Where to Turn When a Mazama Class is Full

by Sue Griffith

The Mazamas offer classes and activities to both members and nonmembers at all levels of experience. You can find seasonal offerings such as Basic Climbing Education, Intermediate Climbing School, Advanced Snow and Ice, Nordic, Ski Mountaineering, Mountain Running Camp, and Mountaineering First Aid. A variety of short, skill-builder classes are also offered year-round.

You can also choose from over 1,000 hikes and climbs offered each year. But what if you cannot find a Mazama class or activity that fits your needs or schedule? Both inside and outside of Oregon, there are numerous resources where you can get outdoor training, guided experiences, or a combination of both. The following is a sampling of some of the opportunities waiting for you from Chicks Climbing & Skiing, REI Outdoors, and Timberline Mountain Guides.

Other Local Training Resources:

Kaf Adventures
Skiing, snowshoeing, ice climbing, backpacking, rock climbing, mountaineering.

Next Adventure Outdoor School
Day hikes and overnight backpacking trips in Northwest

Portland Rock Gym
Instruction for climbers indoors and out; guided half and full-day trips.

Rare Earth Adventures
Cascade volcanoes climbing, rock climbing 101, bike packing, rappelling.


This Colorado-based company was established to empower women through mountain sports. Dawn Glanc, co-owner and AMGA guide, spoke with me via email. She describes her target audience as, “any woman who is looking for climbing and backcountry skiing instruction.” Chicks offers beginner to advanced clinics in rock, ice, mixed and alpine climbing, and backcountry skiing. Courses are available throughout the United States and internationally. “No matter what your skill level is,” Dawn told me, “we have a clinic for you.”

With so many outdoor programs competing for recreation dollars, I asked Dawn what makes the Chicks program stand out. She emphasized their focus on developing strong women climbers and skiers in an all-female environment. “At Chicks, we strive to make you a confident and competent independent climber and/or skier. We give you the skills so that you can take on challenges and objectives on your own…our guides offer an opportunity for women to learn and ask questions in a fun and supportive environment. By having an all female group, we can break away from societal norms and truly immerse ourselves in the learning process.” Dawn shared how excited she and the other instructors get when a student reaches her goals and experiences that light bulb moment of understanding. “It’s awesome to see a woman get stoked and empowered in one split second. If we can pass on a solid foundation of skills and meet the client goals, then we have had a successful program,” she says.

If learning in an all-female environment has your name on it, Dawn suggests looking at the Chicks’ Red River Gorge Clinic in Kentucky. “The Red River Gorge Clinic is our most popular venue. I believe this is because of the timing and location of the program. The Red is an amazing place to climb and it offers the perfect classroom for the guides. This program sells out every year,” she said.
And that’s not all. The Chicks programs come with an added bonus—the camaraderie doesn’t end after one class. “When you join a Chicks program,” Dawn said, “you become part of a larger community of women who enjoy and pursue mountain sports. This is a great opportunity to gain instruction and meet other women to adventure with.” For more information visit www.chicksclimbing.com.


Not just a great outdoor gear provider, REI also offers a variety of educational programs. Aimed toward adults looking to learn a new outdoor skill, improve on skills they already have, or participate in advanced outings, these programs are staffed by highly trained instructors in a professional, yet welcoming environment. REI also leverages its considerable network of organizational partners to deliver an even wider array of programs. And it doesn’t stop there. Through REI Adventures you can find outdoor adventures around the globe to fit all types of backgrounds. And there’s even a limited number of youth programs.

Via email, I asked Stephen Hatfield, REI Outdoor Programs & Outreach Manager in Portland, Oregon, what one thing REI does better than anyone else: “At REI Outdoor Programs, our goal is to create life-changing experiences. An important part of this is learning a new skill, or discovering a new place. But another critical component is the human connection, meeting new friends and growing your network for outdoor adventures. REI members can be found across the country and beyond. We can help connect you to some great people, regardless of your passion.”

