12.22.2014

Video of the Month - December

Passing a Knot on Rappel

Darrell Weston presents this useful video that provides instruction on passing a knot while rappelling.  If you have to rappel on a rope that contains a knot (could be that a cut rope has been tied back together), Darrell shows you how to safely bypass the knot while hanging free.  Please contribute your video to our Video of the Month feature, by emailing us the url.

12.16.2014

This Land is Your Land … Love It, Protect It

by Adam Baylor, Mazamas Stewardship and Communication Manager
Do the immortal words of Woody Guthrie resonant clearly with today’s mountaineers, rock climbers, paddlers, mountain bikers and backcountry skiers? The North Face’s latest ad stirs intense feelings about our recreation experiences and should pose some serious questions about our public lands. As Mazamas, we have a mission to teach people the art of mountaineering and to help them protect the mountains. That’s been our way of life for 120 years! More than 40 years before Woody’s iconic anthem was even written. Of course, many things on the landscape have changed especially recreation access and the conservation movement. That’s why it’s important for Mazamas to continue to lead the way in getting more people outdoors and protecting the environment.
To make sure we are engaged in this bifurcated mission and considering federal law making that impacts a great swath of Oregon lands, Mazamas and the Outdoor Alliance sent a group of outdoor recreation leaders to Washington, D.C., for the 2014 Advocacy Summit. We met with members of Congress to talk about barriers to access and plans for conservation. We also spoke with federal agency officials at the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and the Department of Interior. Oftentimes, I hear our members talk about how federal lawmakers do not hear enough about our interests for too many reasons such as lack of engagement on issues (outreach), public understanding of issues (education), and turnover in Congress coupled with general apathy toward government. These reasons pose a real threat to our mission and we're not alone. If we fail to engage in the federal process then our activities on federal lands will be impacted. Examples can be seen in the hundreds of outdoor programs in Oregon and Washington that cannot obtain recreation permits to run classes outdoors. Mazamas is in a good position because of our legacy on Mt. Hood but recreation permitting impacts us financially and will change as we continue to expand our membership. Another example is through increased recreation fees on federal lands. We continue to experience this process of charging more for recreation access with little to no improvements of the national trail system. The burden keeps shifting to groups like the Mazamas to keep trails in shape. Federal recreation budgets need to be examined and scrutinized in order to create streamlined access to the outdoors especially for young, underserved citizens. Last year was marked by very significant milestones for recreation and conservation. Not only did we celebrate the Wilderness Act’s 50th anniversary but our dysfunctional Congress actually passed the largest piece of public lands legislation since 2009. Check out NDAA and the public lands protection package for more info. We also voted in the 2014 Midterm elections as a country in support of conservation efforts through various ballot measures. Here in Portland we approved a multi-million dollar bond measure to support our park system. It seems that the tide is slowly turning in favor of recreation and conservation but is that accurate? Many people in Washington, D.C., think that any similar conservation action in the next few years is futile. I disagree and I hope Mazamas do too. We have some serious opportunities in Oregon to bring new people to the art of mountaineering, rock climbing and hiking as well as to protect the mountain environments. How will we do that? We can look to the organizing efforts that the Mazamas have been involved with for decades. But most recently, we’ve worked with the Outdoor Alliance to unify the voices of climbers, hikers, paddlers, mountain bikers and backcountry skiers to promote and protect the human-powered recreation experience and the protection of public lands. This alliance brings together some of the nation’s top outdoor program leaders and conservationists to engage in the issues important to our members. Together we can keep a seat at the table and ensure our plans are successfully implemented. Our latest strategic plan puts great importance on figuring out how our members can become more engaged in recreation and conservation public policy. We often talk about and take action on things like recreation permits and fees, lack of public participation in forest planning, threats to our ecosystems and watersheds. But we want to do more. So as we hear those celebrated words of Woody Guthrie, we may realize that the crux has always been the same. To make things better for climbers and hikers, for example, we need to be engaged and organized around the issues. But that takes a great deal of time and resources which for many nonprofits are generally scarce. Streamlining that process through a partnership with the Outdoor Alliance is one way to achieve our goals. To learn more and to get involved in recreation access and conservation, email adam@mazamas.org.

12.04.2014

A Mazama Encounter ... Pre-Wild

by Richard Getgen

Richard Getgen with Mt. McLoughlin & Devil's Peak. 1995.
On December 12 the movie Wild will arrive in theaters in Portland, with Reese Witherspoon playing a 26-year-old novice PCT hiker named Cheryl Strayed. My wife and I are wondering, who, if anyone, will be playing us in the movie.  In the book, Cheryl mentions “encountering a group of backpackers and hikers” as she enters the Sky Lake Wilderness. That group was Billie Goodwin, Tom Cawi, John Harmon, Judith Salter, and Richard & Carol Getgen.

John Harmon, Billie Goodwin, unknown, Judith Salter & Tom
Cawi at Crater Lake. 1995.
Billie Goodwin and I were leading an eight-day Mazama Outing from the rim of Crater Lake to the south end of Brown Mountain along the PCT.  A foot problem kept Billie from walking most of the route, so she and Judith spent a week in the Klamath Falls area while I led Tom and John through the wilderness.  The five of us met-up on the trail at the south end of the wilderness.  Billie convinced us to set up camp at Fourmile Lake.  While at Lake of the Woods, enjoying a hamburger (fine cuisine after a week of freeze-dried meals), Billie came across a solo backpacker looking for a place to pitch her tent, and Billie invited her to join our group for the night.  This young woman was Cheryl Strayed.

Like many long-distance hikers, Cheryl was “writing a book” of her adventures, and I had long-since forgotten her plans to capture her trek on paper.  Seventeen years passed.  When I read Wild a couple of years ago, I got goosebumps when I realized that her walk coincided with the 1995 outing Billie and I had led. I immediately went to my hiking journal to see if Cheryl Strayed was indeed the same woman who shared a campsite with us at Fourmile Lake all those years ago.

From my journal of August 1995:

Judith Salter & Tom Cawi at Brown Mountain. 1995.
“The sun evaporated the clouds late in the afternoon.  This meant a cold evening (twenty-six degrees).  We gather firewood in an effort to make it through the evening in comfort.  Our five some was increased by one when a PCT hiker named Cheryl joined us.  Cheryl had started in the Sierra-Nevada Mountains and was hiking 1,300 miles to Portland by herself at an average of twenty miles each day.  She had been cold for the last two weeks due to the unseasonable ‘fall weather’." 

I had a habit of getting out of the tent at sunrise each morning, and on the frosty morning which Cheryl mentions in her book as being 26 degrees is a quote from Carol and me.  I promptly started a campfire to thaw-out my stiff muscles, at which time Carol drove into the campground to join the group.  (I had telephoned Carol the previous afternoon from Lake of the Woods , and she drove through the night.)  Carol told me that the radio broadcast had said it was 26 degrees, and later when Cheryl crept out of her tent she asked me if I knew how cold it was.

Billie Goodwin in the Sky Lakes Wilderness. 1995.
My chivalrous act of building a fire on this icy cold morning did not make the book, but the conversation about the weather did.  It gives me a warm feeling to know that I am mentioned (not by name) in a New York bestseller, doing what I like doing most in life: hiking.

