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Fall 2017
Volume 23, Issue 2


July 2017
Report by Joel Brewster, Photos by Joel Brewster, Kevin Humes, Paul Kuroda, Monika Davis & Al Bennett

Climbing Mt. Rainier is a challenging, but rewarding endeavor. In early July, our group of 12 all made their way north to Rainier in different ways. Some drove in groups, some drove solo, some flew, and some even opted for "bonus" peaks on the way up and on the way home. I managed to hit three great peaks in addition to Mount Rainier on this trip. I climbed Sacajawea Peak in NE Oregon with Chad and Justine before Rainier, and South Sister in central Oregon and Steens Mountain in SE Oregon with Al on the way home.

I preparation for our Mt. Rainier trip, we had an assortment of training trips. We began with an awesome 2-day snow travel class taught by SMI (Sierra Mountaineering International) near Mammoth, CA. We covered all the basics of climbing on snow and glaciers (self-arrest, roped travel, crevasse rescue, etc.). Then the following weekend, we went up to the Spring Mountains for a snow camp, and practiced some of the skills we learned. We then followed that up with a Wheeler Peak backpack in harsh winds, a climb of Maturango Peak (with more snow than expected), and a snow ascent of Mummy Mountain in the Spring Mountains under ideal conditions. We carried 50 lbs. to the top of Griffith Peak in snow. Summitting Lee Peak (near Mt. Charleston) was great, but the real test was a marathon day hike of Olancha Peak in the Sierra.

Olancha is a challenging hike in summer, but was made even more of a beast by the plentiful snow! My intention in scheduling Olancha Peak was to push everyone's limits, both physically and mentally. Olancha is about 20 miles roundtrip with over 6000' of gain and is a long day hike in summer, but we scheduled it before the snow was gone to make it more difficult! I was successful in making it a "sufferfest". We hit snow early and got to practice taking crampons off and on all day. We had various issues including one guy that found his crampons didn't fit snugly onto his trail runners (me)! We also ran out of water well before the summit. It was all solid snow up there, so no water was available. Fortunately, Al saved the day; he brought a stove, and we were able to melt enough snow for water to get us through. Everyone pushed through and reached the summit, a very impressive group to say the least!

We began the hike at 2 am, summitted about 4 pm, and returned to the trailhead at about 2:15 am, for a LONG day of over 24 hours of hiking! To sum up the craziness of the trip, I had set my watch alarm for 1:30 am for the 2 am departure. As I was hiking back down the trail nearing the vehicles, my alarm went off...again! Scary!

I addition to these training trips we did much crevasse rescue, rope travel, and ascending the rope, both as a large group, and also in our individual rope tems of 4 people. I was very happy with our training overall. The only thing I would change would be to practice more roped travel. Being roped to 3 other people for 16 hours on summit day is difficult at best, and can fray the nerves of even the most patient. As it turned out, rope dynamics probably prevented all 12 of our group from summitting.

Before I launch into our Rainier trip, let me first discuss Sacajawea Peak and South Sister, two wonderful peaks (both over 5K of prominence).

Sacajawea Peak

Sacajawea is a true gem of a peak a bit off the beaten track tucked into the far NE corner of Oregon. It is just under 10,000', but feels much higher. It is the highest peak in the Wallowa Mountains and the views get more amazing the higher you climb.


The hike via Thorp Creek follows a trail for the first 2 miles or so before an elusive turn off the main trail leads to a crossing of Hurricane Creek. This was the toughest part of the peak. There was supposed to be a log crossing, but it was gone so we had to ford the creek. It was deep enough to be challenging (maybe mid-thigh or so) and the current was fairly strong. It was difficult but doable.

Chad bravely fording Hurricane Creek

Strolling through the forest

Lush wildflowers with numerous waterfalls in background

Justine and Chad trudging along

From there we were eventually able to find the continuation of the Thorp Creek trail and followed up steep switchbacks to a scenic ridgeline. After a while the trail led down into the wide Thorp Creek drainage. Justine opted to stop there as she didn't want to burn herself out before Rainier. She enjoyed the lovely scenery as Chad and I continued up the steepening drainage, then straight up the shoulder of the mountain. There was good trail almost the whole way, but it got very steep and loose near the top. We gained over 2000' in the 1.5 miles after leaving Justine until the top!

Chad ascending the steep trail up Sacajawea

Summit photo

Chad leaving the summit of Sacajawea

As we approached the summit, we were blown away by the alpine feel of the range, with plenty of snow all around us. We never had to hike on snow, but looking around us, it seemed hard to believe since every ridge, peak and valley looked full of snow. After a quick bite, and savoring the summit for a bit, we headed to down to pick up Justine. We found her relaxing by the creek, and headed down together.

