6.13.2018

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.

6.05.2018

Star Dust

by Darrin Gunkel

The Summer Triangle

You’re standing on the side of a mountain, about 7,000 feet above sea level. It’s a few minutes after sundown and the color filling the western sky has you absorbed. Until you turn to the east and notice something odd. The sky has a pinkish glow but for a dark band of blue along the horizon. This is the Earth’s shadow cast onto the upper reaches of our atmosphere. It’s visible for a brief time after sundown, while the geometry of our sun and planet are just right. Once night fully falls, rather looking at the shadow, you’re standing under it.

The pink glow is called the Belt of Venus, and when it appears, it’s time to start looking for the first stars and planets of the evening. Twilight’s a great time to find your way around the sky – it more closely resembles those constellation finder charts that tend to show only the brighter stars. Things can get confusing later on in full darkness, when the storm of summer stars can throw off even experienced stargazers.

This month, the show begins with the two brightest planets: Venus blazing 15 degrees (or three fist widths) above the western horizon, and Jupiter, 30 degrees up from due south. Both should be easy to spot by 9:30. Just north of east, Vega, the fifth brightest star in the sky (not including the sun) rides a little higher above the horizon than Jupiter.

Vega burns as brightly as it does for three reasons. First, it’s big: two and half times the size of our sun. Second, it’s hot: its surface registers 9500 Kelvin (the temperature scale astronomers use, based on absolute zero. Our sun’s surface is 5770 Kelvin. The average temperature of the Earth’s surface is 287 Kelvin, or 57.2 degrees Fahrenheit.) Vega’s hotter, larger, and brighter than the vast majority of the 200 billion to 400 billion stars in our galaxy. Finally, Vega’s nearby, a galactic neighbor at 25 light years.

Vega is also the anchor for the bright summer asterism, or pattern of stars, known as the Summer Triangle. The second star in the group, Altair, is rising due east after sundown. By 10:00, it should have cleared the murk of dust and haze near the horizon. Altair has an entourage. Just above and below are the slightly dimmer Tarazed and Alshain, respectively. Altair’s not as bright as Vega because it’s neither as big nor hot. In fact, it’s much closer, clocking in at 16.7 light years.

Neither of them, however, holds a candle to the final member of the Summer Triangle. Deneb, found about 30 degrees above north-northeast as twilight deepens into full night. It’s among the largest and brightest stars in the galaxy, a super-giant 100 million miles in diameter. That’s not a typo. Deneb is wider than the distance between the Earth and Sun. Intrinsically, Deneb is something like 55,000 times brighter than our home star. Move it to Vega’s distance and it would be clearly visible during the day and cast shadows at night. But it’s 60 times further away, shining at us across 1500 light years, so it only ranks as the 19th brightest night time star.

Incidentally, big, bright stars are rare. Our Sun is a good example, often misidentified as average, though anything but. It’s larger and brighter than 90 percent of the stars in our galactic neighborhood. Of our 50 nearest stellar neighbors, only seven are bright enough that we can see them without the help of binoculars or a telescope, and only three of those are truly bright, first magnitude stars. Relatively close neighbors Vega and Altair don’t even make that list. A few of the rest can be spotted with binoculars, but most are tiny red dwarfs, often closer in size to the giant planet Jupiter than to our sun, and invisible with anything other than a seriously large telescope.

The Great Rift

As the night deepens, dimmer stars fill up the sky: the little parallelogram that hangs like a pendant below Vega, marking the constellation Lyra; the splay of stars to the south of Altair, the constellation Aquila; the Northern Cross capped by Deneb. And then there’s the Milky Way, the collective glow of billions of stars too distant and dim to make out with eyes alone. Together their light forms what the !Kung people of the Kalahari call the Backbone of the Night. The Milky Way runs right through the middle of the Summer Triangle, and through the middle of it runs the Great Rift.

The Great Rift splits the Milky Way into two streams. The stars aren’t sparser here, they’re obscured by great clouds of cosmic dust: the star stuff that Joni Mitchell and Carl Sagan liked to point out we are all made from. And not just us. Star dust is everything in the solar system that isn’t hydrogen or helium (everything that isn’t the Sun, Jupiter, and Saturn, basically), every planet, asteroid, comet, meteor. Everything on or in every planet, asteroid, comet, meteor. The oceans, the continents, the volcano you’re camping on. Moreover, that star stuff fuels those volcanoes.

The earth is hot inside: cranking at 44 trillion watts. Half of that heat comes from radioactive decay – the breakdown over time of uranium, mostly, but also thorium, potassium and a few others, into lighter elements. This decay unleashes subatomic particles that crash into the other stuff the earth’s made of, and transfer their kinetic energy into that stuff, heating it up. This melts the Earth’s interior, creating the convection driving the plate tectonics fueling mountain – and volcano – building. (The rest of the heat is leftover from the Earth’s formation – also kinetic energy, but from numberless bits of cosmic dust in the Sun’s birth cloud colliding and coalescing under the influence of gravity.)

So where’d all that dusty stuff come from? Back to the stars – the big ones like our Sun, which end their lives as planetary nebulae: glowing shells of future star dust and gas that disperse into the cosmic wind. But to make the really heavy radioactive elements, like uranium, you need really big stars like Deneb. Starlight is (part of) the exhaust of nuclear fusion: hydrogen fusing to helium, and so on to heavier elements. To get the really exotic, unstable radioactive elements like uranium, you need the conditions found only in a supernova, the death-throe explosion of one of those super-rare giants. Super-rare, but remember, there may be a third of a trillion stars in our galaxy, and it’s been around for something like 15 billion years. Plenty of time for plenty of ancient Denebs to cough up enough heavy elements to keep planets like ours cooking up entertaining mountains.



5.30.2018

A Night to Celebrate

by Sarah Bradham, Mazamas Director of Marketing & Communications

On April 25, 2018 Mazama members gathered at The Evergreen in Southeast Portland to celebrate. It was a time to come together to honor the achievements of our members, to recognize the dedication and talents of our volunteers, and most importantly, to spend time together.

The evening kicked off with an hour of social time. Attendees were treated to delicious food from Devil’s Food Catering, and an opportunity to enter win one of 20 awesome raffle prize—from backpacks to boots to puffy jackets! The venue was full with Mazamas of all ages and varying lengths of Mazama membership. We had brand new members who had just completed our Basic Climbing Education Program alongside 70-year(!) member Jack Grauer and all durations in between.
The program was kicked off by Chris Kruell who welcomed the crowd to the annual gathering, and acknowledged our new 25- and 50-year members. Chris then passed the mic to Executive Lee Davis who shared details of the Mazamas history with the crowd. We then moved into the volunteer recognition portion of the evening with highlights from our committees and teams, and thank yous for the volunteers involved with those programs.

Thank yous turned to congratulations as we moved into awards territory. First up was Bill Stein, Trail Trips Committee Chair, with the hiking leadership and participation awards. Bill also presented Terry Sherbeck with the Hardesty Cup, an award given annually to the Mazama who best exemplifies the spirit of volunteerism and service to the hiking community.

Larry Beck, Climbing Committee Chair, then came on stage to present the climbing awards. He led off with the Guardian Peaks Award, given to those who have successfully summitted Mts. Hood, Adams, and St. Helens with the Mazamas. This year’s recipients were Teresa Dalsager (daughter of long-time Mazama member Dick Miller), Buzz Lindahl, and Gary Riggs. This was followed by the Oregon Cascades Award, which had a single recipient this year, Buzz Lindahl. The Oregon Cascades Award includes successful summits of Mt. Hood, Mt. Jefferson, 3-Fingered Jack, Mt. Washington, North Sister, Middle Sister, and South Sister. The final climbing participation award was the 16 Major Northwest Peaks award—the crown jewel of climbing awards—which includes successful summits of all of the peaks already listed plus Mt. Baker, Mt. Shuksan, Glacier Peak, Mt. Olympus, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Stuart, and Mt. Shasta. This year’s recipients were Kurt Gusinde, Kim Osgood, Chris Rears, and Lisa Ripps.

