9.12.2016

A Climber Gone to the Dogs

Ranger post rescue prior to being portaged
back to the trailhead.
by Bruce Wyse

I had been a volunteer dog walker at the Oregon Humane Society (OHS) for a couple of years while at the same time working my way up a few peaks with my fellow Mazamas. One day, I was chatting with one of the other dog walkers, describing the training I was going through in Intermediate Climbing School (ICS). She mentioned that it sounded a bit like what the OHS Technical Animal Rescue team (known as OHSTAR) does and encouraged me to check them out. Intrigued, I applied for a spot on the team and started to attend their training and got a look at their “3:1 mechanical advantage rescue haul system”. The hardware is different: bigger, heavier, and a bit more complex, but it still seemed like a fancy name for a crevasse rescue “Z-system” to me. I guess mountaineers are just in the habit of shortening everything, including the names of things, if they think it will lighten the load in their pack.

During their once-a-month trainings I melded with the team and “learned the ropes” (pun intended). OHSTAR uses rescue procedures similar to many SAR groups (the group’s technical advisor is a long time PMR member). The basic skills overlap a bit with some of the mountaineering techniques learned in the Mazamas: knot work, wrap three pull two, being mindful of your angles, don’t step on the rope, etc. Added to these familiar items is more complex gear and procedures such as mirrored rope systems, mechanical ascenders and friction devices. There is a lot of cool gear that would make a gear head’s eyes light up (at least until they realize that they would have to divvy up an extra 50 pounds of group gear amongst a climb team). Since dogs are not people (despite what many of their owners believe) there are also extra skills involved with animal rescue, such as animal harnessing, that go beyond the
A dark and stormy night: rescuer (center in white helmet) 
makes final preparations before lowering down to Eagle Creek.
standard SAR bag of tricks—most important is to know animal behavior. How do you convince an animal that the strange big headed person with the glowing eye (a helmeted rescuer with a head lamp), who dropped from the sky (was lowered down a cliff), and is carrying numerous odd rattling objects (is decked out with gear) is a friend and came to help? (The secret is to be patient, carry treats, and a muzzle).

Once on the team I started to assist on a few rescues: scouting locations, schlepping gear, setting up, and hauling rope and a couple of times I got the nod to be the rescuer (i.e. the guy on the pointy end of the rope). We’ve done rescues both in the backcountry and within the Portland metro area. I’ve done technical roped ascents into trees to rescue distressed cats, helped capture injured geese for treatment at the Audubon society, and have done joint human/animal rescues with PMR and PNWSAR. There have been many memorable moments but a couple rescues stand out in particular.

Sandy’s Christmas Miracle

A Christmas miracle: Sandy is retrieved from Eagle Creek. 
It was a dark and stormy night (literally). It was also Christmas. While most of us were feasting and celebrating with family and friends, a merry gentleman, while hiking along the Eagle Creek trail in the Columbia River Gorge, lost control of his dog Sandy. The yellow lab plunged 150 feet down the cliff and was perched precariously on a ledge above the creek. The call went out and eight team members were able to respond on this holiday evening. Night had fallen, along with plenty of drizzly Oregon rain, by the time the team assembled, divvyed up the gear, and moved up to the rescue site.

Coincidentally the dog had fallen only about 50 yards from a point where we did another rescue just a month earlier. That other site, at a bend in the trail with convenient stout trees for anchors and a good work space to set up the haul system, was a decent place to operate. This one, with a cliff down one side, a steep slope up the other, and a narrow trail in the middle… not so much. The team tossed around some ideas and eventually came up with a feasible plan based on some anchors I’d once helped build while assisting a BCEP class at Horsethief Butte. A teammate and I went back down the trail where the slope was a bit less steep and scrambled up above our rescue site. While trying not to knock loose rocks (or ourselves) down upon our teammates below, we rigged up an anchor with one of our ropes to a couple of fir trees. After rappelling down the rope back to the trail we made anchor points for the haul systems and were then able to lower J.T., the rescuer, who was then able to harness and secure the dog. That was the easy part (relatively speaking). We had a very narrow working space for our mechanical advantage setup (the “Z”) and it was a short hand over hand pull, pull, “reset”... over and over again until at last the dog and rescuer were back up on the trail. Miraculously (a Christmas miracle you might say) the dog was without serious injury and was able to walk back (now securely leashed) down to the trail head.

Ranger’s Happy Ending

It was neither dark nor stormy, it wasn’t even night. It was a rare occasion for OHSTAR as the usual callouts happen after a person and their animal out enjoying some daytime fun in the forest get into trouble. By the time someone can get to where they have phone reception and the call goes through the emergency response system and the rescue team is assembled at the trail head, night has fallen. 

The day prior to this particular occasion Ranger, an 80 pound mastiff mix, while nosing through the underbrush (as dogs like to do) fell more than 100 feet over a cliff at Butte Creek Falls. The local fire department in Silverton, Oregon was unequipped to perform a rescue. After going through various channels OHSTAR got called out the following day. The dog had fallen off one side of a rock promontory that jutted out into Butte Creek. Joshua Osmun, Mazama member Jeff Nastoff, and I were able to scramble down one side and rig up a fixed line to traverse the cliff below the falls, enabling us to reach the dog and better assess the situation. Ranger had been lying beside the rushing water all night. He was cold, tired, hungry, and most obviously in pain from the exposed bone sticking out of his shoulder (as well as other injuries we could not see). Still, Ranger had the decency to be courteous (his exhaustion and my handful of treats probably helped).

Ranger, post-rescue and post-surgery stops
by OHS to show the author some gratitude.
Conditions were too hazardous to attempt to bring him up the way we came down so we scrambled back up and the team formulated a plan. Our seven member team set up a haul system for a vertical lift about 100 feet from the cliff face, the closest anchor points, and I geared up to go over the edge.

Once I reconnected with the dog I signaled to the team to bring me back up. Ranger was very compliant, harnessed up and hooked to the ropes, as we dangled beneath an overhang at the bottom of the cliff while waiting for the team to reset the haul system. However, I smelled trouble in the air.

More specifically, I smelled skunk in the air and started praying that the team would quickly reset and get us out of there before someone decided that we were unwelcome guests in their home. Luckily it turned out to be a non-event. We got Ranger safely to the top of the cliff and littered him back to the trailhead. His owner later told us that after about $10,000 worth of surgeries he was again a happy dog.

It is a very rewarding feeling being part of a team and providing relief not only to an animal in distress but also the people who care for them. The best advice I can give to people who travel with dogs in the back country is that if you are traveling in hazardous or unknown terrain keep your dog leashed (it’s like putting yourself in a position to be lucky).

Whether it is front country or back country, contact the Oregon Humane Society Technical Animal Rescue if your pet, or someone else’s, is trapped or stranded and needs help. Trained OHSTAR volunteers can evacuate injured pets from wilderness areas, retrieve pets stranded on cliff sides, river banks, and other areas and structures that can only be accessed safely using ropes, climbing gear and other technical rescue equipment or extricate animals trapped in enclosed spaces whose lives are in danger.

Contacting OHSTAR
Monday-Friday, daytime hours: 503-416-2993
Evenings and weekends: 503-849-5655
In cases of emergency, please call your local police department.

About the Author: Bruce Wyse retired from the Army, returned home to the Pacific Northwest, and considers himself on permanent vacation. He started volunteering with the Oregon Humane Society in 2009. He joined the Mazamas in 2010. When not out with these fine organizations he can usually be found exploring in the wilderness with his Red Heeler, Sasha.

9.09.2016

Evolution of a Climber

by Kerry Loehr

This is my story, my evolution. One man's journey from flailing on rock to being the proud new owner of a shiny trad rack. So if you don't feel like you can rock climb, stick with it. You may surprise yourself.

Growing up in Southeast Portland I didn't fully appreciate the tremendous opportunities afforded to me. Sure, I grew up skiing on Mt. Hood, but it wasn't until I moved back from living in Ohio for four years that I truly appreciated the Pacific Northwest—the ocean, the high desert, and especially the mountains. I was 30 years old and I had yet to climb any of the glaciated peaks I grew up gazing at from afar.

I resolved to start "small" with Mount St. Helens. Note to any new climbers, do not do St. Helens in the fall unless you really really like scree. Next up was Mt. Hood. That was an eye opener!