I had been a little apprehensive about re-crossing Hurricane Creek. I was worried that what was challenging in the morning, would be significantly more so as the snowmelt increased in the afternoon. When we reached the crossing, it looked about the same. However the current was definitely stronger. The three of us locked arms and marched across, trying to keep on our feet. The bottom of the creek was all football-sized rocks that were somewhat slippery. Several times one of us one of us would stumble a bit, but we kept going. As we reached the deepest part, Justine nervously asked, "Are we OK?" Chad and I just told her keep moving. We were so elated when we reached the other side!

From there it was a cakewalk back to our campsite at the trailhead. Despite my rocky tent site, I slept the deepest I ever have the two nights we camped there. My proximity to the "white noise" of the rushing creek next to my tent was amazing. I even slept through my alarm!


South Sister

So on the way home from Mt. Rainier, Al and I stopped to do another Ultra (over 5000' of prominence), South Sister. South Sister is located near Bend, Oregon and is just over 10,000'. We camped at a Devil Lake campground, right at the trailhead. I was hoping for a early start, but since we arrived right at dusk, and indulged in a few celebratory beverages, we didn't get to sleep until about midnight. We still managed to be hiking by a little after 7 am the next morning.

Al ready for South Sister

I had read many recent trip reports of South Sister climbs, and there was a large discrepancy in the gear people brought. I anticipated some snow, so we opted for ice axes, but no crampons (a good decision as it turned out). I opted for my light trail runners instead of my waterproof heavy boots, which probably was a good decision, although I wasn't sure early in the day. From the trailhead at 5000', we follwed a steep trail through the woods. By 6000' we were hitting plentiful snow! The combination of deep snow banks, steep terrain and cool, shady conditions made the snow very icy and slick (not conducive to travel by trail runners)! I had to use my ice ax as a crutch to keep falling down. Travel was slow for me in this section as I flopped around like a fish out of water.

Fortunately the steep well-shaded trail eventually led to open plateau, where the snow was much softer. This part of the climb was very pleasant as we had an easy walk across the plateau with excellent views of South Sister looming ahead.

Plateau with South Sister behind

Soon the trail started up, getting steeper and steeper. The trail on the steep ascent was completely snow-free, but the volcanic scree made the footing difficult at times. Eventually we slogged our way up to the summit crater. From there we had the option of either following a trail around the perimeter of the crater or crossing the snowfield directly to the true summit. We chose the latter route and soon reached the summit.

Joel on summit of South Sister (looking south)

I have summitted a fair number of peaks in my day, and have seen some terrific views, but the view from South Sister was the most far-reaching I have ever seen! Looking south you could see Mt. McLoughlin in southern Oregon, and beyond that Mt. Shasta loomed, over 150 miles away! Looking north was even more dramatic. You could see the nearby Middle and North Sisters, followed my Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams and then, far off, just faintly visible the massive form of Mount Rainier, which was 200 miles away. It was completely breathtaking.

Looking north from the summit of South Sister

The descent was steep, but fun. We enjoyed several decent glissades on a quick descent. The most amazing thing was the change in a lake we passed on the route. On the way up, snow covered one edge of the lake forming a ramp. I made a comment to Al on the ascent, that we could slide down the ramp into the lake like a waterslide. when we passed the lake on our descent, I happened to look down at the lake, and noticed the "ramp" had collapsed and fallen into the lake! There was one chunk floating like an iceberg that was probably 20 ft. by 20 ft. by 40 ft. Too bad we weren't hiking by it when it actually collapsed!


And after!


Mount Rainier

Iconic view of Rainier driving in

On the afternoon of July 8th, our LVMC group of 12 met at the climbing ranger hut in Mt. Rainier National Park. We filled out the requisite paperwork, chatted with the rangers, and snapped a few photos, before heading out to camp before our Rainier ascent began the next day. Most of us camped at nearby Cougar Rock campground. Penny and Susie did a fantastic job securing a group site for the 8 of us that camped there. It was large enough for all our tents, and for us to organize our packs, no small task. Penny and Susie took splitting group gear to the next level by weighing each component, then solving a complex math equation to balance the weight exactly!

We discussed all sorts of logistics: start time, radio check-in times, who would carry ropes and other group gear, weather, etc. We came to the decision that Kevin, Amber, Paul, and Monika would start at 2 am, Jodie and Justine would start around 4 am, and that the rest of us would start as planned, at 6 am sharp. I anticipated the ascent to Camp Muir would take 6-7 hours. The ascent is almost 5000' from Paradise at 5400' to Camp Muir at 10,100', made much more daunting by the heavy packs we were all carrying. Our packs weighed from 45-60 lbs. and we felt every pound on the steep ascent!

Beautiful wildflowers down low

The six of us leaving at 6 am got to "sleep in" until 5 am in camp. As we drove the 10 minutes to Paradise, the early morning views were breathtaking; it was a beautiful, cloudless morning. We made last minute adjustments in the pleasantly open parking lot before beginning our ascent. The first part of trail is actually a paved, but steep, walkway. We made steady progress, and after a mile or so, the paved walkway changed dirt and rock, covered in sections by snow. It was nice knowing we had all morning to get to camp, so we stopped for a few breaks en route to enjoy the splendid scenery.