The final climbing award was the Terry Becker Award. This is a leadership award, earned by successfully leading the 16 Major Northwest Peaks. This award was first given in 2000, and only 14 leaders have achieved this milestone in 18 years. This year’s recipients Bruce Yatvin and Rico Micallef became the thirteenth and fourteenth awardees.

Howard Buck then took the stage to honor Jeff Hawkins for his tireless effort to get the solar panels installed at the Mazama Mountaineering Center. The solar panel project took more than 10 years to go from concept to fruition, and Jeff was the person who stuck with it all the way. For his efforts he was awarded the Montague Conservation Cup, which “recognizes and honors individuals who have had a significant and lasting impact upon the community through their efforts in conservation” and in protecting the environment. If you want to see the extent of the impact of the solar panels, you can go to beta.mazamas.org/mmc/ and see how much energy the solar panels are producing.

Lee Davis returned to the stage for the biggest awards of the evening. Honorary membership may be bestowed upon “persons who have rendered distinguished service to the club, or who are eminent for achievement over a period of not less than ten years in climbing, conservation, exploration, scientific research or outdoor activities.” The Honorary membership was bestowed upon Dr. Andrew Fountain, a world-renowned glaciologist at Portland State University, for his critical contribution to the scientific discourse about how glaciers worldwide are affected by climate change.

The final award of the evening, the Parker Cup, is viewed by many as the most prestigious award at the Mazamas, and it recognizes members who have distinguished themselves by hard work, ability, and self-sacrifice for the benefit of the Mazamas. This year’s honoree fully embodies these qualities. She served on six committees in her tenure at the Mazamas, including Executive Council twice, and chair of the Trail Trips committee three times! Some of her achievements include expanding the weekly Street Rambles from once to twice a week; leading Mazama members at the SOLV Beach clean-ups for 17 years; leading more than 700 hikes and backpacks; hiking more than 6,000 miles with the Mazamas; and previously winning the Hardesty Cup for distinguished volunteer service in the hiking community. For her tenure at the Mazamas, Billie Goodwin has demonstrated what it truly means to be a Mazama. To lead, to give, to share her knowledge with others, to not only be a part of our community but to have a hand in creating that community, and to help others have the life changing experiences she had when she joined our organization.

To bring the evening to a close 70-year Mazama member and past Mazama President Jack Grauer took the stage to lead the crowd in our long-standing tradition of singing the Happy Wanderer. As the music began to play, the pride of the Mazamas was palpable, and the crowd joined Jack in a rousing send-off to the evening.

Once the official program ended, members stayed to share in each others’ company for awhile longer. As attendees left, each took home a commemorative ceramic Mazama mug.

It was an evening to remember, and one we hope to repeat for many years to come. Thanks to all who came out to celebrate and to be honored for their dedication to the Mazamas.

5.29.2018

One Last Hood Climb


by Rico Micallef


Since the beginning of March I have had two house guests, Ruth Reitsma and her son Earl. Ruth was a former Mazama climb leader who passed away in November of 2015, and her son Earl passed away December of 2016. Ruth’s daughter’s, Diane and Jan, wanted their mother and brother’s ashes to be distributed on the top of Mt. Hood, and asked the Mazamas for assistance. I was honored to be asked to help fulfill their wishes.

I got to know Ruth through many emails with Diane and Jan, and through photos that they sent to me. Ruth led an all women’s climb for the Mazamas. Ruth’s husband Earl, who passed way in 1965, was also a Mazama climb leader. Ruth and Earl led many Mazama climbs together. I was thrilled when they sent me a picture of Earl’s Guardian Peak award from 1957—when Mount St. Helens was 1300 feet higher!

Diane and Jan recounted how their mother carried sand to the top of Mt. Hood and had a beach party on the summit. I knew instantly that Ruth was the kind of climb leader that I would have enjoyed climbing with.

Diane and Jan and other family members wanted to be on Mt. Hood when the ashes were distributed. They were traveling to Oregon from a variety of locations—Washington, Arizona, and California—so we agreed on a summit attempt on May 5. I was planning to lead a team of 12, primarily my 2018 Basic Climbing Education Program (BCEP) students, up Mt. Hood on their quest for their first Mt. Hood summit. Once we set the day, we prayed for good weather.

Our prayers were answered with a fantastic warm night with little to no wind. I was concerned about the how warm it was going to be and even more concerned about how busy the mountain would be, so I moved the climb start time up to 11 p.m. I told the team that if we maintained a decent pace we would get to the summit by 6 a.m., in time for sunrise. The team rocked it and we were on the summit by 5 a.m. It took us 5 ½ hours to summit.

On our way to the summit we found the Pearly Gates route in the best shape I have ever seen. I thought it was very fitting to bring Ruth and Earl to their final resting place via the Pearly Gates.
We waited for sunrise to scatter the ashes, another fitting piece to this day. The dawn of a new day—in my head I had the song the “Morning has Broken” playing—the song I have told my kids I want played at my funeral.

The climb team donning their Hawaiian shirts on the summit.
As the sun finally began to light the day, we got ready to distribute the ashes. I had told the team that in honor of Ruth we were going to wear Hawaiian shirts on the summit. Fortunately I have an overabundance of them and supplied the team with shirts from my collection. We put on our Hawaiian shirts over or puffies and got ready.

As the new day began, we scattered Ruth’s ashes on the summit while reading a poem that family had placed in the bag with the ashes:

Look to this Day
Look to this day:
For it is life, the very life of life.
Ruth & Earl's ashes on the summit of Mt. Hood.
In its brief course
Lie all the verities and realities of your existence.
The bliss of growth,
The glory of action,
The splendor of achievement
Are but experiences of time.
For yesterday is but a dream
And tomorrow is only a vision;
And today well-lived, makes
Yesterday a dream of happiness
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well therefore to this day;
Such is the salutation to the ever-new dawn!

We then spread Earl’s ashes next to his mother. Finally, I placed a picture of Ruth in the middle of the ashes.

After descending I finally got to meet Diane and Jan, where I presented them with a Mazama Climb certificate for both Earl and Ruth.

Climb leader Rico Micallef with Ruth's daughters post-climb.
Our climb saw eight first time summits. But, this climb was bigger than all of us, and more important than reaching the summit for the first time. As a team, we were united in helping a family put their mother and brother to rest. I never knew either Ruth or Earl, but I felt privileged to be able to assist Ruth in getting one final Hood summit.

Diane and Jan, don’t worry about your mother I will be checking in with her periodically.

About Ruth Reitsma
Ruth Reitsma was a member of the Mazamas from 1950 along with her husband Earl A. Reitsma. Together they were leader and co-leader of numerous climbs of various peaks in North America. Earl received his 36 peak award and Ruth received her 26 peak award. In June 1966 Ruth lead a successful all-women’s ascent of Mt Hood. Climbing partners included Dave Bohen, Edwin Rieger, Bill and Margaret Oberteuffer, Jack Grauer. Other climbing friends included the Whittaker brothers. A lifelong outdoors women her worldwide travels included living for two years in Afghanistan. Her appreciation of the outdoors was passed on to her children in numerous camping, hiking, skiing, and snowshoeing adventures. Rest in peace.