With so many educational possibilities, I probed Stephen for the most popular REI offering, and he couldn’t narrow it down to just one. “Our most popular options are Map & Compass Basics (2-hour class) and Backcountry Navigation with Map & Compass (5-hour field class). In this digital age, a growing number of outdoor enthusiasts see the value in honing this very important analog outdoor skill. Other popular program areas include paddlesports (kayak/SUP) and snowsports (snowshoe/Nordic skiing). Finally, one other very popular class is How to Ride a Bike for Kids—a 2-hour class in which we teach kids a lifelong skill that will help them connect to the outdoors. The success rate is incredibly high, and they don’t want to get off the bike when the class ends!”

When asked to sum up the REI Outdoors experience, Stephen told me, “A successful class is one where the participant leaves fulfilled and energized, ready to plan their next adventure and put their new skills to work.”

Find a current list of REI programs at http://rei.com/learn. REI is also able to develop private custom programs for groups of any size. To learn more reach out at portland-os@rei.com.


Known for “getting climbers to the top since 1983,” Timberline Mountain Guides (TMG) not only offers accredited guide services leading to summits but also offers a number of climbing classes and programs around the Northwest. As the name suggests, one of TMG’s most popular offerings is a two-day Mt. Hood program. It seems there are a lot of folks who want to stand on top of Oregon’s highest point but don’t have the skills to do it on their own.

I caught up with Cliff Agocs, TMG Owner and Operations Manager, via email to learn more about TMG and its sister organizations, Smith Rock Climbing School and Oregon Ski Guides. With three different entities offering such a wide array of services to the outdoor community, there’s bound to be something for everyone.

Cliff confirmed that folks look to his organizations for a diversity of guided objectives. “I’d say there are a few different goals that people have in mind when they join us for climbing or skiing. Most folks either join us to develop skills that they can take out into the mountains, or they join us to attempt a climb that they wouldn’t feel comfortable leading on their own, or with their regular climbing partners.” Cliff is particularly proud of TMG’s professionalism. In his words, “We’re a small group of career-guides and we take our role as educators and stewards of the mountains really seriously. Every one of our guides is a member of the American Mountain Guides Association and is actively pursuing their own continuing education. I think that putting ourselves in front of our peers for evaluation keeps us connected to the experience of our guests. We all consider ourselves mentees of our colleagues, just as we are mentors to the less experienced climbers who come to us to learn new skills. When you get down to it, we were all brand new to climbing once, and we’re all somewhere on the road toward mastery. That recognition helps to create a respectful environment where sharing knowledge, experience, and responsibility among every member of the climbing team is the expectation.”

He also emphasized the tailored nature of the classes. “We provide really personalized instruction based on your goals and skills—whether you come to us for a day of skiing, rock climbing, or an attempt on a remote summit. Then we pair you with a guide who has a combination of local experience, professional training and a genuine desire to create a positive experience for you. The recipe is simple, but the variety of experiences is infinite.”

This educational philosophy is reflected throughout the organization. Cliff told me he measures success not only when a student gains new skills but when that student leaves with the know-how to apply those skills properly. “Often in an outdoor education setting, participants will come in with varied backgrounds and different levels of knowledge and comfort with the prerequisite skills. This is actually a strength because it allows the instructor to empower students to coach each other and share in the teaching. Everyone leaves with a deeper understanding of the material, empowered to go and use those skills to push themselves just a bit further on their next adventure.”

With a staff roster skewed largely toward male instructors, I asked Cliff if he could accommodate female students looking for a female instructor or women-only groups. Cliff was sympathetic to the issue and told me they have female instructors in both avalanche education and rock climbing courses. He went on to say, “We think there’s a unique learning environment that can be created amongst women in the context of outdoor adventure, and we’re psyched to help create those opportunities. We don’t currently have any women who guide in the alpine on staff but we’re always on the lookout for solid guides of all stripes, so encourage all the great female guides you know to send us a resume!”

