A Climber Gone to the Dogs

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

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

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

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

Sandy’s Christmas Miracle

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

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

Ranger’s Happy Ending

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Evolution of a Climber

by Kerry Loehr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Slag Heaps of the Cascades

by Darrin Gunkel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Mazama Members: Two Proposed Bylaws Changes

by Steve Hooker, Mazama President

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you,

Steve Hooker
Mazamas President