4.27.2017

Public Lands: Make Your Voice Heard


Yesterday, the Trump Administration issued an Executive Order that could have a substantial impact on public lands. The order calls for a review of National Monument designations over 100,000 acres, designated over the last 21 years.
From REI's blog "The order itself does not rescind existing national monuments but it does leave that open as an option, along with reducing or resizing them. That is a threat to the integrity of our public lands, which millions of Americans see as national treasures." 
This review is focusing on the economic value of these lands. The outdoor industry just released its latest economic impact report showing that the outdoor recreation industry is a powerful force in the US economy, with consumers spending $887 billion annually on outdoor recreation and creating 7.6 million jobs.

The Mazamas have been involved in protecting our public spaces for more than 120 years. Make your voice heard on this important subject.

SHARE YOUR VOICE ON PUBLIC LANDS TODAY


Additional Resources:
Presidential Executive Order on the Review of Designations Under the Antiquities Act
Outdoor Alliance  
REI Co-op  
LA Times  
Outdoor Industry Association
                                     



4.24.2017

Best Mountain Science School Ever!


Mazama Mountain Science School (MMSS) wrapped up our third, biggest and best season yet in March. In fact, we beat our enrollment goals for 2017 by over 100 students! This winter we partnered with Centennial School District, Capitol Hill, Hayhurst and Irvington Elementary in the Portland Public Schools, and Sacramento Elementary School in Parkrose School District to provide science education to more than 600 4–5 grade students.

Over the course of three days and two nights, students learned about physics by sledding behind the Mazama Lodge, glaciology and snow science through snow shelter building, and other hands-on lessons that meet state science standards in math, science, and geology. Every session wraps up with youth presentations about an exciting topic they learned about to share with their fellow classmates. MMSS not only builds scientific literacy, but inspires the next generation of young people to care about our environment and mountain by building fun and meaningful memories of Mt. Hood.

A thank you to the Mazama Lodge for housing our students and instructors throughout the winter. Everyone, of course, enjoyed the awesome food and had a blast playing inside and outside the Mazama Lodge. Students got to take, what for many, was their first snow shoe hike on Mt. Hood, and this year we had the snow to do it!

We of course could not operate such an impactful program without our partners. Mazamas partners with Multnomah Education Service District (MESD) to provide quality education and programming at the Mazama Lodge. Our MMSS instructors are the same instructors who have taught hundreds of 4 and 6 grade students for Outdoor School and the Oregon Trail Overnight program. MMSS 2017 was managed by Shauna "Chomps" Stevenson, Amanda "Weasel" Duncan, and staff members Emily "Goose" Lootens, Kristoffer "Thunder" Thums, Celia "Mycelium" McLean, Brandi "Sparrow" Boyett, and Elizabeth "River" Longmire.


MSR provided snow shoes for our program, and BOGS boots donated warm boots. Both enabled our students to learn and play in the snow for hours. West Outward Bound also generously lent us extra rain and snow gear, snow shoes, and boots for MMSS students. As always, thank you to the Mazama members who generously support our youth programming and the Grey Family Foundation for helping make this program a possibility.

4.17.2017

First Mazama Ascent of Peak 8,913

Mazamas have been climbing mountains in the Pacific NW for over a hundred years. So, it would not seem possible for a Mazama first ascent unless it was by a difficult new route up an already climbed mountain. Yet such a possibility does exist. You just have to drive a long way and spend three days on the approach to the summit of an obscure and unnamed peak. Such peaks are relatively common in the Trinity Alps of northern California—a stunningly beautiful wilderness not much farther from Portland than the North Cascades. Mazama climb leader Verle Duckering led climbs in the Trinity Alps in the late 1980s through 1997. Other climb leaders led sporadic climbs of some of the major summits into the early 2000s. In the last several years, regular climbs in the Trinity Alps have resumed. In July 2016, four Mazamas reached the summit of Peak 8,913 (our name for it)—a peak that, as far as can be determined, no Mazama had previously climbed.