Finally, Cliff highlighted a few programs he thought might particularly appeal to Mazamas (see www.timberlinemtguides.com for details): Climber Self-Rescue, Crevasse Rescue and Glacier Travel, Mixed Alpine Climbing Camp, and Advanced Routes in the Cascades.

With this list in hand, there’s no excuse for not getting outside and turning outdoor dreams to reality. Climb high!


The Steal Cowboyz Bikepack the Lost Hot Springs of Owyhee County

by Terry Campbell, photos by Kyle Heddy

Steel Cowboyz may not be as unruffled and sophisticated as the real deal, but ten gallon hats help and make a wicked amount of sense in the big open.

'Steel Cowboyz' are a new breed of outdoor enthusiast who use steel "bikepacking" bikes (steel horses) to adventure in the wide open spaces of America's West.

A bikepacking bike is a cross between a road touring bike and a mountain bike. It provides all the long distance comfort of a touring bike, with wide, knobby tires for rugged terrain. All your gear is stored in bags strapped directly to the bike’s frame ensuring a better, weight-centered, handling experience. With a good set-up you can comfortably travel over almost any terrain and camp wherever you like. This provides the bikepacker an amazing amount of freedom to ride on paved roads, gravel roads, single track trails, through cow pastures, you name it!

These friendly “cowboyz” are defined by honesty, independence, self-reliance, and respect for Mother Nature. The Steel Cowboyz in this story are: Kyle Heddy (aka “Hammerin”), Ray Belt (aka “Ray-Ray”), and Terry Campbell (aka “TC”). I'll tell you how Hammerin, Ray-Ray and TC took to their steel steeds and found the lost hot springs of the Owyhee Country.

Frosty morning bushcamp we found well after dark. Camp requirements:  flat, near running water, and far enough off road to sleep safe.

The great land-owning Baron Workman of the Pacific NW Company and his evil sidekick, Mr. Job, have kept our heroes’ faces pressed to the coalface all winter. No rest, no recess, no hope of a better future. One day, TC showed Hammerin and Ray-Ray a book that detailed the existence of hot springs in the far off land of the Owyhee Country. He explained that the best way to connect with these warm, relaxing pools was to wrestle up some steel horses and ride across the open countryside. He cautioned this would be hard traveling and the early spring weather could be sour. Ray-Ray looked at Hammerin and said, “Anything would be better than staying here under the evil gaze of Mr. Job.”

Over the coming weeks the Steel Cowboyz warmed up to the vision of breaking loose from their tedious lives and heading out into wide open spaces in search of hot springs. They hatched a plan to break out on a Wednesday, after they clocked out, in a gas-powered company van. This would allow them to make the long drive to Jordan Valley, OR (Owyhee Country Frontier Town) under the darkness of night.

As the departure day drew closer, it was clear Ray-Ray did not have adequate gear to ride this rough country so he invested in a Surley ECR with a full rack and bag set-up. The departure Wednesday was more hectic at the coalface than usual but our heroes kept to their plan and left the bustling metropolis of Portland, Oregon as scheduled. Along the way, they found a quiet grove of trees in Farewell Bend State Park to rest for the night. The next morning Ray-Ray was hankering for a country fried steak breakfast so they headed to Ontario on their way to Jordan Valley.

After stocking up on final supplies in Ontario, the boyz made it to Jordan Valley, known for cattle ranchers and farmers, by mid-afternoon. While packing up their steel steeds, the Mayor of Jordan Valley kindly welcomed them to her town. The boyz needed to be careful not to reveal their identities as Baron Workman had many friends in the region and they were breaking company policy by not working seven days a week.

Ray and TC leave the pavement behind, navigating by relief features, topographic maps, and noses. Roads out here have a way of contradicting themselves.

