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Climbing Trips to the Northwest, Yosemite, and other Areas

Over the years the Mountaineers have continued to organize some trips to more far-away destinations. There have been several trips to the Wind River Range. Around 1970, Larry Campbell led a joint CMC/LAMC trip to the Wind Rivers to climb Gannett Peak. Emily Willbanks was among the members who were on that trip. The club climbed East Temple Peak and other spires on a trip around 1975. Dennis Brandt led a trip to the Wind Rivers in 1976, and there was another Wind Rivers trip in 1981 led by Don Liska. And in 1986, a strong group of rock climbers spent a week in the Cirque of the Towers, climbing several classic climbs (Wolf's Head and Pingora's Northeast Face) and several other nearby peaks.

In the period from 1980 to 1990 there were a series of trips to the Tetons where the participants climbed Teewinot, the Middle Teton, and the Grand Teton. The Grand was climbed by various routes, including the Petzolt, the Exum, the Exum Direct, and the North Ridge. Mark Zander and Chris Foster led a trip in August 1983 that encountered almost unbroken rainy weather. The participants learned how to pitch their tents in stream beds, how to sleep in wet sleeping bags, and how to climb the Exum Ridge during a snowstorm. In 1990, on a climb of the Grand Teton's North Ridge route, the party had to bivouac at 12,000 feet on the Grandstand. They learned that they could keep warm during the night if they kept doing pushups every 15 - 30 minutes!

Fig. 1. Chris Horley on the Middle Teton, with the Grand Teton and Mt. Owen in the background,
 after leading an earlier climb up the Grand's North Ridge (N. Ensslin photo, 1990).

Several groups have also gone to northeastern Wyoming to climb Devil's Tower. In 1967 Stretch Fretwell, Mike Williams and Don Liska flew up to Devil's Tower in Stretch's plane to do a weekend climb of the Durrance Route. Don says that "We landed on a grass strip in Sundance, Wyoming, hitch hiked to the tower, and bivouacked that night at its base. We climbed the magnificent route the next day and returned to the plane to sleep under its wing." In 1978 George Rinker led a club trip to Devils Tower and the Bighorns. In 1989 Jan Studebaker organized a group of club rock climbers who visited Fremont Canyon, Vedauwoo, Devil's Tower, and the Needles in South Dakota. 

During the late 1980's and 1990's the club organized a series of rock climbing trips to Yosemite National Park to do climbs in Yosemite Valley or Tuolumne Meadows. Jim Straight recalls that he went on 6 of these trips during the 1984 to 1990 time frame. The Mountaineers rented tent cabins or wood-frame cabins in Camp Curry or Yosemite Village. In the evenings, the climbers would gather in the Camp Curry cafeteria to eat dinner, swap stories from their adventures during the day, and plan the next day's climbs. Jim Straight, Lou Horak, and Roy Lucht were the most ambitious of the group, usually climbing 60 to 80 pitches over the course of a week's stay in the Valley.

Fig. 2. Seven former club presidents and two other scruffy climbers heading off on the first Mountaineers' trip to Yosemite. (Left to right) Jan Studebaker, Lou Horak, Jim Straight, Norbert Ensslin, Dennis Brandt, Ralph Menikoff, Gregg Brickner, Chris Foster, and Dave Barlow (Jim Straight photo, June 1984).
Many pleasant days were spent doing friction routes on the Glacier Point Apron, or doing crack climbs at the Manure Pile Buttress, at the base of El Capitan, or at the bottom of the Royal Arches wall. Friction climbing on the Glacier Point Apron took some getting used to: it was more a mental challenge than a physical one, requiring the climber to have cool nerves and keep the weight properly over the feet. Some of the more experienced friction climbers sewed leather patches onto the back of their pants. When they took a long slider, they would flip over onto their butts and enjoy the ride down without losing too much skin! When it was too hot in the Valley, the climbers would don their sweaters and long pants, drive to Tuolumne Meadows, and climb some of the beautiful domes in the cool crisp mountain air. Like Yosemite Valley, the Meadows also provided a great selection of run-out friction routes or fine crack climbs.

