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The Mountaineers

The Mountaineers. Most of the formal climbing activity in The Mountaineers is centered on the climbing courses that the club has been conducting since the early 1930’s. A basic course is presented for those who have limited experience in the mountains and is designed to provide novices with the information, skills, and experience to qualify them to do moderately difficult climbing on rock, snow, and glaciated peaks. Club members who have graduated from the Basic Course or who have other suitable credentials are eligible for the Intermediate Course where more advanced techniques and leadership are stressed.

Because of the Climbing Committee’s feeling that the Basic Course was being somewhat diluted by the presence of many people whose interest was restricted to the non-technical portions of the program, a third course, which was dubbed “Alpine Travel”, was initiated in 1968. Fundamentals of general mountaineering appropriate to the Northwest mountains are covered, including choice of equipment, navigation, safety, cooking, geology and botany. An ice-axe practice is also required because of the almost year-round presence of snow at the higher elevations in the Cascade and Olympic ranges. Two years of experience with the Alpine Travel Course has proven that there was a demand for a program of this nature and that the climbing courses were improved by providing an outlet for those whose interest stopped short of technical climbing.

In the 1969 Basic Climbing Course 272 mountaineers enrolled and 147 graduated. In the five-year Intermediate program, 290 were active and 15 completed all requirements in 1969. Only 39 of the 146 enrollees in the Alpine Travel Course completed the requirements with the majority of the drop-outs indicating that they were satisfied with what they had learned from the lecture portion of the program.

Eighty-nine credit climbs for the Basic Climbing Course were scheduled and 82 were successfully completed. Of these, 12 were rated as glacier climbs, 32 as rock climbs, 13 as combination rock and glacier climbs, and 25 were unclassified. Summits were reached on 12 of the 19 Intermediate Experience climbs that were scheduled. The fall of the rope team on the Emmons Glacier on Mount Rainier during a Basic Experience climb resulted in the death of two students and serious injuries to a third. A lengthy investigation and critique of the incident are now being completed. Twenty-one non-credit recreation climbs were sponsored by The Mountaineers and 13 were completed with an average participation of eight club members. The Little Yoho Valley in the Canadian Rockies was chosen as the base for the 1969 Climber’s Outing. A number of climbs in the area were done by small groups from among the 75 people who attended. Despite the large numbers of people enrolled in climbing programs sponsored by the club and the numerous climbs that are included in the formal schedule, there is little doubt that the bulk of the climbing done by Mountaineers is unrecorded. While most Climbing Course graduates give their time freely to provide instruction and assistance for subsequent courses, most also feel that, having gained the “freedom of the hills” from the training they have received, they prefer to do their serious climbing independently with families and friends. That they have the qualifications to do so is, of course, the aim of The Mountaineers’ climbing course program.

Jack Titland, Chairman, Climbing Committee