After breakfast that morning, Cheryl continued north toward Woodpecker and Badger Lakes , and our group walked south along the shoulder of Mt. McLoughlin and across the lava-strewn mass of Brown Mountain.  That was the last we saw or heard of her until reading the book.

At the time, this was not a “meet someone famous” encounter for the group. Cheryl was just another hiker on the trail. The previous night, a thru-hiker named Trapper camped with us, sharing our campfire. The next year, when I walked with Billie through the section of trail she had missed in 1995, a woman named Curly camped with us at Red Lake. Billie met Curley at Cascade Locks a few weeks later, and received a letter from Curly after she reached Canada.  Cheryl was the only one of us to get published.

In 1995, Billie Goodwin and I were the most-active Mazama hike leaders. Billie and I are still the all-time most-active male and female Mazama hike leaders.  Billie has led 632 hikes for the Mazamas and I have led 1,071 hikes.


Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern will be in Portland on Dec. 8 at premiere of Wild (admission to this screening is by invitiation only). They will be joined by Cheryl Strayed. More info on Oregon Live.

10.09.2014

Beacon Rock & Mazamas: A Century Old Trip Report

by Adam Baylor


100 years ago, there was no paved trail to the top. No metal handrail to keep you from the edge. Highway 14 did not exist. Pioneers on horseback passed by the rock instead of logging trucks and tourists in electric cars. Beacon Rock State Park would not exist for another couple decades and only iron spikes and hemp rope protected what is today considered a technical route.

If we look back one century ago, we find a team of intrepid climbers looking up at the northwest face of Beacon Rock. They made the 2nd ascent of what is known as the Spike Route. This month on October 11th, we can celebrate the 3rd major ascent of Beacon Rock by the Mazamas. 47 of them to be exact.

Their adventure was recorded in the December 1914 edition of the Mazama: A Record of Mountaineering in the Pacific Northwest (Volume IV, Number 3, pages 93-94), by C. W. Howard. The story told is of the Spike Route but also of the first ascent of Beacon Rock as well as a fascinating Native American legend.

View showing east face. Photo: C.W. Howard.
We provide a selection of that record of mountaineering by Howard below. An original and complete version of this trip report can be found as always in the Mazama Library but also at the Beacon Rock State Park library as a donation by the Mazamas and the Beacon Rock Climbing Association.

The west side. Photo
C. W. Howard.

“Castle Rock” by C.W. Howard, 1914 (the name changed to Beacon Rock eventually):

Since 1901 a few small parties have succeeded in climbing to the summit of Castle Rock. A party of Mazamas, under Mr. Benefiel, made the climb in 1912, but on October 11th, 1914, the Mazamas made an official climb of the rock and 47 persons reached the summit, this being by far the largest party which has ever stood on its summit at one time. Mr. E. C. Sammons was the leader of the party and to make sure that everything would be in readiness for the main climb, he made a preliminary trip two weeks before. Mrs. C. E. Dillinger, better known to the Mazamas as "Auntie"; Miss Anne Dillinger, Sammons and the writer made up the party. We left Portland on October 3, arriving at Butler at 7:30 P. M. Here we left the train and with somewhat heavy packs hiked about two and one-half miles to our camping place on a small creek about a quarter of a mile from the base of the rock. This was a perfect location for a small camp we soon had a good fire burning and then "Auntie" toasted pumpernickel and prepared beef bouillon -- a delicious repast before retiring.

After an early breakfast Miss Dillinger, Sammons and I started the climb, leaving "Auntie" to guard camp and to have dinner prepared for us when we returned. With little difficulty we found the dim trail up the west side of the rock, this being the only practical route to the top. When you stand near the base of Castle Rock and, looking upward, have the trail pointed out to you, you little wonder that was long thought to be an impossible climb. The rock overhangs in places and the rest of the way is just about perpendicular. It is only by working back and forth along the narrow ledges and occasionally pulling yourself up sheer faces of rock by means of the scant shrubbery or a tuft of grass (and sometimes with your nose and eyebrows) that your are able to reach the top.

Mazama Member John Meckel on the Spike Route.
Photo: Jeff Thomas
The most difficult part of the climb is met when about half way up the rock, or about 600 feet above the ground. Here the trail ends at the bottom of a chimney leading to the base of a bald face of rock about 60 feet high and entirely devoid of vegetation.  There are no crevices for hand or foot holds, and to negotiate this chimney and rock face the first climbers had drilled holes and set some iron spikes, by which one could pull himself up. A rope was afterward hung from above. On our reconnoitering trip we found that some of the spikes had become loose enough to become dangerous and that the permanent rope was badly rotted. We stopped here long enough to re-drill the old holes and set in a few additional pins. We also hung a new 70-foot 1-inch rope to replace the old one. Setting the pins on this place was adventuresome work. First Sammons and then myself took turns at it, being suspended in mid-air, as it were, by a painter's noose made in the large rope. Hanging over the wall added zest to the sport, but I was glad that the rope was new and in perfect condition.
Photo: Jeff Thomas

This dangerous place once surmounted, the balance of the climb is made without especial difficulty, though one must constantly be on the alert for falling rocks and lest he made a misstep, any one of which might prove fatal. We remained on the summit long enough to take a few photographs and then retraced our steps. When we had dropped down off the rock face and through the narrow chimney Sammons, who was in the lead, threw his weight on a dead fir tree, about 6 inches in diameter, to let himself down to a lower ledge of rock. The tree, which had nearly rotted through at the base, snapped under the extra weight and went down with Sammons, while Miss Dillinger and I held our breaths in horror. It was only rare presence of mind and a skillful twist of his body that enabled him to throw himself inward, while falling, onto the first ledge of rock about 8 feet below. He landed in a heap with his feet hanging over a sheer precipice of about 200 feet.

View looking from the summit of Castle
Rock. Photo: H. J. Thorne
On the official climb two weeks later, because of the large number of women who were inexperienced in difficult rock climbing, our leader, Mr. Sammons, hung a number of ropes over the more dangerous places. This proved a wise precaution, for the rains of the week before had made the footing most unsatisfactory, especially where there was a scum of earth and decayed leaves on the sharply sloping basalt ledges. In the main climb one or two persons were struck by small rocks dislodged by the climbers above, but otherwise what is probably one of the most ambitious climbs on the "Local Walks" schedule of the Mazamas came off successfully and with credit to the organization. An official Mazama record box and register were left on the summit.

The owners of Castle Rock contemplate blasting a winding horse trail to the summit, that tourists may have the advantage of that most wonderful view of the Columbia River. The view from the rock is magnificent, one being able to see for miles up and down the Columbia River gorge.

Those who made the official Mazama climb were: R. W. Ayer, C. E. Blakney, H. G. Burco, L. F. Buck, T. R. Conway, William Clarke, Geraldine Coursen, A. M. Churchill, Lella L. Dean, L. P. Dellaire, Edith Ellis, Pearl Ellis, F. J. Glover, Charlotte M. Harris, Pearl Harnois, A. R. Hine, R. W. Heston, R. T. Johnstone, D. M. G. Kerr, Joseph Lind, P. C. Lind, D. G. Lebb, Dr. C. V. Luther, F. P. Luetters, Edith Moore, R. W. Montague, Caroline Montague, Martha Nilsson, Anna D. Nickell, P. G. Payton, E. F. Peterson, Arthur Peterson, Florence Prevost, John Pauer, George X. Riddell, Osmon Royal, C. W. Roblin, Rhoda Ross, Lena Searing, Georgia Smedly, George F. Scott, J. C. Sharp, C. J. Sieberts, H. J. Thorne, A. B. Williams, Louis Waldorf and E. C. Sammons, leader of the expedition.

