Again, I apologize for the roughness in this narrative. And, as before, I have inserted a few things (mainly in parentheses) where more information is helpful. And I will explain more below the “7 Day” log.
Northwest Outward Bound School
June 14 – July 8, 1977
We got started and had to cross a log over the White River with full packs. Then some bush-whacking through a swamp until we hit the Pacific Crest Trail and took it all the way to Reflection Pond. Along the way we saw Tony, another instructor who said they had already climbed Glacier. Another group we passed said they did not make it. It was a long, 12 mile day and when we got to Reflection Pond – everybody was dead!
From Reflection (Pond) through White’s Pass across White Chuck Glacier where we had Glacier School, learning how to team arrest and pull a man out of a crevasse. Then to High Camp. High Camp was located just above the 7,000′ level. From here, tomorrow we would assault Glacier (Peak).
The weather held just long enough for us to make it to the top. I was manager (leader) and had to get everyone up at 4:00 (am) and going by 5:30 (am). We got to the summit about 8:45(am) and spent only about 10-15 min. Everyone signed the log on top, took a few pictures, then started down. We got back to high camp, had lunch and then slept for 3 hrs. Jeff woke us up around 4pm for First Aid class at which point we had dinner and weather turned rotten! I had to get up once during the night to fix my tarp but other than that not too miserable.
Today we did the Honeycomb high route across the Suiattle and Honeycomb Glaciers, then we traversed across Tenpeak Mountain and stopped at a lake for lunch. After lunch we climbed down into the Napeequa Valley where we are to solo. We start solo tomorrow.
Did much reflecting over days past and days to come.
A quiet day for rest, thinking and sitting.
A day to write letters and impressions.
So – what else happened?
Very interesting. I am again amazed at how much I omitted from my personal “Log” of the adventure. I can see much of it in my mind’s eye, and some, I have from the pictures I took and have around here still somewhere…
In absence of my own pictures, for now, here is a picture of Glacier Peak:
The “Center” of the Glacier Peak Wilderness area is this active volcano. From Wikipedia, “Glacier Peak is the most isolated of the five stratovolcanoes in the Cascade Volcanic Arc in Washington State. Elevation: 10,541. Last eruption: 1700. Mountain Range: North Cascades.”
Given that one other group made it, and one did not, it was pretty much 50/50 whether or not we would make it to the top when we started out on Day 10. But let me go back further and describe a few events in more detail. Already on Day 8, we were faced with a new and different challenge than we had before. Crossing a river on a log is no simple feat, even when you have no pack on. But with a full pack – it’s definitely hard! That river we crossed, the White River was every bit as large as the North Fork of the Skykomish River where one person from our expedition had already drowned. The thought of slipping and going in and not being able to get that pack off in time was in all our minds!
There was some comfort in the fact that the White River at that point was meandering through a meadow pretty much, and wasn’t in a steep descent as was the North Fork of the Skykomish where we were just about a week prior, and the water wasn’t rushing by underneath, but there was still a lot of water, and the river was deep, over our heads we were sure. The log was over 100′ long (tall) and we had to cross pretty much the entire thing to get across the river. In fact, the log may have been more like 150′ in length, while we climbed on it and off it and crossed about 100′ of it if memory serves.
Now, let me tell you about “Bush-whacking”. I had heard the term as a boy, perhaps a half-dozen or so times, but wasn’t really familiar with the meaning. What it means is going “Off trail”. In other words, you are headed off through scrub, brush, mud, muck, swamp, trees, ferns, whatever, and trying to navigate (somehow) in order to wind up at your intended destination. Much of the time while bush-whacking, you are surrounded by “Canopy” (trees, rocks, whatever) that prevents you seeing where you are going, and confuses you and makes your pace slower due to the need to consult compass in order to orient properly and keep going in the correct direction.