5.18.2018

DIY Trekking Food

by Wendy Marshall

I admit it. I’m one of those outdoor people: I feel less daunted navigating an ice field or tiptoeing along a precipice than I do walking into REI. So many options! Furthermore, if I drop a scary sum of cash on a product, will it meet my needs? Thus, I tend to be more resourceful with basic tools
Food is no exception. I can take lots of punishment if I have the right fuel, and enough of it. Work stress? Car issues? Bring it, provided I get a few hearty meals, and maybe chocolate. Being planet-conscious, I also care what my snack contains. It makes me skeptical of those freeze-dried meals in outdoor retailers, even if the label claims organic. As a beginning trail hiker, I find the idea of being caught on a distance trek with insufficient or lackluster food as terrifying as faulty gear. Granola bars are easy to make, but could I replicate, even improve on, those mysterious dried meal packs? Instead of reinventing the wheel, I did what any wise person does before a new venture: research. Veterans of the Pacific Crest, Appalachian and other trails have left a wealth of tips and recipes to help us DIY-types create homemade nosh, without trading health or taste. The simplest ingredients are often the most flavorful, affordable, and nourishing.

Learning to make your own trail food also teaches you about nutrition itself, and your body’s requirements. While backpacking, you can burn 400–600 calories an hour. If you’re small, that might mean only 3,500 calories for a 10-hour day, but it’s a safe bet to pack at least 6,000—the need of an average-sized person. It’s better to carry a little extra weight, than be hungry and fighting a grim attitude. A good way to determine your needs is to take a three- or four-day hiking trip, equipped with a clear excess of food. Starting on Day Two, begin tracking all that you eat, since your body will have by now consumed some of its stored fuel reserves in the form of glycogen. Continue tracking for the rest of the trip, then afterward, estimate the bulk amounts and calories you’ve used.

To craft good trek meals, focus on four things: nutritionally dense, non-perishable, lightweight, and easy to prepare. The last typically means dehydrated; if you need only boiling water, you save fuel. If you get really serious about eats, you might want to buy a dehydrator, but it’s not necessary. Bringing a dehydrator on board, however, means you can make anything from dried strawberries and apple slices to bell peppers and mushrooms, in the sizes and textures you prefer. Plus, making dried noms is fun!

To start, many meals are just a base of carbohydrates, with tasty stuff mixed in. Think organic co-op bulk bins, here. Good carb choices pack at least 100 calories per ounce, yet are lightweight and rehydrate quickly, with minimal boiling. Pasta with small, thin shapes; rice noodles; and instant rice all cook in five to ten minutes by steeping in boiling water, with no added simmering. Potato flakes, lentil, or bean powders, corn grits (or polenta), and soup mixes are also good. Couscous can be cooked, fuel-free, during camp time: On a sunny day, place couscous in water, cover, and leave for 20-30 minutes. And don’t forget the instant oatmeal! Remember oatmeal and instant rice can be made into either sweet or savory dishes, doubling your options.

To the carbs, begin adding nutritious bits. Here’s where a dehydrator shines, because fresh veggies are heavy with water. But I also love Trader Joe’s for its wide range of dried fruit and vegetables—dried coconut, berries, orange and apple slices, along with dried kale and broccoli, green beans, peas, mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, and more. I’ve dried spinach in a warm oven, and made my own kale chips. Almost any hard-to-find dried vegetable can, of course, be purchased online. Protein may not be as critical, since you’ll likely be munching trail mix all day; still, bacon bits, ground nuts or wasabi chickpeas, soya protein nibs, and finely shredded jerkies are nice additions.

To flavor your meal, first check the spice cabinet. Mine includes garlic and onion powders, curry, chipotle, and herbs like basil and rosemary to perk up potatoes and pastas, and a pumpkin pie spice blend for breakfasts. When looking for seasoning packets, don’t rule out Asian or Indian grocery stores for fresh ideas!

From my Southern relatives, I learned a trick: for more flavor, just add sugar, salt, or fat. We covered seasoning, and while I won’t say no to chocolate, I need more for dinner. Fat is all right, since it’s where the calories are—usually 160 calories per ounce or more. Some of us think cheese for this, and dried parmesan or cheddar is certainly nice. I’d never heard of powdered butter until exploring trek foods. But a great source of fat is vegetarian-friendly: olive oil. Avocado, nut, safflower, and a myriad of flavored oils also work. Carry oils in smallish, sturdy plastic bottles, and remember to add them after your meal is thoroughly rehydrated or cooked (unless it’s a fried meal!).

To safely transport your ingredients, you’ll want lots of resealable pouches of various sizes, and a few plastic bottles—I try to minimize plastic, but reusable is the silver lining here. I also bring a canister for rehydrating, since personally, I prefer not to mix boiling water and plastic bags (though some people do). Since meals are born in stages, you can save time by re-hydrating vegetables and other ingredients while you hike. But, if that soupy slop leaks or spills, your freshly seasoned pack can attract irritating or even dangerous members of the local beast community! Be safe. Seal canisters of rehydrating or liquid food, gooey spices, eggs or pungent fats in a second Ziploc freezer bag or pouch.

All this sounds lovely, but how to combine it? Unless you’re a super chef, you may find inventing recipes a challenge; I did at first. Again, trailblazers come to our aid. Websites like wildbackpacker.com share lots of recipes for each meal. I’ve been using them as templates to experiment with flavors and textures. I also plan to check out the book Lipsmackin’ Backpackin’ since, cute name aside, it serves up years of PCT hiking (and eating) experience.

To start, check out the recipes on this page, which I tweaked from those on Wild Backpacker. I hope this reveals how a simple recipe can turn into a gourmet serving on the trail. Before you set out, try some recipes at home, and pick a repertoire of favorites. Those fancy meal products need never be a worry again.

About the author:
Wendy Marshall got acquainted with the Mazamas in 2014, but has always loved activities related to ice, snow, rocks, plants, and mountains. Besides forest walks, snowboarding, and cooking, she enjoys herbal brewing and her experiments are slowly outgrowing their shelves.

5.14.2018

Book Review: Wild Adventures We Have Known by Jolene Unsoeld




by Louis F. Reichardt

The name Unsoeld resonates among Americans of my generation because of Willi Unsoeld’s legendary West Ridge ascent, traverse, and bivouac on Mt. Everest with Tom Hornbein in 1963. Completed shortly after President John Kennedy’s speech committing the United States to reach the moon by the end of the decade, this mountaineering achievement captured our imaginations at a time when optimism about our country and the world was high. Written by Jolene Unsoeld, Willi’s wife, with extensive text transcribed from her husband’s myriad lectures, this book indeed describes two lives, each full of adventures as wild as advertised. For those interested in the remarkable careers of both Willi and Jolene, the text more than meets expectations. The pictures of family, mountains, and peoples of distant lands are well chosen and provide attractive and welcome supplements to the author’s text. Although Willi sadly died in 1979 in an avalanche on Mt. Rainier, he lectured so frequently that the book provides innumerable, vivid, first-person examples of his humor and adventurousness. The book is consequently written as much by Willi as by Jolene.
Jolene & Willi engagement photo.

From reading this book, my single most vivid impression is how much as Americans we have changed from our shared senses of purpose, trust in the value of government, and optimism that infused our citizenry during the decades after World War II before trust in government was shattered by the Vietnam War and Nixon presidency. The text describes the life of a family who lived when America built bridges to the world, the civil rights movement pushed us towards the original vision of our Declaration of Independence, and America initiated with little controversy bold and imaginative projects such as the Peace Corps and placing a man on the moon.

The text traces Willi’s and Jolene’s family histories from before their births during the Great Depression through their early adventures as individuals and a couple. This review can recapitulate only a tiny subset of the many images the book captures of their lives. As one example, using Willi’s lecture notes, it describes Willi’s early infatuation with climbing, including his first fall, happily only about 20 feet. Shortly after, he enlisted in the army in 1944 as a seventeen-year-old, too young for active duty, but old enough to experience basic training, including crawling through mud under fire of live ammunition. With a strong sense of immortality, he used a weekend pass while stationed in Kentucky to drive to Colorado where he completed a challenging technical ascent of the East Face of Longs Peak, somehow managing to hitchhike back to Kentucky before the 5 p.m. Monday deadline.