9.25.2014

Video of the Month: Upper Dexter Icefall


View Steve Heikkila's video of his climb on Upper Dexter Icefall in Ouray, Colo. Get stoked to check out the Portland Alpine Fest's awesome clinic and athlete line-up from Nov. 4 - 8. Get the skills you need to take your own trip to Ouray!

9.24.2014

Re-united: The power of the Mazamas and Facebook!

Amy Mendenhall reuinited
with her lost Garmin.
by Rico Micallef

The weekend of August 15, 2014 I attempted Mt. Jefferson with the Mazamas - climb #544.
Unfortunately we did not summit. When we arrived at the Red Saddle there was a group of three climbers ahead of us who were making their way across the upper snowfield. We could see the sun beginning to hit the top of the slope, and with a team of 11 climbers it would take too long, the pickets would have to be reset on the decent resulting in descending in the dark, consequently we called it and did not summit.

I was the assistant on the climb, so I proceeded to guide our group down the mountain. As I descended I came across what I originally thought was a camera in the scree. I picked it up, and saw that it was a GPS, so I threw it in my backpack, thinking "I doubt it works, but what the heck I’ll change the batteries when I get home and we will see if it works, worse case I took some garbage off the mountain." When we stopped for a break, I mentioned my find to the group, where the common response was, wow I doubt it works. So I took it out my pack and switched it on, much to my surprise it turned on! One of the team said it was probably a fellow Mazama that lost it. I figured I might as well post it on the ICS Facebook page and see if I can track down the owner. Below is a copy of my FB post and the corresponding traffic:

Rico Micallef
August 19
********** Found Garmin GPS **********
I found a Garmin GPS on Jeff.
Much to my surprise it still works, it had been sitting on Jeff for over a year!
Based on the track data it was lost in the 2013 climb season!
I'd like to get it back to its rightful owner.
Here is what I need:
What model #?
when did you lose it?
Name some of the saved tracks?
Sorry but as Ronald Reagan said Trust but Verify!
Please feel free repost this


Larry Beck Hey Amy Brose Mendenhall, is this yours?
August 19 at 1:15pm • Like

Michael Zasadzien Hey, you should post this on cascadeclimbers.com; I'm sure there's a ton of visibility through that forum!
August 19 at 1:16pm • Like

Larry Beck Rico Micallef, Amy lost one last year in August on the south ridge above camp at Goat Rock.
August 19 at 1:16pm • Like

Amy Brose Mendenhall That might be mine! I lost it last year on Jefferson on the way down. I have no idea what tracks could be in there...but it was a garmin etrex 30. black. with a little waterproof case around it...it probably had tracks from last year (glacier peak, etc). I posted it on cascade climbers last year and figured it was a lost cause....
August 19 at 1:17pm • Like

Amy Brose Mendenhall actually, I think it may have NOT had a lanyard on it or a case, and that's exactly why my current one DOES...I was so pissed when I lost it, but weirdly, we found an active garmin etrex 30 lying in the trail on the PCT on the way down...didn't keep it, hung it at a trail crossing, but thought it was weird universal gps karma...
August 19 at 1:18pm • Like

Amy Brose Mendenhall our jeff climb was 7/12 to 7/14 last year...glacier peak tracks from other people might have been on there, but I did it after Jefferson, so likely none from glacier. it could have had Shasta, hood and st.helens on there, as I did those before Jefferson.
August 19 at 1:21pm • Like

Amy Brose Mendenhall or could have been yellow...pretty sure it was black: http://www.rei.com/product/825492/garmin-etrex-30-gps
Garmin eTrex 30 GPS 
www.rei.com
Free Shipping - With a 3-axis compass, full-color display and geocaching, the co... See More
August 19 at 1:21pm • Like

Rico Micallef SOLD! That was fast, yes it has a case, and a lanyard, amazing I did not even have to CHANGE the batteries, turned on right away. I am in Inveremere, BC till Sunday, visiting family, I am almost 100% SURE your description matches the Garmin, I will verify it when I get back and get it to you.
August 19 at 1:23pm • Like • 1

The author's sweet reward for his good deed.
Amy Brose Mendenhall Rico, that's awesome....no rush at all (as I not-so-happily-but-promptly went out and got a new one after I lost it last year). But would love to have it back eventually. Name your favorite beer and six pack is in your future..or whatever! let me know  I lost it in the scree area fairly low on the south ridge. It's unfathomable that someone randomly came across it and that it somehow still works. Go figure 
August 19 at 1:32pm • Like • 1

Larry Beck Amy, what Rico will also want is to be on your next Jeff climb!
August 19 at 1:44pm • Unlike • 5

Rico Micallef No worries, they are not cheap so I am glad to be able to get it back to its rightful owner. Reminds me of the old Timex commercials takes a licking on keeps on ticking! We will have to let Garmin know what a solid product they make.
August 19 at 1:44pm • Like • 1

Elisabeth Kay Bowers wow! so cool! now when the glaciers melt out on rainier, we might find Chris Kruell's!
August 19 at 1:47pm • Like • 3

Elisabeth Kay Bowers wonder if fb will exist then...
August 19 at 1:47pm • Like

Justin Colquhoun Buhhahaha!! Well done Rico!!! I was only half serious when I suggested it might belong to a fellow Mazama. (note: others suggested this as well)(kudos again for finding it and its owner!)
August 19 at 5:57pm • Edited • Unlike • 3

Rico Micallef That was a great call 
August 19 at 2:16pm • Like

Regis Krug Now, can you find my tripod over on Park Butte north of Jefferson? Kill the friggin marmot that has it.
August 19 at 4:07pm • Unlike • 2

Rico Micallef Amy Brose Mendenhall I am back in PDX, give a me shout and we can figure out where to meet to get the Garmin back to you.
August 25 at 1:15pm • Edited • Like

Steve Heikkila This thread is amazing.
August 25 at 3:29pm • Like • 4

Rico Micallef Re-united!
September 4 at 7:37pm • Like • 7

Rico Micallef and my reward- not necessary but very much appreciated! Thanks Amy Brose Mendenhall
September 4 at 7:48pm • Edited • Like • 7

In addition I have been assured a place on Amy’s next Jefferson climb! Which of course is what I really wanted.




9.09.2014

Jump Right!

I have always liked being in the mountains, but the thought of climbing a mountain never occurred to me until I met my husband Dan. He is a member of The Mazamas, a Portland climbing club. His spare room was full of all sorts of weird gear and he would spend his weekends climbing mountains in the dark.

When Dan was finishing his master’s degree in 1999, he knew he wouldn’t have much time for a girlfriend and he suggested that I take the Mazamas Basic Climbing Education Program. It’s a great class that consists of textbook readings, lectures and field sessions. I was fascinated by that textbook. I learned what all that weird gear was for and why you climb mountains in the middle of the night. And I learned nuggets of wisdom. Like, if you are roped to your climbing partner, and you are walking along a ridge, if your partner starts to fall down one side of the ridge, what you should do is jump off the other side of the ridge so the rope catches you and holds you both. --- Yeah, right! I finished the field sessions where I chased my more athletic classmates up steep hikes, and I learned to self arrest, where you jam your ice axe into the snow and thumbtack yourself to the mountain.

