by guest blogger Heidi Medema from The Mountain Shop

If you’re up at Mt. Hood Meadows this Saturday then you might see something amazing. Now, I don’t use this word lightly. You see, Saturday May 3, is the Second Annual Ram’s Head Randonee!

The Ram’s Head Randonee is an uphill-downhill ski race, complete with demos, a vendor village, prizes, and after party. It’s a day filled with good people, good fun, and it’s all for a good cause! Maybe you’ve heard of the Northwest Avalanche Center? They are the awesome folk that tell us when it’s safe to go adventuring in the PNW mountains, and they do so on a non-profit, shoestring budget. Proceeds from this event will go to support NWAC and all they do to keep us safe in the mountains.

This year the challenge has been cranked up a notch or two. The course now gains over 1,900 feet of vertical, and includes a boot pack section. Strap on your skis at the base of Stadium, then skin all the way up, around Ram’s Head, and back down.

If you’ve been interested in skinning, this will be a great opportunity to get involved and start learning. If you’re an experienced racer, this is your chance to shine! Although, we’ve had some pretty competitive types (Guy, ahem, ahem) talk some big talk.

If you don’t have your own AT set up, fear not! Your race registration includes free demos of the latest and greatest gear. Dynafit, La Sportiva, G3, Black Diamond, Scapra, and more will have their demo fleets for you to try. Don’t want to race, but still want to try out a sweet, lightweight setup? You can do that! For $20 you get full access to all the demos (plus lunch, beer, and two raffle tickets!).

Your $30 race registration also includes demos, lunch, beer, and two raffle tickets. The raffle is chalk full of great prizes from all our vendors! We’ve got skis, backpacks, jackets, subscriptions, a discounted AIARE L1 course, AAC memberships, full custom tune, full custom boot fit, and more! Plus, Mazamas has thrown in some sweet prizes in order to support NWAC.

If you’re a last minute kind of person you can sign up day of for $40. Registration at the mountain is 8am-9:30am.

The race starts at 10 a.m., and will be a hoot and a half to watch. Mixed in with the experienced, professional-looking racers, we also had total beginners and a few snowboarders. We even had one guy run the entire course! And he loved it!

Join us after the race for a ho-down, throw-down you won’t soon forget! Meadows will be grilling up some tasty food that you can wash down with an ice cold beer from everybody’s favorite brewery: Everybody’s Brewing. We’ll shower race winners with prizes, then shower all of you with prizes too! With the sheer quantity of donations we’ve received from vendors, everybody has a darn good chance of winning. Plus, all the proceeds from the raffle go to NWAC.

In order to prep you for the race, the Mountain Shop is hosting a pre-race clinic, Friday May 2. Join us for beer, snacks, and tips! CAMP will be here throwing down some knowledge, along with our very own Guy Trombley. These pre-race tips could be the difference between first and last place! Or, at the very least they will help you to look like a pro on the slopes, regardless of your experience level.

What it boils down to is this: The Ram’s Head Randonee has something for everyone, even YOU!

See you there!


Lonnie Dupre Comes to Portland

Explorer and mountaineer Lonnie Dupre has obtained a list of firsts: first human-powered summer expedition of the North Pole, first human-powered circumnavigation of Greenland, and the first winter solo attempt on Denali.
May 30, he comes to the Mazama Mountaineering Center to share his expertise, adventures, and passion for lands of snow and ice. He will kick things off with an Extreme Cold Weather Expedition Class from 3-6 p.m., followed by the Pacific NW Premiere of his movie Cold Love at 7 p.m. Get Tickets

Cold Love Film Trailer


The Way is Through

On April 12 & 13 Mazama member Andrew Holman tackled the Sandy Glacier Headwall route on Mt. Hood.
The Way is Through: Sandy Glacier Headwall from Andrew Holman on Vimeo.
You can find a detailed article about this climb in the May 2014 issue of the Mazama Bulletin that will be available in print on May 1 and online on April 30.


Northwest Avalanche Center

NWAC has issued a special avalanche warning for the Mt. Hood area on April 24. 

What is NWAC?
The Northwest Avalanche Center (NWAC) is a collaborative effort between the US Forest Service Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center and the non-profit Friends of the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center.  The mission of NWAC is to save lives and reduce the impacts of avalanches on recreation, industry and transportation in the Cascade and Olympic Mountains of Washington and northern Oregon through mountain weather and avalanche forecasting, data collection and education.

NWAC typically ceases daily forecasts in early to mid-April each year. However, they will issue special forecasts when there are unusually hazardous spring avalanche conditions predicted.

Bookmark this site and make sure to check it before you head out to play in the mountains. 


