Grady and Nigel Steere
Tommy Thompson via Granite Lakes circa 1985.
Grady and Nigel Steere (second cousins) are initiated into the world and nature
of true "Roper" climbs, leaving the beaten trail to forge off into wild and adventurous
The adventure began at the end of an old logging road up Boulder Creek, off the
Cascade River, outside Marblemount WA. The party was led by John (of course)
and included Monte, Grady, Nigel and I believe Gary Melom was also with us.
We hiked the old road while John pointed out big Douglas fir, Silver fir, Cedar,
and Hemlock with the "droopy top". Each hike we went on with John was a platform
for teachable moments and he always took advantage of them, quizzing us on all
the coniferous organisms along the way.
The overgrown road/trail led to lower Granite Lake where we dropped a fishing
line to try our luck with the trout. I remember taking some nice fat female cutthroat,
thick with bright orange roe. John, the constant instructor, filled us youngsters
in on the delicacies of Russian Sturgeon Caviar and convinced us to indulge in
the finer art of Trout Caviar! One little taste was enough. I remember it being
quite bitter. The fishing was good and the weather was spectacular, but we had
to continue on in pursuit of our true fishing quest, the rare and little known
Grayling, a salmonid cousin of the trout. Up and over a small saddle was Upper
Granite Lake, one of only a few lakes in the state, which was known to hold this
rare, large dorsal fish. We camped at Upper Granite and caught several specimens,
admiring their bright spots and oversized dorsal fin much like that of a marlin.
In addition to the fun of fishing was the abundance of frogs in and around the
lake. Soon Grady and Nigel were armpit deep in the nearby mud pools chasing these "glacier
The next morning we woke early, but did not pull out the poles. It was time to
climb. The real goal was the rocky summit to our south, Tommy Thompson. In order
to get there we would have to ascend the boulders and snowfield above the lake.
On the snowfield hiking with John out ahead, we heard the audible "croak" of
a flatulent. All of us moaned, but John insisted it was one of the rare snow-dwelling "glacier
frogs" which we heard throughout the day "croaking" up ahead (curiously followed
by a uniquely unpleasant odor).
I remember being terrified as we crossed a portion of the extremely steep snowfield,
and could only imagine our fate as I observed the small "glacier" disappear over
a cliff below us. We had no crampons, and John was the only one with an Ice Axe.
John would have had fun explaining to our mother if we fell. The summit was achieved
after we ditched our packs and scrambled a steep pitch to the top.
That evening we camped above tree line in a massive granite boulder field surrounded
by a natural Cascade Stonehenge. The summit was cool, but these boulders were
even cooler. We had a blast coming up with names for each rock, like "Splashdown", "Almost
Impossible" and "Open Book". We were figuring out routes to the top of these
bus and house sized rocks until the sun went down.
The Tommy Thompson/Granite Lakes climb was full of good fishing, great "bouldering" and
a learning experience that will last a lifetime. As a memento of our "initiation",
John gave each of us our own Ice Axes the following Christmas. Each was custom
engraved with our names in big letters by John himself, using a hammer and a
nail to "pean" the aluminum shank. I think we were all proud.
Grady and Nigel Steere
Copyright 2004, John W. Roper.
All Rights Reserved.