in the United States or Canada when first bolted, but to call it a sport climb misrepresents what the route really is. Although the crux pitches are well bolted, there are run-outs of close to 100 feet. Additionally, if going up takes a long time, you also need to rap the route ... 23 rappels. A full day, and full use of the Summer Solstice. Substitute your favorite super-long climb as desired.

Pull off a really, really long approach

Most will climb Mt. Olympus over three days. Approach the 17+ miles on day one. Summit and return to camp on day two. Hike out on day three. But given a really, really, long day, a fit team could conceivably knock it out in “one day.” Consider the following: with some light jogging and fast hiking, you might be able to do the approach in around six hours. The climb to the summit and descent could happen in six or seven hours. Then one just needs to endure the slog out, another six hours. Given the length of predawn and post-sunset light (nautical twilight starts at 3:34 a.m. for that latitude and ends at 10:48 p.m.), a person has more than 19 hours of light, which is plenty of time. Assuming your feet hold up. The Olympics and Cascades are awash in long approaches, so it is easy to pick your poison when considering this use for the longest days of the year.

Fit More Into Your Day

Given that the average Mazama is a working stiff, probably with fairly normal daytime hours, we are generally resigned to hitting our local crags only on the weekends. Evening sessions at the gym have to suffice otherwise. What if the day was a little longer? What about an alpine start to your cragging session? At 3:52 a.m. on June 21, you could be calling “on belay” to your partner and starting up a route at Ozone. Depending on traffic or where you work, this might give you four to five hours of climbing time, more than enough to leave your forearms so pumped you can barely type for the rest of the day. Those that find the early hours horrifying—although it is certain to be much more quiet—can replicate the experience, but after work. With usable light until 10:30 p.m., one could conceivably get a five hour session in after your day working for The Man. The Army is famous for the saying that they do more before 9 a.m. than most people do all day. Now you can say that you are more productive than the Army.

Summit Hood And Be Home For Breakfast

This is one that I have pulled off myself. Sunrise is 5:21 a.m. in Portland on the solstice but from the summit it is a little earlier. You can catch those golden rays reflecting off the Columbia River and lighting up the Eastern Oregon desert and still be back in Portland in time for waffles and bacon with the family. High-five the sun and descend as quickly back to Timberline as possible. With a little jogging, glissading, or skiing, being back at your car by 7AM is totally doable (safety first, of course). Then, when you arrive at 8:30 stinking like sweat, summit, and summer’s first rays, it will be the perfect compliment to breakfast along with some wild blueberry syrup. You can have both: a climbing life and a family life. You just might need to crash in the hammock for an afternoon nap though.

Catch the Best Light, For Longer

Photographers know that sunrise and sunset are the best for capturing the soft dewy light that is so prized in the making of quality images. Consider the fact that civil twilight lasts for 38 minutes on the summer solstice and only 29 minutes on the spring equinox. There is something astonishing about the fact that during this time of year, it’s almost like the Earth is rotating more slowly. This gives the artist thirty percent more time to capture just the right light illuminating the Crooked River and Asterix Pass at Smith Rock or Haystack Rock on the coast. There are some differences between the two times though. In some ways dusk is better because the photographer knows how the shadows and silhouettes are going to fall. All she needs to do is sit and wait for the right moment with the camera in position. In contrast, in the predawn hours, it is much harder to know what shapes, shadows, and textures are going to look like. When the sun finally does appear, having these few extra minutes can be a godsend as the photographer rushes about making final adjustments.

A Long Hike To Avoid Overnight Permits

It is a fact of life in the Northwest that some areas are more difficult to access due to permitting issues. Getting a backcountry camping permit can be almost impossible during the busy periods of the year. The Enchantments is one such place where acquiring a campsite is impossible, but through-hiking is very doable. Over the course of a long day, it is possible to experience all that the area has to offer without having to be encumbered by both overnight gear and regulations. At a skoch more than eighteen miles, the trail through the Enchantments involves 7,100 feet of elevation gain if going from Snow Lakes to Colchuck trailheads and a knee-busting descent down from Aasgard Pass. With stashed bike at the end, it is possible to then zip (relatively) easily back to the car on (mostly) downhill roads. Although Colchuck would likely still be cold enough for a penguin, there is still enough time during the solstice to take a dip and ice your sore feet before grinding out the last four and a half miles.