28 Dec 100K Feet
Numbers can be motivating. Some of us count how many summits we’ve reached in a year. For others, it’s how many miles of single track they rode or how many kilometers they’ve skied. For my friend Woody, it’s all about how many vertical feet he gets in during one year.
Woody (Brian Wood) hails from Eugene and this is his first year linking up with the Cascades Mountaineers (CM). He and I first met a few years back when I was looking for a partner to do some winter hikes. Since then, we’ve walked and snowshoed up several of both bigger and more modest peaks along the Cascade crest. Like me, Woody enjoys day trips; it doesn’t always have to be a tall summit with a long approach. And he’s game for a trip almost any weekend of the year. So, it was no surprise when he contacted me in right after New Year’s Day this past year to join him in a showshoe trip up Maxwell Butte, just north of Santiam Pass. Despite crusty conditions and a whipping wind, we had a good trip and congratulated ourselves on a good start to the year.
And it was a good start. Woody, in particular, kept plugging away at summits from Shasta to Middle Sister throughout the year, with a whole lot of minor peaks, hills, and cones in between. He contacted me again around Thanksgiving to let me know he was approaching a milestone: 100,000 feet elevation gained in his trips this year. (At an average of 3000 vertical feet per trip, that’s about three dozen climbs!) He was still a few thousand feet shy at that point, but figured that he’d reach his goal in late December. Wouldn’t it be fitting, he suggested, to end the year the way we started, with a trip up Maxwell Butte?
As the trip date approached, it became increasingly obvious that this wasn’t going to be the winter outing we’d imagined. The highway over Santiam Pass was snow-free and dry before Christmas and the snow line continued to move higher up the mountains as late December daytime temperatures routinely went above freezing. Be that as it may, six of us met on the 27th to see the mission through. Woody was joined by his wife, Robin, two long-time hiking companions from Eugene, Chuck and John, CM member Gary Armstrong, and me. Gary met Woody back in October on a late season trip up Middle Sister and the two of them had also hiked up Black Butte a couple of weeks before. When we gathered at Lost Lake campground at the base of Maxwell Butte, Woody announced that he needed less than 2000 feet to reach his goal. The 2300 feet we’d gain climbing up the butte would put him comfortably past the milestone.
The forests immediately above the lake were filled with patchy snow. We made a beeline from the lake to the summit ridge. We knew that somewhere toward the top a trail came in from the west but by that altitude the snow cover, although thin, was nearly continuous. Rather than search for it we simply continued northward along the ridge. It seemed odd to be scrambling on rock instead of tramping through deep snow in December, but no one complained. The sun was out and the temperature hovered in the mid-forties. A little under three hours after leaving the cars we were all on top. Chuck reached into his pack and pulled out a celebratory bottle of apple cider and we all toasted the man and the measure. Well done, Woody.