Having a few summits under my belt, I started hearing about this group called the Mazamas. Hood also made me realize I needed to make sure my skills were solid if I wanted to keep climbing, which I most undoubtedly did. I was lucky enough to meet a group of Mazama mentors who took me under their wing. I joined the Mazamas and kept climbing with my new friends. Bigger mountains and harder routes were my goal, but still my focus was solely on glaciated peaks. Summits of Mt. Adams and Mt. Shasta followed, along with the Basic Climbing Education Program (BCEP).

BCEP was great, I learned valuable skills, met new friends, and was introduced to rock climbing. I have to admit, though, the rock sessions (especially Horesthief) were not my favorites. I was terrible at rock climbing, pure and simple. I was comfortable on snow, but rock baffled me. Still, I endeavored to climb at the Portland Rock Gym occasionally. Results were poor, and frustrating. It wasn't until my climbing mentors brought me along on a climb of Unicorn Peak in the Tatoosh Range near Mt. Rainier that it started to make sense.

For those unfamiliar, Unicorn is a "mixed" alpine climb that involves steep snow slopes on the approach and a low 5th class single rock climbing pitch at the top. It was challenging, but my whole climbing world opened up then and there. I now understood why people rock climbed! Mixed climbs were now my jam.

Fast forward, I climbed a few single pitches at Smith Rock (still flailing), and then was fortunate enough to get invited to a climb of Liberty Bell in the North Cascades. Wow. Just wow! Still, to this day, one of my all time favorite climbs. 3.5 pitches of alpine rock climbing. I seconded a very skilled Eugene Lewins up that route, and it forever changed me as a climber. The beauty, the challenge, the problem solving all came together. I wanted to be a rock climber. Who would have guessed that?!

A series of resolutions followed: more gym climbing, to become a lead climber, and to take the Mazama Advanced Rock (AR) Program. I'm pleased to say I've achieved all of those goals now. I just graduated AR this year and I am stoked! In fact, I'm writing this from Ashland, OR having just climbed the Cosmic Wall on Mt. Hubris in northern California. That's four successful climbs in four weeks, leading Unicorn Peak, climbing Mt. Hood, swapping leads on Ingalls Peak, as well as the Cosmic Wall. Not a bad summer so far!

I'm comfortable leading trad climbs, and now truly have freedom to do a lot of what I think are cool things in the moutains. Along the way I have had many mentors, developed skills, and have climbed with new and old friends.

9.07.2016

Slag Heaps of the Cascades

by Darrin Gunkel

Negotiating the rubbley slopes of North Sister.
Photo: Kevin Machtelinckx. 
Unless you happened to watch St Helens blow its top, or until you’ve actually been up one, Cascade volcanoes telegraph permanence. At the very least, they look pretty solid. Maybe it’s that classic pyramid shape like the one on the back of a dollar bill that suggests solidity. Broad-shouldered enough to support massive rivers of ice, they must be made of tough stuff. But when you get up there and hit that band of cruddy stuff below Broken Top’s summit block, you start to wonder. How do these things even stand up if they’re filled with junk like this?

The stuff these mountains are made out of is actually quite hard: the andesite and rhyolite making up the bulk of the big peaks is chemically the same material as granite and diorite (which, to the untrained eye, looks like granite.) They come from the same magma, the only difference being where they cooled; the former above ground and the latter below. These are mixes of quartz and other tough minerals baked together at intense temperatures and pressures deep in the earth and then fused in post-eruption cooling. So why all the cruddy rock? Weathering is the short answer. Rain, glaciers, and the freeze-thaw cycle that pries cliffs and boulders apart all take their toll. Another threat comes from what put those rocks there in the first place: the volcano itself.

Mineral content of volcanic rocks. Credit:
The Earth Through Time, 8th Edition, Harold Levin.
Big fire mountains don’t just snuff out like a candle. While volcanoes can take tens of thousands of years to go extinct, the pools of magma that feed them can take millions of years to cool into solid granite and diorite. After a mountain stops erupting new lavas, it can chuff away for a very long time. And it’s that chuffing that really does damage to the hard minerals that make up the rock. How so?
There are those who like to point out that Mt. St. Helens is one of the biggest sources of hydrogen sulfide pollution in the Pacific Northwest. All volcanoes emit it to some degree or another. It’s the gas that makes the trek into Mt. Hood’s crater such an aromatic, and at times irritating experience. Cook andesite and rhyolite long enough with hydrogen sulfide and it turns to mud—technically clay. Hence the gloppy stuff that sticks under your crampons in Hood’s crater—hard to believe, but this essentially started out as granite. Once eruptions of hard new lavas end, hydrogen sulfide can continue to vent long enough to turn a mountain’s innards to mush. So, while glaciers and other elements are gnawing our volcanoes from the outside, volcanic gasses are slowly digesting them from the inside.

Basalt at 6,500 feet in the Goat Rocks. Photo Darrin Gunkel.
It doesn’t help, either, that not all lavas are created equal. Ever wonder how basalt, the resilient rock that forms headlands like Cape Lookout, could flow 375 miles from its source in Idaho to reach the sea? And why do rhyolite and andesite pile up to 14,410 feet (Rainier actually maxed out at 16,000 feet before the most recent glaciations shaved it down)? Lava viscosity is dictated in part by how much silica it contains. Basalt is on the low end, and rhyolite the high end of the silica content scale. Sticky rhyolite erupts very differently than fluid basalt. It has a tendency to explode, shattering nearby rocks and itself, raining down in fragments. That, or it erupts cascades of rubbley clinkers, the kind of ankle breakers that make late season climbers on the Sisters wish they’d scheduled their climb before the snows melted.

We owe big thanks to andesite for cementing it all together. Andesite lands between rhyolite and basalt on the silica and viscosity spectrums. Tough andesite is what allows our big mountains to soar and provides nice, solid layers full of fabulous holds among those bands of weaker rock. Erosion resistant basalt makes the occasional appearance, too. Check out the post piles along the Pacific Crest Trail near Cispus Pass in Goat Rocks to see a fine example of the relatively rare high altitude basalt flow. Without the help of andesite and basalt, summiting our slag heaps would be an even bigger, if no less rewarding, chore.

Want to dive deeper into the subject? Fire Mountains of the West, the Cascade and Mono Lake Volcanoes (Mountain Press Publishing Company, 2005) by Stephen Harris is a great primer on the geology of Cascade volcanoes, including biographies of the major peaks. If you can find it, the original version, published by the Mountaineers as Fire and Ice: The Cascade Volcanoes, is an even better read with better graphics. And for a more general back grounder on Pacific Northwest geology, try Hill Williams’ The Restless Northwest, a Geological Story (Washington State University Press, 2002).

About the author: A Mazama since 2013, Darrin Gunkel moved to the Pacific Northwest in 1993 with nothing in his car but camping gear, a pair of binoculars, and a copy of Fire Mountains of the West: the Cascade and Mono Lakes Volcanoes. A mania for up close views of volcano geology and access to dark night skies propel much of his climbing.

9.06.2016

Mazama Members: Two Proposed Bylaws Changes

by Steve Hooker, Mazama President

On your Mazama ballot this fall you’ll find two proposed bylaw changes regarding dues. Dues were last increased more than 10 years ago while cumulative inflation over that period has been nearly 20 percent.

The first proposed bylaw change would increase dues from $60 to $72 per year for regular members. Students, members over 60 who have been members for 5 years, and spouses or domestic partners of regular members would still pay half this rate, or $36 per year. If approved by our membership this change would go into effect for new members in October 2016 and in 2017 for those renewing.

Your Executive Council unanimously supports this proposal and here are a few of the reasons why:
  • The Mazamas is a financially healthy organization in part because we have several different sources of income. While program fees, contributions, and grants from the community continue to grow, member dues still represent about 12 percent of our annual revenue. This is down from 19% in 2006.
  • Even as dues have remained unchanged for ten years, expenses like insurance, utilities, maintenance, supplies, and outside services have gone up each year.
  • The Mazama Mountaineering Center serves more than twice the number of events, classes, and programs than in 2006 when we operated out of the old space at NW 19th and Kearney.
  • We are midway through our strategic plan that is delivering many improvements, not the least of which is a new IT system that will automate much of what is done manually today. We’ll finally be able to do away with paper climb cards!

The second proposed bylaw change would allow Executive Council to raise dues periodically without a bylaw revision. However any increase would be limited to no more than 3 percent per year cumulatively. For example if Executive Council thought an increase in dues was necessary in October 2021 dues could go up to no more than $81 ($72 x 1.03 x 1.03 x 1.03 x 1.03).