Print Your Own Northwest Forest Pass

Things have just gotten a little simpler for those who tend to forget about the need for a trailhead pass until the last minute. You can now purchase and print a Northwest Forest Pass day pass from the convenience of your home. Many Forest Service trailheads in Oregon and Washington require the NW Forest Pass in order to park. Day passes are $5 while an annual pass will run you $30. Purchase your pass here.

Looking for an Annual Pass instead? You can purchase online and have it mailed to you or you purchase at one of our local retailers, including: The Mountain Shop, Next Adventure, OMC, US Outdoor Store and REI. You can find a complete list here.


Beacon Rock Breakdown

On April 26 at Beacon Rock State Park, the Mazamas and the Beacon Rock Climbing Association (an Access Fund Affiliate Organization) will host a fundraiser and group campout to support the making of a documentary film about Beacon's historic climbing scene.

The day of activities starts around 12 p.m. with food and drinks, live music, and presentations about Local Rock Climbing Access and Mazama Expedition Grants. By 5 p.m. we will start the film fundraiser with a free gear raffle, never-before-seen footage, and discussion from the film makers! Later in the evening and weather permitting we'll check out the "Mountains of the Universe" with a giant telescope! Finally, a late night screening of El Capitan (film), an old school classic!

So what's this Beacon Rock documentary film all about?

Last summer, Jeff Thomas, Sean O'Connor, Andy Maser and Sean Brown filmed interviews of Beacon Rock legends such as long-time Mazama George Cummings! We also filmed climbers Mark Hudon (think El Cap stone master) and John Fine sending Dods Jam - the stellar multi-pitch crack system on Beacon's south face. Together the footage begins telling the history of the route which was first climbed in 1961.

To continue the vertical visual masterpiece of storytelling, we decided to capture the story of the Spike Route (first ascent 1901) and the Southeast Corner (FA 1954).

Our script writer, Jule Gilfillan has pieced the story together and our fundraising efforts are ramping up in order to bring you an amazing documentary about a nationally significant climbing area in our own backyard! This is a Mazama story. This is your story!

So whether or not you climb at Beacon or desire to ascend the andesite monolith someday, join us for a day of fun and adventure!

Stop by or stay the night! Volunteers camp for free ;)


Special Discounts - April

Mazama members have standard discounts that are effective year round, but sometimes local and national retailers offer our members special, limited time discounts. Take advantage of them while they last.

Mountain Hardwear
30% off your entire purchase in the Portland store through April 30.
(valid only with coupon from the April Bulletin & your membership sticker)

10% off flashpass through April 30
(present your membership sticker when purchasing)

40% off an annual subscription
(go to the member section of the website for the code - this offer does not expire)

Conditions Report - Illumination Rock

Illumination Rock NW Aspect.
by Brad Farra

Bluebird day on Mt. Hood today. I Walked the tools up to I-rock. Looked at the routes on the NW face and March Madness. I-rock is in full rime condition. It would have gone, but we were getting bombarded and it was likely to get worse with the warmth and wind. March Madness is 'in'. Stiff WI5 condition with plentiful small weak chandeliers. Would not have protected well. If you're going to be on Mt. Hood tomorrow (April 12), get it done early. Lots of rime ice still being shed.

March Madness is pretty fat and the condition may improve if we can get some cold temps up there. 

 March Madness. Rim ice on NW Illumination Rock. Marcus traversing below NW face of I-rock.


So You Want to Go Climbing?

It's April and that means it's time to start thinking about summer climbing. The summer climb schedule is posted now and climb leaders will continue to add climbs throughout the summer months. Now that you've perused the schedule, what does it take to get on a climb?

  1. You need an Application for Climb Card, more commonly referred to as a Climb Card. Cards are $20 for members and $30 for nonmembers. You can order online, or just stop by the MMC and pick some up. 
  2. Decide where you want to climb. 
    • Never Ever: You've never been to the top of a mountain before? Start with our Hike to the Summit climbs (you'll notice a code (H) next to the grade). South Sister and Mt. St. Helens are two great intro climbs.
    • Beginner: Are you new to climbing? Just getting the hang of crampons and ropes? Middle Sister, Unicorn Peak, Mt. Thielsen, Mt. Stone, Pinnacle Peak, and Mt. Adams are all perfect beginner climbs to put some of those skills to use without too high of a commitment level.
    • Intermediate: You've learned the skills and now you need an opportunity to put them to use. Look to the C level climbs - Leuthold Couloir on Mt. Hood, the South Ridge on Jefferson, The Tooth, and Frostbite Ridge on Glacier Peak will give you a chance to test your skills and get a bit more technical.
    • Advanced: You've got all the skills and have climbed a bunch. What a minute, why aren't you a Mazama climb leader leading your own climbs? Join in the fun on Sharkfin Tower, the North Ridge of Mt. Baker, the West Ridge of Stuart, the North Face of Vesper, or Forbidden Peak. You should find all of these routes to be a fun challenge.
  3. Mail your climb card to the climb leader (not to the MMC!), making sure to fill it out completely including self-addressing the return card and including a stamp. The first day to mail them is April 15 - mailing cards on this date gives you the best chance of getting accepted.
  4. Train: Climbing is a much more enjoyable experience if you are in shape. Head out to the gorge, take to your local running trails, hit the gym - whatever you do, just make sure you are fit enough for the climb.
That's all there is to it. Happy climbing!


