John "Mountain Goat" Roper
Where to start? So many wild and crazy trips with John. Should it be the
bushwhack up the ridge to Bouck Lake for an hours fishing, the Fourth of July
snowstorm and climb of the Blip, the hour to bash through a quarter of a mile
of vine maple, the daring ascent of the Devil's Toothpick, or the more leisurely
trip up Mount Hood to prove at age 47 we still weren't too old?
While I appreciated John's company on the Mount Hood trip, 30 years after
my first climb of the mountain I grew up with, it was not typical of a Roper
romp: the weather was perfect and there was no brush to soak us either with
rain or our own sweat.
More typical and more memorable was the Fourth of July trip I took with John
and Gary into the Southern Pickets. Naturally we started in threatening weather
up a short trail and into the brush. Only John would have known how to reach
the basin below the Blip and the Blob, but even he could do nothing about
the weather. We were soaked by the time we stopped and could not see much
through the clouds, but John assured me that our goal was right over there!
The next morning we rose to snow and spent the day in the tent playing cards
and trading lies. That was great for getting to know Gary and hearing about
the good old days at Concrete High.
Finally on the third day we could see the Crescent Creek Spires. Of course
they were encrusted with snow and not at all inspiring. There were even minor
avalanches from the new snow - really just snow sloughs, but impressive to
me. As we were running out of time we decided to tackle the Blip. This is
a minor summit between the Blob and X (my memory fails here), both much bigger.
We wandered across the basin and worked our way up the snow to the base of
the Blip. Seeing no more snow we stashed our ice axes and climbed up the ridge,
only to find a gully leading directly to the summit pinnacle. Of course that
gully was full of snow and I was somehow elected to lead up this slippery
slope, carefully kicking steps for the team. I then got the privilege of leading
up the rime-ice encrusted final tower and to be the first to stand, no sit,
on top of this summit.
The rest of the trip has
faded from memory, though I have the distinct recollection of swinging
down the slope below the Stump from one vine maple clump to another
and arriving back at the car soaking wet. But of course the Roper
home was only a few miles away where there would be warmth and good
food. Another highly successful ramble through the lovely if not
welcoming North Cascades! Probably another pair of pants so thoroughly
trashed that they would never see the light of day again.
I certainly know that
the jeans I wore on my first trip with John to Bouck Lake never
recovered and I never did adopt John's attire of thrift store polyester
pants. He may have been way ahead of his time there: most of my
serious outdoor clothing is artificial now!
Copyright 2004, John W. Roper.
All Rights Reserved.