The plan for the climb was simple: get together a small number of climbers who had experience in the area and carry light packs with no climbing gear. If the climbing became too difficult, we would not reach the summit. The first day’s hike was a nine-mile walk up the Canyon Creek trail to Canyon Creek Boulder lakes. We were the only people camping at the lakes, which are nestled on a granite slab in a granite bowl with a commanding view across the canyon towards Sawtooth Mountain—the fourth highest peak in the Trinity Alps. The last half-mile of this trail resembles a dry creek bed and is described in hiking books as one of the roughest and steepest trails in the Alps. Daytime temperatures were rather moderate and only reached into the low 80s—perfect for swimming.

The next morning, the climb team ascended the north side of the bowl towards Mt. Hilton, the third highest peak in the Alps. The first part of this climb was up granite slabs and then up a small creek, which was the only way through a steep slope of dense, head-high manzanita. After the creek disappeared, a bit of bushwhacking led us to more open slopes covered in small meadows and wild flowers. After we dropped our packs, we continued up towards the summit crossing small snowfields and rock bands. A final, steepish snow field and some easy rock scrambling brought us to the summit of Mt. Hilton and a summit register with entries by Verle Duckering and Jack Grauer dating back to 1992. There was not a cloud in the sky and the view went from the Pacific coast to Mt. Lassen, and from Oregon to deep into the Sacramento Valley. Mt. Shasta was close on the eastern skyline. After we descended to our packs, we hiked a bit farther and set up a camp on a ridgeline near a small stream. The cross-country hike and climb had taken the better part of 12 hours.

The third day, we moved camp over to the next ridge. Frequent bear scat, some of it rather fresh, got our attention. After leaving all our heavy gear, we started up toward Peak 8,913. We hiked up on snow along the Hilton arête, and descended the arête on 35 snow to more level terrain. We then ascended the snowfield towards the col south of Peak 8,913. Photographs from previous trips and topo maps suggested that the south ridge would be easy enough to climb without special gear. Initially, this proved to be true as the team ascended snow fingers and boulder fields, but as we got closer to the summit, it became clear that small cliffs would block our way. The climb team solved this problem by probing every possibility, finally exploiting a weakness on the west side of the summit block to reach the summit. This route, involving 4th and very low 5th class scrambling up solid granite blocks, proved to be fairly easy even without gear. The only difficulty we encountered was deciding which route we could down-climb safely. There was no summit register, but someone had left a small cairn to show that we were not the first to climb the mountain.

Again, the view was spectacular and the same as from Mt. Hilton the day before, except that we could now see Mt. Hilton to the southwest as well as Papoose Lake, a lake we had not been able to see from any of our previous summits. We descended the route to our packs, but realizing that in the early morning, hard snow would make our descent to the valley below very difficult, we moved camp farther down the ridge. Our camp that night was both below the snow line and farther from the bear scat. Thus ended another 12 hour day. That night the temperature reached the high 30s.
The fourth day, we spent 5 hours descending another several thousand feet, constantly finding ourselves cliffed out and forced to bushwhack through heavy brush. It was a welcome relief to reach Canyon Creek and the hiker trails which brought us back to the Canyon Creek Lakes, only 8 miles from the trailhead where adult beverages and greasy, salty snacks awaited us.


The climb team for Mt. Hilton included John Meckel, Al Papesh, Mark Curran, Jean Hillebrand, Greg Clark, and Karoline Gottschild. The team for 8,913 consisted of John Meckel, Al Papesh, Mark Curran, and Jean Hillebrand.

4.13.2017

How to NOT Climb Silver Star in the North Cascades


It didn’t bode well. I was sure that when George said, “OK I’ve got ski poles,” he meant he had mine, too. No. Mine were undoubtedly still leaning against the hedge at his house in Seattle. So we stood there in the morning sun, watching a scrub jay hop around in the middle of Route 2, brainstorming alternatives, none of which any reasonable person would actually consider for a ski mountaineering trip on an 8,875 foot mountain. Share? Cut branches? Tape ice axes together?

May on the dry side of the north cascades: flowers, sunshine, the smell of Ponderosa pines in the air. Nice day for a drive. So we headed into Mazama, the nearest town, to look for an outfitter. Services are kind of limited in Mazama, but a shop owner directed us to a tour guide who luckily turned out to be home and was cool enough to let me just borrow a pair. “Silver Star? One of my favorite backcountry ski trips.” He agreed with our choice to blow off Beckey’s approach instructions, which involved too much altitude gained, lost and regained for my taste, instead following Silver Star Creek from where it crosses Route 2. “Just remember to keep to the left.”