This particular day was miserable during that bushwhacking part, as we went through a swamp. I was a city kid, remember? And I figured swamps couldn’t be in the mountains – somehow my thinking was again, in error due to lack of knowledge. There are many swamps in the mountains I have since learned, some caused by natural obstacles in the drainage of a river, and others caused by animals (Beavers, in particular). Both types can be daunting! We had no idea the cause of this particular swamp, but suffice it to say, we got to camp that night both muddy and covered in mosquito and “No-See-Um” bites. The infamous No-See-Um’s were the worst. They got in your ears, nose, mouth, eyes, anywhere that wasn’t covered, they’d fly in there and you’d hear them and feel them, but not see them until they were already on your skin attached and biting you! Yuck!
I remember camping by Reflection Pond, named because it’s below (about 4 miles south) of Glacier Peak, and on clear days makes for some very scenic pictures and enjoyable vistas. While I don’t remember passing the other patrols (maybe vaguely) I do remember thinking we only had that 50/50 chance of success in making it to the top of Glacier Peak. It was to be a very difficult climb!
Now for a bit more explanation about Glacier School. First, I may need to describe (briefly) to some, just exactly what a Glacier is. A Glacier, is a pile of ice and snow that is continually melting and refreezing and is actively sliding down a valley, carving out rocks and dirt beneath it as it slides downwards. Glaciers are formed by snow that melts, and then refreezes, and eventually coalesces into a large enough amount that it begins to slide down a valley on the side of a mountain or ridge. Glaciers can be miles in length as well as thousands of feet in elevation. Glaciers usually have what are known as “Crevasses” that are cracks which open (and close) on a daily, even hourly basis as the sun differentially warms the snow and ice of the glacier and the rock around it during the day.
Folks usually aren’t intimidated by glaciers since we most often see them in pictures and think of the ones in Alaska that dump ice (large chunks) into places like Glacier Bay as they “Calve” off those large pieces. Those can be quite spectacular events to witness! Other times, we think of the glaciers of North America, in places like Glacier National Park (Montana) and sometimes even we might think about glaciers on the sides of some mountains that a few of us have climbed. I’ve been on numerous glaciers, and find them interesting as well as challenging (to hike across) due to their inherent unstable nature and danger involved in crossing.
This particular day (Day 9), as I reported, we climbed onto the glacier (the White Chuck Glacier) that covered some of the southern mass of Glacier Peak. We were on it from about 5,000′ elevation upwards. When we stopped to do “Glacier School” it was because there was a giant crevasse, perfectly suited for learning the “Team Arrest” technique. We all practiced our self-arrest techniques, as well as had to learn the new techniques of stopping an entire team from sliding into (and dying presumably) a glacier. So, we had to rope up into two teams, each with 5 people. We simply took our ropes, and added loops into the line at about 60′ intervals. Then, we practiced by having one member of the team (on the end conveniently) walk up and jump into the crevasse. The rest of us had to all arrest simultaneously, and then one by one, drive our ice-axes down into the loop on the rope where we were connected to the team, and then stand up and prepare to haul the member out of the crevasse.
No, unfortunately, we didn’t all get to jump into the crevasse. I missed out on that one! It would have been fun though! We had to haul somebody out a couple times though. After our schooling, we kept our ropes on and proceeded up to where we made our “Base Camp” which was in effect an “Assault Camp” from where we would attempt to get to the top of Glacier Peak the following day.
Interesting choice of words I wrote in my journal for that day, I was the “Manager” for the day and was tasked with getting folks up and going by a certain time. It actually wasn’t easy, as it was very cold up on the side of that mountain, they made sure we didn’t build our camp in a valley (between two ridges) due to the danger of avalanches, but instead we had erected our tarps on a rocky ridge where we had little actual shelter. Those of us who slept on the windy side got little sleep, and were COLD all night long! It was actually a relief to get up and get walking in the morning right as it was starting to get light. We had headlamps, but did very little in the way of night-hiking or night activities (during the entire adventure).
But we got out of camp on time, and proceeded up the glacier to the peak. We didn’t see any large crevasses on our route up the mountain, in fact, didn’t see much of anything, it was blowing, and foggy (in the clouds) and snowing off and on the entire time. One fellow, again Tracy if I remember correct, fell into a hidden crevasse but which was barely larger than he was, and so was more of a “Hole” in the ice. We all laughed since it seemed so comical, he only fell in up to his armpits, and was kind of suspended there looking at us with this look on his face “Hey guys, get me the %&@#*^ out of here!” We did, using our technique we had learned, and went on to the summit.