Thus, I became an mountaineer.

In 2003, we joined a Mazamas outing to the Swiss Alps. The Eiger, is the classic alpine peak, with a north face so steep that the snow doesn’t stick to it, and it looms darkly above the valley. Well, right next to the Eiger is the Mönch, and at 13,474 feet, it is 500 feet taller than the Eiger, and that’s the mountain we climbed. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the industrious Swiss built a tunnel through the Eiger so you can take a train up to 11,000 feet and start climbing from there. For this reason, the Mönch is actually one of the easiest of the classic Alpine peaks.

But, easy is a relative term, and it soon became apparent that I was the least experienced and the least fit of the eight of us on that climb. After they took everything out of my pack, and put it in theirs I was able to at least keep up with my rope team.

The Mönch consists of a series of boulder fields to climb interspersed with ice ridges. Picture a balance beam -- no, make it an ironing board; tip it up at an angle, raise it 1000 feet into the air and cover it with ice, and you get a picture of these ridges. So, I had a lot to think about on this climb. I had to keep the rope taut, not get cut with my crampons, and keep the ice ax in the proper hand, not to mention climb uphill at altitude. But during it all, I kept thinking about how this was the Alps and it was all going to be so worth it at the end.

Toward the top of the climb, I put my ice axe down in the snow next to me, and when I took it out there was a hole in the snow. Through that hole, I could see all the way down to Grindelwald, two miles below me. It occurred to me, that if I had put my foot there, it could have been me going all the way down to Grindelwald. But, I didn’t, and I made it safely to the top.

There were high fives all around and photos taken and I felt --- nothing!  Where was my climber’s high? Where was the exhilaration that made it all worth it? The view wasn’t even that good because of the cornice, and we were all crowded together at the top and you couldn’t spend any time up there because you still had to get down and you didn’t want to wait too long because the snow would get slushy and be unsafe. It slowly dawned on me that I wasn’t a mountaineer. I was never going to be one of those people who say, “because it is there.” As we started the descent I started composing my speech to Dan in my head, where I would say that I was glad to have had the experience once, but I didn’t see that I would be continuing to climb with him at this level.

It was early afternoon and we were worried about the sun melting the ice and making it too slushy for crampons to get a good hold. We had just put our crampons back on in preparation to cross an ice ridge. Monty, at the front of my rope had just stepped out on the ice and he turned back to me and said, “I was going to say that the ice feels pretty good, but they just fell.” and he pointed to the ridge ahead of us. About 100 yards away there was a group in front of us and one of them had fallen and was in the process of getting up. It didn’t look that bad at first, but she didn’t get up and she started to slide, and she pulled the next person on the rope with her, starting a chain reaction. As we watched in helpless horror, Sandy, standing next to me, said, “He needs to go right.” and it occurred to me that this was that absurd situation from my climbing textbook. We started to yell, “Jump right! Jump right!”

We didn’t know if they could hear us, but eventually the last man on their rope jumped off the right side of ridge. He jammed his ice axe into the snow and we watched as he fell -- up. He was being pulled up the ridge by the weight of the climbers on his rope down the other side. Finally, just before he reached the lip of the ridge, they came to a stop. There, hanging down the left side of the ridge, like beads on a string were four climbers and on the right side was one man holding them all with his ice axe jammed in the snow.

I knew I could be of no help, but both Monty and Dan had training in high angle rescue. I quickly unclipped from the rope and stayed behind while they made their way out on the ridge. As soon as they got close enough, Dan made an anchor with equipment he had with him and attached their rope to the mountain. Then Monty attached the ropes together so that now all of them were connected to the mountain by more than just the one ice axe, and they could begin the slow process of bringing the climbers back up to the top of the ridge, up that slope too steep to just walk up.

Another climbing group came along and helped the stricken climbers down the mountain leaving us to pull the anchor and make our own way down. It was late in the afternoon now, and the weather had changed. It was thundering and raining lightly and we had already heard one avalanche from the neighboring slopes. But, probably the worst time pressure was the fact that the last train down of the day was at 5 and Swiss trains don’t wait for anything. We had some intense climbing to get the rest of the way down and Dan and I were the last two people on that train, getting on just as it left the station.

We met up with the group we rescued in train station. They were a Czech family on their first climb, being led by a family friend. They didn’t speak much English and we communicated by hugs and tears and a Czech beer. Their leader spoke a little better English and he told us that he had heard someone yelling “Jump right” and that had been enough to trigger in his mind his mountaineering training so he knew what he had to do.

The Monch is the most technical mountain I have ever climbed, and it will remain so. I don’t think Dan believes me when I tell him that the rescue is not my reason for not wanting to climb at that level. But I did get a good story out of it. I’m able to say that I once ordered a complete stranger to jump off a cliff. And he did, and he thanked me for it.

8.27.2014

The Mountain Climber’s Conundrum

by Richard Schuler

When I quit smoking I needed something to do with my hands, so I bought an iPhone. That’s how I started checking my Facebook status and email every half hour. I used to gauge my stress level by the number of cigs consumed in a day. They were my friends, each and every one of them. That’s right, I burned my friends. No wonder they left me. Now, I check in with my real friends, or at least their internet avatars. At 10:43 p.m. on a weekday night I lit up my Gmail account and found a message from Rayce, the leader of my mountain climbing team: The Climbers Against Humanity. Rayce offered a chance to climb a peak in central Washington called The Tooth, to the first person who responded. He said it was a four pitch, trad climb, with a scramble-y approach, a bit of moderately steep snow, followed by some spicy rappels. It was a 5.4 to 5.6 climb with lots of exposure on a 400 foot block. In other words, it was well beyond my ability. Still, what an honor it was to even be considered. I imagined myself on the summit; the sun shining down on my strong, capable face. If I didn’t take the slot someone else would. Seconds were ticking.  My heart raced a bit when I pressed the send button on the email. I’d said yes.

The purpose of this essay is for me to introduce to what I call the mountain climber’s conundrum, and how I solved it. At some point in their climbing career, every mountain climber will ask themselves the following question: why in God’s name am I doing this? Or perhaps the atheist version: what in the world made me think this was a good idea? Yet another version is the simple mantra: get me out of here. Now. In my case, the mountain climber’s conundrum is particularly challenging for two reasons. The first is that I am afraid of heights. I became acutely aware of this condition at the Shrine Circus of 1974. My family and I went to Busch Stadium in Saint Louis, and it all started well enough. Proud parents and children passed the ticket takers. The smell of popcorn and cotton candy perfumed the air. My mother guided us up a ramp that led to the loge seating. Only a few vertical bars separated us from the street, which got further away with every step. I made it to the top with only a sick feeling in my stomach, but when we ascended another ramp my heart started shaking in my chest. She pulled me by the hand. Up and up we went. When at last we made it to the staircase on the inner circle of the stadium, I looked up and thought, “There is no way in hell, lady. I’m not going up that thing.” But I did go up. The higher we went, the closer to the stairs I got. When we reached the top, I was literally crawling on my hands and knees, grasping at each seat I passed.

