PAFlete: Rebecca Madore—Reflection on Patagonia

This article initially appeared in the Mazamas 2016 Annual (published in September 2017).

Rebecca Madore & Katie Mills will be presenting on their experience climbing the Moose's Tooth in Alaska during Portland Alpine Fest. Tuesday, Nov. 14, come out to Ham & Eggs at the Mazama Mountaineering Center. Get tickets today!

by Maureen O’Hagan 

Rebecca Schob Madore and Brad Farra were the first recipients of the Bob Wilson Expedition Grant, which provided $10,000* to help them make a big trip to Patagonia to climb Cerro Torre. They trained hard, did their homework, and arrived in El Chaltén in December of 2015 very well-prepared. Unfortunately, the realities of climbing in Patagonia got in their way. They spent much of the time waiting for a weather window. When one finally arrived, they set out on their journey but were forced to turn back.

It was demoralizing for both of them, and they struggled to adjust to these feelings when they returned home. Madore threw herself into non-climbing projects, as well as examining the thoughts and emotions that had bubbled up since the trip.

She and I sat down in May 2017 to catch up on what’s happened over the past year. One of her goals was to take on more leadership roles, and in that she succeeded, becoming a Mazama climb leader, among other accomplishments. She also talked about an event she and Mazama Valerie Uskoski held last year at Arc’teryx in Portland in which they invited women interested in climbing—whatever their experience or ability level—to come to listen, learn, and connect with one another. The event was called “Define Feminine: Unveiling the Mystique,” and the idea was to create a space for sharing and mutual support. The event was a huge success. “A room full of amazing energy!” is what Madore called it.

As we continued talking about her efforts to support women climbers, the conversation veered in an unexpected direction. At this point, she told yet another story that will ring true to many climbers. It’s a story of stress and fear—and ultimately finding her way back home.

How did you pitch the Arc’teryx event? 

I just thought about what we deal with as climbers, and as female climbers. I was reaching out to climbers of all kinds—mom climbers, gym climbers, alpine climbers, women who had accidents or lost their lead head or just wanted to climb harder.

It was mostly just a series of questions that I posed, saying if you want to talk about these things, come on down. Over 120 people showed up.

Wow. Was it hard talking to a group that big? 

No. I actually loved it because there was this sense of community and support. And my take on it was there’s no difference between me being up here speaking and you being out there listening. We all have fears, we’re all facing our fears, and we’re all one and the same. I think there’s more opportunity for this in our community.

Tell me about what you’ve been climbing since then. 

Last summer I spent time climbing with women that had all had injuries from climbing and were trying to get back their lead head. That was where I put my energy. It was kind of recognizing a need in the community—people that wanted to get into AR (Advanced Rock) or get their lead head back or needed some technique in terms of crack climbing.

Did your experience in Patagonia help you be more supportive to these women? 

Well, I realized I was dealing with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) about climbing events that had occurred before Patagonia. By “dealing with it,” I mean climbing well below my ability in order to feel safe and to manage the stress associated with climbing.

PTSD? Was there a particular event? 

A particular event doesn’t matter. It can be anything, really. It got to the point that I was going to quit climbing. At that point, I read Waking the Tiger by Peter Levine. And I got some help. Essentially, one session of EMDR treatment (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) changed my negative thoughts from constant stress, fight-or-flight to hopeful excitement. I had this renewed sense of my own personal power as a climber. I got back in touch with why I loved it and why I was good at it, and what good it brought to my life and how amazing ice climbing, in particular, felt in my body.

So you went on the trip to Patagonia not really understanding you were dealing with PTSD? 

Excitement and fear are enmeshed. They’re the same neural centers of our brain. There’s a good, healthy amount of fear in climbing. This was not that.

Can you talk any more about the PTSD? So may people have probably been in similar situations. 

When you climb, Mother Nature doesn’t give a damn who you are. At some point, you’re going to see something that is jarring, whether it’s rockfall that freaks you out or somebody has an accident or you’re part of a rescue. Maybe the well-being of somebody you care about is being threatened, or maybe it’s your own well-being. And that’s enough. That’s a traumatic event. Nobody asks to be put in that situation. You think, I’ll just be able to muscle my way through this. But the mental muscle takes a different kind of treatment. It was a matter of me being able to step into the role of somebody that needed help.

You had lost the joy of climbing? 

Sadly, yes. I was constantly vigilant. I was constantly thinking about the what ifs and what would go wrong instead of what would go right. When I came home (from Patagonia) it was not enjoyable to climb and I had to recognize there was this bigger bump in the road.
I had one (EMDR) session and the sun came out again. I had already done my own personal work, too, but I didn’t know that I couldn’t handle it on my own—which is a big type A personality pitfall. EMDR is the gold-standard for PTSD. I want people to know there are some really helpful services out there.

What are your goals now? 

In November of 2016 my goal was just to have fun climbing again on top rope. And then I was like, I want to lead ice again. That was goal 2. Goal 3 was that Katie (Mills, a fellow Mazama and recipient of the second Bob Wilson Grant) and I had a grant proposal to the Expedition Committee to climb Ham and Eggs in Alaska. It was a super classic alpine line, in super thin conditions. I led crux pitches. In November, I didn’t know if I was going to lead ice again and here I am in May succeeding on this for-real alpine climb. And I’m with another female climber. It allowed me to really own our success in a way that was different than the climbing experience I had with others in the past.

We successfully did it in a weekend, less than 48 hours. We watched the weather from Portland. We bought our tickets on Tuesday, flew to Anchorage, flew onto the Root Canal Friday morning, climbed, and flew back to Portland Sunday morning. I went to work on Monday. It feels like quite an accomplishment. I learned how to read the weather from John Frieh. I learned how to put the whole system together from my experience with Brad (Farra). We had done a similar type of climb three years ago. Katie had been to Alaska three times before. There aren’t many people you can ask to pick up and haul out to Alaska on a weekend!

Has your climbing mentality changed? 

I’d say it just feels like I had quite a lot of experience pretty rapidly in my short climbing career and the perspective that it offers is that I don’t have to climb everything now. It’s important to have fun and do what you enjoy and be with people that you care about. So essentially it’s helped me to chill out.