Under gray, nonthreatening skies they pedaled off to find Cow Lakes, en route to Greeley Bar Hot Springs via Two Mile Creek. Right out of town, they found the navigating easy until they were cut-off from their route by private property. Unauthorized crossing of private property was against their ethos. Lucky for them, at just that moment, a rancher named John walked by. He granted them access and showed them how to get back on route. Rancher John’s directions were simple, “You see those two humps on the horizon? You need to squeeze between them and you will be on your way.”
These city-slicking Steel Cowboyz got a little nervous when they walked their steeds amongst very large cows. “Just don’t make eye contact!" Hammerin yelled.

A two track 4WD road awaited them on the opposite side of the rancher’s land, and the pedaling resumed, mind you at a slow pace. As Jordan Valley and the private property faded behind them, the concerns about their lives and the threat of getting caught fell away as well. The focus shifted from what was behind them to the roads in front, but TC was up to his old tricks. He had broken free from Baron Workman’s clutches many times before but he was still a neophyte in the ways of the Steel Cowboy. Bringing a rear rack with panniers sounded like a good idea, but the King of Rigs, TC’s nickname, had not planned for the rocky, rough roads and his bike rack clattered and clanked like an out of control chuck-wagon. There was a major concern that something would break and not be repairable, but TC simply said, “Nothing that duct tape can’t fix.” A true Mazama statement.

Smoother riding was under tire when they found a well-maintained gravel road that led them to the Cow Lakes and beyond. At the junction for the Cow Lakes they decided to head north and stay away from the lakes. The boyz were flying down gravel roads with the wind whipping under their cowboy hats as the sun set. Hammerin and Ray-Ray always went first as their skills in the saddle were strong. TC rode more tentatively waiting for his head lamp to illuminate the darkness ahead. Riding in this country deep into the night was a dangerous game, and the boyz concluded they should find a campsite.

Attitude is everything out here. Ray is a pro at keeping up the humor and positivity even when dusk turns to night and we are still hunting for a bushcamp.

The beauty of traveling on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land is any place that is relatively flat, with a local water source, can be a campsite. No need to find a campground, pay a fee, deal with reservations, etc. This provides the ultimate freedom to roam where you want and sleep where you want. A grassy meadow next to a roaring creek made a perfect place for the boyz to settle in for a dark, dark night. The Owyhee Country is one of the darkest places in the lower 48. However none of our heroes grew up in this region, so after they identified basic constellations, all that was left to see was shooting star after shooting star. A cold air settled in around the camp as they zipped up sleeping bags and closed their eyes.

Waking to their own body rhythms the next morning further disconnected the boyz from their painful existence back in Portland. They had the whole day ahead of them with no one to tell them where to be: ultimate freedom. Frost from the night’s cold air evaporated as the sun rose and Hammerin got to work making coffee pour-overs. No cowboy coffee for these guys, just straight-up hipster drip. Packing was easy, and everyone remarked that TC’s steed was holding together nicely.
Riding west, they found Coffeepot Crater which is the origin of a 27-square mile lava flow that stretches across the Jordan Craters. From the top of Coffeepot, you can see the flow that scorched the earth and carved the land. Pedaling west again they descended on their way to their first hot spring along the Owyhee River. Unfortunately, a deeper read in the hot springs guidebook revealed that the Two Mile Springs was on the north side of the Owyhee River, which is not a river they felt comfortable crossing in spring.

They kept pedaling on faint, two track gravel roads, and eventually they reached the edge of the Owyhee Canyon for the first time. “Wow!” said Ray-Ray as he peered deeper into the broad canyon. “Look at all the cliffs and tiers as it drops down to the beautiful Owyhee River.” Their GPS gizmo pointed them south on Blister Road which traced the edge of the canyon for miles. On one side of their bikes they saw the precipitous drop of the canyon while the other side offered wide open spaces of desolate grasslands.