Eventually we came to end of the trail and the beginning of the Muir Snowfield. Eyeballing the route from down below, the snowfield did not look steep, but as we began up, we realized that it has to be steep to gain 2000' in 1.5 miles. We set out at moderate pace, but as we meandered our way higher and higher, we began to spread out into a faster and slower factions. My goal was for us all to get there in 7 hours at the latest. The guides actually turn clients around that do not reach the camp in 6.5 hours, but our packs were heavier than clients' would be.

The long slog up Muir Snowfield

I made camp in just over 6 hours at a reasonable pace. Jose was about hour ahead, and most of the others were a bit behind me. We were so happy to be up there and take off our beastly backpacks! Camp Muir is long, narrow area with tents crammed in everywhere. They allow 110 people to camp there each night. The rangers told us it was about 75% full our first night (Sunday night), but that had been 100% full the past two nights. There were lots of groups in the process of breaking camp as we arrived. Chad and I found a good spot with a nice wind shelter already built. We asked the group there when they were leaving, and they said soon. So we relaxed for a bit, chatting with others about their summit day experiences.

When our spot was clear, we finally set up our tent, and began the tedious chore of melting snow for water. For those who haven't done this before, it is a slow process at best. We needed at least 4 liters each for summit day, plus another liter or two for drinking at camp, plus hot water for our dehydrated dinners. It took even more time as our fuel pump seemed to have a leak. Eventually, we borrowed Jose's and things sped up. We had a sysyem where we would just melt the snow with the stove, then purify it with my steripen. Finally, we had enough water and ate dinner.

We also talked to the two climbing rangers that come through camp each night to check permits and talk to climbers. They told us to start early to avoid congestion and try to be on the summit no later than 9 am. They mentioned two dangerous to not stop in - the Bowling Alley, an area of icefall just before getting onto Disappointment Cleaver, and the Tsunami, a huge "wave" of snow/ice just above the route at about 12,600'. They also told us about the bergschrund, a crevasse just before reaching the summit crater, that bottlenecks quite badly.

We had originally planned to leave camp at midnight on summit day, but after talking to the rangers, we decided on 11 pm instead. as it turned, our three four-person rope teams actually were moving at 11:30 pm. We had set the ropes up before going to sleep, but still woke up around 10-10:15 pm, hardly a good night's sleep. It looked like a nice morning (temps around 40), with a full moon to help us. So summit day began with a fairly level traverse across the Cowlitz Glacier. We had to step across a couple of tiny crevasses (only a few inches wide), but nothing like what we would encounter later in the day!

Looking back on Camp Muir from Cathedral Gap

After crossing the Cowlitz, we ascended a dirt and loose rock trail through Cathedral Gap. The tedious part of this section, and much more so on Disappointment Cleaver, was that we had to "short-rope". Short-roping is the practice of shortening the distance between roped climbers from our usual 30 feet to about 6 feet. The idea is to keep the rope from dragging and knocking rocks on climbers below, but is quite annoying. It wasn't too bad on Cathdral Gap, because it was a decent trail to follow. However on the rocky cleaver, there was class 2-3 scrambling in crampons on loose crumbly rock! When one would scramble up a rock, the rest of the team would have to move at the same uneven speed...AWKWARD!

Ingraham Glacier and Ingraham Flats camp in background

Anyway, past Cathedral Gap, we ascended the Ingraham Glacier and passed the higher camp at Ingraham Flats. We took a break here, and I noticed there was considerable tension between one rope team, and I don't mean rope tension! Our next break was to be on top of Disappointment Cleaver, quite a haul from here. We crossed the Bowling Alley and started up the crumbly rock of Disappointment Cleaver. The route, marked by wands, became difficult to follow here, and we had various issues in this section: routefinding, crampon malfunctions (walking on rock is tough in crampons), layering up and down, etc. It was a bit stressful on everyone I think, but we pushed to reach the top of the cleaver and have a break/ discussion.

The Bowling Alley

Our group reached the break spot first, had some snacks, and tried to stay warm waiting for the others. It was cold and windy up there, making us anxious to get moving again. After about 20 minutes, we all reached this spot, which is essentially the halfway point to the summit from camp. It was 4:15 am and still dark. One rope team decided to split into two teams as their issues had gotten worse, and the other rope team was slower and we were worried about our turnaround time. Basically what happened was that we made a hasty decision because of the conditions, to send three climbers down. I wish it didn't happen like this, but it did. Anyway, we reconfigured rope teams and continued.