This proposed bylaw change is also unanimously supported by your Executive Council.

You will be asked to consider each proposed bylaw change separately. Thus you could vote for both (the recommendation of Executive Council), neither, or one but not the other.

I hope you will agree that the Mazamas provides an outstanding value for both our members and the community that we serve.

Please feel free to share your comments or feedback with me at stevehooker@mazamas.org

Thank you,

Steve Hooker
Mazamas President

8.28.2016

Finding the Nubbins: A middle-aged, first-time climber matches skills with teenagers at Smith Rock State Park

by Ken DuBois

It was 85 degrees on an April day at Smith Rock, but felt much hotter with the heat radiating off the rocks, the lack of shade, and the self-imposed pressure of climbing my first rock wall just minutes after my first rock-climbing lesson. I was on this high school outdoor education trip as a no-skills-necessary assistant, but now that all the kids had gone up, I wanted my turn. I’d watched a dozen teenagers scramble up this same rock face and float down, declaring it “too easy” and moving on to more challenging sections further down. 

“I don’t feel anything,” I said, referring to the nubbins. The instructor continued to guide me with the same advice about looking for chalk marks—left behind by the chalked-up hands of real climbers—and the little outcroppings of rock on which I could supposedly put my full body weight, pulling or pushing myself to the next stage in the climb. But the conversation went in circles, like someone pointing to an empty table and telling you to pick up a pen that isn’t there. 
I was getting impatient to make some kind of progress, so I decided to go for it, nubbins or not. I found an outcropping about the size of an almond and tried to stand on it, but I slipped, swung to the side, and banged my back against the rock face. Dangling like a marionette, I accept defeat, for the moment. 

“I’m done,” I announced, sitting in the dirt and pulling off my shoes. The instructor simply agreed, “Okay.” I looked up at the rock wall, which appeared even flatter and more nubbinless from this perspective. 

In the darkness of the school bus, heading to the campground, I confessed my problem to one of the other adults, clustered as we were in the front seats away from the teens. “I can’t find the nubbins,” I told her. “I feel little bumps on the rock face, but I just can’t see how I could put my whole body weight on that.” Her darkened silhouette appeared to be nodding sagely, and then she delivered the advice that changed the whole experience for me. “Your instincts are telling you that the nubbins won’t hold you,” she said, “but actually they will. And the only way to really know that is to try it and feel it. Practice by standing on nubbins close to the ground.” 

Walking towards the rock walls the next day, I stopped to practiced by putting my full weight on nubbins just inches above the dirt. I realized that I could actually stand on those bits without sliding off. I could feel them. I watched the kids sprint up a few rock walls, and got myself motivated to do the same. And I checked myself: “Remember,” I thought, “you are forty years older than these kids.”
But I did find the nubbins, and made my way, one little bump after another. I stood up on bits of rock I could barely even see the previous day, and with each step I felt a little bit stronger, more capable, and certain I would prevail. The exhilaration propelled me, and I picked up speed. And before I knew it, I was at the top, sitting on the ledge. 

“Are you ready to come down?,” they called up to me, but I said no, I wanted a minute. I looked out at the enormous canyon, and the river winding through it, and all the climbers on the ground, far below. I thought to myself, “How soon until I can do this again?” 

About the author: Ken DuBois has enjoyed hiking in the Pacific Northwest for almost thirty years. He joined the Mazamas in 2011 after interviewing Executive Director Lee Davis for an Oregonian article, and having his misconceptions about the organization swept away. He learned that Mazamas, far from being an exclusive club, is welcoming and open to all, with outdoor adventure opportunities for almost any age, skill level, inclination, and budget.

7.25.2016

New Cams: 2016

by Topher Dabrowski

With so many manufacturers introducing new cams for 2016, I wanted to take a quick look at the newer cams on the market and do some comparisons to see how much of a benefit they offer. Obviously there is a lot of talk about light weight and improved features,but how much lighter and what is it going to cost you?

I'm going to focus on Black Diamond (BD), Metolius, DMM, Wild Country and Totem cams, since those are the main newer offerings for the year.

Black Diamond and Metolius both announced an ultra light (UL) cam which will supplement their current offerings of Camalot C4s and MasterCams, respectively. Only Metolius has gone as far as putting its entire set of MasterCams on a diet as well as adding two more sizes on the upper end, a number 7 & 8, which is in the range of a Camalot 2 & 3. The larger sized MasterCams of the previous generation tended to be a bit wobbly due to the single flexible stem and the larger mass of the cam lobes. However, with the reduction in mass, it seems like Metolius was willing to go a little bigger and also add a stiffer cable. Black Diamond's new line of UL cams does not include the .3, 5 or 6 yet, so if you wanted a complete set those would have to be made up with the C4s. There is no news yet if BD intends to update those cam sizes and offer a UL version.

DMM has changed up the design of the lobes on its Dragon cams to be a bit "stickier" and profiled to be thicker in the sweet spot for more contact with rock. They offer a full line of cams with extendable slings from size 00-6, which is equivalent to the BD sizes of 0.3-4. It is interesting to note that DMM has color coded its twin axle Dragon cams to match the colors of the BD Camalots for a given size. One would guess this was done to ease interchangeability and familiarity of cam sizes for Camalot aficionados.

Wild Country, too, has updated the Friend to offer a twin axle design cam which also closely resembles the Camalot C4. Wild Country has taken the cue from DMM and added extendable slings to the new units, while also matching the size and colors of the Camalots. Could this be a trend towards an industry standard? Unfortunately, the Friends only come in the 0.5-4 sizes for now so the equivalent smaller 0.3 and 0.4 sizes would have to be made up with either the previous Helium Friend cam or another brand entirely.

Totem, a lesser-known Spanish company, offers a unique cam that is a dual independent stem design. It allows the cam to function in a quasi-offset nature which helps it perform well in flaring cracks and also affords aid climbers the ability to actively place only two lobes of the cam. Totem is expanding the range with two units, one which will be similar in size to the 2.0 Camalot size, which Totem calls a 1.8, slung with orange Dyneema. The other is the 0.5 size, equivalent to a 0.2 Camalot and is slung in black Dyneema.

I wanted to compare the new UL cams to the existing C4 cams as well as the DMM, Wild Country and Totem cams for a common 0.3-4 size set. Unfortunately, this was a bit of a challenge since only the DMM Dragons came as a complete set that covered the range. To try and make a reasonably fair comparison, I supplemented what each manufacturer might have available for the missing sizes. For the Wild Country cams I chose the equivalent Helium Friends. To make a complete set of Camalot ULs I threw in the 0.3 C4. I couldn't do much for Totem since they don't make an equivalent size to the BD 3 or 4. Similarly, the MasterCam ULs don't have a BD 4 equivalent, so I used the Camalot UL 4 to complete that set as it seemed the logical choice.

I made three main comparisons and summarized the mass and costs of a chosen cam set between manufacturers. I highlighted the lightest set and lowest cost in the second set of tables.

(01) - Wild Country offers the smallest set of new cams (six in total) from 0.5-4, so I used this as a basis for the first comparison and substituted in a Camalot UL 4 for the Metolius set. The lightest and lowest cost set is the MasterCam UL with the Camalot UL C4 added as the biggest cam. The new BD Camalot ULs were the most expensive set while the C4 and the new Friends were almost the same mass.

(02) - This comparison is for the common 0.3-4 Camalot set. Again,Metolius has the lightest and lowest cost set of cams and BD has the most expensive set with its ULs. The Friends, Dragons and C4s are all very close in mass but the Friends and Dragons do have the extendable slings.

(03) - Here I tried to bring Totems into the mix. Since they have a set that is limited in the upper range by a Camalot 2 size equivalent, I simply compared an equivalent set from 0.3-2.0. Metolius, again, has the lightest and cheapest set of cams. The Totems are not overly weighty given their added functionality, but they are pricey.

I suppose one could start to look at the savings with reduced number of runners when considering the cams with extendable slings. My typical sling is a Mammut Contact 8 mm with two CAMP Nano ‘biners, all of which weighs in at 78 grams. Given a set of DMM or Friends from 0.3-4 with extendable slings, I might be able to leave those runners behind and save 624 grams off my rack. It would really depend on how much the route wanders and if those extended slings are long enough.

I have yet to get my hands on any of these units but, from a preliminary look at these specs, there are already some glaring differences. In the end, though, only getting out on the rock with these on my rack will tell whether or not these design discrepancies are significant or not.