Having lost their chance on the Greeley Bar Hot Springs, their new goal was to reach the town of Rome, just as the sun was setting to disguise their approach from curious onlookers. They crossed through a small canyon that had been created by lava flow. This made the riding really fun, on well-maintained roads with gradual descents and banked turns. The boyz really let it out as they rode across the Rome Airstrip and connected with the Winnemucca to Silver City Wagon Road. This wagon road was a popular route between the mining town of Silver City and the railroad hub of Winnemucca. Lots of Pacific NW Company men moved product back and forth along this route and discretion was paramount.

As they arrived at the wagon road, they noticed that this popular route had been left to Mother Nature. Unfortunately, the hair bending 1,000 foot descent, in the dark, required them to dodge large tumble weeds and the occasional boulder while staying away from the road’s cliff-side edge. Thankfully, they found flat ground again at the bottom with just enough light to see the Pillars of Rome. Flipping on their headlamps they cruised into the rafting campground along the river where they reloaded on water, ate lots of food, and fell asleep to the sounds of the river.

Roads out here require hours of research, several forms of navigation, friendly locals, and just being comfortable and prepared in the art of being lost. Mountaineering on bikes.
The next day they woke up and played around at camp for a while. These Steel Cowboyz may not be able to ride a bull, but they can hacky-sack and fly a kite with the best of them. Out of the blue, a state trooper pulled up to their camp, and they felt sure they were in trouble. However, he greeted them in a friendly manner and told them that he was interested in talking to them about their steel steed set-ups. As a hunter, he explained that he was intrigued by the potential utility of using a bike to access the backcountry. They geeked out over bikes for a while, and then he informed the boyz that the Three Forks hot springs, their next destination, was on the south side of the river and it couldn’t be forded in spring. They wrapped-up their conversation, and TC tucked his tail as the dream of linking up hot springs by steel steed was officially lost.

Their last day in this wild canyon land brought them back to the Owyhee Canyon rim for more breathtaking views of sheer cliff walls. They passed through grass covered valleys until they descended quickly to Three Forks Road. Riding north on the best gravel road they had seen in 2 ½ days, they popped out on Highway 95, a few miles west of the campground at Antelope Reservoir. This reservoir is very large, and on its south end there was a daunting cliff face that rose out of the water and ended at Juniper Ridge. The next morning, their luck ran out as the temperature hovered around 40, and it started raining. They made haste with the pack-up and rode the final 10 miles on Highway 95 back to the town of Jordan Valley.

Our heroes set out to explore a new part of Oregon, camp next to hot springs like old cowboys, practice self-reliance in nature, leave no trace, and further deepen the relationships these experiences forge with friends. They never found the hot springs, but these three Steel Cowboyz experienced the joy and freedom of searching for those lost hot springs together in the Owyhee Canyonlands. You should too, they’re out there.


Mazama Courses Encourage and Inspire

The Mazamas offers year-round courses in outdoor sport for all experience levels. Whether you are just getting into outdoor recreation, or are a well-traveled adventurer, there is something for just about everyone. Our most well-known series is the Basic Climbing Education Program, followed by the Intermediate Climbing School and finally Advanced Rock and/or Advanced Snow and Ice Climbing.
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 Perry

Eight 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 Griffith

High-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 Benefits

Editor’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 Oregon

by 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 Climb

by 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!


Solar Eclipse or Campground Apocalypse?

by Jonathan Barrett
For a state with just over 3.8 million residents, having approximately another million visitors for several days is a staggering increase. As improbable as this is, organizations like Travel Oregon are predicting such numbers. This would be tolerable if these visitors weren’t trying to then squeeze themselves into a strip just 70 miles wide. Then, within that thin strip, only a small fraction of that is easily accessible by roads and has areas conducive to an overnight stay. As a result, many of these feet will be standing on Oregon’s public lands. As you might imagine, there are several serious reasons for concern from the managers of those public lands.

