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Cross Country Skiing: December 16-17, 2006

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Clumsy Gracefulness

by Julia, Grade 10

At 8 o’clock on Saturday morning, fifteen pairs of sleepy eyes boarded a small yellow bus, each eagerly anticipating a weekend of skiing and bonding. We talked and listened to cheesy road trip music as our surroundings changed from grey puddles to piles of gleaming white snow. Stopping in Sandy for ski gear, many of the members started to awaken, restoring the deep-seated enthusiasm they had when signing up for the trip. My excitement grew steadily during the car ride, and reached a high point when renting the ski gear. I doled out chocolate to those who hadn’t quite realized what was going on yet.

We drove up the mountain until finally we reached our destination. After checking and rechecking for all the necessary (but surprisingly unnecessary) warm layers, we commenced our journey into the wonderful world of cross-country skiing. Ironically, the course we took started with a steep downhill, and as a result of our ignorant confidence many of us had a rocky start. After that, we embarked on a series of gentle rolling hills, and they became quite enjoyable after we mastered the art of standing upright. Each one of us had our own original way of avoiding direct contact with the snow, and many proved faulty. Nevertheless, we enjoyed the beautiful and serene setting with each wobbly glide. After a quick and cold stop for lunch, some of us ventured a bit further while the rest started back to the bus.

After about 5 hours of skiing, the whole group ended up at the bus, tired but satisfied. We looked forward to the warm and luxurious cabin awaiting us. When we arrived, a beautiful cabin welcomed us with open arms, though the power had stopped working. Despite this minor setback, we made the best of it by spending the night enjoying each other’s company, lighting Hanukkah candles (courtesy of Rob Kaye), eating dinner, and playing cards.

We awoke to power once again, and got ready for another day on the mountain. This time, we split our group in two, a beginning group and an intermediate one. Although both groups were to go about the same distance, the intermediate faced steeper and more frequent hills. I decided to go with the intermediate group, which started with a hike up a downhill ski slope. After that, we had another long ski uphill. After defying gravity for what seemed like ages, we finally reached a gratifying downhill slope. I enjoyed the downhill, but looking back I also appreciated the uphill because of the time we had to spend with nature. While trudging up Mount Hood, we were able to gaze at the serenity of the snow and the abundance of trees, a rare occurrence in everyday school life.

After another 5 hours of skiing that day, many of us felt ready to head back down, and after a stop at Joe’s doughnuts, we arrived back at Catlin. The brevity of the trip was nice because it offered only a taste of cross-country skiing, and left me wanting to return to the mountain. I’m sure all of us made great memories on this trip, and all that I learned about cross country skiing and the other people accompanying me will not soon be forgotten.

Teaching what matters

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by Lark Palma, head of school

I recently attended a conference for independent school heads and deans at Harvard University. The conference, “Leading and Managing the Independent School of the Future,” explored how American schools can best deliver relevant teaching and learning.

I was particularly intrigued and gratified by the presentation by David Perkins, senior professor of education at Harvard University, because so much of what he said validated what we do at Catlin Gabel. Armed with a doctorate in mathematics and artificial intelligence from MIT, David Perkins has turned his attention to research and development in teaching and learning for understanding, creativity, problem-solving, and reasoning in the arts, sciences, and everyday life.

David Perkins makes a clear distinction between rote learning for tests and meaningful learning, which he calls knowledge arts. As he describes it, knowledge arts include “communicating strategically, insightfully, and effectively, thinking critically and creatively, and putting school knowledge to work out in what educators sometimes humbly call the ‘real world.’ The knowledge arts bundle together deep reading, compelling writing, strong problem-solving and decision-making, and the strategic and spirited self-management of learning itself, within and across the disciplines.” Sounds like Catlin Gabel, doesn’t it?

He talked about how schools underserve students when they focus on test results and mechanical learning rather than on teaching kids how to think, analyze, and apply their knowledge. He summarizes his appraisal of most American schools by dividing teaching into that which is “taught a lot, but matters not,” and that which is “not taught, but matters a lot.”