The summit was maybe a couple hundred yards across the cone, and we fooled around up there a bit. It was the first time I ever played “Hacky sack” as somebody got their hacky out and we kicked it around for a bit. But, as I reported, it was cold, and the top actually had a “Descending Cap” (a lenticular cap is a cloud formation that forms over the tops of peaks, and a descending cap is a subtype that is getting lower as a storm front approaches). So, it was cold, with poor visibility, and the wind was howling like 40 knots. We played a bit, got our pictures taken – as a patrol – and then proceeded back down as quickly as possible.
It was really the first “Major” climb of my life and was very exhilarating! What a day! What a feat! What a team! We had done it! If my memory is correct, as this was Day 9, that would have been right about June 29-30. I will have to look up the dates to be sure. There is one day on the trip I remember for sure – it was July 4, during our “Final” and from that day, I will be able to extrapolate the others, I just haven’t gotten there yet in the journal is all. Consequently, this may have been earlier in June, perhaps as early as June 22-23. I’m not quite sure off the top of my head.
Anyhow, we came down, the rest of the day has faded from memory, probably we were exhausted and slept soundly when we were back at camp. I have an impression that it was actually sunny when we were back down at “Base Camp” although that would be directly opposite what we experienced that following night! I said there was a storm that night? Yikes! We got hit with everything, wind, rain, snow, ice, tarp vibrating in the wind all night long, all of us cold and miserable… It was a bit rough, to say the least. All things considered, we took it in stride.
For whatever reason, probably because we had a long ways to go, on Day 11 we broke camp VERY early, and started our traverse across the Suiattle (and Honeycomb) Glacier towards Tenpeak Mountain and the Napeequa Valley. The first part of that day was definitely a low point for me on the adventure. We left so early in the morning, it was barely light, and my boots performed their worst under those still frozen glacier conditions. We were roped together, being still on glacier, and I fell about two dozen times in the first hour. I had bruises on my butt, and a very bruised ego, and my frustration grew so bad that I actually broke and cried at one point. Yep. Picture that, a strapping young 17 year old athlete in peak condition slumped on the ground on his butt crying. Sorry – that was the reality of my frustration, and the main reason I wished I had listened to my instructors about getting different boots! What a dumb young kid I was!
I don’t remember much else on that day, except we witnessed our first “Live” rock fall, and then as we came up and over that same ridge where we had seen the rocks falling, we were greeted with just about the prettiest sight I have ever seen! The Napeequa Valley is a “High Valley” characterized by high peaks all around, a “Glacial” valley, with an active glacier still at higher end of the valley. We were to cross that glacier on our “Final” so you will hear more about it later (I don’t remember the name of it off-hand but will look it up). As we descended into the Napeequa, I had the impression we were coming down into paradise!
The Napeequa was warm, and green, with blooming wildflowers all around (as we got below the snow anyhow). It had the prettiest river, and bees, and butterflies, it was just the most picturesque place I had ever seen prior to that point in my life! And that was where we were to solo! Can you imagine that? We were fearful of spending 3 days alone, with nothing to eat (the solo, in addition to being by yourself was a time of fasting as the Native Americans did in order to see visions).
So, our instructors Jim and Jeff picked isolated spots for each of us, and told us not to venture around, but rather to conserve our energy and sit close to where they placed us. They put me near a log on the east side of the river, below some trees, so I had a nice sunny spot to hang out and, well, do nothing. They gave each of us a small bag of peanuts and 3 packets of Wyler’s Lemonade Drink Mix. That was it! For 3 days! But, we knew it would be enough. They kept the rest of the contents of our packs, and left us with just our sleeping bags and clothes. We weren’t allowed anything else, oh, and our water bottles. Oh, drat, I will have to explain about water later. We carried no water “Filtration” equipment, rather we simply drank out of the rivers as back then, in the 1970’s at least, the water was still pure enough to drink. None of us had any issues at least.