About the author: Topher Dabrowski started his climbing endeavors early and has been adventuring and climbing all over planet Earth for almost 3 decades. His activities include mountaineering, big walls, alpine, mixed, rock, ice, bouldering and long distance trail running. As an active member of the local ASCA rebolting chapter he can often be found replacing suspect anchors and reducing your chances of an expensive hospital bill.

7.07.2016

IT Project: Status Report

by Sarah Bradham, Mazamas Marketing & Publications Manager 

In 2014 the Mazamas received a major gift from the Weinstein estate, which gave us the resources we needed to tackle one of the longest-awaited projects at the Mazamas—overhauling our information technology (IT) systems. Our existing systems are clearly not meeting the needs or expectations of our members, students or administration, and need to be modernized.

The goal is to create a centralized, online database that directly integrates with our website to manage everything the Mazamas do—from membership renewals to class administration, to volunteer management and donor relations, it'll all run through this new system.

 In 2015 we went to work identifying the needs of the Mazamas. We hired a web development firm, OMBU Web, to complete the Discovery Phase of the project. This involved meetings with staff, key volunteers, and committee members to fully understand what we needed in a new system. The outcome of the Discovery Phase was a comprehensive Features & Requirements list, a Data Model, and Workflows.

We then sent out a Request for Proposal for the Build Phase of the project based on these documents. We received five proposals, which were narrowed down to two serious contenders. Then, in 2016 and after numerous meetings with each company, we decided to proceed with OMBU for the Build Phase of the project.

The Project Kickoff was in May and we are finalizing the Features & Requirements of the new system now. In March, we also hired Peter Tung, an Encore Fellow from Social Venture Partners, to act as our IT Project Manager. This will ensure this important project gets the full support it needs to meet all benchmarks of timeline and quality. Peter comes to us with experience gleaned from 25-years at Intel as an IT Engineering Director.

 We will keep you informed throughout this project in several ways: quarterly project update meetings that are open to the public, and a website, mazamasitproject.org, that will be updated weekly. We look forward to sharing the exciting details of this project as they continue to unfold. Until then, make sure to keep up with us on our website.
Project Objectives
  • Web application for members, volunteers, and the community to access and administer Mazama programs & services.
  • Visually appealing, streamlined, and easy-to-use Mazama website.
  • Robust online calendar that includes all events, activities, and classes that is easily searchable based on a multiple criteria. 
  • Centralized data system that can be accessed anywhere.

7.01.2016

When Fireworks on the Fourth Just Won't Do

Just an hour east of Portland, man and dog find peace and quiet on the noisiest nights of the year

by Matt Carter

When the neighborhood fireworks begin each July, my dog Lily becomes an inconsolable mess of panting, pacing, whining, and shaking. In recent years I have used this as justification to get out of town and into the mountains with her.

In 2014, the Fourth fell on a Friday. The weather forecast was unusual, as it did not include rain, making it a perfect weekend for a backpack. I checked with Lily to see if she was available. She cleared her schedule for me and was ready to go in under a second. It took me a bit longer to load our packs. Our plan was to hike up Tanner Butte Trail to the Tanner-Eagle cutoff, down Eagle Creek to the Wahtum Lake Trail, around the lake past Chinidere Mountain to Benson Plateau, and out Ruckel Creek.

We encountered our first hikers as the trail levels out then grades gently up Tanner Ridge: two young men and their freshly groomed Collie. They were trying without success to coach their pup to jump a log crossing the trial. Without a pause, Lily walked up to the log next to the Collie and hopped over. “This is how it is done newbie,” she wagged. The Collie watched and shortly thereafter hopped the log.

This young team was keen to get in front of us, most likely to secure what would surely be the last spot at Dublin Lake on such a beautiful weekend. I picked up the pace to no avail. Youth won out and they arrived at Dublin Lake minutes before we did. I tossed some sticks into the lake for Lily to retrieve and then hiked on. We would not see another person that day.

Shortly after the lake junction the trail picks up an abandoned road. Along the road we encountered two large patches of cut bear grass arranged to make beds. Not aware of any forest critter that cuts bear grass to form a bed, I was allowed to speculate on the cause as either Bigfoot or space aliens. Lily’s nose showed no interest in the piles of vegetation, so we moved on.

When Lily and I arrived at Tanner Springs Campground, we were amazed to find ourselves alone on such a beautiful weekend in the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness, which lies barely an hour east of Portland. We set up camp along the stream and prepared for the evening. Lily sleeps at the tent door with just the bug screen. From there she can monitor the olfactory action of the night forest as I drift off to sleep.

The next morning, we encountered a few Boy Scouts and their leader, who reported an arduous adventure up from Big Cedar Springs that included losing the trail many times and being trapped in thicket. They looked beat. Lily wasted no time putting their unoccupied hands to use.

This is a well-practiced routine for her. She slowly moves into position alongside of a hiker and places her head into the hiker’s unoccupied hand. Without being much aware of what they are doing, they begin petting her. And if they stop, her head presses gently against their leg and the petting resumes. In the early days of hiking with Lily, I would try to stop her or at least alert the person that they were petting a dog without knowing it. More recently, I’ve just let it happen. When they depart from our trailside conversation, most are unaware they spent the last minute or so petting a dog.
I put Lily in the lead whenever a trail goes faint. She has the advantage of being able to follow scent beacons and can tell the difference between lost and not-lost scents. We are a well-integrated team. Thanks to her, we had no difficulty passing the section described by the scouting group as nearly impassable.

Once past Big Cedar Springs the trail improved and we found our first muddy tarn. Like a magnet, Lily is drawn to water features, and in she went, despite having been trained not to do so while wearing a pack. What emerged from the muck was a half white, half black dog and a pack filled with goo.

As we approached the west fork of Eagle Creek she began her water happy dance. Leading out and turning her head frequently, “Can I?!! Can I?!!” her eyes asked. The siren call of Eagle Creek again defeated her discipline; in she went, pack and all. On the plus side she and her pack cleaned up nicely.
Some time later we meet a young woman coming out from Wahtum Lake. Lily moved into position to receive pets. After the young woman reported that everyone out hiking that day is at Wahtum Lake, I told Lily to knock it off. The young woman pulled her hand away quickly, surprised to realize that she had been petting a dog. Before she departed, she called Lily adorable.

True to the young woman’s report, Wahtum Lake was packed with tents in every available space. Lily retrieved some sticks for me from the lake. On the move again, we headed past Chinidere Mountain toward Benson Plateau. Near Camp Smoky, we encountered a lone hiker. While Lily was working him, he reported a large group ahead of us was headed to the Plateau to camp. Again, the race was on. There are several trails in the Plateau. We took the shortest to Hunters Camp and turned up the wick. Arriving at Hunters Camp, we found ourselves alone again. Lily settles into camp life quickly, taking a position where she can comfortably track my progress setting up camp. Her keen sense of smell allows her to monitor me with her eyes closed.

The next day we began the hike out down Ruckel Creek. Over the years Lily has day-hiked all the trails we covered on this Fourth-of-July excursion. As we started to head down she stopped frequently to bark and stare at me. The message was clear: “This trail leads to the car. No, this can’t end!”

Our last encounter was with a young couple. They were headed up Ruckel Creek just past the Indian pits. The young man pulled out a map and began to tell me where on the map we are (not even close), and asked how much further to Cascade Locks. They had taken the alternate route on the Pacific Crest Trail down Eagle Creek, and rather than walk the Old Highway to Cascade Locks, they were headed back up Ruckel Creek. I advised him that Ruckel Creek via Benson and the PCT to Cascade Locks was a very long way. He assured me I was wrong and they pressed on. Lily had scored pets with the young woman. Near the road they passed us up, retreating without a word.
We returned to a quiet Portland neighborhood. A tired dog is a good dog.


Author Bio: Matt Carter has been a Mazama member for 22 years, as well as a Climb Leader, BCEP Leader, Advanced Rock leader and has served on many committees and Executive Council. Lily, (aka The Lovely Miss Lily to her climber friends), is a nine-year-old Golden Retriever who can be found with Matt most weekends on local trail and off trail adventures. She is an accomplished mountain dog comfortable in pack and harness. 