When we finally got seated, I noticed men selling toys and souvenirs in the aisle. There must have been pendants, stuffed animals, hats and noise makers. I can’t remember any of it, because to me it was all hideous crap. The only thing of merit was a sword. Evidently, I begged effectively because I got it. The blade was a curved scimitar and the hilt had ruby on each side. When I held the thing in my tiny hands, I felt that life was a good thing because I’d arrived in a place where adults give swords to children. I have no memory of clowns, trapeze artists or animals, because when I pulled the blade from the scabbard, the whole world went black. I was intoxicated, like a teenager with a bottle of pure grain alcohol. How we got home, I have no idea. The next memory is that of my father holding the sword in our living room, breaking the blade over his knee, and shoving it in the trash. My heart died like broken kingdom. The sword was a fake, a toy made of plastic. Whatever it was, it was gone and I loved it.

The next day, and each day until my mother took the trash out, I went to the closet where we kept our can and visited my broken sword. The smell of sour milk, coffee grounds and cigarette butts insulted me. What a loss. I didn’t deserve this. My bottom lip began to stick out. This illustrates the second reason why the mountain climber’s conundrum is so challenging for me. Even though I’m an adult now, and I know how to hide it, the voice of a petulant child survives inside me. If Snow White and the Seven Dwarves were written for me, they would all be named: Sulky, Crabby, Peevish, Sullen, Moody, Huffy, Snappish and Touchy. But when I packed my bag and left for the Tooth, I didn’t hear a petulant voice, or any voice save that of confidence. When I put my foot on the trail I felt strong. It took hours to get to the upper cirque snowfield, but when we did I was ready for it. Strapping the crampons to my boots made me feel super-human. My helmet and the ice axe looked like Bronze Age weapons, like something from a Wagner opera, and the landscape was indeed an epic stage. Dark, Douglass firs pointed skyward, to jagged stone giants. Each one showed its middle finger to the six climbers posing for a picture in the snow. The pinnacle of The Tooth was somewhere behind all those fingers, patiently waiting, but I couldn’t see it. Up we went, over a sun cupped snowfield with red algae stains, and when we reached the edge, we found a big, scary moat. It was so large, the space between rock and snow could’ve sheltered a troop of refugees from a Burning Man festival, but it was empty. I released sigh when we slid down the other side and put a foot on Pineapple Pass. In no way did Pineapple Pass resemble a fruit from Hawaii. It was just a notch in a rock wall, across which lay a slide to certain death, but also a narrow path leading to pinnacle of The Tooth. Rayce called for a lunch break, so I opened my Empire Strikes Back lunch box and had a sandwich.

No seriously, I had an Empire Strikes Back lunch box. You can call Rayce and ask him. It gives me feeling of levity in an austere place such as a mountain range, and I like the picture of Luke, and Darth Vader flashing light sabers. It was a movie, and in a movie the hero knows the battle is worth fighting. Real life isn’t like that. In the world you and I share, there are just ordinary people who don’t always know what to do. After I closed the lunch box and pulled on my climbing harness, we moved as a team through Pineapple Pass to the pinnacle itself. It was at this point that I realized what a terrible mistake I’d made.

The Tooth was huge. One has to climb about 400 feet to reach the top, but this is only half the problem. It sits on top of a base that rises thousands of feet above the valley below, so the eyes tell the mind to panic, a task easily done. Of the three rope teams, Rayce and I went first. My bottom lip started to protrude. I pulled it in, but I knew there was no way I could go through with the climb. What a loss. I didn’t deserve this. Rayce gave me a walkie-talkie and a cleaning tool. He calmly tied off on the rope and went up the wall, plugging in various anchors as he went. For those of you who don’t climb, an anchor is a do-dad which holds a climbing rope to a rock face. The proper placement of these anchors is what the climber’s life literally depends on.  My job was to follow behind him and remove the anchors as I climbed. The yellow rope trailed behind him like a spider’s thread. For the first fifty feet it looked like some pretty tough going. Then he climbed over a precipice and was gone. In the absence of a visible reality, the human mind will create an imagined one, and that reality is usually the very worst kind. Where the rope went I knew that I too must go, wherever it led. Seven sulky, crabby, peevish, sullen, moody, huffy, snappish and touchy voices told me I could never do it. One voice came through the walkie-talkie, it was Rayce. “The belay is on. Hit it,” he said. To whom should I listen? Was the battle really worth fighting? At what point does discretion become the better part of valor? Even if I got to the top, was it worth the fear it would cost? I didn’t know. For some reason I put my hand on the rock and pulled.

My internal dialogue went something like this: Other people do things like this, but not me. I look like someone in a granola bar commercial and I am clearly not that person. My place is on a bar stool between Charles Bukowski and Dracula. My hobby should be dancing tango with beautiful women in stunning outfits, but instead, my whole body smells like a student’s armpit, and this helmet makes me look like an unemployed miner. For a hundred feet I thought this, until I found Rayce at the first belay station, smiling. My hands were shaking when I handed him the rock anchors. Then the process started again. He climbed up and disappeared. I looked down and saw a scene from a Coyote and Roadrunner cartoon, the one where the Wile E. Coyote drops off a cliff and he falls so far that when he finally hits, it only makes a tiny ‘piff’ noise and puff of dust.  The ledge I stood on wasn’t big enough for two large pizzas and an overweight tabby, but it was soon joined by three other people, who obviously had no problem boogieing up the cliff I just panicked on. When Rayce radioed that the belay was on, I was strangely ready to go higher.

There is a condition known as high altitude flatulence. When the southern end of me started complaining, I decided to let the northern end join voices. With each report I said, “Yeah. Uh-huh.” *@#%! “Tell me about it.”      @#%! “Oh, I know.” This is how I went up the mountain, grunting, sweating, poozing and kvetching, but I did make it to the top. There was Racye, shoes off, eating a bag of niblinz. He was the Frodo Baggins to my Samwise Gamgee, the Don Quixote to my Sancho Panza, and he said, “Welcome to the top.” I’ve often thought that a mountain range looks very much like the sea when you view it from the highest peak; all the ridges blend into one another, but these were not stone waves I was looking at. This was a concerto, a great staccato upheaval. In such a landscape only fantastic things took place. There were mastodons and Valkyries out there somewhere, I was sure of it. I sat next to Rayce and took off my own shoes. “Frickin’ perfect day,” he said. Climbers call days like the one we were sitting in a ‘blue bird day’ because the sky is so blue. “It’s a good day to be alive,” he said.

“It’s a good day to die,” I said.


His expression asked for an explanation, and so I told him about a Lakota woman I once met at a pow-wow who said the same thing. She explained that to Native Americans, a person wants to leave this world when they are at the absolute top of their form. They want to enter the next world when they have achieved their best in this world. To grab ahold of fear, pure unadulterated fear, when it feels like warm granite, and listen to the voices of doubt as you climb it to the top is only half the battle. When one can hear the voices of fear and doubt, which only say, “You can’t” and not respond with a defensive “Yes, I can,” but instead with the simple words I’m sorry- I’m sorry you’re hurting, that is a good day to die. This is how I solved the mountain climber’s conundrum for that particular mountain on that particular day. Why did I climb it? To pull the broken sword from the trash and carry it home. It was a good day to die.        