I like to build on many small successes before I take the next big jump. I’ve followed my own path in climbing, and it’s been incredibly great and rewarding.

And I am very thankful for the contributions of the people that have taught me on the way and the Mazamas Expedition Committee which has supported me in doing these things that I would have never been able to do without their support and their belief.

It’s really something when (the organization) just hands you (a check) and says go ahead and give it a try, tell us about it when you get back.

What are your future goals? 

Have fun. Climb with friends, climb with people I care about. I’m planning to climb Denali with my husband next year.

Do you feel like you have to have big goals at this point? 

I like having something to work towards. I like the process of seeing something that seems out of reach or really challenging and then breaking it down into all its component parts to get there. It keeps me invigorated. I can enjoy chilling out now in a totally different way than I did before. It’s much easier to take a slower pace and to be thankful for what you get. It’s really about the time I’m with people and I’m doing something that I love rather than having to prove something to myself.

*Note: Grant recipients are required to pay taxes on their awards based on their specific tax bracket.

The Mazamas provides a service for Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) to any climber who asks for it. Just call and leave a message asking for a critical incident debriefing and trained volunteers will get back to you. 


PAFlete: Aaron Mulkey

We are excited to have Grivel athlete, Aaron Mulkey, returning to the Portland Alpine Fest in 2017. Aaron is teaching two clinics on Intro to Ice & Mixed Climbing on November 18.

Few are as dedicated to ice climbing exploration as Aaron Mulkey, who has spent the last decade systematically scouring the canyons of northern Wyoming for undiscovered ice lines. Seeking untouched frozen treasures deep within Wyoming’s toughest mountain terrain, he often trudges for days in his boots, testing his own limits, and the patience of his climbing partners. But, the occasional gems he discovers fuel his determination, pushing him forward to find the next untapped treasure. As the ice begins to melt, Mulkey trades in his ice tools and climbing rack for a kayak and paddle. The exploration continues, this time through the spectacular watery gorges buried deep in the Rocky Mountains. His year-round hunt for uncharted ice and water in some of the most remote locations in the West makes him one of the most prolific pioneers of the Rocky Mountains. Follow the exploration at www.coldfear.com.

The theme of our series of interviews of climbers is ‘before I was a Badass.’  It seems your love of exploration started in childhood when you would go hunting with your father in remote canyons. Can you tell us a bit about that? 

Photo: Nathan Smith
I grew up in California until I was about 18. My father took me out hunting when I was probably able to walk. He taught me to respect wildlife and our wild places. As I got older I was able to walk further and so we hiked further to get away from other people and explore places people rarely went. I was able to discover some incredible places and we were rewarded with many meals.Thus the appetite to explore began.

Do we have to go back to diapers and toddlerhood to find you holding on to someone’s hand for safety, nervous or otherwise feeling incapacitated in some ‘non-badass’ ways?

Haha, I believe until I was around 13 I wouldn't go into the grocery store without my mom or dad…:(

Can you tell us a bit about your early, formative years? Where did you grow up? When did you first discovery climbing?

I grew up in California until I was 18 and then moved to Colorado for college. While working at a factory a guy took me out Rock climbing a couple of times and then winter came and he took me Ice Climbing. At that point, I was hooked on Ice climbing and sorta never stopped. 2 years later I would move to Cody, Wyoming simply to ice climb and explore.

What elements in your upbringing and childhood (or is it just the lucky draw of genetics) do you think gave you the quality of mind and of spirit to prepare you for such focus, determination, and character for such as a continuously successful life of climbing?

I wish I knew the answer to this. I think luck is definitely involved and good mentors that kept me alive. I made so many mistakes and bad decisions early in my years. One piece of advice I would give to a new climber is to pursue professional training and choose good mentors.

Perhaps, at this point, we need to define ‘bad-ass’. After all, one person’s bad-ass could be another person’s ‘day at the office.’ How would you define ‘bad-ass’?

To me, Bad Ass is someone that is bold, but smart. Above all, a bad ass person motivates others and shares their passion. It’s that one climber you meet that is having the most fun.

Do you view yourself as a bad ass like we do? 

I don't consider myself one. I'm scared and doubt myself like many others. I'm lucky to have been given the opportunities in life to pursue my passion.

Who are the people in your life you look up to, or who do you think have played a significant role in making you the man and climber you are today?  

My parents played a large role and the partners I have climbed with. Over the last 7 years, my wife has been a major roll in my life in supporting my passion.

What is it about climbing ice that keeps you coming back? 

I love that ice comes and goes and its never the same twice. Its the pursuit I love more than anything!

How do you think your life would be different if you had not discovered the vertical world? 

Wow, I think about this and my life would simply not be the same at all. I have learned so much from climbing and climbing has given me so much outside of climbing. I feel like my life would be sorta boring.

What is your favorite climb that you have ever done? 

Too many to choose one.

What do you think were some of the major life-changing events that you are grateful for, but that also were the toughest? (or maybe you weren’t grateful for, and they were just tough).

I have found that everything happens for a reason and that the toughest times in life are also the things that allow you to grow. Clarity often comes after the toughest times, but that time in the moment can be painful.

Did having a family changed your priorities and risk-assessment? 

Actually, I think getting older has changed those priorities. As I have gotten older and my kids have gotten older I find risk assessment changes. The bonds become stronger.

Tell us about your experience climbing Gannett Peak with your daughter Afton when she was 15.

I can't talk enough about this and how proud of her I was. It will truly be one of many great moments with her and I hope those memories will last forever. I can only hope climbing will give her what it has given me in life.

How was it different to be climbing with your daughter as compared to an adult climbing partner? 

This is the hardest part by far. It's like being on constant guard and over analyzing everything. It's actually very difficult to relax at times. I have to remind myself to enjoy the time and worry less.


PAFlete: Jess Roskelley—Finiding His Place in the Mountains

by Jonathan Barrett

Photo: Ben Erdman
Jess Roskelley is a guy who is obsessed with climbing. It is logical, of course, that the alpinist who ticked off the unclimbed South Ridge of Huntington in Alaska would be single-minded about his climbing. However, he was not always this way. One might expect that the son of celebrated mountaineer, John Roskelley, would have felt the from the very beginning the lure of the mountains, but it was not always there for him as a kid.