Risk of Wildfire

The day of the eclipse is going to be at the height of fire season in Eastern Oregon. With the tens of thousands of visitors who are coming to camp on public lands, land managers are very concerned about the risk posed by all these additional campfires. Local agencies will be positioned to respond as quickly as possible, but additional traffic on the roads at that time may hinder response time. As a result, campers are being asked to be extremely careful with their campfires. This means never leaving fires unattended, keeping the fires small and contained, as well as making absolutely sure that all fires are extinguished completely. Lisa Clark, the acting Associate District Manager for the Prineville BLM, would urge the public to not have a fire at all. “Don’t plan on having a campfire or a barbecue—bring a camp stove for cooking,” she wrote in her email response to me. Yet, they are realistic about the fact that many will despite prohibitions. As we all know, a single errant spark can lead to catastrophic results when conditions are ripe for wildfires.


We all have witnessed it: a full trash can with a pile of refuse stacked next to it because there is no more room in the receptacle. Many established areas will have extra capacity for this extra garbage. Jean Nelson-Dean, the Public Affairs Officer for the Deschutes National Forest says, “We hope to provide additional opportunities for people to dump trash on the way in and on the way out of areas.” However in areas where there are not adequate infrastructure and receptacles, there is the real possibility for there to be a substantial problem with litter. Lisa Clark observes that there will be long-term impacts from this waste: “The biggest challenges that we believe we’ll face will be human waste and trash dumping, along with trampling and heavy use in sensitive areas. In addition to planning for increased service in areas where we have toilets and trash cans, we are planning to have staff dedicated to monitoring sites after people leave. The BLM will have to develop a rehabilitation plan—however, we can’t do it until we know where the damage will be and how severe. We’ll manage this much like we develop rehab plans after a wildfire.” Clearly, the best option would be for people to pack out what they pack in.

Human Waste

Then there is the problem of poop. Jean Nelson-Dean says that, “One concern is people not properly disposing of their waste from the RVs and campers because dump locations may be overwhelmed with visitors. If people do dump their waste on the forest it will create both short-term and long-term issues for our public lands.” Like the overflowing trash cans, there is limited capacity for human waste, even if there are extra facilities on site. Many locations will be adding many, many extra port-a-potties to supplement the facilities already there. Unfortunately, many will not use them, even if they are clean and well-maintained. Fecal bacteria can then impact nearby water sources. With limited capacity to manage and maintain facilities, it is possible that restrooms will simply be overwhelmed when they do exist.

Impacts on Vegetation

Clearly there will be legions of people looking for places to camp and observe the eclipse in areas away from other people, either due to necessity or desire. This means that visitors will be traveling on foot and by vehicle into areas that may be sensitive to impact. When asked about differing plans regarding different areas, Lisa Clark said that, “For the BLM, our plans don’t really differ by elevation or vegetation type—instead we are looking early are [sic] areas that could be impacted by motorized vehicles such as wilderness or wilderness study areas. We’ll be looking for areas where we can reinforce our on-site signs or improve gates and fencing so that people get easy direction about where they can or can’t go with vehicles. One of these areas will be Sutton Mountain Wilderness Study Area (WSA) near Mitchell, and also on the mid-line of the eclipse. We want people to find good areas to camp and to leave their vehicles, and proceed on foot into the WSA—and we know that many people coming from outside the area won’t know about restrictions in WSAs. So we plan to do the best we can to get that information out early and at these locations.” Clearly travel on foot is the preferred means of transportation because it has the lowest impact. Education and signage is going to be key to minimizing the impacts. Nonetheless, where there are very few established camping sites on the Prineville BLM lands, none which are reservable, land managers like Clark think that most people will choose to use dispersed camping practices. It is expected that people will probably arrive, discover that the few sites are taken, and then move to an area close by that seems to be able to hold a tent site, whether or not it is actually appropriate. Priest Hole near Mitchell is one such place where there are significant concerns about impact. One of the less noted impacts is also the possibility of the introduction of invasives, like weed species. However, this will only be known long after the crowds have left. Only afterwards will land managers be able to assess the extent of the damage.