8.04.2014

120, 100 and 50: Three Milestones for Mazamas

By Adam Baylor


With the climbing season well-underway, it’s easy to remain stoked about exploring the mountains and beyond.  But maybe you need a few more reasons to celebrate mountaineering in the Pacific Northwest!  Here are three unique milestones in our history that you’ll definitely want to commemorate:


First, we can look back 120 years to the summit of Mt. Hood where our mission was set in motion on July 19, 1894.  Multiple generations of mountaineers have bravely ventured into the nearby Cascades and beyond because of Mazama training, fellowship and a shared spirit of adventure.  As we reminisce on our early beginnings, we may ask what sort of challenges do we as modern mountaineers face today?  Certainly the summits of Hood, Rainer, North Sister and the like remain just as difficult but more than a century ago there were major concerns with the protection of our public lands.  Did you know that the Mazamas helped form Crater Lake National Park?  It was through the vision of our first president, William Gladstone Steel, and other Mazama members that grassroots support in Oregon rallied to preserve Crater Lake for future generations.  So what about today?  Is it safe to say that the founder’s vision for protection of public lands remains the same?  Or should we collectively look at yet another challenge that Mazamas can support such as expanding the Crater Lake Wilderness.


The second key milestone in 2014 for the Mazamas is a bit closer to home.  We celebrate the centennial official Mazama climb of Beacon Rock in the Columbia River Gorge which took place on October 11, 1914.  Published in the Mazama: A Record of Mountaineering in the Pacific Northwest (C.W. Howard, 1914, pg. 93-94) a party of 47 Mazamas reached the summit of the 858-foot andesite monolith.  Today, evidence of that historic ascent can be found in the form of iron spikes on Beacon’s Northwest Face.  Where else can modern climbers use 100-year old protection?  Truly, this was an important climb for the Mazamas and to commemorate this nationally significant climbing area we are producing a documentary film about Beacon Rock climbing.  Get inspired and become part of the project by donating to the Beacon Rock climbing legacy!  

Our third milestone in 2014 is the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act.  Yes, in 1964 Congress actually did something to protect our wild places!  So what does the future hold for our favorite places to play?  The answer to that question and many more can be found at an upcoming Wilderness Act 50th celebration event at the Mazama Mountaineering Center.  Our Conservation Committee is planning the celebration with a list of guest speakers that range from former Sierra Club director, Michael McCloskey, to Portland-based CRAG Law Center environmental experts.  Join us for the event on September 27 and become part of the inspiring new movement to protect the Pacific Northwest’s wilderness.

7.28.2014

Islands

The author on the summit of Mt. Hood.
by Richard Schuler
                     
The telescope on the back porch of the Mazama Lodge points directly at the summit of Mount Hood. You can watch climbers pursuing the summit. They seem as tiny black dots with legs. Just dark figures moving imperceptibly slow on a triangle of snow. One morning in early June, I watched such a group for a few minutes, and then I stepped back to the lodge to refill my coffee cup, and talk with friends. After a few minutes, I went back to the telescope. My eyes took a second to find the proper distance from the lens, but then there it was: the white triangle of Mt. Hood with the bright blue sky behind it, and the black dots of climbers. If I strained, I could see their microscopic feet taking one step after another. Upward, they went. The mountain was so huge, how could they even imagine such a task?

The cook rang the iron triangle and people came running. That sound meant, hot eggs, sausage, pancakes and fruit, but in the back of my mind, I thought about that climbing team. They should have been approaching the Old Chute. How terrified I was, when I looked up that wall of ice for the first time. Inside my rented mountain boots, I was shaken. I looked for any toehold, no matter how small. I struck the ice axe hard, and I struck it harder. Up I went. Soon, there was nothing to cling to, and I held on with the fangs on the front of my crampons and wondered if I had fastened them right. How far could a person slide under those circumstances, I wondered, five hundred feet, a thousand feet? It was far enough to die, that’s for sure. Three people on a rope climbed below me. They looked up with hopeful eyes, as if to say: keep going, don’t let me down, while one person urged me on from above. When I came to the top, it was by sliding on my belly, not striding like a lord.

When my plate was empty I hurried back to the telescope and searched for the climbing team. The face of Mt. Hood was empty. I looked left, and then right, even panned the telescope a bit, but could not find them. As far down the mountain as the trees allowed, I searched. Nothing. A movement at the top drew my eye, and there they were. The little team made it. They stood in a row, shoulder to shoulder, close enough to hold hands. Was one of them waving? As ridiculous as it felt, I waved back. Their triumph was my triumph. In a way, we were connected.

A second ring of the triangle drew my attention away from the mountain. This time, it was to announce jobs for the day. Mine was to build a traffic island in the drive behind the lodge. The first thing we did was to dismantle a border.  The island had a row of stones perfectly aligned, forming a nearly perfect oval. It looked artificial because neatly defined border is the product of a human mind. Lines of contour on a topographic map, the boundaries of a national park, or a nation itself, are all imaginary. In nature, things blend into each other. Climb to the top of Mt. Hood and you will see it flow into Mt. Rainer, Mt. Jefferson and the Three Sisters. Climb as part of a team and you will feel your connection to others. This is why we do it. We climb, not just for that one moment on the summit, when the world slopes away in all directions, and the peaks all look like frozen waves, but to be a part of a team. It is as John Muir told us many years ago, “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” I invite you to make this your mantra the next time you climb. It could be me on your belay rope, or I could be holding you. Are you ready? Climb on.   

7.17.2014

Rainier Rematch

by Jon Skeen

Sustained 60 mph winds, unending clouds, and ultimately having to descend after a forced rest day left a bad taste in our mouths. We had been blown off the Kautz Glacier on Rainier and now we had unfinished business with the mountain. Clearing skies and calming winds taunted us as we neared the parking lot. The team was in good spirits and happy to settle for brunch as consolation, but already the need to go back was creeping into our thoughts.

The itch was not soothed by forecasts of blue skies and calm winds the following weekend. Fewer than 48 hours after being thoroughly shut down, we were planning a reattempt. Glenn Widener and his team pushed through the technical ice and winds the previous weekend, and provided helpful beta on the ice conditions, location of the infamous fixed line, and Camp Hazard platforms. John Godino also shared notes from an adjacent route, the Fuhrer Finger, which boasted of 25 pound packs and encouraged carrying up and over, down the Disappointment Cleaver. Armed with these reports plus our own first-hand knowledge, it was time to get the band back together. We had one roster substitution from the previous weekend, setting the team as Ally Imbody, Eric Kennedy, Nate Mullen, Hannah Seebach, Kevin Vandemore and me.

Jon Skeen and Eric Kennedy starting
up the 3rd pitch of ice on the Kautz
Glacier under a super moon
Spirits were high and pack weights were down, which was important; the pace had to be more aggressive this time, as we didn’t have a long weekend to work with. We aimed to make high camp around 11,000 feet Saturday, then head up the Kautz and down the DC Sunday. We got off to a great start, leaving the trail head at Paradise at exactly 5:05 am. It had been a hot week on the mountain and much of the snow that slowed our early progress the last time had melted out, making our descent from the trail onto the Nisqually Glacier more direct. Of course, the disappearing snow had opened new crevasses and exposed new seracs as well. Undeterred, we roped up and made our serpentine path towards the Wilson Glacier.

