Mazamas BCEP

When I started to get into better shape a couple of years ago, I first started walking a bit, which turned into Saturday morning short hikes on the paved and unpaved trails near home. I guess to encourage this behavior, Beth bought me a book, Oregon Hiking: The Complete Guide to More Than 490 Hikes (Moon Outdoors).

That’s when it started.

I tried some of the hikes listed in the book, and found I really liked hiking uphill:  one can get a good workout, without pounding your knees the way running sometimes can.  Plus, the views are often very nice.  I did Saddle Mountain in the Coast Range, and the Kings Mountain and Elk Mountain trails near home became my default Saturday workout options.  Then I came upon the chapter that revealed that Oregon’s 3rd-highest mountain, South Sister, just required hiking to reach its summit; I did that hike in August 2012.

Eventually I got the chapter on Southern Oregon peaks, and a fascinating description of Mount Thielsen:

Mount Thielsen’s peak, a towering 9,182 feet in the sky, has earned the nickname “Lightning Rod of the Cascades” for no uncertain reason.  What was once an 11,00-foot-high volcano has been whittled down by glaciers to its single lava plug, an andesite core left after 100,000 years.  What you’ll find on the peak are the lightning-melted spots of fulgurite, a re-crystalized glassy rock that pocks the summit boulders.

Thielsen is no climb for the weak-hearted.  It demands endurance, stamina, sureness of hands, and outright skill…

Cool.  Sounds like a great hike.  But then it went on to say:

…the final ascent is a dangerous technical climb that requires ropes and climbing partners to aid you.  Any ascent past the topmost ledge, a Class 4 rock climb, is done at you own risk  Only experienced climbers should attempt this final pitch.  …to attempt the summit, continue straight up the ridge 1.2 miles on a climber’s trail spiraling to the right around the eastern ledge at the base of the 80-foot peak.  The drop from this ledge to the east is thousands of feet, a dizzying view down to the deserts of Eastern Oregon.  Do not climb to the peak without rock climbing experience; rockfall and exposure makes this pitch dangerous.

Hmmm.  What’s the point of going almost all the way to the top, and then being unable to do the final 80 feet?  I guess I needed to get some “rock climbing experience” before doing much more of this uphill hiking stuff.  We have some friends who are members of The Mazamas, a Portland-area mountaineering club founded in 1894.  Every spring they offer a Basic Climbing Education Program (BCEP), a six-week introductory course to climbing.  It consists of Tuesday evening lectures, and field sessions on the weekend (often both Saturday and Sunday).  I applied this year an was accepted.  Our team, Team 12, consisted of 9 students, 2 volunteer instructors, and 9 assistants.  Here are some pictures taken during the course.

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