You couldn’t ask for a finer day, but the trip would have been a lot easier a month earlier, before the snow melt exposed all the blowdown littering the climbers’ track. It also would have been a lot easier starting many hours earlier, before the canyon walls above Silver Star Creek began reflecting the day’s heat, but a late start and our little pole misadventure killed that idea. One advantage: So much blow down. That meant plenty of places to sit, study the map, and contemplate how out of shape we both felt.

Fourteen hundred feet and a mile later (it’s too embarrassing to say how long this took us) we encountered our first snow field spilling down from the heights. The canyon had been narrowing, and where we stopped to put on skis, an unseen waterfall rumbled. Time to say goodbye to the creek and tedious woods and start really moving. Or not. A quarter of the way up, George’s skins began to malfunction. Time to break out the duct tape and limp on. After gaining another 300 feet and a half mile, we got our first view of Silver Star and the spiky range of the Wine Spires. And it just so happened the view spot was at the foot of a boulder field with enough melted out space for a camp. We probably should have forged on, but the day had grown long and discouraging. Why not kick back and enjoy the afternoon? We entertained ourselves watching shadows of jagged peaks reach across the U-shaped glacial valley and submitting to camp inspections by the world’s cutest climbing rangers: Pikas. Besides, we only had a little over 2 miles and 3,800 feet left to go. Piece of cake tomorrow morning ...

The next day promised more perfect conditions. We made our way across a scenic basin, about a half mile of relaxing skiing to warm up. The going was about to get tough, with a half mile and 1500 feet of slogging to get out of the basin, but on such a fine day, what could go wrong? The lift on my left ski could break. Fortunately, a pile of rock jutted out of the snow nearby. A little searching and George turned up a perfect little wedge of granite, just the right size to fit under my heel. More duct tape to secure it, and I was ready to bag that peak!

I love skinning uphill, especially when the snow’s perfect, and the slope is reasonable. (Alpine skiers, and climbers, often 'skin' the bottoms of  their skis in order to climb upward.) You get into a rhythm, and the work becomes almost a Zen thing. However, Zen things are not really about speed. We’d set a 12:30 p.m. turn-around time, and it was 9 a.m. before we made it to the top of this first pitch. We took our time traversing to Silver Star’s glacial moraine, admiring the bare larch trees and the long, long views north over the endless ridges of the Pasayten Wilderness. Breaking for lunch on the moraine, I wondered why we hadn’t camped up here, closer to the peak. From this spot, we still had 2200 feet to go, and things were not looking good. We both had to reapply duct tape (it was kind of amazing our field fixes actually managed to hold this far), we were woefully behind schedule, and neither of us had exerted ourselves remotely this hard since a trip up Shuksan the previous July.

We hit the wall at 7,600 feet. George was sure we could make it all the way (only 1,300 feet more!) but we’d reached our turn around, and the thought of doing a class 4 scramble at 8,500 feet in uncomfortable telemark boots after (how many more?) hours of slogging didn’t seem wise. Not to mention the black diamond-level ski back down, and then having to navigate that semi-bushwhack of an approach. To work off our frustration, we threw snowballs at each other until George realized that this way, we could get dinner and beers in Winthrop before the drive home. With this consolation prize in mind, we wadded and stowed our masses of used duct tape, and sailed down some of the most glorious backcountry skiing I’ve ever done.


4.10.2017

Don't Forget the Lettuce: A Brief History of BCEP

This spring, many newly minted Basic Climbing Education Program (BCEP) students will be signing their climb cards, anxious to test their skills for the first time. The south side of Mt. Hood will be the first “real” climb for many of them. When thinking about this, I was struck with a question that seemed both elemental and obvious. What did the first BCEP graduation climb look like? To answer it, I dove into the Mazama archives with the expert assistance of Mathew Brock, Mazama Library & Historical Collections Manager.

As is often the case, the precise origins of things are sometimes difficult to pin down. Randall Kester, a Climbing Committee chairman, started the forerunner of the current program in 1943. It was a series of eight classes and four field sessions that began in February and ran until June. Unfortunately World War II ended his attempts to initiate a program, and it was not until 1950 that Warren Wilson picked up the effort. Son of a former Club president and chairman of the Climbing Committee which had been formed sixteen years earlier, Wilson resumed the efforts to bring formal climbing education to the Mazamas. Initially there were six classroom and eight field sessions. Attendance topped 150 participants. However, it wasn’t until 1956 that the program, as we would currently recognize it, finally emerged.