Fig. 3. Jim Straight on Hoppy's Favorite Direct, Glacier Point Apron, Yosemite, demonstrating the calm demeanor and proper balance required on friction slabs with very little protection (Lou Horak photo).
Over the years the Club has also visited many other rock climbing areas, including Cabezon Peak, El Salto/Lucero Peak near Taos, Questa Dome, and the Sandias in New Mexico; Granite Mountain near Prescott, Arizona; Arches National Park, Castleton Tower and Ancient Arts in Utah; and of course Shiprock and the Brazos, as described in detail elsewhere in this history. Bob Stuewe led two trips to Joshua Tree in California, in February 1988 and May 1993. The Organ Mountains near Las Cruces were a popular area for the Mountaineers in the 1970's (Lou and Paul Horak did the first ascent of Hand Jive in 1975). The Cochise Stronghold in southern Arizona is also becoming more popular with the club in recent years. The City of Rocks in southeastern Idaho and Red Rocks in Nevada have now become favorite destinations for Mountaineers' climbing trips, with club or private trips occurring almost every year.

Fig. 4. Ralph Menikoff belaying on a climb of the 10-pitch Left Eyebrow route
on Sugarloaf in the Organ Mountains (Jim Straight photo, November 1984.)

The club also made several trips back to the Pacific Northwest, the original mountaineering home of senior club members like Don Liska and Eiichi Fukushima. Both of these mountaineers led separate trips at different times to the North Cascades. Eiichi led an August 1973 trip to Mt. Baker and Shuksan. The party included Chris Foster, Karl Horak, Lou Horak, Dick Krajcik, Cliff Naveaux, Ray Sena, and Emily Willbanks. Don and Alice Liska led a trip in 1982 to climb Baker, Shuksin, and then Mt. Ranier via the Kautz icefall route. Don also led a small tough group to the Canadian Rockies in 1985, where they attempted to repeat earlier ascents of Mt. Assiniboine and Mt. Sir Donald, but encountered very rainy weather.

One recurring theme for the Yosemite, Tetons, Wind Rivers, and Northwest trips was an enthusiasm for climbing some of the "Fifty Classic Climbs" described in the famous book by Alan Steck and Steve Roper. Over the course of these trips, many of the Mountaineers climbed the Royal Arches, the East Buttress of Middle Cathedral Peak, or Lost Arrow Spire in Yosemite Valley; Fairview Dome or Snake Dike in the high country; Travelers' Buttress at Lover's Leap; Wolf's Head or Pingora's Northeast Face in the Wind Rivers; the Exum Ridge or Direct Exum Ridge or North Ridge of the Grand Teton; the Direct South Buttress of Mt. Moran; and Liberty Ridge on Mt. Ranier.

Eiichi Fukushima recalls that in 1975 the LANL Division of Geophysics asked for two mountaineers to accompany two geophysicists who were studying recent volcanic activity on Mt. Baker. Eiichi and Len Margolin volunteered to accompany the scientists on the trip. They were there for 11 days and helped guide the scientists onto the mountain and move their gear up. Due to a misunderstanding, the two parties ended up camping at separate locations, with the scientists 1000 feet higher. A severe 3-day snowstorm dumped 4 to 5 feet of snow on the peak, leaving the scientists in dire straits in a marginal snow cave. Eiichi and Len were finally able to get back up to them, help them dig out their gear, and escort them back to the base of the peak. Eiichi says that two Mountaineers had a blast on this trip, but almost managed to kill the two scientists! 

In addition to these Mountaineers' trips, several of the more active members have organized small private expeditions to some spectacular destinations. Chris Horley has climbed Cho Oyu, an 8000 meter peak in the Himalayas, as part of a guided expedition. Also, Chris Horley, Jason Halladay, and Bill Geist have climbed Denali in Alaska and Aconcagua in Chile, and have attempted Mt. Cook in New Zealand. Mike Sullivan has climbed in the Langtang Himal and Annapurna Himal of Nepal, the Kumaon Himal of northern India, and the Cordillera Blanca of Peru. In 1997 he did a traverse of the Bailey Range on the Olympic Peninsula in the state of Washington. And, quite a few club members have participated in several recent trips to Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.


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