The Beauty of BCEP: Doing what's not comfortable is the point

by Maureen O’Hagan

The first week in March, twelve students meet for the first time. There is a doctor, a teacher, a salesman. There is a social worker, an IT guy, an engineer. I don’t know any of this at first; it will all come out later (along with a lot of other life-affirming details.) These are utter strangers to me. But it doesn’t take long to understand a few things. First, that these strangers differ in their experience, their fitness, their age, their politics, their backgrounds. But also that they have one thing in common: they want to learn. And somehow, it works.

This is the beauty of the Mazama Basic Climbing Education Program (BCEP): take a bunch of strangers, dump a boatload of information on them, put them under just the right amount of stress, and they come out the other end better in more ways than they could have imagined. At least that’s the way I see it.

Why worry?

I applied to BCEP with some trepidation. At age 50, I was convinced I would be the oldest among the group. The slowest. The least experienced.

In retrospect, worrying is always a waste of time. (I know, I know!) But it’s also true that the whole idea of BCEP is uncomfortable. As an adult, it’s not often that you willingly put yourself in a position where you have no idea what you’re doing. Especially when it could actually be dangerous. Mostly, we grownups just keep doing what makes us comfortable.

Yet this kind of discomfort is exactly what we all signed up for.

The second and third rings

At our first lecture, our team co-leader, Patrice Cook, made the point in graphic form, drawing a picture on the blackboard of three concentric circles. The innermost circle was our comfort zone. This is where we live most of the time. The next circle represented activities that are outside our comfort zone. The third represented activities that made us scared out of our wits. For BCEP, she told us, we shouldn’t reach the third ring. But the second one? Well, that’s the whole point.

Our first hike helped clear up some baseline questions for me. Would I get wet? Yes. Cold? Yes. Tired? Yes. Would I have the right gear? No. But will I manage to enjoy it anyway? Again, yes.

It was on another outing where I would learn the more important lessons. The hike itself, up the Elevator Shaft and towards Devil’s Rest, was a bit steep at the start. But then we veered off to practice some of the rope skills we had learned in the previous weeks. And this is where one member of our group began approaching the third circle. We were to travel on a fixed line, then rappel off of Cougar Rock. To my new friend, this was scared witless territory. As she told me to edge past her as we approached the ropes, her fear was palpable.

For a long time, she just sat there. The rest of the group did our rappels. She sat there some more. And we waited.

When we saw her finally setting up for the rappel, the rest of us gasped. When she safely reached the ground, we all cheered.

Later, when I asked her how she managed to change her mind—how she decided to move forward rather than give up and walk away—she talked about the circles, about getting outside her comfort zone. That’s when it occurred to me that courage doesn’t mean fearlessness. It’s a willingness to trust even when you’re scared—to trust the system, to trust your instructors, and to trust your own body. That’s what we were privileged to witness that day. In some ways, it was a small moment, but it’s a moment I don’t think any of us will forget.

A set of keys

Over the course of BCEP, there were other such moments. There was frustration. (I admit it: I got lost trying to find the starting line for the navigation exercise.) There were challenges. But there were so many stories we all shared. I learned that one of my teammates recently suffered a profound loss but had a look of pure joy on her face as she bounded towards a meeting point. That another used to weigh 400 pounds and had utterly changed his life. That a third had a new baby. I learned several of my new friends practiced meditation. That they had climbed peaks that I couldn’t even imagine. That they may look mild-mannered, or live otherwise conventional lives, but that they were adventurers at heart.

So, what do you get over the course of the eight-week BCEP class? A set of keys that can open doors to new adventures. That’s the practical part. But more important are friends that I hope to get to know even more. And concepts that I hope will serve me in life beyond climbing.

What’s next? I mustered the nerve to apply for a Mt. Hood climb. Sure, it will be hard. But it’s an opportunity to meet even more perfect strangers.

About the Author: Maureen O’Hagan is a journalist who’s written for Willamette Week, The Washington Post, and The Seattle Times. She currently works as a freelance writer, editor, and ghostwriter and is nearing completion of a cookbook project. Shortly after this essay was submitted, she summited Mt. Hood.

6.07.2016

Ten Hidden Gems of the North Cascades

Steve Marston on Forbidden Peak. Photo: Al Papesh. 
by Barry Maletzky

Most of us know about the snow-clad, rugged giants north of Mt. Rainier. Yet, due to distance and a five-day work week for many Mazamas, these giants only rarely appear on the Climbing Schedule. In my opinion these areas, such as the Glacier Peak Wilderness, the North Cascades National Park, and the Mt. Baker/Snoqualmie Wilderness, contain the most spectacular scenery in the lower 48. Blessed with almost too much winter moisture, glaciers abound, cradling gushing streams and waterfalls, feeding the rich volcanic soil, and nurturing gardens of wildflowers seemingly seeded in heaven. These descriptions are written not as definitive guides to access and routes, but to encourage the outdoor enthusiast to seek out these areas off the main tracks we Mazamas so often trod and discover their jeweled treasures.

Sloan Peak (7,835 ft.)

Among these “hidden” gems, Sloan may shine the brightest in terms of Mazama popularity. Ruling in majestic isolation at the western end of the Glacier Peak Wilderness, Sloan’s Matterhorn-like, convoluted appearance belies its relatively benign nature as a climb, at least by its regular route. Sloan’s distinctive horn can be easily identified from most other peaks in the western Cascades, from Rainier all the way to the Canadian border. You may have to get your feet wet crossing a branch of the Sauk River, so autumn is the preferred season for Sloan. A steep approach trail is rewarded by campsites in a secret meadow guarded by rugged towers of stone. The gradual ascent of the Sloan Glacier leads the climber from east of the summit almost, but not quite, around the peak (hence the name of the route as “The Corkscrew”); a usually easy climb up the rocks at the highest western point of the glacier brings one to a surprisingly pleasant meadow stroll through alpine flora to the rocky summit (reached by Class 3 scrambling). Views are handsomely rewarded of the Monte Cristos to the southeast and Glacier Peak just across the river.

Fortress (8,760 ft.)

After a long ride on a dirt track, followed by a 9-mile path tempered by the beauty of magic meadows and surrounding peaks, one reaches Buck Creek Pass, surely one of the most glorious places to camp, especially to catch the fading sun setting over Glacier Peak. On climb day, head north on a climber’s track, then ascend the southwest gardens of Fortress, a secret place you’ll usually have to yourself. (Try to keep the meadow in as natural a state as you can—there are rare flowers hidden here.) Turn north at the ridge and scramble stable talus to the rocky top, where a few rare species of alpine floral jewels remain in bloom throughout the summer. The views encompass all of the Glacier Peak Wilderness as well as the North Cascades Peaks in all their glory.

Colonial/Snowfield Peaks (7,771/8,347 ft.)

Climber on the summit of Mt. Larrabee, 1.5 miles south 
of the Canadian border (“All-in-all, no finer view can be 
obtained without a rope in all these ranges”) 
Photo: Beau Ramsey.
These jewels, securing the western end of the National Park, occasionally appear on the Mazama Climb Schedule, and for good reason. Once past the trail to Pinnacle Lake, a climber’s path can be followed to a magnificent ridge that offers vistas north and south into snow-covered heights, including Snowking, the mysterious Illabot range, with its pointed pencil of a peak: Mt. Chaval, and grand views northwest to the Picket Range (and Baker and Shuksan). Most parties climb Colonial but an extra day ascending Snowfield broadens the views further and provides a chance to walk one of the most beautiful glaciers in the range, the Neve Glacier: broad, serene and embraced at both side moraines by flowery gardens interspersed with rugged ramparts of multi-colored rock. Both ascents feature glacier travel ending in brief Class 3 rock scrambles. One further benefit: a view into the Teebone and Backbone Ridges, with names to excite the adventurous, such as The Sacrum, The Coccyx, and Lumbar Point, all rarely seen from any easily-reached vantage point.

Forbidden (8,815 ft.)

Forbidden bears its name well; although not of towering height, abrupt angular landforms lead, more steeply as you ascend, to a summit tip sufficiently edged to make most climbers dread to tread. However, Forbidden has become an increasingly popular climb due to its east ridge, which goes at about 5.7, and its more frequently climbed west ridge, at about 5.5. It also has the benefits of being in one of the most gorgeous settings for a base camp: Boston Basin. Forbidden’s immense obelisk of rock provides chillingly grandiose views from either ridge, as well as from its summit. All the North Cascade peaks up to Baker are there for the taking, but to my eyes, the sawteeth of Ripsaw Ridge, with countless shards of rock jutting above the immense white sheet of the Boston Glacier and stretching all the way to Mt. Buckner, is one of the most overpowering and memorable sights in any range I have visited in the lower 48. Reaching this summit and making it back down again will provide you with more than hero cred; it will inspire dreams of towers and walls previously unimaginable. This is the closest one can come to Patagonia without leaving this country.

