Boy Scouts climb in (and out) of thin air

NORTH BEND - The young men of North Bend Boy Scout Troop and Venture Crew 466 can attest that the view at 12,276 feet is amazing.

Last month, members and leaders of the Scout troop reached the summit of Mount Adams, the fourth-highest peak in the state. It was the first such climb for the boys, but it won't likely be the last.

"It was pretty cool," said Josh Yoker, 13, who climbed with the troop.

The climb was the culmination of a year of planning and training. Last summer, the leaders of the group met to plan the coming year's events and decided to make a climb up Mount Adams one of the challenges the boys would face. To train for the climb the Scouts, age 13-15, practiced with ice axes at the Snoqualmie Pass during the winter. They also made a practice run up to Camp Muir, one of the base camps on Mount Rainier, and climbed Humpback Mountain multiple times to prepare for the physical rigors of the climb.

To mentally prepare, the Scouts got special training by Pro Ski shop owner and mountaineer guide Martin Volken.

The climb began June 23 and was led by scout master Doug McClelland, outdoor coordinator Tim Hauser and local mountaineering guide George Dunn. While Dunn has gone on plenty of high-altitude climbs (he has climbed Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world), this was the first for his 14-year-old son, Jimmy.

"I like to climb," said Jimmy. "It was really fun."

On the first day, the boys started at the Cold Spring trail head with an altitude of 5,475 feet and headed for Lunch Counter, the 9,309-foot altitude base camp where they would spend the night.

The boys awoke at 4 a.m. the next morning to make the last and most grueling part of the hike. The group reached a false summit with just under 800 feet left to go and regrouped. Jimmy said the last half of the climb was the hardest and was where all of the training the Scouts received came into use. Whenever someone would slip and fall, they knew how to stop themselves with their equipment so they wouldn't tumble down the mountain.

As with any high-altitude ascent, there was the risk of having to turn back because of adverse weather or the physical rigors of the climb. Some of the group did turn back as high winds beat them the whole way up, but most of the Scouts persevered to reach the summit and see the panoramic view that included Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens and Mount Hood, located across the border in Oregon.

"You can see forever," said Yoker.

The trip down was less strenuous. Many climbers make their way down from the summit by simply sliding down the mountain. Since climbers had been sliding down all day, by the time the Scouts reached the top there were already slide paths carved out for the descent.

"It took hours to get up and a couple of minutes to get down," said Jimmy.

The Scouts may not find an everyday use for the mountaineering skills they've learned, but they said they didn't do the climb just to learn how to use ice axes and sleep in the snow.

"I learned that you can make it," said Yoker. "You just have to try."

The group plans to scale Mount Rainier, the highest peak in the state (14,411 feet), next year.

Editor Ben Cape can be reached at (425) 888-2311 or by e-mail at

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