It was under the watchful eye of William (Bill) Oberteuffer that we finally got what might be considered the first truly “BCEP” program. It is impossible and unnecessary to recount the full richness and complexity of his life here. However, I would strongly recommend reading his biography, held in the Mazama library, titled, Gazing Down From The Mountain: The Story of William H. Oberteuffer. In the fall of 1937, at the age of eighteen, Oberteuffer rode on horseback from Portland to Tijuana, Mexico with his cousin Bob and friend Bud. They were only joined for part of it by Oberteuffer’s father. A decade later, he would begin a high school teaching career in science that would span 32 years. He once recounted about his teaching practice, “Always wishing to give my students the most say and being less than sure of my own rightness, I discussed with my class what the course structure might be for about a week. We eventually wound up with about 15 areas of possible study most of which fell within my area of expertise and were possible from the standpoint of time and materials. The students then voted on the 7 or 8 most popular suggestions and these then became our course content. (This is teaching democracy by doing it.)”

In the winter of 1969, Bill and his wife, Margaret, requested a sabbatical and spent nearly all of 1970 and 1971 backpacking around the world. His expansive climbing career had begun when he was in college. He once observed, “My professor had climbed so he loaned me his ice axe and crampons, and I climbed Mt. Hood with Margaret, Moshe Lensky, Dave Raffety, and Gil Staender (the godfather of Smith Rock) who was in high school, and was the guide ... On that first climb, Gil Staender taught us all self-arrest on the way up.” I note all of this because, as every BCEP student knows, the instructors—their stories, their personalities, and their lives—richly and fully define the experience of their students. It must have been astounding to learn under the watchful tutelage Oberteuffer.

As evidence of his diligence, the teaching notes from that first BCEP course are still in the archives and even include instruction on how to speak in a manner that is clear and effective during lectures. These sessions, held at the Oregonian Hostess House, began on April 30, and they culminated with a graduation climb of Mt. Hood on June 10 and an “examination” two days later at the Mazama club house. Topics for the dozen sessions would feel familiar to present-day BCEP students. Lectures included wilderness travel, equipment, snow climbing, glacier travel, weather, and rock climbing. As well, there was a presentation by a Dr. Charles Dotter on “Climbing Miseries,” which would prove to be surprisingly prescient given the events of the graduation climb. All of this, as well as a conditioning hike and outside rock practice, was coordinated under Oberteuffer’s leadership. Students were given all kinds of sage advice including this gem about nutrition on climbs: “Many persons are subject to an acid stomach during a climb. Avoid rich, concentrated, fatty foods (chocolate, nuts, etc.). Simple sugars are good because they digest easily and produce water during oxidation. Avoid eating snow or drinking ice water fast. Fresh grape-juice may be carried in your canteen. Suggestions for lunch: Two sandwiches (with lettuce), cookies, oranges, and candy (such as caramels or fruit lozenges).”

Enrollment was 447 students that first spring, and 28 Boy Scouts or Explorers and 11 Girl Scouts were in that first group. Perhaps these numbers were so high because enrollment was free to all who registered—500 would initially sign up—and the course was advertised in local high schools and colleges (note: Mazama Membership was 1,086 in 1956). Although Oberteuffer was never in the army himself, he took cues from the military when running field sessions where assistant instructors were managing between 80 and 130 students at a time. To do this, they wore colored arm bands so that the participants would know who to report to and when.

When the graduation climb came on June 10, there were 161 participants. Each had been provided with an equipment list of required gear: “Waterproof boots, nailed or heavy lug soles—no slick soles allowed. Adequate clothing (prepare for rain, intense sun, high wind, temperatures down to 25⁰, mittens, sun goggles, canteen, small packsack, woolen socks (plus extra pair), mountain lunch (from home), crampons (must fit properly), pocket mirror, ice axe, sunburn preventative, flashlight.” At the time, there were two primary places in Portland to procure the tools for mountain climbing—the Mountain Shop and the Beebe Company. The former still serves many of the same needs and customers; the latter still exists in Portland but now has a decidedly different clientele. Participants spent that night at the Mazama Lodge where dinner cost $1.20, the midnight snack was $.50, and lodging for members was $1.00 (an extra $.20 for non-members). The climbing fee itself was just $1.50, with some exceptions where it was only $1.00.