Preparing for and resolving these issues has been and will be a collaborative effort. Lisa Clark says the BLM has, “great partnerships with other agencies and organizations in Central Oregon—and we have been meeting together to plan for this event since 2016. Emergency service managers from Deschutes, Crook, and Jefferson Counties have spearheaded meetings with local, state, and federal businesses and agencies; the Governor’s Task Force is coordinating efforts at a statewide level, and the Forest Service and BLM in Central Oregon recently held an “all-hazard” simulation event to practice responses to a variety of emergencies that could happen during the eclipse. This simulation was attended by representatives from five counties, several forests and BLM districts, Oregon Department of Forestry, fire departments, police departments, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, Red Cross, and many more.” Clearly this is an “all hands on deck” scenario. However, what is clear is that success or failure is contingent on whether the myriad visitors decide to either respect the public lands that they are using or behave irresponsibly. Most of these issues are not necessarily new to public lands. Land managers will be moving people from one area to another in the hopes of putting the manpower where it is most needed. Ultimately though, the most important partnership is going to be between the public who will be using the lands and the government agencies charged with taking care of them.

Final Thoughts

Mt. Jefferson, which is under the path of totality, provides a small-scale case study of what the larger picture may look like. It is expected that many climbers will try to summit in order to have the best view. For some, it is “the best spot” to watch the event. The alpine environment is both sensitive to human impact and not hospitable. It has a limited carrying capacity for visitors. When there is a larger than optimal number of visitors, there will be greater problems caused by this friction between what the system is designed to handle and the number of users. Lisa Clark pointed out another such point of friction: “We know we’ll have challenges for example with people wanting to camp at a few campgrounds along the Lower Deschutes River like Trout Creek and Mecca Flats—and at the same time we will have very high numbers of people wanting to launch to be on the river during the eclipse.” Only afterwards will we know the result of exceeding the carrying capacity for these sensitive public lands. We can hope, though, that the public will do their best to minimize the impacts of their presence.


Giving Back to the Trails: Mazama Trail No. 625

Every year, the Mazamas organizes work parties to keep the Mazama Trail (#625) on Mt. Hood in tip-top shape. Typically this involves three days of work on the mountain. Participants can help with one, two, or three days of work. Long time Mazama volunteers Rick Pope and Ed Rea led the teams over the three day period.

The Mazama trail is located on the north side of Mt. Hood and is a feeder trail to the Timberline Trail and a great access point for Cairn Basin. This year 63 logs were removed, drains were cleaned out, brushing was completed, and gravel was patched in a rock slide.

In this video, Daniel Terry shares his experience on the last day of the trail work session in 2017.

From Daniel:

"My name is Daniel Terry my partner, Maya Martinez and I are BCEP (Basic Climbing Education Program) 2017 graduates. We had a great time working with leader Rick Pope and Ed Rea to finish the maintenance on Mazama Trail #625.

We helped them finish up the hard work everyone had been working on the last couple days. The trail is looking great now. What a great time! Let's face it. Where else can I use a two person saw today?

Trail maintenance is not all saws and axes. Long handled cutting shears are used to keep the brush clear off the trail. Rakes are used to clear the trail of debris. So don't think it is all back breaking work. No matter what job you can do you will have fun.

People from non-Mazama groups helped out. Maya's Mom Marie Martinez was in from the east coast visiting us over the weekend. She, along with a Meetup group helped out and had a great time "It's nice because you feel more connected to the trail after helping clean it up." I could not agree more!

The Mazamas are mountaineering organization with rich ties to the history of Portland, Oregon, and the Pacific Northwest. If you are interested in becoming an outdoors person. The Mazamas are a great group to be apart of. Courses like BCEP help to prepare you to Mountaineer or Rock Climb safely."

Thanks for volunteering your time on the trail Daniel and we hope to see you out there again real soon!