American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

The Mountaineers

  • Club Activities
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  • Publication Year: 1993

The Mountaineers. Early in 1992, The Mountaineers published the fifth edition of Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills, which for more than 30 years has been the definitive, comprehensive textbook for beginning and intermediate mountaineers throughout the United States. A volunteer group of some two-dozen veteran Mountaineers worked meticulously to fully revise and update the entire book. The Freedom of the Hills has new or expanded descriptions and illustrations on dozens of topics, such as avalanche and crevasse rescue, double-rope technique, seconding traverses and pendulums, equalizing protection placements, plastic boots, rock shoes, step-in/clamp-on crampons, ice- climbing tools, belay and rappel devices and more. The fifth edition also includes an entirely new chapter on winter and expedition climbing, prepared by expedition climbers Nancy Jackson and Kurt Hanson. In the spring of 1990, shortly after completing her work on The Freedom of the Hills, Nancy Jackson was killed in an avalanche on Nepal’s 26,760-foot Manaslu.

The Basic Climbing Course offered by The Mountaineers is a year-long course consisting of six field trips (Knots, Belay Setup, Rock I & II, Snow I & II and Crevasse Rescue), and several lectures, including one which covers basic navigational skills using map and compass. Students must complete all field trips, attend all lectures and pass the quizzes, then successfully summit one rock climb, one glacier climb and one climb of their choice from a list. Graduates may participate in any of the nearly 200 Basic Experience Climbs offered from May through September. Basic Climbs vary in difficulty from one-day alpine climbs involving little more than setting up a handline over a slightly exposed area to two- or three-day climbs of the heavily glaciated peaks of Mounts Rainier (14,410 feet), Baker (10,778 feet) or Olympus (7956 feet, with a 22-mile approach). Students receive training necessary for travelling safely over glaciers and rock, and general skills necessary for survival in the mountains, including ice-axe arrest, setting up a Z-Pulley system for crevasse rescue, cleaning a pitch, and tying off an injured climber. In addition, students acquire the skills necessary to move safely over low fifth-class rock. In 1992, over 200 students enrolled in the course and close to 120 graduated.

Under the auspices of The Mountaineers International Exchange Committee, five climbers traveled to New Zealand where they were hosted by Ben Winnubst and Richard Pearson, Past President, of the New Zealand Alpine Club (NZAC). Ken Bryan, Joe Chaffee, Steve Cox, Max Junejo and team leader Donna Rigas were welcomed by NZAC officers at a giant barbecue. Richard and Ben guided the group to many of the best climbing areas on New Zealand’s South Island. A week was spent in Mount Cook National Park, where the climbers were successful on several summits. They utilized NZAC huts at the top of the Tasman Glacier and high in the Beetham Valley as base camps. Plainly visible was the scar from the recent collapse of Mount Cook’s east face. One-day climbs were enjoyed on Rapaki Rock at Christchurch, Arthur Pass National Park and the Sea Cliffs at Sea Dreamer Wall and Wonder Wall at Charleston. The team also enjoyed a day at one of New Zealand’s finest areas, climbing on the sandstone sculptures of the Castle Hill Conservation Area. Precious rock drawings are reminders that ancient Maori tribal groups often visited the area seasonally to gather food. The area also shelters some of New Zealand’s most rare and endangered plants. The Mountaineers is deeply grateful for the kindness and hospitality that was extended to the team while in New Zealand, and was privileged to host a NZAC climber during her visit to the Northwest.

In 1992, as part of our ongoing concern for the safe, responsible and enjoyable use of the mountains and wilderness, The Mountaineers adopted a formal policy on wilderness ethics and backcountry use, aimed toward minimizing the impact of our 13,500 members on these beautiful and often fragile areas. As a club which sponsors nearly 2000 wilderness activities for our members every year, we recognize our responsibility to keep our impact as low as possible. In addition to promoting wilderness ethics and minimum impact education in all club courses and activities, the new policy also sets a maximum limit of twelve people on Mountaineer outings. Smaller limits may be imposed as warranted by the sensitivity of the environment or safety considerations. The heart of the policy is the following eight principles: 1) Stay on established trails; do not cut switchbacks. 2) Camp in established campsites whenever available. Do not camp in fragile meadows. Camp on snow or rocks when away from established campsites. 3) Properly dispose of human waste away from water, trails and campsites. 4) Use a camp stove instead of building a fire. 5) Wash well away from camps and water sources. 6) Leave flowers, rocks and other natural features undisturbed. 7) Keep wildlife healthy and self-reliant by not feeding them. Pack out all uneaten food. Leave pets at home. 8) Pack out all party litter plus a share of that left by other parties. In addition to this work, we began an outreach program in September to bring our conservation message into K-12 classrooms in Seattle schools.

The Mountaineers worked with Volunteers for Outdoor Washington and the USDA Forest Service to transform an abandoned stretch of the Great Northern Railway near Stevens Pass in the Cascade Mountains into a day hiking trail called the Iron Goat. The goal is to convert 12 miles of Great Northern Railway constructed in the early 1890s and abandoned in 1929 when the New Cascade Tunnel was built. The first four miles of the Iron Goat Trail will be dedicated October 2, 1993, on the 25th anniversary of the signing of the National Recreational Trail Act. This event will also commemorate the centennial year of the Great Northern Railway, which, crossing the Cascade Mountains, opened the Pacific Northwest to trade and settlement. In 1992, 281 volunteers participated in 45 work parties. Our work on this rail-trail conversion will continue into 1993 and beyond.

DoNNa Price, Activities Division Chairwoman

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