American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

A.A.C., Oregon Section

  • Club Activities
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1999

AAC, Oregon Section. A unique gathering of people interested in the many issues concerning mountaineering in Tibet occurred in Portland this year. American Alpine Club members Tom Bennett, Bob McGown, Jean Fitzgerald, Neale Creamer and Ian Wade, together with Barbara Brower and Christine LeDoux, took on the task of arranging the premiere Mazama Tibet Conference. Among the themes elaborated on were Ethics of Expeditions in an Occupied Tibet, Environmental Status of Tibet, and Present Mountaineering and Trekking Opportunities in Tibet. Special thanks go to Bill and June Hackett for hosting the conference reception, which turned out to be a great celebration and reunion.

At the pre-conference reception in the home of AAC and Mazama member Bill Hackett, conference speakers and Mazamas met and a lively exchange of information ensued. The highlight of the evening was the reunion of Lowell Thomas, Jr. and Khando Chazotang after 49 years. Khando, a niece of the Dalai Lama, was a four-year-old child living in Lhasa in 1949, and her photograph appears in Lowell’s book Out of This World. Many of the presenters also enjoyed a summit climb of Mt. Hood. Since the conference, Tom Bennett has worked on a Mazama trek with Gary McCue to the Lhasa region; planning is underway.

In other section activity, there has been an accessibility crisis on a popular crag, the Madrone Wall, to which the Access Fund representative and Oregon section members have dedicated a considerable block of time. An excellent, air-vesicled red rock basalt quarry, the Madrone Wall is in danger of becoming a gravel pit. The climbing area, close to Portland, boasts approximately 150 south-facing sport and traditional climbing routes up to 150 feet in length. AAC members Lloyd Athearn, Jennafer Elias-Reed and Michael Lewis wrote significant letters to Clackamas County exhorting the value of the Madrone Wall as a park. Oregon section member Tom Thrall (AAC Conservation chairman and Mazamas access), Ian Caldwell (Access Fund Oregon chairman), Keith Daellenbach, Max Davenport, Cris Carey (AAC), John Parssons, Susie McKim, Brian Walsh (webmaster), Mike Farrel, et al, have been actively meeting for the past year. We are presently awaiting a review of quarry data by mining engineer John Sprecker. Cris Carey and Kassem Ferris have been working closely with the Madrone Committee as legal counsel. Marty Groff and Dillon Wheeler put on a climbing fund raiser that brought in $900 for the committee’s mailing expenses.

The largest gathering of K2 veterans ever assembled took place on the weekend of November 20-22 in Portland. The 1998 American K2 Reunion was sponsored by the Mazama youth climbing organization, Explorer Post 936. Organizers were Oregon AAC members Peter Green and John Youngman with Susan Barber, Mary Wolin, Josh Field and Jim Johnson. Originally billed as the 20th reunion of the first successful American ascent team of K2 in 1978, the 1998 American K2 Reunion grew into a two-day festival featuring 25 members of past expeditions to the world’s second highest mountain. Climbers dating back to the 1938 expedition attended the festivities. This was the first time the 1978 team had assembled since their landmark ascent that put four climbers on the summit. Members of the 1978 team in attendance were Jim Whittaker, Dianne Roberts, Jim Wickwire, Craig Anderson, Bill Sumner, Skip Edmonds, Rick Ridgeway, Rob Schaller and John Roskelley. The entire seven-man membership of the 1953 expedition to K2—Charles Houston, Bob Bates, Pete Schoening, Bob Craig, George Bell, Dee Molenaar and Tony Streather—attended the banquet. Molenaar called it “the greatest gathering of mountaineers.... (the) friendliest and most purposeful I’ve seen in many years.” Houston and Bates were members of the first American K2 expedition in 1938.

The weekend began with a Friday night slide show by Greg Child that described his harrowing ascent of the north ridge of K2. Almost 1,100 people attended his show. The highlight of the weekend was a gala banquet held Saturday night and attended by 250 guests. Dr. Charles Houston presented a slide show and history of the American attempt on K2 in 1938. Jim Whittaker, leader of the successful 1978 expedition, shared his memories of the trip and then invited each team member to speak to the audience about his or her individual experiences. For many of the attendees, the weekend offered an extensive opportunity to visit with the climbers both before and after the banquet.

Planning is ongoing for the K2000 Climb of K2’s North Ridge to celebrate the millennium and to start a clean-up plan for the Chinese side of the mountain. The team hopes to clean up and remove expedition debris from the route as well as from Base Camp to the camel drop. We feel that gathering the waste and packaging it will be relatively easy. If anyone has any ideas on how to get the CMA’s cooperation in transporting the garbage loads out to the road, please share them with us. We are working with Brent Bishop and hope that this can be accomplished in a fashion that can be repeated for every trip to the north side of K2. Members of the team include: Paul Teare, Robert Anderson, Jeff Alzner, Wayne Wallace, Shawn O’Fallon, Zigfried Emme, Virginia Russel, Mike Bearzi, Charles Hsieh, Ivan Ramirez, Drew Hansen, and Fred Ziel. Please contact expedition leader Jeff Alzner (503-245-8501) or Bob McGown (503-244-0078) for details.

In climbing news, Jeff Alzner and Wayne Wallace ascended the West Buttress route on Denali in training for the K2 climb. Ed Godschalk, an active Oregon section member, actually ascended a WI2 waterfall in the Oregon coast range during an oceanic cold front.

William Atkinson of the New England section, Nobel prize recipient and former VP of the AAC Henry Kendall, Bob McGown and Lisa Randall met to discuss east coast climbing and AAC section activity. It was an enjoyable visit.

Bob McGown, with Peter Green

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