Despite being very aware of his father’s climbing career and even dabbling in climbing as a kid, he was not particularly interested in the sport when he was young. In high school he was like most teenagers. He did not think much about the future or about what he wanted to be. His priorities were, in his words, “wrestling and chasing girls.”

Paradoxically climbing was at the same time an integral part of his life. When he started guiding on Rainier at eighteen, it was not a big deal to him. He described it as a
Jess camping with his family in 1986.
 “way to get out of the house and seriously. At that time in his life, he would, “run out with some other kids,” and occasionally put himself in danger. Climbing was a thing on the side.
make a little money.” Perhaps this should have been the first indication that he was due for much bigger things when a nonchalant job for him is a lofty aspiration for many young climbers. He continued to climb off and on in his late teens and early twenties but not particularly

It was not until he was twenty-five that there was a shift. Like many climbers, there was a moment, a single climb that reframed his perspective on the sport. Slipstream, a famous alpine line on Snow Dome, caught his imagination, and he asked his father, who was sixty at the time, to join him. Plans went awry though when the weather turned sour. He and his father were forced into an open bivy by terrible conditions, and the rangers were sent out to rescue them. The experience made him realize that climbing could be an intellectual pursuit as much as a physical one. He wanted to know how to do it better and to gain the knowledge that he was missing. Jess has that pivotal experience and has not looked back since.
Photo: Clint Helander

Although he has made other mistakes from time to time, he has learned to be patient while acquiring his skills. He noted that, “some guys go out full bore,” when beginning their career in alpinism, and there is the tendency to make mistakes. He described his progression and growth as being a natural one. When asked if he has had any close calls, he admitted that they have become more frequent in recent years. Two stand out in his mind. In Patagonia he recently ended up climbing a serac that he recognized at the time was highly risky. The next day, the glacier cut loose over the path that he had just been on. On Mt. Huntington, he almost took a fatal ride when an icy glove led to unclipping a carabiner.

Jess acknowledges that he does take some risks on climbs and that the more challenging the objective the greater his tolerance for risk is. The question is, of course, why. The longer he has been at the game, the more confident he has become in his skills and judgment, and the deeper his motivation is to strive for lofty goals. It is an obsession for him now. Jess believes that all serious climbers feel the compulsion in some way or another. For him, “it runs the show.” Climbing has determined his choice of job as a contract welder, the locations for vacationing with his wife, and the way that he eats every day.

He recognizes that he is very fortunate that climbing continues to bring meaning and purpose into his day to day existence. “Life is simple on a mountain. Your only job is to survive,” he said. “I feel like life would be mundane without the experiences I get while climbing mountains.” The experiences that his has in the mountains sustains him in his normal day to day life.

Photo: Clint Helander
When asked what his endgame was, he responded in the following way: “To be content is the endgame.” Has he achieved this yet? In his mind, the answer is a resounding yes. Somehow he manages to be both driven to achieve at higher and higher levels, and at the same time be satisfied with all that he has already done. When asked about what it was like to be the son of a prominent alpinist and whether he felt the pressure to follow in his father’s footsteps, he said, “Somehow my dad did it the right way, when it came to me with climbing.” Jess was allowed to find it on his own terms and define satisfaction by his own criteria.

Get your tickets to The Summit on Nov. 18 where you will get to hear Jess speak about his experiences int he Mountains.


PAFlete: Chris Wright


nterview by Kevin Machtelinckx

As you grew up, was climbing on your radar at all? If not, what was? What did you think you wanted to do with your life? 

The short answer on this one is no—I had no idea what climbing was. I guess like the rest of the non-climbing public I may have been vaguely aware that it was a thing people did, but it wasn’t a thing anyone I knew did so when I discovered it I remember asking myself why nobody had told me, because I thought it was the most amazing thing I’d ever done. Growing up in Northeastern Pennsylvania I had an appreciation for outside in that I spent countless hours playing in some beautiful woods as a kid, skateboarded and snowboarded obsessively in high school, but I think by growing up where I did all I really knew was that I wanted to get out. I left Mountaintop, which is about as small as it sounds, when I went to college and, even though Manhattan wasn’t that far away physically, it felt like the opposite of a small town in the Poconos. I went to study film production and I thought I wanted to travel to make movies, but in the end I’ve sort of come to realize that what I really wanted was just to see the world, to share meaningful experiences with people, and to maybe work with those people to make some stories. So in a sense what I’m doing now isn’t all that far off.

Was there a moment or experience for you that made you think “Climbing/alpinism is what I want to do with my life”?

I can’t remember a single moment of inspiration so much as I can remember the feeling after just going out for the first time. I had a buddy in college who was a climber, and one day he just asked if I wanted to go rock climbing. I remember saying sure, not knowing anything about it and of course not knowing that the Gunks, where we were headed, was a world-class climbing area. I just remember asking what to wear. Al told me to wear normal clothes, but I somehow didn’t believe him and wore gym shorts. Anyway, I remember going out to Pete’s Kill and hiking like a half an hour to the top of the cliff and watching Al rig some ovals and webbing around a tree. We dropped the rope down, and not knowing how to rappel (or even that that was what we would have done if we’d had a clue), we walked all the way back around to the base. Then we’d top-rope these crazy steep routes and go swinging off the routes into the trees, laughing and I’m sure looking like complete idiots. Then of course we’d walk all the way back around, move the rope to a different tree and do it all again. And yet I don’t remember feeling self-conscious about it at all. I just remember thinking, “This is fun. I wish I’d known about this earlier, because damn, this is fun.” After that it was all over. As soon as I became aware that people went ice climbing I wanted to do it, and as soon as I saw what alpinists were I wanted to be one, and for me I think even when I was just learning for some reason I just assumed that the end goal was to go someplace to do big new routes. As my climbing progressed of course I found out that not everyone shared that vision, but I was lucky to learn from a lot of great folks and have awesome partners early on, to survive my own idiocy and here we are.

