American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

A.A.C., Oregon Section

  • Club Activities
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2002

AAC, Oregon Section. Throughout the year 2001 the Oregon Section was very active in working on matters of conservation, access, and trail building. With funding from a Lyman Spitzer grant, stairs were built and 210 feet of bouldering landing were prepared at Rocky Butte with a retaining wall and a bark-dust crash pad. Matt Brewster supplied a crane to place railroad ties and provided a portable generator for doweling and cutting. Keith Campbell provided transport for the ties and worked with others cutting, filling, and shoring the landing zone. Doug Hutchinson and Matt put in many hours with the shovels and sledges grooming the 5- foot-wide landing zone to perfection. This project was the direct result of AAC Access Committee incentives. Most satisfying of all were the constant positive, grateful comments by climbers who were using the wall during the construction period. Trail building and maintenance were also done at Broughton’s Bluff and at Waterboard Park in Oregon City.

Doug Hutchinson, Richard Bence, and Bob McGown attended multiple meetings of the Madrone Wall Preservation Committee, to which the Section contributed $1,300 from fund raising. Taylor Hunt and Bob McGown led a geological research field trip to the Madrone Wall and Clackamas River Basin climbing areas. Twenty amateur geologists studied the proto- Columbia River, while the local climbers entertained them with their vertical antics. The field trip’s intent was to have Portland State University’s chapter of the Geological Society of Oregon supplement their study program with the geology of the hidden crags of the Clackamas River Basin. New member Greg Orton has contributed detailed, extensive access information to southwest Oregon climbing areas for his new guide book and Web site of southwest Oregon rock climbs,

Several access initiatives have arisen from the Section’s initial involvement with the Road 18 Caves EA presented by the U.S.Forest Service. Despite the alliance of Access Fund Conservation Director, Kath Pike (Central Rockies Section), local climbing gyms and climbing clubs, local Section members like Bob Speik and Tom Willard, and a concerted effort at education and information distribution, the Forest Service has adopted a draconian plan that will effectively prohibit climbing in the two lava caves under discussion. There are many excellent routes in the caves of 5.12-5.13 difficulty, presenting a daunting if enchanting prospect. All the climbs are located within about 50 feet of the entrance even to the largest of the caves (40- to 45-foot ceiling height), and given the steepness and sustained nature of the climbing, are not over protected. The Forest Service plan is under appeal, and it is not too late to modify the perception that “sport climbing” has done irreparable harm to caves that have been used for everything from bootlegging to rock concerts and spontaneous keggers for several decades. Since, in part at least, the controversy over the Road 18 Caves arose out of a lack of awareness by climbers that others are sensitive to their activities, the Section has become more active in informing climbers of access issues and providing information about climbing areas where concerns must be respected by climbers.

In conjunction with the Mazama Access Committee, Richard Bence has been creating a database of over 200 climbing areas in Oregon and southern Washington, of which only about a dozen have access issues. This database, available on the Section’s Web site, allows members to check for local access issues before climbing in an area. If members find problems with an area, they can report these through forms or e-mail that will update the Web site.

Thanks to the efforts of Jeff Alzner, the Oregon Section conducted an exchange with the Central Rockies Section. Jeff spoke in Fort Collins, Golden, and Boulder, raising funds for the Central Rockies Section with his K2000 and other Himalayan experiences. We then brought Mike Bearzi to Oregon to present his show on the first free ascent of Cerro Torre. This show was a great success, offering an awe-inspiring look at the legendary peaks of Patagonia from the ice cap. The Section raised nearly $2,500 for the Madrone Wall Preservation Committee and for a new rescue litter for Smith Rock State Park from these presentations Another entertaining evening event for our members featured a program by Andy Selters called Mountain Spirit.

There were several dinner gatherings of the Oregon Section during the year. A particularly enjoyable one was an informal planning meeting at Richard Bence’s home for all committee members. Tom Thrall hosted a dinner meeting in his hand-hewn Cascadian home deep in Oregon’s Coast Range. Tom shared his contributions to the new Sierra Club hiking guide, Neale Creamer told of his adventures in Canada, and John Harlin III gave a slideshow on Baffin Island. Doug Hutchinson and Matt Sullivan gave a talk on various peaks they have climbed and attempted in Canada, including Mt. Robson, in the last two years

Many other events involving the Section ranged from crag gardening projects to Bob Speik’s consultations with state committees looking into providing interpretive kiosks at Smith Rock. Tom Bennett has been the source of a steady flow of news and events relating to climbing and climbing personalities visiting the Portland area. Jill Kellogg and Rick Bestwick were elected to the board of directors of Cascades Mountaineers, with Jill’s becoming president succeeding Bob Speik.

The Oregon Section is extremely proud of our Web site,, capably and creatively webmastered by Richard Bence. The Web site has many outstanding images and a wealth of information about Section activities and events, member profiles, general climbing and bouldering information, links, and much more. We encourage all of our members to contribute news of their activities and photos for inclusion on the site. The Web site is part of the Section’s concerted effort to be proactive with all climbers in the area, addressing issues of access; providing liason with land managers, public authorities, and other climbing groups in our area; and having events of interest to all climbers in general. The climbing culture in Oregon is rich and diverse, and we wish to be a rallying point for that diversity through the Section’s activism and participation in local issues and events.

Bob McGown, Chair

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