Camp on Nanda Devi.
Equally fascinating is Willi’s description of his hitchhiking by every imaginable mode of transportation around the world, leaving the U.S. with $300 in his pocket and returning with $250. Along the way, he completed several worthy ascents in the Alps, including a solo ascent of the Matterhorn, met several of Europe’s most illustrious climbers, and made an unsuccessful attempt on the then unclimbed Himalayan peak, Nilkanta. As Jolene summarizes, “one of the most important things Willi came back with is “... that people the world over are made of pretty much the same stuff. The best way of understanding the fellow on the other side of the world is to go live with him on his level,” truth that today faces challenge from the highest levels of our government.

Jolene’s early life was equally interesting and included two years in Shanghai shortly after the Japanese invasion of China. Happily, the family returned to the U.S. before Pearl Harbor and escaped internment. This international experience gave Jolene a very similar philosophy and sense of our shared humanity that Willi acquired in India.

Willi and Jolene met as students at Oregon State College, where both escaped frequently to the Cascades, and were married in 1951. The book’s descriptions of their subsequent life together include adventures in the Tetons, a shared first ascent of the North Face of Grand Teton, the fulfillment of their plan to have four children, and the subsequent close encounters of Jolene and her young children with the bears that shared the Teton campgrounds. Willi’s education during this period included completion of a BS in Physics and a doctorate in Philosophy and Comparative Religions. Within three years of their marriage, Willi’s mountaineering adventures expanded to Makalu in 1954 and Masherbrum in 1960. Jolene describes candidly the challenges this posed to a marriage in which one partner was left for months of uncertainty with young children after which they were reunited with a wealth of unshared, but rich experiences.

Willi & Devi in the North Cascades.
My favorite section of the book is one that describes their lives together in Nepal from 1962 to 1965, where Willi was first Deputy Director and then Director of the Peace Corp. The story of his recruitment by Bob Bates, the first Nepalese Peace Corp Director, is simply hilarious; an ascent of Glacier Peak in the North Cascades with only one crampon; a tent pole as an ice axe; and a long john top as a substitute for pants. At that time, Sargent Shriver, President Kennedy’s inlaw and national Peace Corp Director, interviewed all candidates and Willi’s interview took place during a flight to Chicago with Shriver, on such short notice that Willi had no chance to take luggage.

The first cohort of Peace Corp volunteers embarked with the Bates and the Unsoelds together for Nepal and spent the first year improvising at they learned how to make a difference in the lives of citizens of a foreign country with which Americans had little prior experience. The book brought back to me the joy and wonder I felt during my own first visit to Nepal and its wonderful people in 1969. Nothing I write in this review can do justice to Jolene’s descriptions of their experiences there.
Somehow, Willi’s full-time job as Deputy Director in Nepal did not dissuade Sargent Shriver from granting him leave to join Norman Dyhrenfurth’s 1963 Expedition to Mt. Everest where Tom Hornbein’s and Willi’s first ascent of the West Ridge and bivouac created a legend.

Jolene’s text includes descriptions by Willi of this expedition and his exceedingly long recovery from frostbite and hepatitis that I was not previously aware of. More importantly, the text focuses on the challenges of separation when one’s partner is left with small children in a foreign land. Willi’s and Jolene’s letters to each other provide an intimate portrait of the expedition and life in Nepal complemented by superb photography of the mountains, expedition, and Nepalese people.

After Everest, Willi assumed the directorship of the Nepalese Peace Corp and subsequently a less satisfying year’s assignment with the America’s Nepalese AID mission. The book describes their return to the States and difficulties of readjustment where Willi became Deputy Director of Outward Bound, responsible for overseeing activities at the first five American sites. Most interestingly, it describes the creation of Outward Bound by the German Jewish educator Kurt Hahn, which he started in the UK to enhance through “intense mini-life experiences, young people’s ... capacity to cope with life,” a program designed to increase survival of sailors whose ships had been torpedoed by German submarines. Willi and Jolene clearly adopted Kurt’s philosophy that the “intense personal challenges at Outward Bound force students to recognize ... their fears ... in order to perform well ... on a mountain, or in life.”

Following Outward Bound, both Unsoelds were involved in the State of Washington’s visionary creation of Evergreen State College, partly at least to deal with the unrest resulting from the Vietnam War and Civil Rights Movement, where Willi integrated his life’s experiences into teaching the next generation.

This was the period when Jolene took her first steps toward what became a remarkable career of public service as a Washington state legislator and three term Member of Congress. Only the first tentative steps in this career are described in this book, but the ethics and commitment that must have inspired the confidence of her constituents are present throughout.

The final chapters of the book focus on their children’s adventures when it was still safe for Americans to travel overland to Nepal, before the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and revolution in Iran. These adventures culminated with Willi’s and their daughter Devi’s return to the Himalaya for an attempt on Nanda Devi, a peak that Willi first saw on his unsuccessful expedition to Nilkanta in 1949. Devi, the mountain’s namesake, died unexpectedly high on this mountain. The book describes the deepest emotions of Willi, Jolene, and their children as they coped with this loss, a downside of releasing a child to live a life of risk. For me, a member of this expedition who continues to think about the “what ifs” that might have altered this outcome, this was the most personally moving section of the book. The family’s photos of Devi, the mountains and the local people are beautiful.

Their tributes to her life will resonate with every reader. Finally, much more briefly, Jolene addresses her family’s loss of Willi during a winter climb on Mt. Rainier in 1979.

The book describes a family that has lived lives full of hope, optimism, and achievement, but has also suffered far more than its share of tragedy.

To attempt a summary, this is a book that will interest everyone who enjoys biographies describing lives of exceptional individuals. The text is well written, candid and moving throughout. One suspects that some of the text from Willi’s lectures might have been condensed if he had been able to personally adapt them for this book, but this is a minor quibble. Not every section will have the same appeal for each reader. Some may be more interested in the mountain episodes, others in Nepal, still others in family descriptions, but this should not be a deterrent. The exceptional lives, philosophies and ethics of Willi, Jolene and their children accompanied by exceptional photography make reading this tome a wonderful experience. Jolene is currently working on a description of the more recent stages in her life’s exceptional adventure in politics, including her service as a Congresswoman.

5.07.2018

2018 Climb Application Stats

by Sarah Bradham, Mazamas Director of Marketing & Communications

In April 2018 the Mazamas launched a brand new website that changed the way the Mazamas have managed climb applications for the last 43 years. Gone is the antiquated paper process that required an intricate level of knowledge of the organization, up fronting the cost of a climb by purchasing a climb card, rewriting information over and over again on paper applications, as well as the need for envelopes and stamps. In its place is an online process that is based on a user creating a profile that details their experience and activity history, finding a climb they want to participate in, and providing payment information (and only being charged for the climb if accepted).

As we transitioned to this new system there was both a lot of excitement, as well as a heavy dose of anxiety about how the process would work. Would hopeful climbers need to be sitting at their computer at 9 a.m. on the climb registration open date to even be considered for a climb? Would the most popular climbs immediately be full? How would it work with all the climbs not opening on the same date as they had in the past? Would the new system be easy to navigate?

We did a lot of prep work in the months leading up to the launch to get the message out to our members and the community about the new application process. We shared information via our monthly magazine, weekly e-news, and social media channels. We also talked to our climb leaders about implementing a new phased application process to lessen the stress on the system; in case problems did arise we would be better able to manage them with only a subset of climbs opening on any given date. Our climb leaders also agreed to increase the number of applications they were willing to review in order to ensure applicants did not get shut out from the application process.

So what's the verdict?