Above the cleaver, the route became much more circuitous and challenging with numerous crevasses. Most of the route was easy to follow with wands, but the guides had been changing it weekly to avoid changing crevasses, so there were a couple of spots where it was a bit ambiguous. The route took us below the 100-foot Tsunami, which was both very impressive and scary. We probably crossed 10-12 crevasses in this section, most of which were easy step-overs, but there were about three that really got your attention, and the bergschrund was the crux of the route in my opinion. Fortunately, the guides had put in pickets for protection above, but it was still demanded full attention.

One of many crevasses to cross

Don't fall in there!

Looking down on our route below

Zigzagging between crevasses

We made slow, but steady progress going up, but the thin air made breathing much more difficult. We all used pressure breathing and the rest stop, two skills we learned in snow school. It seemed to take forever, but we finally reached the summit crater about 8:15 am. We took a nice long break, dropped much of our gear, and crossed the 3/4 mile through the crater to the true summit.

We signed the summit register located in a rock outcropping a bit below the actual summit, then trudged up the slope to the highest point in Washington, the king of the Cascade volcanoes, the summit of Mt. Rainier at 14,411'. It was a strange, but satisfying moment. Everyone got quite emotional. Tears were shed, and there were big hugs all around. This was the culmination of 8-9 months of training and planning and a lot of bonding with our group. I was proud of myself and the others up there, but felt disappointed that not all 12 of our team made it.

The summit crater

Our entry in the register (in green pen of course)

Amber and Kevin on the summit!

Summit of Mt. Rainier

The views were good, but were obscured by clouds. We ate a snack, took numerous summit photos, and headed back across the crater. After getting all roped up again we headed down.

We hit a little bottleneck at the bergschrund, but finally made it across. Descending was much scarier than ascending because the snow was softer, and, psychologically, it is harder when you are looking right into the abyss you would fall into if you slip! We all made it across the challenging crevasses, some by jumping (yeehaw). Once past the main crevasse danger, we felt better, but found that descending the cleaver was its own adventure. It had warmed up and the snow was so soft and slushy, on the steep descent it was almost impossible to stay on your feet. We kept all falling on our rear ends repeatedly (and being pulled by the short-rope)! Finally, we got off the cleaver and retraced our route back to camp.

I was so relieved to get unroped. The biggest thing I learned on the trip was just how difficult it is to be roped to 3 other people for 16 hours in challenging conditions! It is annoying at best, and caused significant friction within the rope teams.

It was late afternoon by the time we got back to camp, and Chad and I considered packing up and hiking out, but opted to stay another night at Camp Muir (we had reserved for 4 nights). About half the group hiked out that afternoon. We relaxed a bit, ate some food, and were asleep by 6:30!

The next morning, we got up got loaded up and were heading down by about 7:30. Chad and I managed to get a few good glissades in on the snowfield, and the descent went really fast. Before long we were back on the trail with throngs of tourists out for day hikes.

We exchanged pleasantries with many of them, and had some hilarious conversations. One guy, saw our gear and asked if we went all the way. We said yes, and he said "cool". His idea of "all the way" was all the way to Camp Muir. It occurred to him about a minute later that we went ALL the way, and he started yelling questions, from the switchback above us!

My favorite interchange was a lady that was hiking part of the Wunderland Trail (a trail that goes around the base of the mountain). She asked where we had hiked, and we said "to the top". She asked "to the top of what?" Chad and I paused, looked at each other, pointed up, and said, "Uhh, Mt. Rainier?!" She was completely flabbergasted and very impressed. We felt sooooo cool!

Back in Paradise, we stopped for a beverage or two before heading our separate ways.

This was a trip I will always remember. The thing I will treasure the most are the strong bonds formed by our somewhat eclectic, but great group, on Mt. Rainier itself, but mostly forged on our outings leading up to it. This was an excellent trip made possible by good weather and conditions, and I was so proud of our group, including the ones who did not summit.

Looking back, the only thing I would have changed about our training was to have practiced more in our 4-person rope teams to improve teamwork.

And, finally I want to give a big thanks to Dan Young. Our LVMC Rainier trip in 2011 was led by Dan. Though we did not summit then, I learned so much from him about mountaineering and the training leading up to an endeavor like this. Thanks Dan!


August 2017
Report & Photos by Mike Shackleford

Let me apologize in advance to my fellow LMVC members for treating the audience of this article as amateurs. This story of my Mount Adams climb was first published as a blog entry (please link to, which is intended for an audience of people whose hiking experience is likely limited to braving the Strip between the MGM Grand and the Venetian. I'm quite sure everyone in the club, besides me, knows the proper way to hold an ice axe in a glissade and use a Jetboil to melt snow, so please forgive my lecturing on that. With all due apologies out of the way, I hope you enjoy my story.