Photo: Lacey Gibbet

You are a self-described ‘avid first-ascensionist’. What advice do you have for those of us who aspire to similar dreams?

That’s a tough one, because on the one hand I want to tell people to just buy the ticket and go, and at the same time I can’t say that’s exactly what I did. As I said, I guess I always knew that I wanted to climb big things, but I think since I didn’t start until I was maybe 20 (I’m 34 now) I knew I had a lot to learn. I was just figuring it all out as I went along, and I was lucky to climb with folks who helped me hone the skills I needed, whether through big-walling in Yosemite, doing the same in winter, ice climbing, guiding - which of course hones your mountain sense by putting you out there so many days in a year, especially on days you don’t really want to go out, going on big (for us) alpine trips to the Rockies, and plugging into the incredible community of climbers and guides who called Bend home at that time. Through those connections it felt like I put in enough time to be proficient in most disciplines, and I just happened to meet a local hardman named Mark Deffenbaugh—who I think will end up being remembered as prolific in our little Oregon climbing community; you’ll see his name on new routes all over, from Ozone to Beacon to Smith and a million other little-known spots in Central Oregon—and become buddies with him at just the right time in my life. He and I are still friends, but honestly I say I didn’t just buy the ticket and go because it was Mark that not only opened my eyes to the possibilities, but took me under his wing and taught me the craft of new routing. He taught me everything from how to see a line to how to place a bolt, and he taught me an appreciation for the craft of opening routes. Going out with him I started doing new, mostly small rock routes at home in Oregon, but it helped me to see the way and I took that with me to the mountains. So I guess what I’m trying to say is that I want to encourage anyone with the skill and motivation to just get out there and do it, but I also know that part of the community, and the kind of mentorship you just can’t really experience without engaging with people who can help you see the big picture.

Sometimes you just need someone to help point you in the right direction, you know? Then it’s up to you, and you really do just have to go do it. You’re probably going to go screw it all up at some point in the process of learning some of the lessons that just have to come the hard way, but that’s kind of just how it is. Failure is a part of doing big things, but you still have to go out there and fail, and hopefully it’s going to make you stronger, make you and your partners closer, and get you that much closer to your dreams. On that note, I’d love to offer whatever help I can to anyone who wants it. I’m at least good at getting excited. Best piece of advice I can give actually is one that Mark gave me years ago, which is that you’ll never try harder than you will on your own routes. I didn’t get it at the time, and maybe it’s not the same for everybody, but it’s true for me. I’ll walk away from your god-awful scary hard route that took years to do as soon as I decide the holds are too small or that it’s too cold. I’m not going to kill myself for a hard repeat. But if it’s new, if it’s my god-awful scary sufferfest, then I’m all in.

Photo: Graham Zimmerman

On your site, you talk about food, beer, and coffee a lot. I think many of us can relate. When you’re in the mountains, how much do you think about those things? 

I’m terrible and always thinking about food. Graham and I have found we’re polar opposites in that regard. He makes this absolutely foul, but nutritionally ace brown powdered mix I’ve dubbed “techno-sludge” and could basically live off it in the mountains. I’m lusting after cheeseburgers, and will literally read food articles in the NY Times while I’m in basecamp. I don’t know why I torture myself I guess, but needless to say we take obscene amounts of chocolate and cheese and sausages (Olympic Provisions if possible) and try to do the best we can. At some point even a six-week old unrefrigerated Babybel seems like a treat, but I’m always craving something. I’d take a cheeseburger right now if you had one.

We all have important figures in our lives that support us (or don’t) in these activities that we choose to engage in. Can you talk a little bit about who those figures are for you and why they are important with regards to the decisions that you make? 

I’ve always felt really supported by my friends, my family and especially my partners. I know my parents worry and don’t really get it, but they still try their best to be supportive. I have the most amazing friends though, and even if they’re not climbers they’re people who aren’t afraid to go for it, and so they get it and they’re with me. With my climbing partners I just make sure to go out with people I love and with whom I see eye to eye. It’s a fine line encouraging someone to hang it all out there and give everything they’ve got, yet to do it mindfully and carefully, but somehow that’s what we do. That’s what you want in your climbing partners, someone who pushes you, but also pushes you to make good decisions and come home safely. To me that’s going to equal success in the long game.

Ok... I have to ask. What is your go-to beer in summer? Winter?

I’m a total beer dork, so I can’t peg it to just one, no matter what the season. What I can say is that I always take my Oregon beer snobbery with me, for good or ill, and we brew good beers in all seasons. Funny thing though is that when I’m here for a while sometimes I get burned out on all the hops and what sometimes feels like an arms race to make beer taste like pine trees, but after a few months away (especially in France), just gimme the pine trees and plug it into my veins. If I had to say though, I’d take a Boneyard RPM IPA or a Weihenstephaner Weissbier in summer, and in winter I’ll go for a Jubelale on Nitro at Deschutes, preferably on Monday so I can get a Local’s Night deal on a cheeseburger. With fries.

Get tickets now for the Portland Alpine Fest.


Memories of the Columbia River Gorge

Photo: Sandor Lao

We were extremely saddened by the fire that raged on through our beloved Columbia River Gorge starting in early September. The trails, waterfalls, foliage, and fauna in the gorge are significant to the Mazamas and to our community. Every year we collectively hike thousands of miles in the gorge—exploring its beauty, relishing in its lushness, and training our legs. Last year alone thousands of people participated in Mazama activities and classes in the gorge and hiked more than 10,000 miles on the trails.

We have heard from so many of you already about your deep personal connection with the area and the strong emotions you are feeling as this fire continues to burn. Here are some of your stories of what the Gorge means to you.

The Gorge Brought Me Back

Photo: Marti McCleskey

by Marti McCleskey

For me the Gorge was a place for emotional healing after a divorce that ended my 28-year marriage. I had been told for a long time all the things that I could not do. I decided to take up hiking, hoping the exercise would help me feel better. I was at an extreme low point and searching for hikes. I looked at the description for Eagle Creek. I must mention I was terrified of heights then. Maybe it was the description of the “Vertigo Mile” that made me decide to challenge myself, or maybe at that point I really didn't care if I did fall off of it. I can't really remember which, but I do know that on that particular day in Eagle Creek I came to several realizations.