The early results are extremely promising. The first 28 climbs of the season opened at 9 a.m. on Monday, April 16. We were in full on call center mode at 8 a.m., staffed up and ready to handle all of the emails and calls from applicants. And ... they never came. Between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. we handled approximately 5 phone calls and 4 emails. And in that same time we received 250 applications for climbs. We did have one major challenge that came to light on Wednesday April 18 as leaders began accepting applicants. Our 3rd party payment processor had changed something critical in their API that caused a payment failure for anyone who had previously paid for an activity through the new Mazama website. This caused approximately 50 payment failures. But thankfully, since we had launched with a phased application process, the issue was relatively small in scope.

Since that initial opening we have had 4 separate registration open dates:
  • April 16: 28 climbs
  • April 23: 37 climbs
  • April 30: 36 climbs
  • May 7: 88 climbs
The anxiety about climbs filling immediately upon the application opening did not occur. In fact, most climbs have yet to even reach their maximum applicant number. This means that you do not need to be sitting at your computer or on your phone at 9 a.m. when the application opens in order to be considered for a spot. However, it is wise to apply for the climb on the first day the application opens, as if the climb does have more applicants than spots available, the climb leader may factor the date you applied into the acceptance criteria.

What does the application data look like?


If you aren't interested in stats you might want to stop reading now, because we are about to geek out on data. In the past, without a centralized process for activity management, the Mazamas have been unable to confirm any of the rumours that circulate regarding difficulty getting on climbs or even identifying the most popular climbs. We can now crunch the numbers to get an informed picture of the number of applications submitted, the number of unique applicants, and much more.


As of 5/7/2018 at noon, here are some stats:
  • # of climbs on the schedule: 193
  • # of spaces available on climbs: 1773
  • # of applications for climbs: 2031
  • # of unique applicants: 561
  • Average # of climbs applied for per applicant: 3.62
  • # of applications accepted for climbs as of today: 580
  • # of unique applicants accepted on a climb: 335
  • # of applications in the awaiting approval queue: 725
  • # of unique applicants that have applications in the awaiting approval queue: 344
  • # of Mt. Hood climbs: 19
  • # of spaces available on Mt. Hood climbs: 150
  • # of applications for Mt. Hood climbs: 449
  • Most popular three mountains/routes: Mt. Hood South Side, Mt. Ellinor, and Unicorn Peak.
  • # of climbs that have reached their applicant capacity: 15
  • # of climbs that reached their applicant capacity within 24 hours: 0
  • # of climbs that reached their applicant capacity within 5 days: 3
A few things to remember if you are thinking about applying for a climb:
  • Climbs are NOT first come first served. The climb is open until it either:
    • The Registration Close Date arrives
    • The climb reaches its Maximum Application Capacity
    • The leader selects their team and closes the application
  • Only apply for climbs that you will be able to attend, i.e. don't apply for two climbs on the same day
  • Apply for later season climbs, they tend to have more availability
  • Think outside of the major peaks - there will be fewer applicants and less competition for peaks with names you might not recognize, but that doesn't mean they will be any less fun!
Get all the details on how to apply for climbs at beta.mazamas.org/applyclimbs

Do you have feedback on the new application process? Please share your thoughts here.

We will share more data as it becomes available. Until then, happy climbing!

Iditarod 2018


Anna Berington, 22nd finisher, approaches Nome. Photo: John Richards.



by John P. Richards

We finally saw some movement on frozen white landscape and sky. From a distance, it appeared to be a team of reindeer hauling an abominable snowman. As they came closer, it was clear that Nicolas Petit and his team of dogs had arrived at the White Mountain checkpoint. Petit was the second musher into the checkpoint, just behind leader, Norwegian, Joar Leifseth Ulsom, who slept soundly while waiting out the mandatory eight-hour rest stop. Petit looked dejected as he settled in and fed his dogs. His dogs looked dejected too. Dog teams sense their musher’s emotions. Highly trained and intelligent athletes, they know where they stand. A day earlier Petit was cruising through the race, in the lead with a nice margin ahead of Ulsom. He lost the trail marker in a storm and fell four hours behind, arriving now in second place.
Jessie Holmes, Rookie of the Year, thanks
his team at the finish in Nome.
Photo: John Richards.

My wife turned 60 years old in March, and it’s been her dream to see the Iditarod. That made choosing a special gift very easy—a trip to Nome, Alaska, to the finish of the 2018 Iditarod. We connected with Laurent Dick, a local guide and photojournalist, to help us get deep into the race, festivities, and provide an insider view.

The Iditarod is a dog sled race from Anchorage to Nome, spanning 1,049 miles, and held annually in March since 1973. The race was inspired by the 1925 Serum Run, a dog sled relay that delivered much needed serum to Nome, to help stop a deadly diphtheria outbreak in the winter of 1925. No other means of transport could deliver the serum to the isolated town fighting extremely low temperatures and blizzard conditions. On February 1, 1925, musher Gunnar Kaasen and his dog team arrived with the lifesaving medicine. Many lives were saved that winter. Kaasen and his lead dog, Balto, became instant celebrities.

We had taken a small plane from Nome to White Mountain, a tiny village on the Seward Peninsula with about 200 inhabitants and 77 miles from the finish in Nome. This checkpoint is an ideal location to catch a glimpse of the mushers and their teams as they move toward Nome. A large percentage of the residents were out in the cold air and light snow to see the leaders arrive. That large percentage is still a relatively small number of spectators making the race a very intimate, accessible, and transparent sporting event. It was very easy to get up close, talk with the mushers, and interact with the sled dogs. The checkpoint is entirely managed by volunteers as is much of the race logistics and activities. Most of these volunteers are veterans, returning year after year, not able to resist the annual call of the Iditarod Trail.

We headed back to Nome after the arrival of Mitch Seavey, pre-race favorite and, between he and his son, Dallas, had won the Iditarod every year from 2012. Last year, 2017, several of the Dallas Seavey dog team tested positive for the banned substance, tramadol. The musher was not penalized as proof could not be found that Seavey intentionally had given the dogs the substance. Dallas Seavey has strongly denied the incident and boycotted this year’s race in protest. The 2018 Iditarod was not to be a Seavey win, as Mitch sat it third place at White Mountain, too far back to be a serious contender.

Anna Berington sled dog at finish in Nome.
Photo: John Richards.
It was bitterly cold in Nome at 3 a.m., March 14, as the red and blue lights of the Alaskan Trooper announced an approaching team from the far end of Front Street. A police escort guided Ulsom and his team over the last mile, arriving to victory under the Iditarod Burled Arch. Spectators had come out from a short night’s sleep or staggered out of the many local dive bars lining the final stretch. As Ulsom kicked in the sled brake, he looked exhausted, but his dog team looked fresh. The bright lights of cameras and chaotic set of dog handlers, race officials, and media surrounded the winner. Heavy breath hitting the extreme cold rose above our heads, a mystical vapor framing the scene. This is not a rich event. The winner takes home $50,000 and a new truck. That doesn’t cover the typical investment needed to race. The mushers are not here for the money. They race for passion, pride, love of the sport.

The crowd called out to the winner, congratulating he and his dog team. The dogs, who many know by name, receive as many accolades as the mushers. These dogs are the engine that drives the musher to the finish. The lead dog, tactically finding the trail, motivating the others, piercing wind, snow, and cold, dutifully finding the finish line. Another group lined along the finish were holding signs in protest, PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. A few shouting matches could be heard among the crowd, two opposing opinions, fans and locals in full support of the race and its athletes, mushers, and dogs, the other in protest. Whether it was the dead of night, the freezing cold temperature, or the unfinished beer left in the bar, the exchange ended quickly and never surfaced again. Ulsom exited the finish line quickly, tired and cold, and was ushered to the press conference at the Nome race headquarters, then to sleep. Within the day, Nicolas Petit finished in second place and Mitch Seavey placed third.