Key Facts:

Total distance: 11.4 miles (round trip)
Elevation gain: 6,680 feet
Elevation at summit: 12,281 feet.
Trail used: South Climb (#183)
Prominence: 8,116 feet (37th in North America)
Second highest peak in Washington

After experiencing an amazing total eclipse on August 21, 2017 in eastern Oregon, a friend and I set off to climb South Sister and Mount Adams, as long as we were in that neck of the woods. South Sister we did successfully the next day. Two days later we made our way to Trout Lake, Washington, to begin our ascent of Mount Adams.

The first step was to obtain permits at the Trout Lake ranger station at a cost of $15 each. We were given plenty of advice on how to find the trailhead, trail conditions, rules, and so forth. The weather report was good and all systems were go. I must confess that after the long lecture we got I forgot the first thing I was supposed to do was to put our application in the box outside the door. Mistake #1.

The road to the South Climb trailhead is rough and a little difficult to follow at times. A few times at unmarked intersections, I wasn't sure which way to go. Fortunately, I guessed correctly for the most part and found the trailhead without too much difficulty. When in doubt -- drive in the direction of the mountain. The vehicle we used was a small SUV so we made it just fine. At the trailhead were some cars that get better gas mileage, like a Toyota Corolla and Prius, that made it too. My advice is that a high-clearance vehicle would certainly be preferable but any car you don't mind taking a little beating will probably do.

The trail begins in a burned out forest and stays that way for a few miles. Although this part of the hike was a rather boring slog, we were rewarded with excellent views of Mount Hood and later Mount Saint Helens as we gained elevation. Finally, we left the area ravaged by a past forest fire and saw living trees and fields of lupine (which I incorrectly refer to as lavender in my video of the climb).

About four hours into the climb we crossed paths with climbers on their way down. They said the previous day was quite windy but conditions higher up were looking good today. At our lower elevation we enjoyed a clear windless day.

This was the first ascent for either of us and we didn't see anybody climbing our direction within shouting distance the entire day. I knew we wanted to make camp at a place called Lunch Box Counter, but I wasn't quite sure where it was. When the trail left the tree line it became more or less a pile of volcanic rock. Wherever there was a flat spot, people had constructed wind shelters for tents. I suppose the lower ones were for people planning to do the climb in three days. It might be easy to mistake some of these camping areas as Lunch Box Counter. However, they aren't. Past a flat area with about a dozen campsites is a long, moderately steep ice field. It takes at least an hour to climb up this field to reach Lunch Box Counter, which is spread out over a large area on rock islands in the middle of the ice field. Where we made camp was on the lower end of the Lunch Box area and we had a large rock island, with many campsites, all to ourselves.

We finished setting up camp late in the afternoon, so we had plenty of time to kill. It was my intention to melt snow with a Jetboil stove, for which I had a partially used can of gas and a full one. We gathered up snow in plastic freezer bags and empty water bottles and then I set about melting the snow. Somehow, I thought, and I'm not sure why, you were supposed to turn the valve the whole way when it's on. Mistake #2. To make a long story short, I exhausted one and a half cans of gas and produced only about four liters of water, which would have to be enough to last us both the rest of the climb. As a precaution, we set out freezer bags full of snow in the sunshine. I would later learn one can buy large plastic containers specially made for this purpose, which would have served this occasion perfectly.

That evening, I did a half-assed job of organizing my pack for our summit bid the next day. During this preparation, I realized I forgot to bring the headband for mounting my GoPro on my head. I wanted to capture the glissade on the way down on video. It turns out I left it in the car. Mistake #3.

After a quiet evening, we awoke naturally around 6:00 AM. I was the first to exit the tent and noticed the water bags we set out the previous evening scattered all over the place. When I picked one up, water poured out of puncture holes obviously made by a small animal (I suspect a marmot, despite never having seen one outside of the Sierras). At this point, I feared the worst for my food supply that I foolishly left in my pack the night before. I didn't even secure it well within the pack within a zippered compartment, which I could have done. Most of the food was just lying at the bottom of the pack beneath my layers of clothing. Fortunately, whatever animal has an affinity for bags of water left my food alone. However, I will count the fact that it wasn't eaten an act of luck, or something higher, as mistake #4.

Mt. Adams from camp at the Lunch Counter

After putting on many layers of clothing and affixing crampons to our boots, we made our way up. First we had get through a maze of snowfields and lava fields to get to the base of the Suksdorf Glacier, which was simply a big wall of ice. While many routes could have been taken, they all led to the same place, which was easy to see since it's the base of the ice wall before Pikers Peak. Said wall of ice is definitely steep enough to necessitate crampons and ice axe but not enough to need to be on a rope team. While the distance of this section was probably only about a mile, it was the most exhausting part of the climb. A great challenge. Certainly a major part of what makes Mount Adams a very popular climb. Fortunately, we still enjoyed great weather -- clear and nearly no wind. I quickly peeled off about half my layers of clothing as I warmed up climbing the ice.