Back to our solo. I sat on the log part of the time, and the first day I unpacked a “Special” treat a friend had sent with me for the trip: A joint of very high-quality weed that was just for me! My friend had grown it himself, and I knew the quality of the weed to be top of the top! It was a treat I had been looking forward to for nearly two weeks now, and figured my solo would be the perfect time to smoke it and “Have visions”. I smoked the entire thing, and you know what? Nothing. Squat. No buzz! I was completely baffled by that! I had rolled that myself and kept it secure for the solo and all, and nobody else knew about it, and there was no way it had gotten wet or contaminated or whatever. What the heck happened?
It took me YEARS to figure it out. In fact, I don’t think I truly figured it out until after I got sober, some 6 years later (when I was 23 years old). What I believe happened is this: That marijuana was simply a drug, and drugs are very powerful on ordinary states of consciousness. Being way up high in the mountains, in probably the most beautiful place I had ever seen was already “High enough” though, such that the drug had no effect on me whatsoever! The most powerful drug I had experienced up to that point in my life was powerless next to the sheer raw power of natural wonder itself! Isn’t that amazing?
I was blown away. Anyhow, I sat there that first day, and just marveled at the fact I didn’t get stoned, watched the ants, and looked at flowers and laid on my back staring up at the sky and the clouds and such and passed the day quietly. Day 2 of my solo I had to go about getting water and making my lemonade to drink, I buried the peanuts in my pack and decided to only drink the lemonade. So I lived off lemonade and water for those 3 days. On one of the days, a bear climbed across the ridge above me. It was big and moving pretty fast, traversing across under the peaks, in the brush, but above the trees.
And it was the last day I think, that even though we were supposed to be alone, my friend Joe dropped in for a chat. Funny, I have never told anyone about it until now. I think I was secretly afraid to divulge the fact that we violated the “Sacred” rules of the solo or something. We just chatted, I don’t remember even what we talked about. It was a nice visit, and killed an hour or so, while we were hanging out waiting for Day 3 of solo to be over. I think we both talked about the bear we saw, that was about the most memorable thing though.
My “Log” reports I wrote letters and impressions down. I don’t recall the impressions, they should have been in the journal! What a dork! But I do have a letter, or letters I wrote to my mom. After mom passed away last year, we started going through her stuff. There was quite a lot of stuff, as you can imagine, she had collected in her 87 years. I found one box, that was filled with some of her most precious stuff, and in that box were the two letters I wrote her from Outward Bound! I will have to find those and add the contents to this log eventually.
One other notable thing that happened during my solo that I didn’t put in my journal, and don’t really remember on which day it happened. In the northwest they have some fantastic bugs! This one particular bug, a giant beetle with very long antennas decided to fly past my face as I was sitting peacefully and land on my back. I was so startled that I almost screamed! It was about 3 & 1/2″ long and the antenna were like 4″ long or maybe even a bit longer. When it flew past me, I was in such a quiet state that it was like a freight train going by – it woke me out of my quietness with a real jolt! Once I realized it was just a bug, I sat there and watched him for a bit. Picture the bug below, only not striped (if I remember correctly). I did look him up, and remember that he was some kind of borer beetle.
So, a final “Impression” on the solo. Did I see visions? No. Was I impacted by it? Some. Did I learn anything at all profound? Well, yes, the part about natural highs being so much more powerful than drugs! Is that an important life lesson? Yes, absolutely! Did it stick with me my whole life? Yes, definitely. As I said, this “Adventure” happened in 1977 after I graduated from High School. In fact, I skipped my High School Graduation ceremony in order to go on this Outward Bound adventure.
My step-father Mike had been instrumental in guiding me towards this outdoor adventure, and he was still involved in mine and my mother’s life for another 3 years before he died in 1980. So, perhaps most importantly of all, did Outward Bound become a “Stake in the ground” in my life? Was it a marker of some sort that delineated my childhood from my adulthood? Yes and no. Yes, because I definitely had a life-changing adventure, but no, because the real changes in my life would occur (start) 6 years later when I went through drug and alcohol rehabilitation.
Enough for this week! More in Week 3.