Mitch Seavey arrives with his team at
White Mountain check point.
Photo: John Richards.
Our vision of the sled teams was a procession of well-matched Siberian huskies with a malamute or two for strength in the back. This is not so. While Siberian huskies and malamutes still pull a fair number of sleds, it’s the unofficial breed of Alaskan huskies that is the racing dog of choice among the elite teams of the Iditarod. Strength, speed, agility, and endurance are the characteristics that prove successful. Breeders have combined German shorthaired pointers, salukis, Anatolian shepherds and, in some cases, wolf, with the traditional malamute and Siberian husky to arrive at the ultimate racing machine.

A day after Ulsom finished in victory, we woke up to a clear sky. We had planned to jump on some snow machines and head to Safety, some 22 miles up the Iditarod Trail and the last checkpoint before the finish line. Without delay, our group of ten boarded the machines in pairs and headed out on the tundra. Within a few minutes we realized that the -40 Fahrenheit we spoke about at REI while choosing our boots is not the same -40 Fahrenheit we experienced in Alaska. With the wind chill it was brutally cold. Needless to say, our boots will be showing up at the REI Garage Sale, and if we ever go back we will get the odd and awkward “bunny” boot engineered by the Army and sold as surplus.

Our guide Laurent, just before departure, heard that two mushers were missing in an area called the blow hole, a treacherous area of sudden high winds and snow storms, fierce and unpredictable. The blow hole was half-way between White Mountain and Safety. As we barreled our way over ice and snow to Safety, we intersected two sled teams guided from behind by a single snow machine. There were no mushers. It didn’t register immediately, but the mushers had been found.

The checkpoint at Safety is just one building, the Safety Roadhouse. After an hour on our machines, we just wanted a warm place to hang out. We got that. A large black wood-burning stove filled the roadhouse with heat, and much of it. It was a quaint bar, its walls papered with dollar bills, signed and left by visitors. We grabbed our wallets and pulled out ten dollars, nine for the Bud Light, and one to staple on the wall. We relaxed with a beer, and with questionable judgment we decided to head in the direction of White Mountain, up the Iditarod Trail, into the blow hole.

It started with smooth riding, hard packed snow and ice, easy for the snow machines to navigate. The sky was clear blue, a nice respite from the otherwise subtle difference in shades of white between ground and sky. Then, with little warning, the snow machines began to hop on accumulated snow drifts. The sky turned light blue, then white, then gray, in minutes. We found ourselves in a storm and entering the blow hole. We wisely retreated. And, back to Nome.

As we parked our snow machines, safely back in Nome, our guide noticed two fat tire cyclists. They had finished the Iditaride, the fat tire bike ride that follows the Iditarod Trail. Cyclists Jay Cale, Phil Hofstetter, and Kevin Breitenbach had found the missing mushers, Jim Lanier and Scott Janssen. Lanier’s sled had been lodged in driftwood in the blow hole and Janssen, passing by, heard his calls for help. Both men had become hypothermic, unable to move, freezing and huddling with one another. Neither musher had the ability to push the help button on the GPS tracker. The cyclists found the tracker and pushed the button. With race officials notified and search and rescue deployed, Lanier and Janssen survived with little injury. The dog teams were recovered and doing fine. A close call and a clear reminder of the risk and danger of the Iditarod Trail.

It would be three days after Ulsom finished that the final team would arrive to collect the coveted red lantern, as Magnus Kaltenborn completed the race on March 14. The red lantern is a symbolic prize for last place. Every finisher is considered a hero. Other notable finishes: fourth place was Jesse Holmes, highest finishing rookie and Aliy Zirkle, the top female, finished 15th.

There are challenges ahead for the Iditarod. Sponsors are beginning to pull out, perhaps due to controversies of dog care, doping, or just waning interest. Prize money is shrinking as sponsors fade away and a few mushers made note of that at the closing banquet. Climate change is encroaching. Arctic winter air temperatures have risen by 8 degrees Fahrenheit since 1979 and winter ice volume has dropped 42 percent in the same period (Scientific American, April 2018). With no arctic, there is no Iditarod. The excitement and pride that is the Iditarod had a melancholy undertone, as concerns lingered in many conversations.

We had a discussion with Howard Farley, now 86, a founder of the Iditarod and also a musher from the original race in 1973. He told us to go back home and tell 1,000 people of the Iditarod experience. He professed that news media, social media, and big sponsorship money was not needed—in his view it’s word of mouth that will keep the race going. I wanted to believe him, that it might work. In the world of big money sponsorship deals, big brands with logos plastered on apparel, endless advertising, huge deals for athletes, and constant stream of social media, it seemed like an impossible dream that word of mouth could solely sustain this event.

As we, and throngs of visitors, bottlenecked the tiny Nome airport, swamping the few bag handlers with big duffels full of warm clothing, I thought that Howard might be right. The passion of the mushers is pure. They are not in it for the money, but for the love of it. The sled dogs, at each rest stop, anxious to get moving again, to run, the few spectators, enthusiastically delivering praise as racers pass by, enough to prompt a wave of thanks and a wag of a tail. Maybe this is the Iditarod, the past, the present and the future, the race itself a test of survival.

After the Fire: Alternatives to Closed Gorge Trails

Latourell Falls  Photo: Darrin Gunkel
by Darrin Gunkel

There’s no way around it: Columbia Gorge hikers are going to have to do more driving this year. Since the Eagle Creek Fire, nearly every trail on the Oregon side remains closed indefinitely. To get the same bang for our hiking buck, we’re going to have to roam farther afield. But look on the bright side: casting a wider hiking net is a chance to get to know some less famous, but no less worthy trails. The question is, how to choose which ones? Here’s a list of some of the more popular Gorge trails, and their rough equivalents within day-trip range:


Closed: Wahclella Falls Loop—1.8 miles, 300 feet
Alternate: Latourell Falls Loop—2.4 miles, 520 feet
Where do you take your out of shape relatives from out of town? Wahclella Falls was always a good bet, guaranteed to wow urbanites from back east with a taste of Cascadia’s wonders that wouldn’t leave them soured with blisters and aching limbs. Fortunately, the other quick and easy Gorge-walk-guaranteed-to-please escaped the flames. Some say Latourell is one of the most beautiful falls in the gorge—it’s arguable. Do this loop clockwise, working through forest finery and smaller falls before the big unveiling. Then send them back to Ohio duly impressed.

Closed: Multnomah/ Wahkeena Loop—4.8 miles, 1,500 feet
How do you find an alternative with everything this loop offers: the easiest access, a slew of awesome waterfalls, a quick Gorge fix that you can squeeze in after work and still be home before dark (in Summer Solstice season, at least), a decent, but not grueling workout? You can’t. So, here are three alternates that attempt to fill the gap piecemeal:

Alternate: Pup Creek Falls—7.8 miles, 1,695 feet. 
This trail along the Clackamas River gives you all the water you’re missing along the Multnomah/Wahkeena Loop. The trail is longer, certainly not an after-work trip, but it’s not as steep, so the energy expenditure’s about the same. The forest is lovely, and the falls are as impressive as (almost) anything in the Gorge.

Alternate: Mitchell Point—2.6 miles, 1,270 feet
One of the few Gorge trails that escaped the burn, this is your quick fix. Sure, it’s shorter (and steeper), but the time you save can be spent at pFriem Brewery, just 15 minutes away in Hood River.

Alternate: Palisade Point from Fret Creek—4.8 miles, 1,300 feet. 
Almost too long a drive to count as an alternate, this northern approach to Badger Creek Wilderness does provide relief from crowds. It’s an almost identical workout to the Multnoma/Wahkeena Loop, and like it, add-on trips make it more enticing. But rather than viewless Devil’s Rest or the long, long trip up Larch Mountain, from The Palisades, you can go visit the masses ogling Hood at Lookout Mountain, or ramble out to Flag Point and visit with one of the last active fire watchers in the Cascades. The views from the fire lookout or the meadow south of Flag Point encompass much of Badger Creek, and a whole lot of eastern Oregon. The flowers are excellent.