Mt. Huntington in Winter

Brad Farra belays a pitch of mixed climbing during the first day before accessing the ridge proper.  Photo: Jason Stuckey

Mazama members John Frieh and Brad Farra, along with Jason Stuckey, tackled Mt. Huntington's Northwest Ridge in the Alaska Range in early March. This climb marks the first winter ascent of this route and only the third winter ascent of Mt. Huntington ever.

News of this climb was quickly picked up by some of the major climbing magazines, including Alpinist and Climbing. Read Brad's first hand account below.

First Winter Ascent: Mt. Huntington's French (NW Ridge), by Brad Farra

Finally, we gained the ridge at just over 10,000 feet after spending most of the day wallowing in deep snow on the slopes above the Tokositna glacier. As we considered our route on the ridge beyond, we realized what a committing route we were attempting and decided to bivouac. It was probable that we would not be able to reach another bivvy point before it became dark. 
Jason Stuckey and Brad Farra ready
for their flight to the Tokositna Glacier
with Talkeetna Air Taxi. Photo: John Frieh

That morning, Saturday, March 1, we met with our pilot, Paul of Talketa Air Taxi, at about 10 a.m. and left shortly thereafter for the Tokositna Glacier. Our intentions were to climb light and fast in an alpine style for our attempt of the French (NW) Ridge of Mt. Huntington (12,240 feet), which lies in the central range of Alaska. Before our departure from Talketna we discussed, “How many pickets and ice screws? Do we want snow shoes? How much stove fuel? How much webbing would we need for the rappel down the West Face Couloir?” We speculated about the condition of the ridge based on the last two weeks' weather reports. Decisions were made and weight was distributed across team members, John Frieh and I from Portland, and Jason Stuckey of Fairbanks, Alaska.

Mt. Huntington had seen two previous winter ascents, both via the West Face Couloir; 2011 by Frieh and Stuckey and first by Haley and Brown in 2007. John and Jason’s familiarity with our descent route would prove helpful in getting us down quickly without route finding difficulty.

Our chosen route up the mountain was first done in May of 1964, in expedition style by the great French alpinist Lionel Terray and a team of eight. There is no easy line up Mt. Huntington and the ephemeral nature of the French ridge has not allowed for many ascents over the years.

Paul dropped us off on the Tokositna glacier at 11 a.m. on Saturday, March 1. We immediately began climbing from the cirque below the West face. Ascending to the ridge proper was slow and arduous. We had underestimated what it would take to gain the ridge. Most of the first day of climbing was shin to chest deep powder. We sought out sections of mixed climbing up to M5 just to avoid the strenuous snow plowing, which felt a like digging a trench at times. An occasional step or two of ice was nothing more than a tease.

Photo: Bob Butterfield
We were on the move again by 8 a.m. on Sunday morning and making our way up the ridge. The ridge proper was absolutely beautiful. An Alaska sized ridgeline with large cornices, steep snow and ice steps, and traversing slopes steeper than 50-degrees at times. We alternated between simul-climbing and belaying a few of the more technical pitches. We moved at a solid pace and worked well together, but the ridge was long and the day was cold, very cold. John climbed in all the clothing he had and still did not overheat while on the move. The simul-climbing was helpful to keep us moving and generating heat. The sun began to get close to the horizon, which was a stunning jagged skyline consisting of Mt. Hunter and Denali. As the afternoon wore on, we realized that we would not reach the summit before dark. 

We decided that the climbing and route finding would allow us to continue to travel in the dark. Headlamps were removed from warm pockets and placed on helmets. Temperatures dropped as the sun set, but we continued climbing for hours. The theme of the day was the statement, repeated multiple times, ‘it’s not as hard as it looks’. Again and again, we approached and climbed multiple vertical ‘looking’ pitches, which turned out to be less steep than their appearance from a distance. 

John Frieh
There were several pitches of grade 3-4 ice with small bulges of vertical or overhanging snow to overcome to get to the slope above. It was classic alpine climbing. No one had cleaned the snow off the top of these pitches for us and good technique was needed to transition from the steep ice to snow. 

We climbed on into the dark night for hours. It was dark, really dark. Unlike spring in the Alaska range that allows you to almost forego the headlamp completely, we could not even completely make out the ridgeline ahead. 