The first was, “Wow! Eagle Creek is really, really beautiful!” The second was, “It is really cool to be standing on the edge of something that drops off like this.” And third, “I really want to find more hikes like this one.” Finally, “I can do this by myself.”

Something awoke inside of me that day, a growing sense of adventure that has since grown to climbing mountains, rock climbing, and even traversing the entire Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness and bagging most of the peaks in it along the way in one 75-mile, 17,000+ foot of elevation gain, four-and-a-half day through hike. I am thankful for that experience, all of my hikes I have done in the Gorge since that day, and the memories and photos I have of it before it was ravaged by this fire. I am thankful to the Gorge for bringing me back to life.

The Gorge Gave Me Plenty

Photo: Darrin Gunkel

by Darrin Gunkel

Summer of 2015 wasn’t a great year for Gorge waterfalls. Record low snowpack meant streams petered out early. So, not expecting a much beyond a fine stroll, my wife Karin and I set out one July afternoon on the Wahkeena-Multnomah Loop. We were in for a pleasantly palatable surprise. Who knew such a dry year could produce the bumper crop of huckleberries and thimbleberries we stumbled into! With all the dawdling to graze on the fruits of the forest and take pictures of wildflowers, we did the loop in a record (slow) three and a half hours.

The best moment, after watching Karin jumping to pick not-so-low hanging huckleberries, was her creation of the Woodland Amuse-bouche: thimbleberry wrapped in an oxalis leaf. The tart leaf and earthy berry combination opened for us a whole new dimension in forest nibbling. Too bad morel season was over; a few of our favorite mushrooms to accompany this treat would have landed us in Iron Chef territory, for sure.

The Gorge is Part of Me

Photo: Carmen La Macchia

by George Cummings

My love affair with the Columbia Gorge and the Mazamas began on July 26, 1959 when I joined a club hike on Observation Peak north of Carson, Washington. I had moved to Portland six weeks earlier and was working in a lab at what was then the University of Oregon Medical School (now OHSU). Two of my co-workers were Mazamas who, on finding that I liked hiking, told me that the club had a hiking program I might enjoy. So on that July Sunday morning at 7:30, I met up with a group of hikers in front of the Pacific Building on SW Salmon Street and got a ride with the Sazlow family. I don't remember anything about the hike itself, but I do remember that, instead of returning the way we had driven on the Oregon side, the Sazlow's chose to give me a better view of it—the best side they said—from the Washington side.

I hiked frequently with the club during the fall and winter and became a Mazama after taking Basic Climbing School in the spring of 1960 and climbing Mt. St. Helens. I have no idea how many times I have hiked on the best side in all seasons with friends, family, students, and alone in the 58 years since that first hike, but I know that its trails, streams, forests and hills are part of me, and I am grateful for that.

The Gorge Feels Like Home

Photo: John Leary
by Jenny Dempsey Stein

As a college student in New York in the early 90s, I worked at the library returning books to the shelves. While I was pondering my future, I found the tiny section of books about Oregon, and two stood out. One featured a black and white photo of Multnomah Falls, which I gaped at open-mouthed. The other featured a story about female forest rangers.

 My imagination took off, and soon I landed a Student Conservation Association position in the Gorge with a U.S. Forest Service team and was based at Multnomah Falls visitor center. I also did campfire talks, paraded on July 4th wearing a hot Smokey Bear outfit, sold items from the bookmobile, and traveled on the interpretive Lewis and Clark Amtrak train.

 While discovering hot springs, huckleberries, old growth trees, and eventually my fear of heights too, I “fell in love outward” as poet Robinson Jeffers coined the term, and my life, now to be lived out west, was never the same again.

The Gorge is a Place for Adventure

Photo: Trapper Sutterfield
by Thomas Gibbons

No picture, just memories: In the summer of 1940 when I was sixteen I hitchhiked up the old gorge highway to Tanner Creek. Several of us found rides with the construction workers building Bonneville Dam. This trip I was alone and planned to find the “trail” leading above the main waterfall of Tanner Creek that my friend Bill Lenahan had told me about.

At a point about one hundred yards below the falls I crossed the creek on a log jam and scrambled up a scree slope. Low and behold it ended at the opening to a gully that led steeply up to the left. The gully ended at approximately two hundred feet above the creek. A scramble left brought me out to the cliff face!
Now I was on a narrow trail, with a cliff below and above. It was so narrow I had to turn sideways to avoid my pack brushing the wall. As I proceeded upstream the narrow trail became more like a game trail, and wandered through a steep forested hillside. Passing another waterfall the canyon opened up and nice pools invited me to fish for native cutthroat.

With enough fish for dinner I looked for a bench on which to make camp. Around a bend in the creek was just the spot; but someone had erected two large cabin tents and built a nice fire pit. While debating where to make camp three adults walked into camp and said “Where did you come from?” When I told them they could hardly believe it was possible. They were engineers surveying for the main power line and construction road on the east slope of the canyon.

One of them knew my parents and suggested it might be wise to join them the next morning, a Saturday, to hike out. Upstream we connected with a trail that led about two miles to a road heading west to Larch Mountain. About fifteen years later I did the hike with my young bride, later Mazama President Lois Gibbons. When we got to the game trail we turned up slope to Munra Point ridge and down the rough trail to I-84.

A few years later I led a Mazama hike up the route. Unfortunately the trip is no longer possible. A crack in the gully over time widened from erosion and expansion from ice and the whole wall on the creek side fell into the creek and created a partial dam. But a few of us have great memories of a beautiful, and adventurous, trip!

The Gorge Will Rise Again

Photo: Sandor Lao

by Reena Clements

Every winter, AYM is invited to visit the Trails Club of Oregon's Nesika Lodge for an overnight backpack trip. Nesika, nestled near Multnomah Falls and Larch Mountain, recently lost both dorms to the Eagle Creek Fire, while the main lodge appears to be standing. A longstanding winter tradition, the annual Nesika trip is the perfect way to introduce our members to backpacking and to both our group and a sister hiking organization.

