I had heard the name of John Roper and his exploits long before I met him,
so I suppose you could say that his legend went before him. Our first outing
was with Bruce and Bette with a friend of John's, Howard Putter. The trip
was up one of the Fife Peaks. Conditions slowed us down a bit so the decision
to pass on the "bonus peak" and walk back down the trail really upset Bruce.
Bruce was set on getting another peak and bashing down through the bushes
to the car. I was impressed how John calmly handled the negotiations and
heated discussion. I don't really remember much except John insisting on
taking my picture, he said he would save it for my obituary should I die in
a climbing accident and he liked to have photos of all of those that he climbed
Our relationship did not really develop until we were jammed in the back
seat of the car and I began to open my lunch. That day I had prepared
a sandwich on a chewy ciabata bread. The bread was spread with a thin layer
of tapenade, a rich puree of Mediterranean olives, anchovies, olive oil
and lots of garlic. The next layer was of marinated roasted and blistered
red bell peppers. The next layer was cured meats from Salumi's, veal tongue
with cloves and a "killer" salami
with fennel. The package was topped with arugula and some fresh basil
leaves. Bette who was in the front seat commented on the aroma of garlic and
basil that permeated the car. John, who was sitting next to me said that it
looked pretty good, and could he have a taste. Little did I know that at that
point a relationship, of sorts, was formed.
As years went by I would run
into John on occasional trips and would share a snack on the trail.
My lunch always looked a little better than his. John usually took left
overs from the dinner table and very old Halloween candy he stole from his
son. Our schedules would occasionally line up with midweek days off. The
two of us would alternate car pooling with the 6 cent a mile always ending
in debate. John rounds up but likes me to round down. Also John likes to explore
endless miles of back roads when he drives, at great expense to me.
occasion John and I were going up to do Gee, Gosh and Golly. The road
had several water bars. They were quite large and difficult to see over.
My old Peugeot was not a good back road vehicle and John kept joking that "it
like having it's tummy scratched." As
fate would have it we ended up in a washout going over one of the
water bars. The car was "high and dry." I thought the day was finished but
John had seen something on the History Channel about the Egyptians and the
pyramids. He devised a jack the car and pile some rocks underneath
technique that slowly began to raise the car from the deep hole.
After about an hour, with much creaking of the car, moving of the rocks
and jack we were out of the hole. We went on to still do 2 out of 3 peaks
and descend a "God
off a "not too bad" ridge. Hanging off cedar and ripping my clothing
we arrived at the car soaked and tired. The front end of the Peugeot
was never the same.
Upon my return I had a chance to describe the trip
to my friend Mike Torok. I mentioned to Mike that "by coincidence" every
time it was my turn to car pool John
selected trips up some of the worst roads in the Cascade range
and that when John drove we were always on a paved road to a nice
parking place. Mike Torok said that I did not know John that well
and that this was no coincidence. Things have changed little but
now both of our cars are pretty much trashed.
The summer of 2002 I
went on a trip with Mitch Blanton and John up Ross Lake. I didn't
really want to go at first. As usual the peak had no name but was
in an area full of peaks on my dream list. As luck would have it
John and Mitch had climbed everything in the neighborhood. Knowing these
guys made me suspicious. My guess was that they wanted me to come
to help pay for the boat taxi up Ross Lake. When the boat dropped
us off near Arctic Creek there was nothing, just bushes and a steep
hill side. The trip was a classic seldom "if ever" done type. We walked
a spectacular ridge. Mitch commented on his love of ridges and
walk" feel. The views
of the Pickets in front of us, Jack behind us, south to Profit and north
to Redoubt and Spickard was spectacular. We camped that night on
the summit of the unnamed peak (possible first ascent, no evidence
of previous blah blah) We settled on the name Mystic, I always
liked that name. John is always good with name suggestions. No, John
is the best with names, except for maybe Honeymoon Hump.
day we continued on to do Saint and then John and I hung out while
Mitch did Sinner. We admired the views from Profit Ridge to the
Pickets and John said something that struck me. He said he would
not be back this way because now he had climbed all the peaks that we
could see. It seemed very cool and very sad at the same time. Once
again, as always, we descended the nose of a ridge that was very
steep. " I
hope it goes" said John, Mitch always the optimist said "so far so good" (what
a pair). More bushes and hanging of branches and down to run into a big
bear. A nice day in the Cascades with good company and still more good
stories. I wish John would not keep showing that slide of me standing
naked at the Big Beaver boat dock, I used to look better naked but
There were lots of trips mostly with no names BUT this year
John seemed revived and renewed with doubled enthusiasm and much more
power than in previous years. The objective West Anderson. We rode
our bicycles up a washed out road and then a nice long hike up to Anderson
Pass. The bridge had been newly replaced so we were some of the first
back into the area in a while. This gave the trip a special appeal.
Up and over Flypaper Pass we went and then a traverse of the Eel Glacier
to a nasty ridge and finally over to see West Anderson. This looked
impossible and we had little gear. I remember John saying "if it has snow
it will go" With
Gary Mellom putting in a nice lead or two they inched their way up
with Torok claiming that "this was ridiculous," they
scaled the last 300 ft as I watched, or couldn't watch. It was a
long way to come to be a spectator but deep in my soul I knew I could not
put a price on mental health. Reminiscent of the steep snow on the
North Ridge of Jack, but with little or no protection WOW! John was still
performing in style. I guess if you come that far you cant go back empty
handed. John's attitude is to go until he cant possibly go another step
has got him to many summits. This one had so much "prominence" it was high
on the must do list, plus it had a name.
John continues to comment that
he has figured out that if he goes out with me he can skimp on
food because I carry enough for two. John is the only one I know that goes
lighter than Jim Nelson. He leaves everything he possibly can.
then there was the trip to do Thomson. We were the only ones we knew
who had not done this peak. John said don't worry "I will bring the tent" What
I did not know is that he only brought half a tent. He had decided
to leave the rain fly because of a stelar weather report. After
dinner I pulled out some 151 proof rum (to help us sleep) It was so strong
it burned so we mixed it with Gatorade. I was getting pretty
drunk and a little tipsy. Out of nowhere a great rain squall hit our
camp without a rain fly John started pulling our plastic and garbage
bags thrashing in the wind. I said to hell with it and got in my sleeping
bag. John has never forgiven me for not helping him but these
days I take the tent. Except for a few imperfections, you couldn't find
a better outdoor companion and we go at about the same pace.
Copyright 2004, John W. Roper.
All Rights Reserved.