We reached our previous camp at 9,200 ft. around 11 a.m, shaving about two hours off of our previous time. We took a break here to refill water bottles from the flowing glacier melt and marveled at how much familiar landmarks had changed in just six days. We could see a couple tents set up here, but it wasn’t until we were nearing the bottom of the Turtle Snowfield that we realized there were twelve tents set up. While that’s not uncommon for the Emmons Glacier or DC routes, it’s virtually unheard of for the Kautz. Twelve people is more typical of the population on this line. We were able to ascertain that the tents belonged to a large group from a climbing club in Utah, some experienced climbers, some very fresh who probably didn’t fully appreciate what they had gotten into. Our experiences with these guys could fill another write-up, but for now let’s let’s just say we really wanted to stay ahead of them.

Upward we marched, gaining a thousand feet on the Turtle before taking a quick break for food and water. We watched two climbers ascending in our boot tracks. As they neared, we saw what appeared to be a "No Jive Ass" sticker and realized there was a good chance we knew these dudes. Sure enough, there were two more Mazamas on the Kautz! Victor Galotti and Brian Wetzel had been camped out where the Nisqually and Wilson meet and had caught up to us, which I maintain was largely due to the quality of the steps we were kicking for everyone behind us. We decided to team up for the rest of the day and through the ice pitches in the morning.

Buoyed by this encounter, we pushed to the top the the Turtle and into Camp Hazard. We claimed a few platforms for our team and set off to find the fixed line and get our first real look at the ice. The route was dramatic: cracked ice hanging above and waiting below. As if issuing a warning or a challenge, a few large blocks of ice let lose and tumbled down into the gaping maws below. We returned to our platforms to work out the next day’s plan, eat, and get to sleep early. We chatted with a few other small parties and lamented the throng that would be pressing from below. With our hunger and planning satisfied, it was time to get as much sleep as possible before our midnight wake up time.

Mt. Rainier Summit team with Eric Kennedy,
Kevin Vandemore, Ally Imbody, Nate Mullen,
Hannah Seebach, and Jon Skeen.
The alarms rang, time to get moving. We made our way to the fixed line via headlamps and the super moon. Nate was first down. As he reached the bottom we heard a crack! and looked towards the ice fall to see block after block of ice tumbling across our traverse line. It’s one thing to know there is danger in the abstract; it’s another to watch it tumble where you’ll be walking in five minutes. With a renewed appreciation for the objective hazard, we roped up and shuffled across as quickly as possible. We made it to the base of the ice without incident and up went Nate, leading the first of several pitches.

One by one, we ascended fixed lines, moving in tandem with other teams all fighting to stay ahead of the giant group we knew was hot on our heels. We managed to stay out front for a few pitches, but the top came to a bottleneck and we were stuck while we waited for an opening to push through. Finally, Kevin had a chance to lead the final pitch and we fought our way out of the chute. I was impressed with our team’s ability to climb cleanly; altogether we knocked down maybe four pieces while the other teams around rained ice on everyone below.

Kevin Vandermore scouting the descent route on the DC.
After a quick break to exchange gear, Victor and Brian set off on their way and the original team regrouped for a bit before pushing up toward Point Success. We picked our way up the Kautz, surrounded by the Utah teams. This made the going very slow, but did allow us to conserve energy. Silver linings, right? After several steps plunging into air and a few “verbal scuffles” (as I’m choosing to call them) with the Utah teams, we were able to make our way off the glacier. The crater was in sight! Just in time too, as clouds were starting to move in. We worked our way up to the summit and snapped our victory photos. One more quick stop at the summit register and down into the crater to melt snow.

Once all the bottles were filled it was time to follow the wands down the DC. By this time the snow had turned into sugary mush and we were sliding around a little more than is comfortable on a crevasse riddled downhill trail. A pair of collapsing snow bridges (which I fear we may have finished off) added additional spice. Down and down we went, reaching the Cleaver and down climbing a bit of rock to avoid steep, slippery snow. We made it down the Cleaver, across the Ingraham (including a ladder over a crevasse), and over to Camp Muir. One last break before bombing the Muir Snowfield and returning to the parking lot.

While we high-fived and drank our mandatory Rainiers-on-Rainier, we watched headlamps flickering across the Kautz. The Utah club was still at it; one of the consequences of ignoring your turnaround time. We’ve since heard they made it down ok, but two days overdue. Yikes! Hearing that only makes me more appreciative of the awesome team we had on this incredible route. 

7.13.2014

"What's In My Pack?" Contest - Mountain Hardwear

Does anybody ever win those contests? You know the ones you enter - raffles or sweepstakes - that you usually never hear back from?

Well, as Mazama staff member Kati Mayfield found out - occasionally you do win, and the prizes can be awesome!

In the June Bulletin we featured a deal from our partner, Mountain Hardwear. For the last weekend in June they offered great discounts to Mazama members. Kati headed down to the downtown PDX Mountain Hardwear shop to grab some gear, and was informed by the staff that they were holding a "What's In My Pack?" contest, where shoppers could guess what was packed into one of their Shaka backpacks; and, if they guessed correctly, win the contents.

Kati casually turned in her guesses, not expecting to hear anything back. But about a week later she had a message in her inbox (which she originally mistook for Spam), congratulating her for winning the contest. The prize? The Shaka 70 pack and all of its contents:
It has been far too hot to utilize the gloves, the rain pants and the cap. But the sleeping bag and pack got a good workout on an overnight in the Mt. Hood National Forest and a hike to Ramona Falls this weekend.






Thanks Mountain Hardwear! And, the moral of the story: enter the contests, especially when the winnings are so sweet!

7.11.2014

Video of the Month - Mt. Baker North Ridge

Is the North Ridge of Baker on your list? Check out this video to see some stunning imagery and to get a feel for the climb. Enjoy!


Do you have a video for our Video-of-the-Month feature? Send us the link! 



7.06.2014

Tales From The Forbidden Peak

by Michael Zasadzien

Bushwacking fun.
A little under a year ago, I was on one of my first Mazama climb. One that I’ll never forget, simply because it introduced me to a whole new level of exposure. The back-of-the-neck-hair-raised-for-the-next-4-hours exposure. The kind that made you think seven times about the placement of each footstep, and whether you felt comfortable standing on that ridge with a 500 foot drop on one side, and a 1,000 foot drop on the other. This was Chiwawa Mountain, a fierce little guy that Bob Breivogel took us up, with a nice long ridge traverse. I remember coming home from that climb, shaken up a bit from adrenaline withdrawal, but definitely with a huge smile on my face. I remember Bob telling me that if I enjoyed that climb, that the next year I should aim my sights on Forbidden Peak. So I did.

First light.
This was supposed to be my big goal for the year, the climb that I was going to work up to. I’ve already read all about the “airy-step” on Summitpost. I’ve looked at tons of pictures of the route and committed those images to memory. I’ve been doing my research on the cruxy bits, thinking that one day I’ll work up the courage and strength to do it. I need to develop trad skills for placement, and get comfortable leading on gear. I need to mentally prepare for run-out on relatively easy terrain, but one that has large consequences with a single miss-step. Am I going to be ready this year? Am I going to be on target with my training schedule? 
Enjoying a bit of steep snow.
When Andrew Holman asked me if I was interested in tackling Forbidden Peak as one of his final climbs in the Pacific Northwest, I jumped on it like a fat kid on a candy bar. Honestly it was a lot sooner than I expected, but hey, take your opportunities when you can! Climbing with him previously has proven to be fun and rewarding, and even though we have exactly opposite personalities on the Myer’s Briggs, we get along well. I know he’s a strong alpinist, and that he’d be able to lead many of the pitches if I get freaked out. I have myself a solid partner.