We have many fond memories and traditions at Nesika, both exploring trails, finding an old Buick deep in the Gorge and making new friends through board games, a potluck, trying to bake bread in the oven, and watching the Empire Builder go by on the opposite side of the Gorge. AYM feels deeply for the buildings Nesika has lost and will be there for Trails Club when the time comes to rebuild.


PAFlete Spotlight: Graham Zimmerman

Portland Alpine Festival | Nov. 13–18, 2017

See the Portland Alpine Festival's full lineup of 8 athletes here!

by Darrin Gunkel

How did you first discover climbing?
I grew up in the Seattle area and was first exposed to climbing through a club in high school and through one of my dad’s friends who took me up the south spur on Mt. Adams when I was about 15. That was my initial exposure to climbing. It was kind of a slow start; I think I got more and more into it as I went through high school. My parents signed me up for a course with the American Alpine Institute to learn the proper techniques to deal with mountain terrain. That gave me the idea of what’s possible for the mountains of the world and got me really fired up. I’ve been pursuing those goals ever since.

What is an important lesson you learned early in your climbing career?
The first expedition I ever went on was to the Kyrgyzstani Pamirs. I’d been reading a lot of Mark Twight at the time and gotten fired up on climbing without much gear, going really, really light. The big climb that we did there was on something like an 1,800 meter face, a big technical thing. I had a partner who wasn’t as experienced as I was, and we really didn’t bring much with us. For three days, I think we brought five cams, a rack of wires, a couple of ice screws, a single rope and just sleeping bags. We got away with it. It was sweet, no big deal, but I look back on that and think, o.k., you got away with that one, but in the future we need to bring more stuff. So if a storm comes in, you end up not being able to get through some of the terrain on the mountain, or whatever, you can either hunker down or get off the mountain quickly. If we had to get off that thing for whatever reason, it would have been quite the ordeal. Having a slightly heavier pack is o.k.
That’s a bold statement these days.

We still carry really, really small packs, but you still should probably have a tent if you’re putting up new routes in the greater ranges. [laughs]

Did you have a climbing mentor?
There have been so many people who have been climbing mentors over the years. Mark Kendrick down in New Zealand initially got me into some of the first big, steep alpine routes I did. Mark Allen is somebody who taught me a lot when I was younger and then later turned into one of my primary climbing partners. Steve Swenson these days has been guiding me through the art of dealing with big mountains in Pakistan. All these folks I couldn’t have done it without.

It’s one of the really cool things about climbing: we have a lot of opportunities for mentoring, and there’s a lot of patience in the community for dealing with people who are learning. There’s a recognition that you cannot do these things without a lot of knowledge, and so sharing knowledge is super important. I’m really grateful for that and those folks who have helped me over the years.

You've climbed all over the world, was there one region, or even mountain, in particular that originally drew or inspired you?
It’s funny. I very specifically remember seeing photos of the Baltoro region of Pakistan when I was in high school in some picture book. I remember seeing those images and thinking, “That looks really sweet. It would be totally unreal to go and climb in mountains like that.” I did my first expedition to Pakistan two years ago and so it’s coming full circle. Right now, my current inspiration is what I was inspired by when I was younger: the Karakoram. It’s a place that really gets me fired up now and has gotten me fired up for a long time.

Was there a moment early on when it hit you that climbing was IT? 
I was originally born in New Zealand, lived there until I was four, and moved back when I was 18 to attend university. I had a bunch of time to climb before I started school, and it was at that point when I started to really zero in on climbing. Up to that point, my main mountain sport had been skiing—I did a lot of that and had a lot of fun with it—but by the time I moved to New Zealand, it was pretty clear that climbing is what I wanted to pursue. So, I didn’t actually bring skis to New Zealand and just brought a climbing kit. This guy Mark Kendrick, who I mentioned earlier as a mentor, and I were both living in Mt. Cook village, a little town beneath Mt. Cook in the central South Island. He asked me if I wanted to go climb the south face of Cook. It was something way out of my league. I told him as much and he just said, “I think you’ll be fine. I’ll lead all the hard pitches. It’ll be fine.” I really had a hard time on it. I didn’t fall or anything like that, but I remember being totally worked. We wrapped it up and it went pretty well and I remember it as being a sign, 'O.k. This is something I’m capable of and this is something I really want to do.' So I zeroed in on the pursuit of big mountains at that point. I still had to go to school, but it’s what I wanted to do in the long term.

Real world activities are always intruding!
[Laughs] Yeah. Unfortunately you still have to do all that stuff for better or for worse!

PAFlete Spotlight: Dawn Glanc

Portland Alpine Festival | Nov. 13–18, 2017

See the Portland Alpine Festival's full lineup of 8 athletes here!

by Kristie Perry

Long before she started winning ice climbing competitions at the Ouray Ice Festival, Dawn Glanc (pronounced “glance”) was a straight-A student in search of a better physical outlet than softball—one of the few sports available to high school girls in the flat lands of the Cleveland, OH, suburb where she grew up. One outlet she found was Whipp’s Ledges, an outcropping of sandstone cliffs in a nearby park. “That was my first exposure to climbing,” Glanc says. At the time, it was mostly just “goofing off and partying with friends. We would scramble all over the place.”

Upon graduating from high school in 1993, Glanc set her sights on becoming an aerobics instructor and enrolled at Kent State University. Everything changed after a boyfriend introduced her to top-roping at the cliffs of Whipp’s Ledges. “I found that using the ropes was a much better idea. I fell in love with climbing instantly.

“I thought, ‘If someone would pay me to do this, I would climb all the time.’ With this mantra, I made climbing my life. Every career choice, relationship choice, and personal action I’ve made since then has revolved around climbing.”

In 1996, at the age of 21, she left Ohio for the Black Hills of South Dakota where she could pursue climbing and a degree in Outdoor Education. There she honed her rock skills and learned to ice climb. 

“Living in the Black Hills I had some of the best mentors and role models a girl could ask for,” Glanc says. “My partners in the Hills were with me through some of my most formative years. They inspired me and gave me the confidence to push my comfort bubble. They also taught me a lot about humility.” 