Just after 11 p.m. we approached another steep looking pitch that we thought would give us access to the summit ridge. We decided to belay this one, as it had a sizeable looking overhanging bulge at the top. I approached the steep ice on lead and quickly realized this one was just as steep as it looked. About 15 feet from the top of this 30 foot vertical section of ice with an overhanging snow bulge above, my headlamp gave a flicker or two and then went completely out. After a few expletives, one very loud one in particular, I had the undivided attention of John and Jason. They quickly realized what I was worked up about and cranked up the power on their headlamps and shined them on the face I was climbing. This was critical and gave me enough light to choose the best path to the bulge.

Brad Farra and Jason Stuckey on the slopes above the
Tokositna Glacier before on the ridge. Photo: John Frieh.
While swinging the tools through the eternally long dark seconds that it took John and Jason to light up the face, I realized it’s possible to climb ice quite well without light. Ice climbers rely on the way a swing into the ice feels and sounds more than what the ice looks like. Here the ice wasn’t good everywhere I swung; there were often patches of snow and bad ice on this vertical face. I had just placed an ice screw that I felt wasn’t worth the time I took to place it. 

The light from the headlamps below allowed me to choose the best tool placements with minimal swinging. I reached the overhanging snow at the top and realized that this was the crux of the entire ridge. At 12,000 feet of altitude and nearly 16 hours of straight climbing, I was a bit fatigued. I relied on my feet to push up into the snow bulge and get a tool over the top. While the light from John and Jason helped with the face, it did nothing for me once my tools were over the top. 

It was snow on top, but I went by feel and got some solid placements to move my feet up and over. I used the light on my cell phone to build an anchor and belayed John and Jason onto the summit ridge. With my headlamp dead, Jason led us to the summit and I climbed next to John. It was nearly midnight and we made camp just below the summit. We were all exhausted, especially John. 

John had been suffering from a cold virus and a cough all day long. Throughout the day he displayed an amazing level of determination on this very committing route. One of the most amazing displays of mental muscle I have seen. As Jason cranked up the stove, I stomped out a tent platform. Hot water bottles and a hot meal provided some warmth to the frigid night. We crammed into the two man tent for the second night in a row and tried to stay warm for some much needed rest. 

We got going at about 8:30 a.m. on Monday morning and had a fairly uneventful descent down the west face couloir. About 12 rappels, using V-threads and rock anchors, and some down climbing took us to the glacier just above the landing strip that Paul had dropped us on just 50 hours earlier. We roped up for a short section of glacier travel, in preparation to pass the bergschrund and several large crevasses before reaching the flat portion of the Tokositna glacier. Jason led us down and we put the big guy in the back as a nice moveable anchor, a service John had expertly provided the day prior during our travel along the ridge. 
We passed the bergschrund and approached some large crevasses just above the flat glacier. I followed Jason’s steps across several obvious snow bridges that made themselves clear by creating depressions in the snow. As I stepped out on one, it broke. My left foot broke through as my right foot remained on the lip behind. I fell on to the front lip of the crevasse with my forearms holding me up. I quickly put my left foot on the crevasse lip with my right foot and I bridged the gap from feet to forearms in a plank like position. As I peered into an extremely large crevasse, hundreds of feet deep and more than 50 feet wide below me, I thought to myself that it was probably a good thing that I did all of those planks in training and that I should start doing them with a 35-pound pack on my back.

I told Jason, who was 40 feet down slope, to pull tension on the rope and I carefully allowed my feet to come off the back lip of the crevasse to hang below me. A bit of a mantle and I put one foot up and rolled out of the gaper without a scratch. John thanked me for showing him the weak snow bridge as he leaped across the opening. 

At last, we walked across the Tokositna for pickup from Talkeetna Air Taxi. About 54 total hours in the range and a first winter ascent of an absolutely stunning ridge line on one of the most spectacular peaks in Alaska. As John likes to say, “Long live the three-day weekend.”

Brad Farra was introduced to climbing while in high school. His brother dragged him up his first rock route. In 2001 Brad got more serious about climbing and started mountaineering. He was heading to the crags around the Northwest and getting in the mountains whenever he could. He added ice climbing to the mix when he realized he needed more of these skills for the harder routes he wanted to do in the mountains. In 2008 Brad took ASI and in 2009 took AR. These classes helped his rope handling, gear, and anchor knowledge base. Brad continues to find ways to improve his climbing skills and conditioning. His future goals include difficult routes that involve steep snow, ice, rock, and mixed climbing.

Mazama Bulletin

Did you know that the past two years of the Mazama Bulletin are available in an easy to read online format on Issuu.com? Simply head on over to issuu.com/mazamas to get all caught up, or to re-enjoy articles you may have read awhile ago.

If you are new to our magazine, you might find it interesting to look back to early 2013 and 2012 to see how the format has changed over the last 16 months.

Mazama members receive the magazine monthly as part of their membership. If you are a nonmember you may purchase a subscription to receive a print copy.