Only 11 participants summited that day, which seems like an appallingly poor success rate for the graduation climb of this first BCEP class. Oberteuffer’s notes provide a hint as to why. In his report filed after the climb, he noted of the weather: “Lighting, fog, hail, blizzard.” Undoubtedly it is forgivable that so many failed their first time. He also noted the following: “With 161 in the climbing party, we broke party into 2 separate groups with a leader and 3 assistants each. Then to ‘share the wealth’, the total ‘financial support’ due these 8 leaders was divided among 17 leaders and rope leaders who had participated generously in the climbing school.” It sounds like the philosophy that he espoused as high school teacher carried through to this moment as well. He allowed, perhaps even required, the students become the leaders and to own their experiences.

Later in life, Oberteuffer was asked if he had ever done anything wrong on a mountain. He recounted this very graduation climb on June 10 of 1956: “We divided up into two main groups, Erwin Reiger and I as main leaders. Weather deteriorated all the way up. We got to the lower hot rocks, where it was snowing hard. We should have gone down. I asked if anyone wanted to go to the summit under these conditions. Don Eastman wanted to go, Jim Craig, about 7 or 8 guys want to, so I said OK, and appointed a guy to go down with the others. Reiger also went down. Weather was bad at the base of Crater Rock, with stinging snow. We went up a new route around the end of the crevasse, the chute, didn’t sign the register, turned around and went down. I couldn’t see the crevasse but I sensed it, went around it, and got to the hot rocks. One guy had hypothermia, a husky, young fellow, not dressed properly, starting to stumble. Two folks took him and got him to a snowcat. All was OK, but it was something I didn’t need to do. It was a challenge I guess.”
For all those BCEP students who will be packing their packs this spring for their “real” mountaineering climb, I would encourage you to think about this first group. Consider the advice to add lettuce to your sandwich. Wonder at the hundreds of students who bought their first ice ax from the Mountain Shop. Compare the electrolytes that you may add to your water bottle against the grapefruit juice in their canteens. Continue to question your climb leaders about their lives and experience—and,yes, even their choices. And remember that, even in 1956, BCEP students were being reminded to make sure that their crampons fit properly before they left home.


4.03.2017

Saying Goodbye to Royal Robbins


by Mathew Brock, Library & Historical Collections Manager

The climbing community lost a guiding light when Royal Robbins passed away on March 15 at the age of 82. Mr. Robbins’ accomplishments as a rock climber, author, teacher, entrepreneur, environmentalist, and adventurer are legendary.

Early in the 1960s, he led the way for generations of climbers by advocating for a minimal use of bolts on climbs. In 1967—five years before the clean climbing movement of 1972—he imported and introduced the British idea of using nuts over pitons. This not only minimized the impact on rock faces, but opened climbers' minds to using all of the rock's natural features.

Considered one of the most influential climbers of the 20th century, Robbins mastered record-breaking ascents around the world. In the 1950s and 1960s, his legendary ascents on El Capitan made him world renowned and put Yosemite on the map as the climbing capital of America. He was not content to limit his climbing to the sunny confines of Southern California and Yosemite. He carried the Yosemite philosophy of ground-up non-siege climbing to the Alpine world with such climbs as the 1962 climb of the American Direct on the Aiguille du Dru in Chamonix, the 1963 Robbins Route on Mount Proboscis in the Logan Mountains of NWT, Canada, and 1969 ascents in the Kichatna Spires in Alaska.

Robbins wrote two pioneering books on climbing, Basic Rockcraft and Advanced Rockcraft. These two practical guides covered all the fundamentals of technical rock climbing. Looking more like a college professor, with his crew cut and horn-rimmed glasses, Robbins became rock climbing's conscience. His writing reflected his no-nonsense approach to climbing that embraced holistic climbing and respect of the natural environment while disdaining the conventional conquering of mountains with pitons and bolts.

In 1957 Robbins, along with Jerry Galwas and Mike Sherrick, made the first ascent of the northwest face of Half Dome. Three years later, in 1960, he and a partner climbed the Nose of El Capitan as a continuous climb. His first ascent of the Salathe route of El Capitan made with Tom Frost and Chuck Pratt was his proudest accomplishment. Robbin's efforts and those of his contemporaries helped usher in the golden age of climbing in the Yosemite Valley.