For the climb, we plan to join up with Kai Waldron and Ingrid Nye. We debate camping out in the basin for a night, or knocking it out in a single push. We know it can be a pain to get permits and even though we were pretty sure they’d be available, we’ve been told that a single-push is totally doable and has been done before. The Mountaineer’s website gives me a breakdown of 3 hours to camp, 6–9 hours to the summit, and 8–10 to get back. By conservative estimates, if we leave at midnight we can be back at the car by 7–10 p.m.—a long day, but manageable.

Ingrid Nye on the approach.
We did a Portland-start with brunch at the Screendoor on Saturday morning before driving north. We set up camp for a few hours at the Cascade River Trailhead and enjoy awesome views of Johannesburg Mountain and Boston Basin. After a restful 3-ish hours of sleep to the sounds of coyotes nearby and large ice falls letting loose in the canyon around us we are on the move.

The hike up isn’t too noteworthy. The trail winds uphill steeply through the forest as it slowly gets more and more dense. We get off-trail, or maybe it simply turns into a bushwack at some point, and manage a couple of interesting creek crossings. We know we just have to go up and north, and so we do without much hassle. We made it to the basin in exactly 3 hours. Perfect timing. I also get to witness the biggest snow release I’ve ever seen on Johannesburg. I watched the ice flow from top to bottom, barreling its way loudly down the mountain in the pre-morning dawn. We stand there in awe and take in this amazing demonstration of nature’s power.
Andrew Holman on the west ridge.

We hike up to the higher basecamp to find only one tent set-up; where the residents were slowly waking up and getting ready. Seeing that they are really fresh from actually sleeping and that the snow is kind of soft, we take our time fitting our crampons, donning our helmets and harnesses, snacking, and taking care of any other housekeeping possible to let them stay ahead and kick steps for us. This was an excellent technique I’ve learned in the past, and it paid dividends. Thanks guys!

The couloir of snow is nice—steep and fun. We self-belay until we get to the rock where we set-up the rope. We know that there are numerous pitches ahead, and a lot of it is 4th/low 5th class. The most efficient accepted method is either free-climb or simul-climb as much as possible. This is precisely what we did. Having never used this technique before I was surprised how well it can flow if you get your timing right. You pick up on a lot of signals just based on how the rope is tugging or going slack without seeing your partner. I was really ecstatic that, as I reached the “airy step” I read all about, that the rope got tighter and tighter, and was literally pulling me into the void. Before I had a chance to really sit there and think about how I was going to get across, the rope told me that it was go-time and over I went. It was just as cool as I thought it was going to be, minus the forced timing ... What I didn’t know is that I would get the opportunity for significantly more and bigger airy steps all along the route.
The author on route.

We get into a great rhythm, climbing upwards and onwards. Running into a few areas of technical bits dangling off of the rock and happy to be on a rope. There are also secctions that you can just walk quickly over, skipping from rock to rock. Then there are sections where you sit-down and butt-belay your way over, or as the French eloquently call it: à cheval [mounting the horse]. When we got to the harder bits, we stop and do proper belaying. The pro is great, the supposed Beckey piton stuck in the rock is awesome to see, along with the cruxy moves around it, another piton looked like some screwball took tin-metal and banged into the mountain as a joke. The climbing is great, and we don’t want it to end. The weather however kept getting foggier and colder, and we begin to realize that this is taking quite a bit of time.

We hit the summit at 1:30 p.m. A little late, but close to tracking with our time estimates. Andrew and I high-five each other, waiting for the other two for a moment, and make our way back down. Unfortunately with the timing and the weather, Ingrid and Kai make the choice to turn around before summiting: so close, but a good call. Andrew is leading the whole way, which means that as a second responsible for cleaning, I am technically on the sharp end of the rope on the way down. Seeing it’s already been a bit of a day, I remind myself not to rush, take it easy, and enjoy the views. This really helps me mentally. We pull all the tricks in the book to be efficient, including quite a few simul-rappels (my first), and simul-downclimbs (another first), and make it back down to the basin without incident.
We make it back into the trees at dusk. It is around 9 p.m. and we are going to blow by the conservative estimate by just a bit. What we don’t know yet is by just how much.
Almost on the summit.

We can’t find the trail. At all. We have a map. We have GPS coordinates. We have a track. It all seems to be useless. We run into footprints from time to time, but it seems like within 20 feet they’re gone again. Instead of running in circles trying to find the “trail,” which we know is a bushwack anyway, we make the decision to aim in the right general direction, and hope to pick it up again. 

We come upon our first stream crossing, which isn’t too bad. It is difficult to judge the best place to cross when you only have the light of a headlamp. The shadows can mess with you, especially when you’re a bit tired. I do my best to keep stay composed and keep on going. We must eventually hit the trail and get back to the car. Right?

After the crossing, we find ourselves in an ultra-dense young juniper sapling forest where every step we take we end up being smacked in the face by a branch. I’m not sure if going forward is going to get any better and my headlamp is completely obscured by the last branch. Thwack after thwack after thwack, we finally make it to the second creek. Only this creek turns out to be a torrential river with no easy crossing in sight. We bushwhack up and down and up and down and up and down again looking for any possible way across. We’re tired. Dead tired. It’s now 1:30 a.m. Two of our members are sitting down and have fallen asleep in that position. We look at each other and make the hard call. 

Time to bivy. We can’t see, and we will resume once daylight comes back. The night is cold and we

View towards Mt. Torment.
are wet. In the middle of the night, members in the party randomly get up and turn on their headlamps and just stare into space. Someone gets up, move around for 5 minutes to get warm, and lays back down to try to sleep. Too cold to sleep, but too tired to not doze off for bits at a time; we are all in a very weird delusional zombie mode just waiting for dawn. It sucks.

When dawn comes, I couldn’t be happier. I have had no sleep and feel worse than before, but at least I can now see all the trees that were making my life hell. I can probably find better lines to ‘shwack through this forest, and we can probably find a way across this river. We are all shivering uncontrollably as we get up, but the second we begin bushwacking again, we get nice and toasty in seconds. I felt great again!
View of Johannesberg Mountain.

Eventually we find a way across, and are rewarded for our success with more bushwacking on the other side. Good thing it is all prickly and thorny bushes, we wouldn’t want it to be too easy. We can’t find any trail, and we just keep trying for the path of least resistance, aiming for a landmark. We start seeing barrels and other signs of human life: remnants of the diamond mine that used to be in the area. We are close to on-track, and eventually we run into the trail! Our morale skyrockets as we run into rangers five minutes later. Apparently they are already out looking for us. They are excited to find us so soon, since apparently the parking lot is less than 100 feet away. That’s right, we fully bushwhacked that entire 3 mile section. What took 3 hours in one direction, took 8 plus 3 hours of “napping.” Twenty-two conservative hours turned out to be Thirty-three. Whoops.

If done again, I’d camp in Boston Basin, both on the way in and the way out. It would have been awesome to get rest and walk through that forest only during the day. Next time I would also bring multiple GPS tracks if possible, and record points on my way in to make the way out easier. But I was as ready as I ever was going to get for this climb, and it turned out to be even more of an adventure than I could imagine. I never thought I’d say this so soon after, but ... A+ great climb. I would definitely do it again!