However, the Mazamas doesn't stop at the summit. Mountain and Ultra Running Camps, Wilderness Navigation, Nordic Skiing, Ski Mountaineering, Canyoneering, Families Mountaineering 101, and a whole host of smaller drop-in courses make sure that everyone can recreate safely in the outdoors. Our menu of offerings continues to expand and evolve, and can be found on our website mazamas.org/education-classes. Below are some hard-earned lessons learned from past course participants.
Getting Where You Want to Go
by Kristie PerryEight years after I moved to Oregon, I finally paid Smith Rock a visit. It was August 2003, somewhere around noon, and the park felt like a furnace. I was on my way home from Bend, having spent the weekend watching the Perseids, drinking too much wine, and smoking too many cigarettes. Through my hangover and the waves of heat, I watched climbers that surely must have been part gecko ascend and stick, ascend and stick, and then dance back down the wall like spiders. No way in Hell you’d ever catch me doing something like that. Ever.
Fast forward to 2013. I’d completed BCEP and summited a handful of glaciated peaks (because what else do you do once you’ve quit the booze and tobacco?). I’d been spending my Friday evenings at PRG with a charming Advanced Rock (AR) grad who thought it was perfectly reasonable to take me there on our second date. Even though I’d never been there before. (He kindly suggested I “rainbow up” the wall.)
And it is November 2013 and I am once again at Smith Rock State Park. For the second time. Ever. With the charming AR grad. And I am standing in front of Honey Pot on the Picnic Lunch Wall.
And I am standing in front of Honey Pot. And I am standing in front of Honey Pot. And I can’t figure out how to get off the ground. Charming AR grad’s climbing buddy gives me a butt belay and up I go. Alan Watts’ Smith Rock guidebook says Honey Pot (5.9, 3 stars) “begins with massive potholes leading to a knobby slab.” I remember none of that. I remember seeing no place to set my fingers or toes. I had no idea how I was going to climb that thing, but I knew I was going to climb it.
I cursed mightily and inched my way up. I pinched nubbins, I stood up on my feet, and I refused to let go. I looked for holds, I committed to moves, and I trusted my body to find the right balance. My heart pounded and my calves twitched. And on my first trip to climb at Smith Rock, I made it to the top of Honey Pot.
I’m never going to lead Chain Reaction. Ever. But sometimes when I get stumped by life, I think about that morning on Honey Pot and I’m reminded that everything I need to solve a problem is right in front of me and right inside of me. And that it doesn’t hurt to ask for a creative belay from a fellow climber. Climbers are always happy to help you get where you want to go.
Interview with Rebecca Ross
by Sue GriffithHigh quality educational programming is a central part of what the Mazamas offer to its members and the community. Each year, prospective students can find classes ranging from one day skill-builders to months long climbing and mountaineering classes. I asked Rebecca Ross, a recent BCEP grad, to share with us how Mazama classes have helped her to climb higher:
SG: Where were you in your outdoors/mountaineering/climbing journey at the start?
RR: I’ve been doing backpacking and hiking for about a year prior to this journey.
SG: What Mazama class(es) did you take and why?
RR: I took the Mazamas BCEP class after learning about it through the Mazama Winter Weekend. I wanted to take the class because I knew it would help me expand on what I already knew from my own personal backpacking trips, but also it would fill in some gaps where I lacked knowledge and experience.
SG: What did you do as a result of the class that you couldn't do before?
RR: Mountaineering is something that I wouldn’t have been able to do safely prior to taking BCEP. I’ve always been interested in getting into mountaineering, but knew I wasn’t quite prepared to do so. Now I feel that I have a good basic understanding on knowing what precautions are needed to be safe and knowing my own limitations.
SG: What did the class lead you to try that you never imagined?
RR: I don’t think I ever pictured myself summiting mountains until after I completed BCEP. Now I’ve become a mountaineering enthusiast.
SG: How does that new skill make you feel/change your self-image, etc?
RR: I’ve become more cautious because I now know there are serious risks to everything I choose to do. However, I also have a better understanding about safety. I feel more confident in the decisions based on the skills I’ve learned.
Mazama Classes Lead to Unexpected BenefitsEditor’s Note: Josha and I (Sue Griffith) were BCEP classmates. I admired her abilities and engagement with Mazama climbing classes and asked her to contribute her story to the Bulletin.
by Josha Moss
I can’t say that I enrolled in BCEP with hopes of tackling as yet unimagined challenges. I had no ambition in mind other than getting into ICS or Advanced Rock. With no major goal other than learning more about climbing, that initial Mazama class morphed into a strong desire to learn trad and take AR because I really love climbing on rocks and want to share that with my friends.
