Climbing With John
1975 to whenever he says, "forget it Don"
Frisco, Oct 1975:
When you climb with John you have to get use to going places and climbing
things you've never heard of before. In this "period", John was into
first ascents. Maybe this was one, because I'd never heard of it.
Lesson#1: "If it's green, it's good." Learned swinging our way down
a brushy cliffy section. Could John have possibly underestimated the
steepness of this descent route? Or just that I was taken aback by the
terrain John considers "standard".
"We should average 1000 ft an hour ascending with packs." This
was a thick, steep, miserable several hours squeezing through and mowing over
small trees and brush. "The toughest part of Cascade climbing is often below
the timberline." Right John. My first major rappel was 30 to 40 feet off
the summit. I think we practiced near railroad tracks in Renton.
"If in doubt, follow the stream out." We did this the first weekend after
the "North Cross State" highway was plowed. This is, by the way, the
proper name of the new highway according to John. (Remember, that according
to him the North Cascades National Park doesn't even exist.) The snow
was so soft on the way out that we were sinking up to our thighs (under
beautiful blue skies after a climb on warm gold rock), so we wadded out
Swamp Creek for the last 2000 ft to the road.
So. Twin Sister:
Climbed with Ron Arnoff and Dave Stonington.
Trapper's Peak -- First Winter Ascent:
Started off with the famous Huckleberry pancakes and Newhalem stories told
by Virginia. We got to about 50 feet from the summit then realized that,
without crampons, it would be unsafe to continue. We got back around
8pm, just as Virginia was reassuring Pam that things were probably fine,
even if we were out all night.
Bear and Tombstone -- 4th of July, 1980:
My stomach dropped as the swirling clouds cleared slightly and I could
see that the summit ridge and summit dropped off very steeply on one
side and had an overhang with a cannonball hole looking straight down
on the other. We all got cabin fever waiting for the weather to clear,
so John led us off on a route to Tombstone and Spickard with visability
frequently closing down to 30 yards. Between altimeter and topo map,
John lead us this way and that, stopping to snack and catching a glimpse
of Mox Peaks. We gained a first ascent of Tombstone (John picking an
appropriate name to commemorate Mr. Spickard's death on his namesake)
without ever seeing the mountain. I was so impressed with John's route
finding that I went out and bought an altimeter. John showed me how to
use it to predict the weather. John discovered on of my mind games of
this trip. He pointed out to me "the worse the weather gets, the more
red you put on (damn it)"
Mt. Challenger and Mt. Whatcom -- July 198?:
My first major peak, defined by me and somebody else having heard of it,
my first time into the Pickets, the heaviest pack I've ever started out
with, and the happiest ending after a doubtful start. After a soggy day
carrying this pack up Big Beaver valley, we arrive at the shelter at
the pass to head off 90 degrees west and up to the Luna Cirque. We find
the following message scratched on the wall: Challenger: 1 Us: 0.
We bag this route into the Southern Pickets and swing around to attack
Mt. Challenger from the north (John's idea, of course). This allows time
for the weather to break and a spectacular ending with Gary leading 2+
exciting pitches to the summit. From there, all Gary could talk about
was the "quart of cold milk: that his wife would have for him at the
car. John had something else on his mind.
Silver Star's Little Comet (down the ridge and probably a first ascent):
A shoulder stand was ordered by Capt. John as the crux move to gain the summit.
He was on the bottom.
The Distal Phalanx:
I had to exit before the party reached timberline, but participated in
John's greatest tactical maneuver: a Tyrolean Traverse (over Thunder
East McMillan Spire - Sept. 1993:
Hiking up Goodel Creek, all of a sudden John stops us and says, "we head up
from here." I could see absolutely nothing indicating this as a route into
the Southern Pickets. Halfway up we skirted a cliffy section and ended
up above timberline exactly where we needed to be.
I couldn't believe that the next day we were going to traverse around this
enormous cirque, climb a steep snow chute (which John knows I love to do,
and let me lead), then free climb the ridgeline to the summit and return.
Truly a dream day. Let's all forget the helicopter.
Mt. Prophet -- Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Garden of Eden:
Rest stop, 2/3 of the way to timberline up from Big Beaver and Monty looks
white as a sheet and says he feels awful. I can't remember any complaints
from him the rest of the trip, but he had quadruple by-pass surgery 3
Our exit march down the ridge from The Garden, the drop off the ridgeline,
bushwhack to Big Beaver below, and the hike to our pickup on Ross Lake
was orchestrated by John with rest stops timed to the minute. John said
the boat would wait 15 minutes, 20 max. We arrived at Ross Lake 10 minutes
before the pickup.
Mt. Booker - Sept. 1995:
The original Cascade Pass trail must have a reputation. Anyway, to liven
things up, I started this trip off with a double forward roll down an
avalanche slope. Somebody at the end of the line thought I was a bear.
The 400-foot bushwhack up a brushy cliff from Blackhawk Mine to the cirque
below Sawtooth Ridge and Booker with a full pack was a bitch. I felt
bad all that evening and realized in the tent with Charlie that I was
in atrial fib. I got my first good look at Goode, Logan, and Storm King
the next day. I'll pass on Goode. Maybe the approach. My knee looked
like a cantaloupe in the car coming home. Half a meniscus shattered.
Trapper's Peak with our kids:
To be announced
Copyright 2004, John W. Roper.
All Rights Reserved.