Eventually, we made our way to Pikers Peak, which is a false summit we had been looking at ever since arriving at Lunch Counter. I've heard it is called that because if you think that is the peak, then you're a piker. At Pikers Peak it suddenly got a bit windy and cold, so I added some of my layers back on. We and the other climbers going up that morning discussed the need to bring crampons and ice axes the rest of the way, which looked comparatively flat and easy to the wall of ice we just ascended. I opted to leave them there, which, gratefully, was not mistake #5.

As we set off across a rather flat ice field, the wind died down and I got hot again so back off half my layers went again. After this flat ice field we reached a steep face of small pieces of volcanic rock where several switchbacks had been made by previous hikers. After that it was pretty much as easy stroll along a ridge to the summit.

The views from the summit were magnificent. As soon as we reached the summit, we were rewarded with a clear view of Mount Rainier to the north, which I hadn't seen since summiting it two years before. To the west was Mount Saint Helens. To the south were Mount Hood and Mount Jefferson, and I could barely make out the Three Sisters. After the obligatory summit photos and video, we chatted with our fellow summiteers that Friday morning of August 25, 2017. That summit high feeling is always better when shared.

Mike on the summit of Adams with Rainier in the background

The descent went fine. Back at Pikers Peak the big topic of conversation was the glissade back down to Lunch Box Counter. Issues were raised about the ice being hard and protruding rocks but we all knew that under the right conditions the Mount Adams glissade was legendary. After a few people decided to be the guinea pigs, we got ready to do it ourselves. This included removing the crampons and putting on as many layers of pants as possible. Despite having glissaded down a good portion of Mount Shasta six years earlier and my partner having glissading experience, neither of us could remember the proper way to hold the ice axe.

The first part was the steepest part. I will not lie that the ice was rather hard and quite steep, making for a glissade that was faster than what I would have preferred. Add to that was my GoPro dangling precariously from a short rope on my jacket zipper. Yes, this part was indeed dicey and I expended much energy trying to arrest myself from going so fast that I would be flung down the mountain uncontrollably. It did not help that I was holding the ice axe incorrectly, as I would later learn.

Half way down this stretch, I came to a crashing stop at a turn in the glissade path and realized my GoPro was missing. Despite being in the middle of a very steep and slick glissade path with no crampons, I was not about to easily lose my GoPro, after all the adventures we had been through. Carefully, I turned around and fortunately saw it about 20 feet up the path. I will call losing the GoPro due to not securing it properly as mistake #5.

The situation did not look unlike the steepest section I did two years about on Mount Hood called the Old Chute. Of course, then I had crampons on, was roped up for safety, and under the watch of experienced mountain guides. Here it was just me. My partner was already way down the mountain and probably wondering why I was taking so long.

As carefully as possible, I turned around and used my ice axe to advance up the glissade path inch by inch. Had it not been for doing essentially the same thing on Mount Hood, I probably would have been very freaked out. However, after all I had been through on Mounts Rainier, Hood, and Shasta, I wasn't going to not give it a try. It was also fortunate that my GoPro fell off only about 20 feet up the path as I could have been much higher. Reach it I did and put in a zippered pocket. Then I carefully turned back around and continued the glissade.

When I reached my partner I explained the delay and off we went. By this point, we were past the worst of it and the feeling of fear gave way to excitement. My partner went first and stopped to what look like chat with a couple climbers on their way up. It wasn't a chat but getting a lecture that was repeated to me on the proper way to hold an ice axe in a glissade. Both of us incorrectly held the entire axe to our right (we're both right handed) and used the pick against the edge of the glissade path as a brake. Mistake #6 -- and the biggest.

The proper way to hold an ice axe when glissading is across your body with the spike on the right side (if you're right handed) and shove the spike against the ice according to how fast you want to go. That made it much easier to control my speed and with much less effort. Where were these good Samartans higher up? At least we passed some of the climbers going uphill holding the ice axe properly. I'm sure several others who we crossed paths with before our lecture thought to themselves, "Those idiots are holding their ice axes wrong."

We made it back to our camp safely and packed up to resume the rest of the descent. I managed to do a somewhat assisted glissade part of the way after that, meaning I had to use my feet to gain enough speed to slide. Once back on dry land, the descent went fine. We passed many hikers that Friday afternoon on their way up. Despite running out of fuel earlier, we had enough water to descend and even dumped some of it to lighten our packs.

Before concluding, I'd like to say a word about the pros and cons of day-hiking Mount Adams and taking two days. At only 11.4 miles, many are evidently tempted to make a day hike out of it. Such an attempt should begin around midnight. I heard stories on the way down of people who had previously attempted this and got lost in the dark. This, I could easily see happening, going over the section that is mostly a pile of volcanic rocks. Even I lost the trail temporarily in that portion of the route in broad daylight. The burned-out forest I could also imagine getting lost in at night. Even without the issue of getting lost, I would still recommend taking a couple days. It is simply much more enjoyable.