While working my way through the Mazama climbing program, I not only grew my climbing skills, but also found a new community of friends, which allowed me to grow more authentically in ways I hadn’t really experienced before. Mazama classes provided a space for me to be present, while pulling away from a religious group I had been engaged with over the past 14 years. I loved the spirituality of this Christian group profoundly. I had spent years caring for their children and taking their teens backpacking and hiking. But despite my deep attachment, I found I could no longer tolerate their lack of support for female leadership and their firm stance against gay marriage. This realization came as I finally accepted I would never be attracted to men and recognized the truth of who I really am. I was open and honest about this new understanding with the ministers and elders of the congregation. They told me if I ever "acted on my tendencies" I would not be allowed in a leadership role with the children and teens—an age group I was already limited to since I was categorized as “female.” It was a heartbreaking transition to pull away from this group that was like family to me, despite how unhealthy it would have been to continue to support a community who did not support me, and where I could not live a fully authentic life or be supportive of all kinds of people.
Joining the Mazamas and enrolling in classes was a step towards branching out while still in my comfort zone with outdoor adventuring. At the time, my fear of trusting people made me very reluctant to be part of any organization; but the Mazamas proved a good choice for me. I have just completed AR and cannot express the extent of how enriching and fun it was. Rock climbing has had such a wonderful impact on my life—it provides physical, psychological, emotional, social, and even spiritual benefits. I am pleased with and grateful for where the Mazama classes have led me.
Basic Climbing Education Program Led Me to the Top of Oregonby Avinash Agarwal
Snow is scary! Growing up in Mumbai, India, I did not see snow until I came to the U.S. as a 22-year-old graduate student. Two attempts at downhill skiing, both embarrassing failures, very quickly convinced me to stay away from snow-covered mountains for the rest of my life.
Fast forward a quarter century, where after living in the Pacific Northwest for a few years, I caught the hiking bug. After many hikes around the base of Mt. Hood with a local hiking group, I found myself captivated by stories from people who loved climbing mountains, and a few who had summited Hood. It seemed like a dream. A sweet, distant dream which would remain distant.
But something drove me to enroll in BCEP this year, which turned out to be the greatest opportunity of my life. The brilliant Mazama climbers volunteering their time, teaching us, working tirelessly for hours to train us, and captivating our hearts and minds with their energy and passion for climbing. By the end of the class, the bubble of comfort and fear was bursting.
A week later, I joined our BCEP leaders and a few other students from our class on a Mt. Hood climb from the south side. While we turned back from the Hogsback Ridge, looking at Devil’s Kitchen’s Headwall, I was sure I had never been to a more beautiful place in my life. I returned home, after being so close to the summit, very sore and immensely enriched.
Three weeks later, on the night of May 27, my friend Doug from the BCEP class and I headed up from Timberline Lodge once again. The climb was difficult, but I could feel the mountain welcoming us and urging us to continue on. Continue, we did, and at 7:20 a.m. we were standing on the summit of Mt. Hood. The first time for both of us and we were greeted with perfect weather, jaw dropping views, the deepest sense of wonder, and unimaginable beauty.
Sharing That First Climbby Christine Yankel
Do you remember when you first climbed? Craning your neck, the feeling that there was no way in the world you’d make it up ten feet, let alone to the top, but then doing it? Discovering that tiny pebbles can hold you, that you can figure out the puzzle, that you could hold your partner’s fall? We learn so much in Mazamas, but what I’ve liked learning most is how sweet the feeling is of seeing kids have the chance to experience climbing.
As part of youth outreach, volunteers like Sheena Raab organize events so Mazama volunteers can work with kids in youth-serving organizations like Friends of Children and Adelante Mujeres. These organizations do amazing work with kids at risk, giving them skills and support to help them thrive. It’s humbling to play a part in it, belaying, encouraging. At the MMC, area gyms, and under blue skies at Horsethief Butte, the kids climb and learn, support each other, and radiate the joy of learning how much they can do, that feeling you had when you first climbed. We are so lucky to have mountains to climb. We are even luckier to have the chance to share this with others.
It Started at Horsethief
by Ed Conyngham
I attended Basic Climbing School in 1997, hoping to recapture the pleasures of hiking, climbing, and skiing I had enjoyed as a high school boy at Gresham Union High in the 1940s. At age 67, it was a late start for sure but the excitement, fitness, and camaraderie that came with BCS gave me the ability not only to go on climbs, but moved me to take Nordic ski lessons and teach Nordic too. Later I joined the Nordic Committee where I have served for a number of years. It’s been a great run and it all started at Horsethief Butte!