A Brief History of Youth Achievement at the Mazamas

by Mathew Brock, Mazamas Library & Historical Collections Manager

 Ernie Goble on the approach to Mt. Hood, 1956.
Photo: Walter Goble.
In the summer of 1958, Ernest “Ernie” Goble was taking a well-deserved break on the saddle between North and Middle Sister. While admiring the majestic view of the Cascades, another climber took refuge on the opposite side of the room-sized rock. Suddenly, the huge rock shifted and started to roll. Ernie’s father, Walter, rushed to grab him and pull him out of danger. Although his father’s quick thinking saved him, the rock rolled by close enough to rip the shoulder on Ernie’s parka. In his six-year quest to climb all of the 16 major peaks in the Northwest, this was the only dangerous situation that young Ernie encountered. He was 13 years old at the time and already an accomplished climber. 
Ernie began climbing in an era when notable achievements were rarely written about or recognized. While it is possible that he may be one of the youngest, or earliest, to complete all the 16 peaks, it is hard to say with certainty. He started climbing in the mid-1950s and took part in one of the first Mazama classes offered by the then newly created climbing committee. Over the years, as the classes developed and evolved, generations of new climbers like Ernie were introduced to the sport and taught the skills needed to become successful mountaineers. 
Explorer Post #936 members after a first ascent
Canadian Coast Range,1997, Photo: Peter Green. 

By 1975, interest in engaging Mazama youth reached a new high. As part of the Boy Scouts of America’s Explorer Scouts program, the Mazamas established Explorer Post #901. The nationwide program aimed to get youth outdoors by teaching them skills in mountaineering, as well as water and winter activities. The Explorer Scout committee organized lectures on the philosophy of climbing, suitable outdoor clothing, and proper nutrition. Rope, snow, and rock skill building classes were offered to provide firsthand experience. In their first year, the Post climbed Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams, Mt. Washington, Three Fingered Jack, and Mount St Helens. 

Sahale Flanagan and Margaret Redman at the 1988
Annual Banquet. Photo: Unknown.
The Explorer Post program proved popular with the membership. The program expanded in 1978, and then again in 1981. It fell on hard times in the late 1980s before consolidating and reigniting as Post 936 in 1993. The end of the 1990s were good years for the Explorer Post; the program’s leadership was motivated, enrollment was high, and their adventures captivated the membership. A few of Post 936’s notable achievements included climbing in New Zealand in 1996, four first ascents in the Canadian Coast Range in 1997, and organizing the 20th Anniversary celebration for the American K2 Expedition in 1998.

Around the time of the Explorer Post’s low ebb, a young girl named Sahale Flanagan began her climbing career. Sahale climbed Mt. Hood in 1986 at the age of eight, accompanied by her parents Lath and Mary Jane Flanagan. She became a Mazama in 1987 at age nine. She earned the Guardian Peaks award in 1990, the Seven Oregon Peaks award in 1994, and the 16 Peaks in 1998 at the age of 20. She often climbed with her father and served as an assistant leader on three of their ascents together. The climb report for their three-day climb of Mt. Shasta notes that Sahale acted as climb leader on summit day and did a “great job leading the six other climbers to the summit.”
Ernie Goble on the summit to Mt. Stuart, 1960.
Photo: Walter Goble

The year before Sahale achieved her 16 peak goal, another young climber was just getting started. Quentin Carter climbed Old Snowy, his first mountain, when he was just four years old. Quentin’s father, Matthew Carter, got him started hiking early, at age two, and camping overnight by age four. By the time Quentin turned eight, he’d climbed Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood, and Mount St. Helens, earning him the Guardian Peaks award in 2003. His three summit attempts on Mt. Jefferson rate as some of his most memorable climbs. Bad weather and an accidental fall involving the climb leader turned back their first two attempts. Quentin finally summited in 2008, his third attempt in three years. 

The Families Mountaineering 101 program at Horsethief
Butte in 2015.
At age fourteen, Quentin had earned the Oregon Cascades award and by age 19 he had achieved the summits of all the 16 major peaks. Long time Mazama climb leader Dick Miller was instrumental in Quentin’s climbing career. Over his 12 year quest to get all 16 peaks, Miller was a teacher, mentor, and friend. One of Quentin’s most treasured mementos of his early climbing is the modified ice ax made for him by Dick. In modifying the full-size SMC axe, Miller cut down the shaft, dulled all the sharp edges, and stamped Quentin’s initials in the head. 

Quentin on his first  climb in the Goat Rocks.
The Mazamas interest in engaging young mountaineers has changed and expanded as the membership has grown. The Mazama Families Committee, begun in 2013, focuses on getting families outside together. Leaders in the group teach kids the joys of mountaineering in a way that instills a sense of joy and brings them back. They aim to build a community where children and parents learn from mentors and experienced climbers in the organization. The committee currently offers a Families Mountaineering 101 course that teaches kids and adults entry level rock and snow climbing skills. In the past year, Mazama Families members have put those skills to work hiking Dog Mountain, skiing Mt. Hood Meadows, and climbing at Smith Rocks, among other events. 