Boston Peak (8.894 ft.)

Steve Marston descending the west ridge 
of Forbidden Peak. Photo: Al Papesh.
Boston is a rarely attempted alternative to the crowded Mt. Sahale; the views are similar to those from Sahale but even more far-flung, ranging from Rainier to the south through the sharpened teeth of the Pickets, and most of the significant mountains in the National Park. Do not be alarmed by the view of Boston from Sahale; appearing from the south as a sharpened vertical shroud, the actual climb is graded at Class 3 with a few stretches of brief Class 4. Aficionados of shattered rock will appreciate the ascent up a well-defined line on the southeast face. A relatively large ridge trends eastward toward a series of chimney and face moves with stable holds all the way to the view-laden summit. While hard hats are a necessity, many parties fail to use a cord, fearful of falling rock. Much closer views of the North Cascade giants will be your reward: Eldorado, anchoring the range to the west, its northern ridge of castellated pinnacles terminating in the massifs of Snowfield and Colonial Peaks; and the steeply angled slopes of Terror and Despair; all backcountry views to be savored by the very few venturing beyond Sahale.

Ragged Ridge (7,408—8795 ft.)

An oft-neglected ridge paralleling the North Cascades Highway west to east, Ragged presents the largest unbroken series of rugged summits outside of the Pickets in the entire North Cascades. Beginning in the west with Red Mountain, an easy scramble from a campsite in Fourth of July Basin, the ridge continues with scrambling on flaky rock. The adventurous party could run the entire ridge in several days, traversing high points such as Cosho, Kimtah, and Katsuk Peaks (mostly scrambles at the Class 3 level). Near its east end, the tallest and best-known summit, Mesachie Peak (Class 4 in spots), pierces the Washington sky with fractured gullies and jagged pinnacles. Most of these peaks can be ascended in a single day from bug-infested camps along Fisher Creek. So why go? To stand on a pinnacle here and there that no other person on earth has ever shared? Yes, but I think it’s the views: seemingly world-wide and ever changing. Rarely would anyone have the opportunity to summit a peak and see the full extent of the National Park, from Goode, Logan and Silver Star in the east, to El Dorado in the west.

Silver Star (8,876 ft.)

Anyone travelling the North Cascades Highway can’t help but be impressed with the hulk of Silver Star, with its jagged tottering towers and gables of rock. This marvel of the eastern part of the National Park area, the highest point in the Methow Range, offers spectacular views of its west and north sides from the multiple loops of Highway 20. A relatively easy single-day ascent is feasible from the highway up the eastern gullies, traversing a glacier then scrambling Class 3 rock. Crampons and ice axe are advised: crossing over to the north face, the glacier can be crevassed after mid-summer and portions can be steep. Views of the Yosemite-like eastern faces of Liberty Bell, Early Winters Spires, and Kangaroo Ridge right next door make the trip from Portland more than worthwhile. In addition, the rarely seen Mts. Azurite and Ballard to the north, and the appropriately-named Needles, sharply incised Cutthroat and Mt. Wheeler, all to the northeast, impress from across the highway. Most parties take an extra day camping at Early Winters Campground and visit the ersatz cowboy town of Winthrop for well-earned beer, burgers and ice cream.

Crater Mountain (8,128 ft.)

Sometimes it feels good, especially for a weekend punter like me, to just meander up an easy peak from a superb campsite and take in the views without having to worry about making it down alive. (Climbers are the only folks I know who celebrate at half-time—you still have to descend!) Right next to the behemoth of Jack Mountain, but absent the drama of hidden crevasses, impenetrable Class 5.9 brush, and the multiple route choices of its fearsome neighbor to the north, Crater is approached by the well maintained McMillan Park-Jackita Ridge Trail to Crater Lake. A base camp on the ridge above the lake provides ample views of most of the North Cascades plus a vista of Jack (which makes you happy you aren’t attempting that convoluted giant the next day). A climber’s path leads across scree and flower-filled meadows until you are presented with a headwall. But not to fear, the way is marked by huge yellow dots painted on the rocks by an explorer anxious to not lose the way; the dots point out the easiest and most stable holds (Class 3 at most). You emerge again upon a sandy plain dotted with alpine flowers and proceed up the climber’s path to the summit. Views are unique: Azurite and Ballard to the east, while Jack dominates as never before, raising its steely heights above the Jerry Glacier. You can spot (and argue about) the many North Cascades summits visible, including Colonial and Snowfield to the west, the Dome group to the south, and the Needles to the east.

Icy Peak (7,073 ft.)

Who hasn’t climbed Ruth Mountain, northeast of Mt. Baker, and exclaimed, “This is the best view for the easiest climb I’ve ever done.” They may be wrong: the view from Ruth’s southern neighbor, Icy Peak, may be even more magnificent (although it cannot be climbed by the average mountaineer in a day and requires glacier gear). From the Hannegan Pass Trail, haul your pack up the climber’s track to some of the loftiest and most view-worthy campsites in all the North Cascades. You’ll probably have time to tarry a bit to enjoy the luscious blueberries (Vaccinium deliciosum—really!). On climb day you may want to tag Ruth’s summit as you pass very near its top rocks. Gently ascend the glacier on Icy’s western front until you are directly south of the three crags comprising the summit configuration. Most folks then choose the western-most of three gullies (Class 3-4) to the Northwestern Peak, but it’s just as easy to scramble to the true high point, the Southeast Summit, by traversing Class 3 craggy rock and one easy gully (hard hats!). Either provides more than the human eye can fully encompass, all overwhelmed by the astonishingly vertical Nooksack Tower, deemed the toughest climb in all the Cascades. The rumble of seracs collapsing into Nooksack Cirque provides a fitting tribute to this ultimate pleasure of the Hannegan Pass region.

Mt. Larrabee (7,861 Ft.)

Larrabee is a long drive from Portland but well worth the trip; it equals Ruth and Icy as the easiest climb for the most stupendous views. This one-day climb begins after a jarring drive past the trail to Mt. Tomyhoi and Twin Lakes, to the High Pass Trail. As the trail heads up toward High Pass, Mt. Larrabee is the reddish summit straight ahead that looks like a loose pile of rocks (it is) shaped like a pyramid. Climbers aim for the white streak standing out from the iron-rich rock and follow it, with its multiple gullies and fields of loose rock, to the talus slope that leads to the summit. Views extend from Glacier Peak in the distant south along with the entire Dome Range, to Baker and Shuksan, then the Pickets and, closer in, the steep American and Canadian Border Peaks, and the incredibly angled rock spires of the Pleiades to the east. Views rarely seen from any other peak south of the border open up to the north: The snows of Garibaldi shine in the distance while closer at hand, the marvelous Canadian sub-range, the Cheam. Perhaps best of all, the fang of Slesse to the east makes one either cringe at its vertical walls or relish its numerous absurdly technical routes (I cringe). All-in-all, no finer view can be obtained without a rope in all these ranges.


Author Bio: Barry Maletzky, M.D. has been a Mazama since 1967 and made a habit of driving to the North Cascades or Olympics almost every weekend from May through October. He has not kept a detailed record of successes or failures at summiting, for obvious reasons, but will admit that lousy weather may have hampered his attempts at certain times. He has, however, worn out a number of vehicles in these attempts.

6.01.2016

FM101 Rocks! Smith Rock Graduation Trip Recap

by Rich Hunter

Checking my email leading up the trip, I was more anxious than usual. Despite the summer weather that’s been way ahead of schedule this year, the weekend forecast called for a turn—rain and thunderstorms were on the way. Not fair! Having circled this date months ago for the Families Mountaineering 101 (FM101) graduation trip to Smith Rock, I dreaded seeing a cancellation email.

But it never came! Instead, my inbox pinged with optimistic emails about how the Families group would make the most of the weekend with our fellow classmates, instructors and leaders, no matter what the weather brought. As I loaded the last of my daughters’ stuffed bobcats, bears and other animal friends into the car next to our climbing helmets, harnesses and rock shoes, I was literally vibrating with excitement to meet up at Smith and celebrate with the students while assisting in a crag leader capacity.