In 2004, Glanc was on the move again, this time to Bellingham, WA, where she embarked on a career, not as an aerobics instructor, but as an AMGA-certified mountain guide. Over the next eight years she climbed and guided clients of all ages and abilities throughout the western United States and Canada. 

Glanc now resides in Ouray, CO, where she is co-owner of Chicks Climbing and Skiing, an organization dedicated to educating and empowering women through mountain sports. While she is well-known for efforts to promote the advancement of women and girls in climbing, she has the same advice for all beginning climbers—male or female, young or old: 

“Hire a guide to teach you how to climb and how to use the proper systems. Climbing is a life-threatening sport, don't have some random person teach you. It’s your life, so be proactive in your own safety.”

Over the years, Glanc has climbed in France, Norway, Greece, Montenegro, Croatia, Sardinia, and Iceland. She enjoys demonstrating her mettle through competition and for many years was a frequent winner at the Ouray Ice Festival competitions, placing first in the women’s division in 2009 and 2011, second place in 2007 and 2012, and third place in 2010. She also won first place in mixed climbing at the Teva Winter Games in 2012 in Vail, CO.

Glanc says stubbornness and tenacity are what get her through most climbs. “The resistance to falling and the unwillingness to do the moves again are the secrets to my success.”

Despite her clear climbing prowess, Glanc is honest about her struggles. “I have to consciously quiet my brain if I want to send something,” she says. “I can’t tell you how many times songs in my head, conversations from below, or other distractions keep me from focusing up.”

Glanc is best known for her ice and mixed climbing skills and calls rock climbing her “demon.” 
“I don’t mention my rock climbing much because I am just an average climber if you take my ice tools and crampons away.” 

Glanc is such a big fan of her hometown of Ouray that in 2015 she decided to run for City Council. “I feel that citizens need to be involved if they want their community to thrive. I really enjoy the opportunity to serve and plan to run for a second term.”

Dawn is sponsored by Outdoor Research, La Sportiva, Black Diamond, Mountain Hardwear, Blue Water Ropes, and Julbo Sunglasses.

PAFlete Spotlight: Marcus Garcia

Portland Alpine Festival | Nov. 13–18, 2017

See the Portland Alpine Festival's full lineup of 8 athletes here!


by Karoline Gottschild

You began climbing in your early teens, and started adding incredible and death-defying exploits soon thereafter. Do we have to go back to diapers and toddlerhood to find you holding on to someone’s hand for safety, nervous or otherwise feeling incapacitated in some ‘non-badass’ ways?
I was very athletic right from childhood into adulthood. I recall one time, when we were about 11, my brother and I saw a zip line on a TV show. We promptly found some rope and made our own line. This didn’t go so well…but it was the start to new adventures. In high school, I played soccer, a runner, track and field, football, and power-lifting.

Could you tell us a bit about your early, formative years? Did you spend your entire youth in Texas? Did your parents or other family members positively influence your athletic direction in any way? 
Growing up in Texas, I had to learn to be diverse. My brother and I grew up with divorced parents that moved around a lot. We were extremely poor, and we had to make do with what we had. I would see my mom work hard to give us what she could, and she always told me ‘you can do anything if you just put the work into it’. This stuck with me. Both my parents were once athletes, but growing up, I lived mostly with other family members, in a small town. 

My family influenced me; but the neighborhood kids affected me the most. We grew up like in the movie The Sandlot. We always were doing something, but our biggest activities were seasonal sports. We played football, soccer, explored in the creeks, and basketball—every day after school and all summer long. 

Once I started high school sports, my coaches became my mentors. They gave me direction and support. During these years, my parents could not afford to house me, so I ended living with my uncle. 

He gave me the security that I had a real home to come home to. He also encouraged me in all of my athletic endeavors. Some mornings, he would get up at 5 a.m. and take me to school for the power-lifting workout that I did before my track workout. I also did my first climbing road trip with my uncle. But to be honest, it was the support I got from the kids I grew up with that truly helped define me as an athlete. Friends can have a monumental effect on a young person’s life. I am trying to give that back with the Youth Climbing Team program I have. 

I know you mentioned before that one of your most memorable climbs was in 1997 climbing on El Capitan. Your late friend and mentor fell 70 feet below you, zippering all equipment on the way down. Yet once the dust and rock bits settled—and even—thanks to El Nino—the ice—you both forged ahead and made summit. If that isn’t badass, I don’t know what is, yet to others it might seem foolhardy. What elements in your upbringing and gave you the quality of mind and spirit to prepare you for such focus, determination and character?
I wrote this quote, “one must learn to live with fear and not in fear,” and I took that to heart. Years later, after that defining trip on El Capitan, I wrote it down. I still live by it ... and suffering ... this is what makes us sometimes.

Perhaps, at this point, we need to define the term badass. After all, one person’s badass could be another person’s “day at the office.” How would you define it?
To me ‘badass’ is a term given to someone who is in control of his or her own adventure. Anyone can be a badass as long as they accept to live with fear and not in fear. Learn to live as if you are going to die tomorrow, and dream as if you are going to live forever. This is my motto in life.

Clearly, given that I have been asked to interview you, the Mazamas considers you a badass. Do you view yourself the same way? 
I do not consider myself a badass. I just enjoy doing what I do. I do what I do for myself, as it gives me life and meaning. I am a visionary—like the character in the movie Walter Mitty. This helps me see what is possible; then it is up to me to make it happen. 

Who are the main people in your life you look up to, or who have played a significant role in making you the man and climber you are today?
As I mentioned, my mom, my uncle, the neighborhood kids, and the coaches played an important role in my young life. Later, this would be Brian Clark and my late friend Jimmy Ray Forrester. Being tied together into the same ropes for years, you build a lasting bond and a trust that you know that person has your life in their hands. This allows you to climb at your best. Jimmy was a purist that would never give up. Our epic big wall trip on The Shield was a moment in my climbing life that defined me. That is what climbing is about for me, the adventure of the unknown. 

What is it about climbing that gives you that “rush” or that feeling of connection to life that your other sports such as soccer did not?
The adventure I go on that tests me both physically and mentally. I love the fact that it is up to me to get the rope up to the anchor, and sometimes to get us back safe.

