American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

The Mazamas

  • Club Activities
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1998

The Mazamas. The Climbing Committee, chaired by Susan Pyle Erickson, scheduled 288 climbs, which included 41 Basic School climbs, 23 winter climbs, 19 Explorer Post climbs, and six Ski Mountaineering climbs. The usual surly Northwest weather caused some of those scheduled climbs to fail or be canceled.

Recipients in the Mazama Awards Program numbered: (nine) Three Guardian Peaks (Hood, St. Helens, Adams); (four) Seven Oregon Cascades (Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack, Washington, Three Sisters); (11) 16 Major Peaks (all of the above, plus Olympus, Baker, Shuksan, Glacier, Stuart, Shasta); and (one) Leuthold Award (leading all 16 Major Peaks).

The Climber’s Hot Line was used again to communicate climbs with vacancies and newly scheduled climbs. A numbering system for ropes was initiated to track the usage and need for change of the grade of worn or damaged ropes to less demanding service.

The Mazamas are in the middle of forest access problems, a dilemma shared by climbing and hiking clubs across the nation. USFS, state parks and national park areas are demanding smaller parties and stricter registration for use. Climbing fees are now being introduced in many of these areas, and it is often difficult to schedule training sessions on glaciers because of government regulations. To cope with this problem, the Climbing Committee instituted the Access Subcommittee to monitor the maze of regulations and deal with agencies. This, of course, is a strange position for a club like The Mazamas, which has conservation as one of its cornerstones.

The Basic Climbing Program enrolled 220 participants. These were divided into groups of nine students with about four instructors for each group. In addition to rock and snow training, the groups were required to add several training hikes, usually longer day trips into difficult terrain. The Intermediate Climbing Program graduated all of its 40 participants, despite uncooperative weather at Timberline on Mount Hood and Horsethief Butte in the Columbia River Gorge. The Advanced Rock Program enrolled 19, and the Advanced Snow and Ice Program had ten participants. The Leadership Training Program enrolled 19; five were approved as leaders. The backlog of leaders continues to diminish at a serious rate as more and more demands are made for additional training for leaders, some of whom have been established for many years.

The Outing Committee, chaired by Barbara Becker, sponsored trips to the Rogue River, Hart Mountain, the Tetons, Baja California, Ecuador, Peru, England, Norway and the Swiss Alps, where Barbara’s husband lost his life.

The Swiss Alps party enjoyed a very successful climbing vacation until it ended in tragedy on August 4. Terry Becker, leading a climb on the Wetterhom (Bernese Oberland), fell 1,500 feet to his death from a snow couloir while retrieving a rappel rope. The climbing party witnessed only a part of his tumble, several minutes after they had heard his muffled shouts from above. It is generally believed that natural, not climber’s error, forces caused the accident. Terry Becker served as club President in 1994 and had a long record of difficult leads to his credit.

The Trail Trips Committee, chaired by Martin Hanson, continued its spiral upward in enthusiasm and participation, with 528 trips attracting 5,007 participant days. Besides a strong program of weekend hikes, the committee has built great interest in the “Street Rambles,” which start at the clubrooms and cover parts of Portland’s huge west side park areas. In 1997, other rambles were added for the Lake Oswego and Glendoveer areas. The Trail Tenders subcommittee of 11 members pushed forward in their program to improve trails of the area with pick, shovel, axe and pruning shears. Ray Sheldon’s major effort on Mount Hood’s Cathedral Ridge Trail, now officially named the Mazama Trail, has come to an end. Sheldon’s project involved several hundred club members working on week outings and weekends. Rebuilding the trail required a vast amount of heavy work and untiring perseverance.

1997 was a salient year for the fiscal managers of The Mazamas, when the major assets of the club were placed into a separate trust. This significant move had been planned and suggested for two decades before President Robert Hyslop, Treasurer Howard Hanson and the Executive Council finally “took the bull by the horns.”

Jack Grauer, Historian

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