More than 40 students successfully completed the Families Mountaineering 101 class this year, thanks to the colossal efforts of class leaders, Justin Rotherham and Craig Martin, and a bevy of enthusiastic assistants. Over the past 9 months, the class provided a positive, supportive learning experience that emboldened many of the students to exceed their wildest expectations for climbing and outdoor adventure. This class is a pathway to build the future leaders of the Mazamas.
Assembling in the North Point parking lot Saturday morning, it was clear how excited they were, and how much this trip meant to them as a capstone for all their hard work in the class. We also saw a major progression of the students’ awareness and preparation. Everyone showed up ready to go, signed in, grabbed a rope and joined their group.

I, too, have traversed over some challenging and fun territory since my daughter’s FM101 graduation a year ago. I joined the Families Committee, assisted with FM101 again and enrolled in the new Crag Leader training and Mountaineering First Aid. This Smith trip is a perfect example of why Crag Leader training was created—to build the Families leadership corps from the inside, we need a stepping stone from FM101 into intermediate climbing, a way to provide aspiring assistants with the skills and training needed to safely lead activities that are now in high demand from almost 100 recent graduates of FM101. This Crag Leader training has empowered a half dozen new leaders for sport climbing and top roping activities. Arriving at the Dihedrals on Sunday morning, I was thrilled to lead climb, and set sport anchors and top ropes for our stalwart group of families who wanted to climb even through the drizzle.

So, why didn’t we cancel, even though the weather was iffy? AR had already called off their weekend at Smith—we would have been in good company if we canceled. Exploring a new place, climbing different types of rock routes, and putting our new skills to work in a real life climb were major reasons. Looking deeper, the real reason we powered through the bad weather is the bond we have with each other. The amazing relationships we have formed, and the fun times we would have missed if we let the clouds rain on our parade. Not to mention the chance to make a campfire under a rain tarp that was bigger than my house. Clearly, the families program inspires our inner light to shine, and together, we blaze on to climb new heights.

Congratulations FM 101 and Crag Leader graduates!

4.18.2016

First Wedding Anniversary: The Mazama Way

by Leora Gregory
Photo people, in strict left to right:
Mark Fowler, Dyanne Foster, Jean Hillebrand,
Gary Riggs, Lynne Pedersen, Rita Hansen,
Moriel Arango, Leora Gregory, Jason Vosburgh,
Jay Avery, David Carrier, Jonathan Myers,
Karen Vernier, and Amad Doratotaj. Photo: Aaron
Mendelson (another Mazama who happened
to also be on the mountain)

What better way to follow up a wedding on the summit of Mt. Hood, but by a wedding anniversary on the summit of Mt. Hood?  Mazama members Leora Gregory and Jay Avery did just that, by leading a Mazama climb to the top of Mt. Hood to celebrate their First Wedding Anniversary.  (See article on their Mt. Hood Mazama Marriage climb in the May 2015 Bulletin.)  The idea was born right after their wedding, when so many (and especially, Rita!) couldn’t make what was then a mid-week climb.  This year, the anniversary fell, conveniently, on Saturday, and the fairly regular stream of storms Mt. Hood had been getting subsided long enough for a spectacular climb.

This year, the climb had to be done at night, as the freezing level was forecast to be above the mountain the entire night with clear and sunny skies predicted for the summit day.  The team climbed the western chute of the Pearly Gates (last year, they went up the eastern chute) with pretty much stair steps through the crux, and enjoyed long distance views bathed in sunshine on the summit.

Photo taken by Jason Vosburgh of the anniversary
couple kissing on the summit, with Gary
Riggs looking on.
Some notable aspects of the climb: 
  • As was the wedding climb, this anniversary climb was led by Mazama climb leader Leora Gregory, and assisted by (now husband) Mazama Classic member Jay Avery.
  • This was Mazama climb leader Lynne Pedersen’s first *successful* Mazama climb of Mt. Hood!
  • The couple’s officiant, Mazama member Karen Vernier, freshly recovered from the flu wanted so much to join in the celebration that she did a simultaneous solo climb.
  • Mazama member David Carrier started his solo climb several hours later than the team, but skinned up in time to meet the team going though the Pearly Gates!
  • Four of the wedding climb participants (all Mazamas) were able to join the climb: Dyanne Foster, Mark Fowler, Jean Hillebrand, and Gary Riggs.
  • This was Jay Avery’s 95th successful climb of Mt. Hood, and Leora Gregory’s 57th, which also happens to match her age!

Explaining the reason for the large group (12!) to other climbers caused them to help celebrate, and removed the annoyance some climbers experienced when the team (and many other climbers) happened to clog up the chute on the way down. Providing a handline, and allowing everyone to use it, helped to speed up the descent. It would have been even smarter to have had the team descend the eastern chute of the Pearly Gates. . .  (Take-aways for the next climb!)

The entire team worked together to make the climb a fun, rewarding, and celebratory event for all! Many have already mentioned making this an annual event!

3.11.2016

6,000 Miles in the Company of Canines: Meet Whitney "Allgood" LaRuffa

by Kristie Perry
Over the past 20 years, Whitney “Allgood” LaRuffa has logged more than 6,000 trail miles in the company of canines. 

LaRuffa’s journey to becoming an expert on backpacking with dogs started with a chance encounter while thru-hiking the 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine in 1996. 

He and a buddy had been on the trail for about a month when in mid-March they reached the Bald Mountains, an 841-square-mile sub-range of the Blue Ridge Mountains. They made camp atop 5,516-foot Big Bald Mountain, which offered them a 360-degree panorama of the North Carolina–Tennessee border and a fierce wind.

“We’d been getting beat down by the wind all night long,” LaRuffa recounts. “Our tents were hitting us in the face. We hadn’t gotten any sleep. It was cold. There was snow on the trail.”

By 3 a.m., LaRuffa and his hiking buddy had had enough. They packed up their gear and headed down the mountain, collecting three more friends who perhaps more wisely had opted to stay in a lower-elevation shelter. 

They all trudged into the sprawling little town of Erwin, Tennessee. At that time, Erwin was a one-motel burg notorious for being the site of an elephant hanging in 1916.


“When I finally got to my motel, I was greeted at the front porch by this little mutt,” LaRuffa says. “I just sat down and played with him.”

Saved from the pound
For many weeks that little mutt had been following thru-hikers in and out of the Smokey Mountains. When LaRuffa and his friends were ready to hit the trail again, they decided to take the mutt with them.

Photo: Jeremiah “Sasquatch” Wright. One of the highlights 
of the Appalachian Trail is hiking through the Grayson Highlands 
of Mt. Rodgers State Park in Virginia. Wild shetland ponies are 
year-round residents in the park and are very accustomed to 
the numerous hikers. Photo: Kelley “Marmot” Douglas.

“The motel owner was threatening to take him to the pound,” LaRuffa says. We went to the store across the street and bought him a two-dollar collar and a bag of Gravy Train. We didn’t want to leave him in a town famous for hanging an elephant. We figured we’d keep him if he stuck with us.”
Officially dubbed Erwin, the dog stuck with LaRuffa and his friends all the way to the Maine border.
Along the way, he was repeatedly skunked; hailed by hikers who’d encountered him elsewhere on the trail; and equipped with a pack and ID tag by Damascus Dave of Mt. Rogers Outfitters in Damascus, Virginia. He faked an injury in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, to get out of wearing his pack. He was examined by a veterinarian in Troutville, Virginia, who pronounced Erwin bulletproof. 

Throwing up liverwurst
LaRuffa’s parents collected Erwin when the pair arrived at the New Hampshire-Maine border so LaRuffa could continue on to Mount Katahdin in Maine’s Baxter State Park, the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, which prohibits dogs.

Above, from left: LaRuffa and his current canine 
companion, Karluk, summited Mt. Adams in 
July 2012. Karluk ran alongside LaRuffa’s 
glissade path on the way down. 

“After spending the better part of three and a half months with Erwin, parting with him was one of the toughest parts of my AT thru-hike,” LaRuffa says. He and his hiking buddies ... cried. “There were many days when we wished Erwin was with us as it was the first sustained stretch of good weather on the entire trip and I could envision him enjoying the romp through the Bigelow Mountains.”

After LaRuffa and his friends returned to the trail, LaRuffa’s parents discovered Erwin wasn’t so bullet proof, after all.