What different direction do you think your life would have taken if you had not discovered climbing at 13? You also had a soccer scholarship at one point, but then the school dropped its program. Was this event pivotal in starting your climbing career?
I would have tried to be a professional athlete. I was big runner and a multi-sport athlete. Recently I found a quote in my high school yearbook: “My dream is to be an Olympic athlete and to have a gym of my own.” Funny, here I am—I’m a climbing gym owner, and I coach the USA Youth Ice Climbing team as an Olympic Development Team.

What do you think were some of the major life changing events that you are grateful for, but that also were the toughest? 
One life changing event occurred during that epic climb Jimmy and I had on The Shield. After we had cleared the ice from our ropes, sipped the water off the lichen covered wall, and popped a few of our last M&M peanuts, we looked at each other and made a promise that if anything were to happen to one of us, that we would each bring the other home. Well, after we topped out, I fractured my foot, which dropped me face first in a pool of water that nearly drowned me. I was too weak to push myself up. Jimmy rushed over and pulled me out of the water. He then kept a watchful eye on me during our entire decent. 

When I heard of his death that occurred during an annual trip to El Portero Chico, Mexico, (a trip that he and I did together for years establishing routes ground-up, until I became a father), I happened to be in Fort Worth visiting family. Jimmy was from Fort Worth too. That’s when I got the call. I had to do the hardest thing in my life. I drove to his mom’s house, who had not seen me in a long time. I was like her other child. When she opened the door, she knew instantly. Still to this day, I find myself in tears telling this story. (And this November will be the 11th year anniversary.)

After I told his mom, I immediately got on a flight with just the clothes on my back and a camera. I had to fly down to ID him and claim the body, and escort his body back home. I kept my promise we made years ago. I also had to climb the route that he died on, to retrieve parts of him and his belongings. I buried what the Mexican rescue team left behind under the Virgin Mary that stands over the approach to the route. 

You have indicated in other interviews that climbing allows you to focus and to find your spiritual balance to take on life’s other daily challenges. What do you consider are your most trying ‘daily challenges’? 
“Adulting.” I am going through a divorce. I have daughter who lives in Atlanta, Georgia now. Trying to be a long-distance parent over the phone is hard. I am also in the process of rebuilding my gym after we were forced to move out of the building we were in for years. Dealing with politics and not having real answers for the members of the gym who are waiting patiently. 

I have seen your videos climbing desert towers, ice climbing and setting unprecedented new routes. Has having a family changed your priorities and risk-assessment?
We just had a good friend suffer a serious climbing accident. My daughter and my soon to be ex-wife were upset. Because my daughter is now old enough to understand what could happen, I talked to her about it. I want her to understand that these things happen, but that I am always thinking about her. I also have a check system that keeps me safe. 

Some climbers eat, sleep and ... well eat and sleep climbing! They live out of their cars, or from their sponsor’s, family’s or significant others’ largesse. I’m sure a lot of people think of them as the real badasses. What is your opinion?
To me what defines you as the real badass, is what you do with your life. It’s not what you have, or what you sleep in, but it’s the adventure you dream and live.

Is perhaps the ultimate badass someone like you—a person who has defied death on many occasions, someone who has managed by skill and luck (probably by a serendipitous combination of both) to reach incredible new summits, to develop popular new routes, create a family, and a successful climbing-related business? Well, unless you object—I think that will be my definition of a bad ass: Marcus Garcia. 
Thank you for your words. I wish my marriage would have been successful, but life has a way of teaching and showing us that we have and will always be learning and growing. This is what makes us successful. To be able to persevere in life.

Is there something else you would like me to ask you or that you’d just like to share to give a more complete picture of who you are or strive to be?
To me being a mentor is the most rewarding part of my life. I love teaching and sharing my skills and dreams with others. It is up to the more skilled climbers like myself, and the gym owners, to help educate others, and to share what climbing is about—the life adventures that climbing takes us on. Climbing to me is a lifelong sport. In a way, it is a way of life for me. It helps me to understand life and deal with the challenges it presents.

PAFlete Spotlight: Katie Bono

Portland Alpine Festival | Nov. 13–18, 2017

See the Portland Alpine Festival's full lineup of 8 athletes here!

by Jonathan Barrett

Katie Bono grew up as a cross country ski racer, and self-identifies as a climber/athlete as a result. It is an attitude and point of view that helped create her most publicly visible climbing achievements: women’s speed records on both Rainier and Denali. However, it is her unbridled enthusiasm for climbing that has carried her forward and opened many doors for her.

At Dartmouth, where she went to college, there was an overlap between the Nordic skiers and the climbers. It was through those connections that she found her own passion for climbing. In the summer of 2008, between her sophomore and junior year, she went with friends to climb her first multi-pitch, Dolomite Wall on Cannon. The route sees few ascents, perhaps because one guide to the area describes it as, “one of the more challenging and exposed free climbs on Cannon. Runouts, micro wires, and loose rock are the norm.” When she left the base, she thought to herself that she didn’t need a headlamp. Ultimately she and her friends had a minor epic when time ran out and she discovered that “sharing” a headlamp ostensibly means walking down in the dark. While some might have been scared off, Katie was hooked by the experience. She continued to learn and grow as climber, and she fed off these climbs that tested her body and her willingness to suffer. Several years later in the Canadian Rockies on her first true alpine climb, she learned that a 20% chance of precipitation has a different meaning than the American Southwest. Significant snowfall resulted in an overnight, exposed bivy on the summit of Castle Mountain after 20 pitches of climbing. Again, her love for the climbing was cemented by an experience that others might find harrowing.

As a climber/athlete she approaches the discipline of climbing with discipline. “I really like trying hard, to find where my limits are,” she says, noting that the mental challenges of climbing are as important to her as the physical ones. Along the way, as she progressed, there were many people who influenced her and supported her, not the least of which being Will Gadd and Sarah Hueniken when she lived in Canmore. Ultimately she credits much of her success to her enthusiasm. It was something that Gadd recognized and which was born on the cliffs of New Hampshire. She feels very fortunate that a wide range of talented climbers saw in her a sincere passion for the sport and were willing to foster that passion even when her talents as a climber were still just emerging.