Closed: Multnomah Falls to Devil’s Rest—8.4 miles; 2,300 feet
Alternate: East Zigzag from Lost Creek— 9.4 Miles; 2,300 feet.
Zigzag Mountain lacks waterfalls, but it does have pleasant Burnt Lake. And views. Big views, grand enough to take the sting out of the longer drive.


Closed: Nesmith Point—10.2 miles; 3,700 feet
Alternate: Huckleberry Mountain from Wildwood Recreation Area—11 Miles; 3,500 feet
These trails are practically twins. Huckleberry may be a little lower, but the longer trail makes up the few hundred feet difference in elevation. This route is in really good shape, and the grade is ideal for keeping your heart rate right where you want it. Fine Hood views from the tiny summit meadows. There’s lots of parking at this BLM site, but your Forest Pass won’t work—it’s only five bucks, though.


Closed: Mt. Defiance—12.2 miles; 4,900 feet 
Alternate: Paradise Park-Hidden Lake Loop Hike—18.1 Miles; 4,300 feet
While Mt. Defiance is closed, you’re going to need to find another test hike to prepare for your summer climbs. This could be the ticket. You can get to Paradise Park from Timberline. It’s a pleasant trip, but easier, and where’s the fun in that?


Closed: Horse Tail, PonyTail, and Triple Falls Loop—4.4 miles; 680 feet
Alternate: Falls Creek Falls—3.4 Miles; 700 feet
For your hardier relatives, or when you need a quick jaunt on a rainy day in the off season, the Horse, Pony, and Triple Falls triple threat could not be beat (especially as a launch pad up Franklin Ridge). Falls Creek Falls should be just about as impressive for visitors, and even though the walk has just one cataract, you can add nearby Panther Creek Falls to the trip.


Closed: Eagle Creek to Tunnel Falls—12 miles, 1,640 feet
Alternate: Lewis River—10 miles, 1,260 feet 
Eagle Creek is another one that really has no alternate (Not even the OTHER Eagle Creek, lost in its forest canyon down there by Estacada). So what do we do? Give up the tunnel and a few waterfalls and head for the Lewis River. Some would say that the forest here is actually better, the trees fatter, and the river wider. Go and decide for yourself.


Closed: Indian Point—7.6 Miles; 2,800 feet
Alternates: Cairn Basin from Top Spur—8.7 Miles; 2,200 feet
So the stats on this hike make it a good surrogate, and at 90 minutes from Portland, it’s still a reasonable day trip. It also makes a reasonable alternative to McNeil Point—the two destinations share much of the same route. But there’s something missing ... views of a great river in a deep gorge from the edge of a cliff. If that’s what you really crave, spend the extra 45 minutes traveling and head east of the Cascades to the Deschutes River and Criterion Ranch—10.2 Miles; 2,200 feet. A bonus that makes up for the significantly longer drive (still doable for a long day): no trees to block any of the views. Which also means no shade—but the flowers are better. Go early in the year or the day. Or take a really big parasol. Hood and Adams make appearances, too.


Closed: Nick Eaton Ridge Loop—14 Miles; 3,800 feet
Alternate: Dry Ridge to Grouse Point—14 Miles; 3,400 feet
Dry Ridge doesn’t get much traffic. The Roaring River Wilderness is less about scenery and more about protecting deep forests and tributaries of the Clackamas. The steep elevation gains on this trail also keep crowds at bay. If you’re missing Eaton’s stiff workout, this is the place for you.


Closed: Backpacking in the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness 
Alternate: Badger Creek Wilderness, approached from the east
Losing backcountry camping in the Hatfield is a real bummer: quick and easy to get to, and often snow free while the high country is buried. The next closest thing is Badger Creek. Two loop trips can be launched from the School Canyon Trailhead above Tygh Valley, one longer, up over Tygh ridge, and one shorter, down through the canyon of Little Badger Creek (a reasonable 9 mile, 2,150-foot trip.) Or, you can hike up nearby Big Badger Creek for many pleasing miles. No matter which you choose, all have pleasant camping, and a rarity on the dry side of the mountains, consistent water sources. Badger’s network of trails isn’t as vast as Hatfield’s, but it’s a chance to sleep many miles from cars and lights and cell phone signals, still within a few hours of civilization, early or late in the season. Which is also when you should visit, unless you really enjoy heat.


Closed: Angel’s Rest/ Devil’s Rest Loop—10.9 miles, 2,770 feet 
Alternate: Huckleberry Mountain via Wildcat—11.2 miles, 2,200 feet
This is the lonesome way up Huckleberry Mountain, via the Plaza Trail from Douglas Trailhead, which is a quick hour from Portland, up the Wildcat Mountain Road above the OTHER Eagle Creek, near Estacada. You may find this alternate is actually more interesting than the original, with regular glimpses of Hood, and views that allow you to study the architecture of ridges and canyons at the heart of the Salmon Huckleberry Wilderness. You will find more solitude (where won’t you, after Angel’s Rest?). Oh, and the occasional glimpse of Jefferson–you don’t get that from Devil’s Rest.


Closed: Larch Mountain Crater—6.6 miles, 1,400 feet
Alternate: Memaloose Lake/ South Fork Mountain—4.6 miles, 1,400 feet
The ramble around Larch Mountain Crater is the meal before the dessert of views from Sherrod Point. This alternate trail has the same quiet forest feel of Larch’s crater, and some of the spectacle of Sherrod, too. To get to the views on this trail above the Clackamas River, you have to work a little harder, but Memaloose Lake along the way, with one of the best rhododendron forests anywhere, more than makes up for it. The lake is known for its newts, which you might find migrating on the trail if you’re there at the right time of year. South Fork’s summit is a bit woodsy–the volcanoes are farther away than on Larch, but there are more of them to see.


Closed: Elevator Shaft—6.7 miles, 1,860 feet
Alternate: Green Canyon Way—6.6 miles, 2,500 feet
You like steep? You’ve you got steep on this trip up Hunchback Mountain from Salmon River. And the forest is nicer, here, too. The mileage for this alternate is to the junction with the Hunchback Trail, which you can then follow all the way to Devil’s Peak lookout, and which may or may not be cleared of blow down. Or you could try the other direction, ambling along Hunchback’s ridge until it begins to drop down towards the Zigzag ranger station. Or just head back down to enjoy the burn while you cool your feet in the Salmon River.


Not closed, but you might want to consider an alternate anyway.

Trails north of the Columbia are going to be taking up a lot of the slack this season. Add the new, weird permits on Dog Mountain, and the loss of the two trailheads close to Table Mountain, and you have reason to consider avoiding some of the Washington side classics until things get back to normal.


Avoid: Table Mountain—Formerly 8, now 15.5 Miles; formerly 3,350, now 4,320 feet
Alternate: Salmon Butte—11.8 Miles; 3,170 feet
Since Bonneville Hot Springs Resort has been converted to a rehab facility, and the private access to the Aldrich Butte trailhead has been closed, the trip up the Gorge’s tallest summit has gone from rewarding punishment (multiple volcano views in the Gorge!) to a route only a trail runner could love. That slog along the PCT was always awful anyway… The great thing about Salmon Butte, the trail is prettier, even if, echoing Table Mountain, it follows an ugly retired road at the start. What you lose in Columbia River views on Salmon Butte, you gain in volcano counting from the summit: eight of ‘em! From a glimpse of the Sisters all the way to Rainier.


