Ian Mackay

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 with.

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.

On one 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 awful" nose 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 the "sky 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.

The next 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 not today!

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.

AND 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.

Ian Mackay