Quentin Carter on the summit of South Sister in 2004.
One of the legacies of getting youth involved with mountaineering is the formation of a lifelong affinity for the sport and the Mazamas. Many of the youngsters that started climbing with the Mazamas as part of the Explorer Post program have stuck with it. The odds are good that many of the young kids in the Mazama Families initiative will go on to be adult climbers. Now in his early 20s, Quentin has aspirations to one day become a climb leader like Dick Miller, his mentor and favorite climber. As for Ernie, after many years away from the sport, on his 68th birthday he climbed Mount St. Helens with his daughter, herself a third-generation Mazama.

Quentin Carter

Quentin Carter on the summit of Mt. Shuksan in 2014.
His final climb to complete the 16 major NW peaks.Matt Carter first took his son Quentin out hiking at age two, and by four, they were camping. Before starting his 16 peak quest, at age eight on Old Snowy, he’d already explored Yosemite and City of Rocks among others. Like many others, he’d planned on doing Mt. Hood as his first official Mazama climb, but a climbing accident and a helicopter crash on the mountain that season forced a change in plans. They ended up climbing Unicorn Peak instead. His second climb, Mt. Adams, in 2002 was almost his last. During a glissade on the descent, Quentin’s pants filled with snow, and he became hypothermic. Quick work by members of the climbing team got him out of his wet clothes and warmed up. For his fourth Mazama climb, Mt. Hood in 2003, Dick Miller presented Quentin with his custom modified ice ax and crampons. As his climbing career progressed, Quentin’s father insisted that he have advanced training. Besides taking part in Mazamas training, they also took 12 days of intense climbing education in the North Cascades as part of the American Alpine Institute’s Alpine Leadership class. Quentin went on to assist on several of his later summits, including Mt. Baker and Mt. Shuksan, his 16th peak.


Gaia App: Viable GPS Replacement?

by John Godino

I’ll always remember my first introduction to the navigation potentials of a smart phone. A few years ago on a North Sister climb, we ended up taking an unexpected route back to camp. On our cross-country bushwhack, we experienced a little of what might you call “positional uncertainty.” I called a halt for our team, got out my map and clunky old GPS receiver, waited for it to get fired up, and then started plotting our UTM coordinate on the map to find out where we were. One of the younger members of our climb team strolled over and said “Hey, can I show you something? Here’s exactly where we are.” And he showed me his iPhone screen, with a reassuring little blue dot directly over a high resolution map. That was when the lightbulb really went on for me: the holy Grail of navigation (a good map with a “you are here” mark) had arrived.

GPS smartphone apps can now go head-to-head with dedicated handheld GPS receivers. Along with increasing chip speed, screen size, and battery power, smart phones actually have several advantages: more intuitive user interface, much better screen resolution, a much wider range and better quality base maps, and a vastly lower price.

The two main potential problems with GPS smart phones, fragility and running out of batteries, are easily solved with a sturdy case and an auxiliary battery pack and extra cable. GPS works on your phone without cell phone coverage, and you can download free, high quality maps ahead of time for use when you are in the backcountry.

Most climbers already carry their phone. Why not add one more navigation tool that only costs $20, doesn’t weigh anything, takes maybe 30 minutes to learn, and might just really save the day sometime?

One of the leading wilderness GPS apps is called Gaia GPS. Gaia has a few key features that put it at the head of the pack. It’s really focused on backcountry use, and not recording every arcane statistic of your hike and letting you post it to social media. They have terrific technical support, a wide variety of base maps, including satellite imagery and open source map layers, and the interface is easy enough to get you up to speed in a few minutes. And, it’s only $20, compared with a standalone GPS receiver that starts around $200 and goes up to $600, ouch! Gais GPS has a version for both iPhone and Android users.

The Mazamas is partnering with Gaia GPS to introduce more of our members to this powerful tool. This is being done in two steps. One, all Mazamas climb and hike leaders are eligible to get a free copy of the app. This will be rolled out over approximately the next year, and will be coordinated within the climbing and trail trips committees.

More broadly, Gaia has generously offered the Pro version of their app to all of the Mazamas membership.

To access this offer, you first need to purchase the app for $20, but then you will get an upgrade to the Gaia Pro, which normally cost $40 a year. This opens up lots of new map layers, lets you plan trips and print maps from the Gaia website, and more.

There are a some good resources to learn to use this app. One, if you go to mazamas.org and navigate to Resources then Maps for Hiking and Climbing, you’ll see a video link for a tutorial on how to use the app. Watching this video for 10 minutes will give you the foundation that you need to go start practicing. If you’d like more in-depth training, the Mazamas have a skill builder class in smart phone GPS coming up in June that still has some openings.

But, you really don’t need a class. Watch the instructional video, go for a walk around your neighborhood for an hour or so, mark some waypoints, record a track, practice downloading maps for use outside of cell range, use the Guide Me function to get distance and bearing to an existing waypoint, and you’ll get the hang of it pretty quickly.

And now, next time you experience a bit of “positional uncertainty,”you’ll have a solid tool to get yourself unlost.

Author’s Note: Electronic mapping tools do not replace paper maps. We recommend always carrying a paper map with you on your backcountry adventures.