Avoid: Hamilton Mountain—7.5 Miles; 2,100 feet
Alternate: Siouxon Creek Hike—8.2 Miles; 1,600 feet
There’s no official reason to avoid Hamilton Mountain: it’s open, the trails are in good repair, it’s easy to get to, it’s still a wonderful trip. But closures elsewhere are likely to push the capacity of this already busy trail—not to mention log-jam the parking lot. Siouxon Creek is not exactly a hidden gem, but it is a little farther, a little less on-the-radar. And what Siouxon lacks in majestic Gorge vibes, it more than makes up for with its deep, lush, forest and pretty river.


Avoid: Dog Mountain—6.9 or 7.4 Miles; 2,800 feet 
Alternate: Nestor Peak—8 Miles; 2,980 feet
Unless they can go at night or during the week, the new permit system may force Dog Mountain off many a hiker’s to-do list this year. Fortunately, Nestor Peak is nearby, and a close match to the famous Dog. You won’t be staring straight down onto the decks of Columbia River barges from Nestor, but the flower show is worth the effort, as are the views out to Adams and Hood.


Avoid: Cape Horn—7.1 Miles; 1,350 feet
Alternate: Falls Creek Falls Loop—6.2 Miles; 1,150 feet
Again, aside from the seasonal closure to protect nesting peregrine falcons on the lower trail, there’s no real reason to avoid Cape Horn, other than overcrowding. Here too, parking is bound to be a mess, compounded by the proximity to Highway 14. Lead by example, leave a little earlier and get home a little later and enjoy this extended version of the Falls Creek Falls trip.

4.16.2018

A Night on Mt. Whitney


by Stefani Dawn, edited by Wendy Marshall


So many people climb Mt. Whitney, the continental U.S.’s highest peak, that permits can be hard to obtain. Most climb it via the hiking trail, while others take the steep scree-fest of Mountaineers’ Route. Still others go by the technical East Face or East Buttress. A number of people climb it, including the technical pitches, in a day. A typical strategy is to assemble the least amount of gear needed, park at the Portal, and ascend 4000 ft. to Base Camp. Then you climb either the East Face or East Buttress 1000 ft. more feet to the full 14,505 ft. elevation, then descend by the 2000 ft. Mountaineers’ Route. Finally, you hike back down over four knee-busting miles to the Portal. The idea not only sounded like a rough prospect to me, it blew my mind. Still, I like a challenge, and knowing people regularly do it got me thinking: “Maybe it’s easier than it seems.” So, after an attempted climb of Mt. Ogden with my husband Rick, followed by some training, I took Whitney on.

In the planning stage, I recalled the primary lesson from our Mt. Ogden practice: allow more time. First, this means time to acclimate to the altitude, but also to decompress and rest, and allow for unplanned incidents. Estimating the climb at a safe minimum of six hours, ten at most, our team of three — Rick, a friend Simon and I — started before sunrise. But time leaked away with each photo, lead switch, and equipment catch. Most especially, repeated attempts at route-finding gobbled up minutes. One surprise time-sink for us was simply stepping aside for other climbers to pass, since we wanted to enjoy our route and not feel rushed. I have never climbed with so many people on a route before. Future hopefuls, take note: Mt. Whitney is a climbers’ super-highway!

We went for efficiency, each person leading multiple pitches in a row to minimize switching leads. Another person flaked ropes or transferred gear at the same time, and at least two of us or even all three climbed simultaneously as often as possible. Still, the pauses added up, and we topped out at 7 p.m. — 12 long hours after we started.

Immediately after summiting, we tried to descend by the Mountaineers’ Route, but sunset was upon us. We found rock cairns and crude Xs, but after peeking over the edge of each one, told each other: “This looks bad.” As light vanished and the temperature dropped, we decided the safest choice would be to bivy on the summit. Whitney is in the Sierra Nevadas, but the altitude coupled with clear skies can still mean bitter cold. Neither had we planned for a bivy; we had only our extra clothing layers, plus remnants of food and dwindling water. Fortunately, there’s a stone and wood hut at the summit, where some thoughtful soul had left an emergency blanket. We piled under the noisy, reflective fabric and huddled for protection from the freezing ground and rapidly stirring winds.

Soon we heard voices and saw headlamps. We greeted two more climbers with a hoorah, and two more 30 minutes later, all from the East Face route. Yet two more, off the East Buttress, opened the door to chat, then went off to attempt Mountaineers’ Route in the dark, leaving us to shiver and try to sleep. These other climbers relieved my mind somewhat. Before they arrived, I wondered how we had so radically miscalculated our time. I thought, “What could we have done differently?” Given what we knew, and that it was our first attempt at this mountain, not much. We’d chosen safety first, and enjoyment next, based on our gear arrangement. Doubts set in: Was I too slow a climber? Should I not have lead any of our 12 pitches? As we discovered, about half the climbers took even longer than we did. All were first-timers, and most were dumbfounded by the maze-like mess of the last five pitches. Whitney in a day, we learned, is not the norm.

Next morning, we still had no luck finding Mountaineers’ Route. Instead, Simon found a steep scree path on the northwest side. I found myself sliding, barely in control. Large rocks tumbled by me, then disappeared over the curve of the slope with echoing crashes. I froze and began sobbing from fear and exhaustion, thinking, I can’t do this. I could think only of an article I’d read about people dying on an alternate route, falling into the small alpine lakes below. From his vantage point ahead Simon reassured us, but I’d reached my wits’ end, and I didn’t want my physical or mental state to slow them down. I insisted Rick give me the spare gear, to lighten his and Simon’s load. Rick wasn’t happy about our splitting up, but agreed to let me take the gentler hikers’ trail, 11 miles to the parking area, with another four miles down the Lone Pine Creek Trail to Iceberg Lake. Emotionally relieved, I made do with a fruit bar and some water donated by a kind group of folks, and took micro-naps in the sun.

The Whitney trail stretched on, pounding my toes, but my legs held up surprisingly well. I thought of Rick and Simon, hoping they succeeded unhurt in their risky descent. The Whitney Portal Valley appeared, and as I passed the Lone Pine Creek trailhead, I saw Rick, running toward me with his 50lb. pack still on! He and Simon had found a viable descent even faster than the Mountaineers’ Route. Their choice isn’t a good route if there’s a risk of ice, and they met a few sections with “consequences”, they said, but nothing steeper than where I’d had my meltdown.

I felt grateful my teammates were willing to meet me, cutting our odyssey short by a day, and grateful to my husband for taking up the extra gear. Rick and Simon were completely understanding of my decision, and informed me that the prospect of beer and a burger was plenty motivation to get off the mountain.

I can now safely assert that Mt. Whitney is beyond the “common climber”, as I call it, even with an ultralight approach. It’s both easy and not easy, and should not be underestimated. I learned a lot, felt proud and grateful, had fun, and got down safely. But I also got whipped!

If you plan to give Mt. Whitney a shot, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • The approach to Base Camp is 4000 ft. in four miles — doable, but a strain at times.
  • The Sierra Nevadas are mostly sunny in summer, and Whitney doesn’t get the typical daily summer mountain thunderstorms. Still, be prepared for season storms to sneak up on you, and it can get quite cold.
  • The East Buttress climb is a 5.7 or less, if you can find the right path. Route-finding can be a challenge, especially at the top, where you can be met with an unprotectable 5.10 grade climb! Then it’s down-climbing, traversing, whatever you can, to get to something climbable.
  • Once again, allow plenty of time, emergency and/or overnight supplies, food and water.


About the Author
Stefani Dawn’s favorite pasttime is rock climbing, especially easy trad, multi-pitch and technical sport climbs. Her second favorite pasttime is writing about rock climbing. Third favorite? Hosting outdoor meet-up events to connect with other climbers and mentor newbies. Check out her website, Common Climber (http://www.commonclimber.com/), for articles, tips, reviews, and photos. Submissions invited!