At the height of his climbing career, the Mazamas were fortunate to have Mr. Robbins as the guest speaker at the 1964 Annual Banquet. That year's October Bulletin states, "With his excellent collection of slides, his sense of humor and unimpeachable climbing background Royal promises to be one of the most outstanding speakers at any Mazama banquet in years." By all accounts, his presentation entitled, “High Rock Adventure” was very popular with members and the event sold out. Mr. Robbins returned forty-two years later and headlined the 2006 Mazama Annual Banquet.

In 1968 Robbins and his wife, Liz, launched Mountain Paraphernalia that sold casual climbing clothing and equipment. The company later became Royal Robbins. After his climbing career, Mr. Robbins turned to kayaking, earning renown for several first descents. Later in his life, Robbins published a three-part autobiography. To Be Brave, published in 2009, covers his birth, early years growing up in West Virginia and Los Angeles, and his introduction to climbing. Fail Falling, followed a year later in 2010, recounts the years between 1950 and 1957 and his climbs in California. Volume three, The Golden Age, 2012, covers his personal life, years in the Army, and the early ascents of El Capitan.

As a pioneering rock climber, Royal Robbins challenged the existing standards of the day and helped introduce all new climbing skills and levels of difficulty. Starting in the 1950s, Robbins established numerous new routes, many of them now revered classics on Yosemite's Half Dome and El Capitan. He had great respect for the current generation of free climbers, and lived long enough to see the routes that took him days now done in hours.

4.01.2017

Round the Mountain is Back—Fresh Routes and Backpacking Option Added!

by Shane Harlson, 2017 RTM Coordinator

Join the Mazamas 11th annual Round the Mountain (RTM) hike of Mt. Hood’s Timberline Trail over Labor Day weekend, Sept. 2–4. You will experience hiking a majestic 40 miles of the Timberline Trail with spectacular views of Mt. Hood and the beginning of autumn colors. Each morning a van shuttle will take you to your trailhead, where you will hike approximately 14 miles of the Timberline Trail with only a light daypack, allowing you to enjoy the
hike without the burden of a heavy overnight pack. In the evening, you will return to Mazama Lodge, where you will enjoy great food, hot showers, and a comfortable place to sleep—along with a few good stories with your fellow hikers before turning in for the night.

This event caters to a variety of hiking styles and paces. You will experience this journey with trained hike leaders who will oversee the safety of the group and cater the pace of the hike to your team's preference. Do you prefer to meander and take lots of photos? Or do you desire to move steadily and briskly? What if you wish to bring your whole family? We have a group for you! If you and a friend(s) or family member(s) are joining the event together, choose the pace of the slowest hiker and we will assign you to the same group.

There will be some new and exciting changes to this year’s RTM. Most noticeably, the Elliot Glacier crossing is reconnected to the Timberline Trail via a re-route. We will finally hike a section of the Timberline Trail that we have been unable to safely offer since 2006. You will absolutely love this new section!

This year we will have new technical RTM t-shirts with a design that does not include a year. This allows previous RTM participants, who so wish, to finally order their long-awaited shirts. Furthermore, we are adding another new option: an on-site massage therapist.
And finally, the new addition I am most excited about, we are offering a small group the chance to register for a 4-day backpacking trip of the Timberline Trail. You must provide your own gear, food, and transportation, along with proving you are physically up to the challenge; the cost will be significantly lower than the traditional RTM trip. We are working out all the details now, so stayed tuned for more to come.

This event is the largest annual fundraiser for Mazama Lodge—last year it raised approximately $8,000 dollars! These funds help pay for upkeep and maintenance of the lodge, supplies for the organization, and improvement projects. Registration for RTM 2017 is $400 for Mazama members, and $460 for nonmembers. We estimate that approximately 20 percent of these funds will go directly towards Mazama Lodge. Registration includes: catered meals for all three days (packed lunches included), dorm lodging for three evenings, hot showers, and van transportation all weekend.
Don’t miss out on this memorable event! For more information go to tinyurl.com/MazRTM. Questions? E-mail us at rtm@mazamas.org. Online registration opens April 1. We’ll see you on the mountain!