American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing


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  • Publication Year: 1971

Mazamas. The Mazamas of Portland, Oregon, scored a significant breakthrough in its 1970 climbing school results. The new format was laboriously formulated by Dick Laird, who headed the basic school with Ray Sheldon’s assistance. An opening night of lectures packed the auditorium before the selection of any students. Different speakers told the audience of the joys of climbing on the one hand, and of the miseries and hardships on the other. The full scope of the school’s activities was laid out. This avoided the signup of students who were really not interested in serious mountaineering, or who were primarily interested in learning about backpacking or general outdoor knowledge. Follow-up lectures were then given to a smaller, more apt audience. The scheduling of field sessions was completely different from the old pattern of a couple of rock sessions and a couple of snow sessions. Students were required to attend one of each kind. The old system had led to a mad scramble for trained instructors, sometimes leading to an excess, sometimes to a shortage of them. Laird’s new system split the school into 14 groups, eachunder the direction of one lead instructor. Each group of 24 students had seven instructors under the lead instructor. The leader picked his team in advance and scheduled belay and knot briefing, snow trip, and rock trip to the satisfaction and convenience of the group. Students could then sign into any group and be assured of a proper instructor-student ratio. Results were remarkably better than in the past. Instructors quickly came to know the newcomers as individuals, and could follow through with student problems from one session to the next. Also, instructors were more cooperative, because they knew they were needed on specific dates, and they quickly formed a sense of responsibility toward the students. Attendance ran much higher. The highest percentage of graduation from basic school in past years was 39%. In 1970 65% of the students who enrolled, completed the course. A total of 329 people started the course, and 212 graduated.

The Mazamas scheduled 191 climbs for the 1970 season of summer climbing. Of these 144 left town, and 122 were successful, indicating a moderately good weather pattern during the year. Outings and the winter climbing program added many ascents to that number. Most notable was a fortunate outing in Europe with good weather almost the entire trip. An outing at the end of June took many climbers and many hikers to the Ruby Mountains near Elko, Nevada. This little visited area offered many interesting ascents of little known peaks. Snow was heavy, but climbing there later in the year may well be hot and dry. A hiking outing took a large group to Hawaii to explore the “big island” quite thoroughly.

Jack Grauer

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