I had hoped to give you a link to my glissade at this point. While I did get some footage before my GoPro left me, it was simply awful, with the camera bouncing all over the place. However, I did get footage of the climb up and summit, which I posted on YouTube for you to enjoy: My apologies for the lousy audio.

I truly hope to return to Mount Adams for a second climb soon. It was one of the most enjoyable climbs I have ever done. When I do, I promise to take a proper video of the glissade down, if conditions safely permit it.


Justine Byers

Where were you born?
I was born right here in Las Vegas, NV at what was once known as Sunrise Hospital on Maryland Parkway across from the Boulevard Mall. My parents’ home was on Algonquin behind that same Mall. When my mom went into labor my grandmother was over and asked to be dropped at the Showboat before my mom brought herself to the hospital. My mom is a very tough woman. My parents were both dancers that met at the Stardust Hotel while performing in the Lido. My mother is from England. She had joined the dance company, Bluebells Girls, when she was only 15 and this was their last stop after performing in many other countries over 10 years. Unfortunately I’m woefully lacking in rhythm or anything that takes coordination. My father’s parents were immigrants from Yugoslavia and Sicily. They met in Buffalo NY and moved to Vegas to raise their 3 boys. My father’s father was a gardener. I have no idea how my father ended up dancing on the Strip.

I’ve lived in Las Vegas most of my life. When I was 11 my brother and I were sent back east to attend boarding schools. My parents were not wealthy but after their divorce, they both got involved with people who were, which afforded them the luxury of sending off the kids. It was nice for us too. I have dyslexia and attended a school that catered to my needs. I had many experiences I wouldn’t have had otherwise. My school was nestled in the countryside of Massachusetts. I still can’t spell it. Thank goodness for spell check. I enjoyed all the seasons and the adventures that came with them.

What is your occupation?

For the last 13 years I’ve been a teacher in a primary grade for the Clark County School District. I really do love working with the kids. This is actually my second life. Previously, I was a single mom, dealer and part-time college student. In time, my son grew up, and I finished school, hence, my second life.

How long have you been an LVMC member?

In the summer of 2010 my best friend ,Rachel Elliott, had fallen in love, into the abyss, and I was desperate for an adventure. I joined Meetup, reluctantly, so I could go on a backpacking trip with the LVMC up Mt. Wheeler in Nevada. On that trip I locked my keys in the car. Amy Brewster ended up pulling the entire door away from the frame leaving a little gap just wide enough to push the unlock button with a stick. I’ve since learned that she may have gotten this wild but efficient move from the bear that opened her vehicle while on a family camping trip. Unfortunately, the bear didn’t stop at a small gap; he bent the entire window frame over. The Brewsters' swore there was nothing in their car but a Trader Joe’s receipt and that perhaps the bear read it. Nothing would surprise me these days. After the Wheeler trip, I tied the knot with my husband and took a 10 peaks in 10 days trip with Joel, my solo honeymoon. I was glad Joel let me on the trip after my car key fiasco. I make the best first impressions. I had never really been too adventurous before LVMC. I’m very content hiking Charleston and Red Rock. Joining LVMC really got me to visit new places. Before the LVMC I had only hiked 2 mountains outside of Nevada, Mt. Whitney, Ca, and Mt. Baker, WA. I ended up on Whitney in 2005 because my dad’s friend had extra permits. I did Mt. Baker in 2008 because my friend, Paul, won a 7 day snow school experience with American Alpine Institute, and he didn’t want to go alone so Rachel Elliott and I signed up too.

What is your favorite hike/climb?

My favorite hike is Mt. Charleston. It is in our backyard and I have so many fond memories there. Mt. Charleston was my first adult backpacking trip. I dragged my best friend, Rachel, up it 20 years ago without a clue to what I was doing. I had a cheap pack with no frame. We brought 2 gallons of water each, a giant 3-man Coleman tent, and I had my Marlboro miles sleeping bag that my mom smoked her way to. Rachel was loaded up a bit more elegantly and up to date than me. Blair Witch Project was out. I had only watched a few minutes of it; I don’t do scary movies. A few minutes were enough for me to suggest we bring Rachel’s Pitbull, Sugar. We went up the South Loop Trail, slept in the meadow, and summited the next morning. I quickly realized we could have easily done it in one day. The walk down the North Loop Trail took forever. I was in my Nike high tops and my toes hated me. There were times when I wondered if I was going to end up back at the trail head by Mary Jane Falls or out by Indian Springs. We had such a great time.

What is the most challenging hike/climb you have done?