“My parents like to tell the story of bringing my ‘feral dog’ home,” LaRuffa says. He speculates that Erwin had been tossed from a car and abandoned at some point in his life, causing him to tend toward carsickness. “I told my father to give Erwin Dramamine and showed him how to pry open Erwin’s jaw and shove a pill down his throat. My father was too nervous to do that so he bought some liverwurst and put the pills in it. To quote my father, ‘there’s nothing like going down I-95 and having a dog throw up liverwurst in the back of the car on a 95 degree day’.” 

LaRuffa pounded out the miles, finishing up his AT adventure about three weeks later. When he returned home to New York, Erwin, naturally, was overjoyed, and greeted LaRuffa in a quintessentially canine way: “I remember lying on the floor of my parents’ kitchen with my pack still on my back, just loving on him.”

Disarming hikers

LaRuffa and Erwin spent the following two summers patrolling a 75-mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania as Ridgerunners. 

Ridgerunners provide an important service on the Appalachian Trail, acting as ambassadors, educating people about Leave No Trace Principles, doing light trail maintenance, administering first aid, and discouraging bad behavior. “The program is designed to keep a pulse on what’s going on out there in the woods,” LaRuffa says. “It was a great gig in the summer for a college guy who liked hiking.”

And it was a great opportunity for LaRuffa to hone his backpacking-with-dog skills. Erwin almost always wore a pack on the trail. “And that was back in the day before doggie backpacks were popular,” LaRuffa says. “That always disarmed people and encouraged them to ask questions. It also raised a lot of spirits. It can be really lonely out there for thru-hikers.”


The dog comes first
LaRuffa and Erwin went on to log many more trail miles throughout the United States, including within the South Dakota Badlands and the Cascade Range. Erwin accompanied LaRuffa on his first trip to the top of Mount St. Helens. 

For that outing, Erwin got a special jacket—fleece with a waterproof shell.

LaRuffa had no nervousness about that climb because he had already walked 5,000 miles with Erwin. “Having a dog with me at times can help calm my nerves,” LaRuffa says. 

Still, climbing or backpacking with your dog is a lot of work, LaRuffa acknowledges. “If you’re going to do those things, you need to understand that it really becomes your dog’s outing.”

 “You have to take care of your dog before you take care of you. If your dog is having a bad time, you’ve got to leave.”


For the Mount St. Helens climb, “The hardest thing was teaching Erwin to hike behind me so I wouldn’t step on him with a crampon. The main femoral artery in a dog is right through their leg. If they get cut there, they’ll bleed to death.”

Erwin has also been up through Mt. Hood’s Pearly Gates.
After 13 years of hiking together, LaRuffa said goodbye to Erwin when he could no longer walk. “Thanks to Erwin, I developed a deep love for hiking with dogs that continues on.”


Whitney “Allgood” LaRuffa is a Leave No Trace Master Educator. Over the last twenty years he has shared his tips with countless people who want to backpack with their dogs and has helped spread the gospel of how Leave No Trace principles can be applied to dogs in the backcountry. He shares his home in North Portland with Suzy, his wife of 12 years, and Karluk, a black lab mix adopted from the Oregon Humane Society in 2008. LaRuffa is a brand ambassador for Ruffwear Dog Gear, TurboPup, Barker Bags, Gossamer Gear, Mont-bell, Sawyer, Toaks, Purple Rain Adventure Skirts, Salazon Chocolate, UGO Bars, and Point 6 Socks. To learn more about Whitney “Allgood” LaRuffa and his tips for traveling in the backcountry with dogs, visit his website at www.allgoodsk9adventures.com.

3.09.2016

Thank You: Insert Name Here

by Preston Corless

Clockwise, from left: Mark Luscher and Rick Posekany. 
Photo: Preston Corless. 
This May during the long, slow, cathartic, soul-cleansing slog up one of our local volcanoes, I began reflecting on some of the experiences I’ve had in the past 15 years of climbing. My thoughts moved to the people who have expanded my horizons, pushed me to overcome bigger challenges, and taught me the craft of climbing. I thought about people like Rick Posekany. Within a month, I was shocked and saddened to learn that Rick had passed away.

In 2003 I was a young, headstrong climber at the start of my career. I signed up for Posey’s climb of Aconcagua, the highest peak in South America. I was in over my head, even more than I realized at the time. 

Soon after arriving at Plaza de Argentina base camp (just under 14,000 feet), I started feeling lousy. Really lousy. Rick took me to see the camp doctor, who confirmed what Rick suspected—I had acute mountain sickness. They put this little contraption on my finger, which recorded the oxygen saturation of the hemoglobin in my blood. While at sea level this would read around 99 percent, but at that time it was in the low 80s, which somewhat explained why I felt about half as good as normal. Imagine a bad hangover with a dose of heavy lethargy. I was physically, mentally, and emotionally wrecked. I was 20 years younger than the other guys, and yet I was the one who wasn’t going to make it anywhere near the summit. I had a deep, sinking feeling about all the time and effort that I had committed to this trip–for naught.

They started me on Diamox and told me to rest. In his gruff, terse, gentle way, Rick kept tabs on me and told me not to give up hope. The next day Rick, Mark Luscher, and John Peters carried loads to camp 1 while I rested. The following day the pulse oximeter read 88 percent. I was feeling better and cleared to keep ascending. We moved on to camp 1, then camp 2. I moved a little slower, humbled by my own frailty. We got pinned down by a bad storm at camp 2 for six days, testing our patience, supplies and determination. We had carried a load to another camp called Piedras Blancas, at about the same elevation but closer to the ascent route. Nearing the end of our allotment of time and supplies, the weather began to clear. We scrapped our plan to move; instead Rick and Mark retrieved our cache of gear from Piedras Blancas. It was a short, flat traverse, but the wind was such that they had to break trail through the snow both ways. 

(Willy’s wagon) is on the approach along the
Rio Vacas.  Photo: Preston Corless. 
The skies opened and camp 2 turned into a bustle of activity as nearly everyone mobilized for the summit. After so much bad weather and luck, I could hardly believe we were actually headed out. It was an incredible day—dark, blue, cloudless skies and no wind—and hard to believe after the weeks we’d spent there. On Aconcagua the wind is a nearly constant challenge. It blows tents away. You can hear gusts coming, like an airplane. It is visible in the form of lenticular clouds–the viento blanco. I was getting used to the cold, the wind, not eating enough, and hanging out in those stinking tents reading Atlas Shrugged

Rick was exhausted from breaking trail to get our boots and supplies from Piedras Blancas. The trail out of camp 2 was deep with snow. The day seemed long as the sun cut through the high, thin air. 

The final approach is a dusty slog. We labored slowly up the slope, fighting the thin air. Rick was unselfishly carrying a lot of group gear–first aid, extra food, extra gloves and so on. He was falling off the pace. I waited for him; we fell behind the pack. After many, many rest stops I finally convinced him to switch backpacks with me. There was no way I was going to the summit without Rick. After all the extra work he had done for the team, I would not have made it without him; I would not have earned it.

Our pace picked up a bit with the weight redistributed. As we climbed higher, the views opened to the northwest, west, and southwest. We reached the summit around 7 p.m. and spent all of 15 or 20 minutes on top, after two weeks of hard effort. Coming down the sunset was pretty amazing. Rick and I didn’t make it back to camp until after midnight. It took us 19 hours to climb 4,000 feet. 
I had never felt so physically and emotionally exhausted. I can’t say I was elated that I summited, although I know I would have been disappointed to come all that way, put forth all that effort and expenditure, and never make it past Piedras Blancas. More than anything I felt a great sense of relief about not going home empty handed.

Rick and Preston on the summit. Photo: Rick Posekany.
Together we made it to the summit. That climb taught me a powerful lesson–that climbing is a team sport. Life is a team sport.

The things I learned on that climb helped form the foundation of my climbing experience. We talk about climbing in terms of mountains, cliffs, routes, grades, ratings, buttresses, glaciers, faces and couloirs. New climbers quickly accumulate the latest, most-improved gear, mileage, summits, and routes. With maturity we begin to appreciate more and more the importance of partners and community to the climbing experience. To quote Gaston Rebuffat: “The choice of companion is as important as the choice of the climb.” As specific climbs fade in memory and significance, the bonds forged between partners only become more meaningful—and transcend the climbing experience. 

Very soon two of my other mentors will be heading out on an epic adventure. They have motivated and inspired me to be a better climber and a better person. Our mentors are not always older or more experienced.


Wherever you are in your journey of life, stop and take a moment to reflect on who your mentors have been, and how they’ve influenced your life. Thank them, and pass it on.