Up until 2008, our adventures were retained only as memories and on Kodachromes. While our memories may have faded (just a bit), the Kodachromes haven’t – and we have a lot of them. So we’re digitizing a select few to bring some of our past adventures into the 21st Century. This is one of those.
The Mazamas is a Portland, Oregon-based non-profit organization, founded in 1894, that sponsors a variety of outdoor activities, principally mountaineering. My first “real” mountain climb – of Mount Hood – was in May 1972, as the graduation climb for their basic mountaineering course (an attempt on Hood is no longer part of this course). The next month I left Oregon for school and work and didn’t return for 23 years. When fate brought us back to Portland in 1995, I rejoined the Mazamas and started pursuing the fabled 16 Major Northwest Peaks (Mt. Baker, Mt. Shuksan, Glacier Peak, Mt. Olympus, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Stuart, Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Hood, Mt. Jefferson, Three-Fingered Jack, Mt. Washington, North Sister, Middle Sister, South Sister, Mt. Shasta). By 2000, I’d climbed all 16 as a climbing party member and, after becoming a climb leader in 2000, had led all 16 by 2006.
Unlike the spur-of-the-moment climbs I used to do in California’s Sierra Nevada (and elsewhere) with a small cadre of similarly disposed climbing buddies, each Mazama climb had to be an official climb, with attendant restrictions and requirements. Lots of things – lots of things – could derail an official climb and I had my share of derails (nothing serious – only altitude sickness or bad weather). Allowing for work, business travel, family obligations, a year-long fellowship back East, and scheduling conflicts, I’m still a little amazed that I topped all 16 twice in just 10 years. Did I conquer these peaks? Have I ever conquered any peak? Ah, no. Nature could have conquered me at any time on any peak with a shift in the weather, a crack in the snow, a bit of loose rock, whatever. Nature doesn’t care and she bats last – best never to forget that. I climbed mountains for the personal challenge, for the camaraderie, for the experiences, and for the memories. It was a privilege to be allowed to stand …in the white windy presence of eternity.
I led the last of my 16 – Glacier Peak – in 2006 and, after that, called it quits on anymore “real” mountaineering (OK, I backslid a couple of times). But, after 34 wonderful years in the mountains, I was starting to worry about wearing out my welcome. Better to move on than be moved on (or plowed under). So on to lots of hiking and photography and rafting and other outdoorsy stuff. I’d probably pursue fly fishing if I could convince myself that I was smarter, or at least sneakier, than a trout. So far, no luck with that. My aim now is to just be able to experience the back of beyond for as long as possible – to just stay healthy enough so that it can always be a part of my life.