My most challenging hike of all was Rainer. Preparing and practicing was so mentally taxing. I was exhausted before the trek to Muir Camp even began. Our group was comprised of 3 teams of 4 climbers that had all done a great deal of physical and technical training together, which didn’t seem to be enough on summit day. We began strong with a 10 pm start but ran into a few issues that slowed us down. With each minute passing by the words of the rangers rang in my head that we had to be descending between 9-10 am or we will be putting ourselves at risk with the melting ice. At sunrise I could see the lights of Seattle in the distance. At that point, I didn’t care if I made it. The lights of Seattle, the stars scattered throughout the sky, the moon shining bright, and all the mountains rolled out before me was all I needed. From that point on my team, led by Joel Brewster, continued uninterrupted till we hit the summit. I remember Chad telling me we were almost there, and I broke into tears until I realized crying was making me hyperventilate. It was bittersweet standing on the summit. I was elated with the achievement but grieved deeply my entire team wasn’t by my side.

How did you get into hiking/climbing?

I’m not sure how I got into hiking. I have always loved to be outdoors. Since I was 5 I would roam the desert across from my house. My parents’ lackadaisical style of child rearing allotted me a great deal of free time to wonder around. I started on foot, then graduated to a bike, and finally to a car, and I was off to Red Rock. I’m not sure what kept me going. Maybe it was my triathlete of a father. I’ll never know, but I do know this. I will be enjoying the outdoors until I’m old and grey.

What are your hobbies other than hiking/climbing?

I have a lot of hobbies and am an expert at none. When I’m not in the mountains I enjoy going to church, sewing, running, kayaking, snowboarding, skiing and spending time with my family. I go to a great deal of metal shows because my husband Rich is mad about death metal music. Besides the mountains and spending time with all the toddlers in my family I would say kayaking and long walks down Pitman Wash are my second favorite things to do. You can’t beat quiet time alone with your thoughts and the Lord.


President:Joel Brewster
Vice President/Training Director: Richard Baugh
Secretary: Amber Cavazos
Treasurer: Erica Vatne
Newsletter Editor: Joel Brewster
Outings Director: Ed Forkos
Membership Director: Eric Kassan
Website Director: Amy Brewster
Public Relations/Marketing Director: Susie Nichols
Club Gear Director: Dan Young
Social Director: Amanda Wagner
Community Outreach Director: Penny Sinisi
Directors-At-Large: Kevin Humes, Chad Corroy

The Ascender is the quarterly online newsletter of the Las Vegas Mountaineers Club. All content is property of LVMC and may be used only by the original submitters. All others must obtain written consent from the Board of Directors.
All Club members are invited to submit trip reports, photos, trip listings, recipes, classified ads and other related information. January 20th is the deadline for the next issue.

Joel Brewster




Please send any address, phone number and e-mail changes to Eric Kassan, membership director. LVMC currently has approximately 130 paid members or families.

If you wish to send a check instead of using PayPal online, please make your check payable to the Las Vegas Mountaineers Club and mail to: P.O. Box 36026, Las Vegas, NV 89133-6026.
Single membership is $30 per year, $85 for three years. Family annual membership is $40, $110 for three years.

To the following members, please note that your membership will expire in the next three months, unless you have recently renewed it:

Richard Biegel
Dylan Blaiwes
Joanne McCombs
Laura Meyer
Matt Riley
Vincent Tsai
Brad Boyd
Jeff Casey
Brenda Fitz
Meredith Greenspan
Keith Hannon
Melinda Hernandez
Eric Kassan & Stacey Samuels
Christy Keeler
Adam Mellis
Gerardo Pasquale
Chris Southworth
Beau Sterling
Mike Tamburello
Erica Vatne
Sharon Marie Wilcox
Kerri Borman
Aaron Calvano
Karla Carrender
Joe Erne
Larry Grant
Lorraine Jurist
Vania Lynd
Kent McFeely
Dan McGuire
Ken Miller
Ann Montana
Josh Owen
Craig Raborn
Jodie Schraven
Julia Thomas


This club gear is available at no charge to members (a refundable deposit of the gear's approximate value may be required):

4-season tent
Bear Barrels
Alpine Axes*
Strap-on Crampons*
Hiking Boots
Climbing Shoes


Belay Devices

Belay Plate
Ice Tool
Ice Screws

Deadman Anchors

*Will require a signed waiver.

Non-members are not eligible to borrow club gear. Deposits taken on gear must be in the form of cash or check and will be returned upon return of equipment. Gear is also available to members for courses with no deposit required. If you have any questions or would like to inquire about club gear, please contact Dan Young.

Classified Ads
Members: Free
Non-members: $5

Business Ads
1/8 page (business card): $5
1/4 page: $10
1/2 page: $15
Full page: $20
All rates are per issue and will be discontinued automatically unless renewed. Ads must be prepaid and sent by e-mail or submitted on CD. Please make checks payable to Las Vegas Mountaineers Club.




The Las Vegas Mountaineers meet on the 4th WEDNESDAY of the month at 7 pm at REI in Summerlin.



Thursday, November 30, 2017

LVMC Movie Night

US State Highpointer Documentary




LVMC Holiday Party
Friday, December 8, 2017


Wednesday, January 24, 2018


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