The concept of teaching what matters speaks to the national conversation about testing. Catlin Gabel and other progressive schools resist the trend toward teaching that which matters not by eschewing Advanced Placement classes. By definition AP classes teach to the test. After hearing David Perkins, I am more convinced than ever that we are doing what’s best for students by avoiding the rigid AP curriculum.

Last month I wrote a response piece for The Head’s Letter, published by Educational Directions, on this topic. My article was published as an endorsement of a New York Times op-ed piece by Rodney LeBrecque, an educational consultant and former independent school dean at Choate Rosemary Hall and science department head at Milton Academy. Here is my response:

I applaud Rodney LaBrecque’s position on the Advanced Placement examinations. Catlin Gabel School has never taught AP courses, for the reasons Mr. LaBrecque cites. We have always felt that teachers need the freedom to create courses that meet the needs of the students and provide flexibility to make what’s happening now open for investigation. Students take the AP exams – in all subjects available to them – if they want to. Our median grades are 4 and 5.

A strong curriculum that emphasizes thinking skills, information management and interpretation, and that focuses on the skills of a discipline affords a student the necessary preparation for solid collegiate work. And Mr. LaBrecque did not mention that many colleges give their own placement tests in various disciplines.

NAIS and regional independent school associations should band together to take a strong stand against the AP culture. We threaten our own independence by AP-ing and IB-ing to such an extent that we might as well be under the thrall of No Child Left Behind. I do not believe that top students in public or private schools are well served by exam-directed classes: there’s no room for engagement with original ideas, and too much rote memorization.

For many independent schools, teaching beyond AP is a way to compete with other local choices. If we communicate that our curriculum exceeds the AP standard, we can counter AP proponents, while providing something much more substantive for our students.

Swimming upstream is not always easy, which is why I am so proud that Catlin Gabel has been in the vanguard of teaching what matters.


Caving November 2006

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Caving Adventure in the Washington Cascades

Seven students from Middle School and thirteen Upper Schoolers travelled to the remote forests near Trout Lake, Washington to explore lava tubes over the weekend of November 4th and 5th.

Canyoneering in SE Utah's Robbers Roost: November 16-22, 2006

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to Salt Lake City, drive south, over mountains, past canyons, pause to play frisbee in a sleepy town punctuated by the lights of gas stations: Hanksville, Utah. Last outpost of civilization.

Drive dirt roads, dodging kamikaze jack rabbits, park at trailhead. We have arrived.

Wake to brilliant sunrise, mountains, canyons surround. Load all belongings in backpack, repack, repack once more. Tie boots, check map, set off.

Mesa recedes, slickrock appears. Descend step by careful step with the world spread out before you. Eat, rest, cross river, hike on. Our camp is our home.

Explore archways and quicksand. Feast on pasta, made more delicious by hard work. Move to a new camp, wading through the river over again and again. Cold clear nights freeze our boots and reveal stars upon stars.

Rise early, hike, climb, hurry to reach our goal. A darker canyon, narrow and twisting, opens to us. Enter, wiggle, slide, rappel, use caution, exclaim.

This place is ours, we belong to it.

Utah, According to Sam (senior)

After a long day of travel, I quickly fell asleep, and remember mostly a sense of slowly leaving behind all of civilization as we drove further and further into the desert. Long after the sun had set, we stopped to play a night game of Frisbee, eerily illuminated by the harsh lights of a gas station. Finally, after having gingerly guided the vans over miles of dirt road, we found ourselves at the trailhead.

In the morning I had to massage the tip of my nose for five minutes before it felt warm again. For the first time, we could see the desert surrounding us. An enormous mountain range shot up out of the tableland, while in front of us were the canyons. After dividing up the group equipment among the packs, we set off downhill. As we descended down slickrock formations as round and smooth as gigantic popcorn kernels, I noticed that the canyons were a fascinating study in color combinations-- the cliffs rearing above us ranged from rusty to crayon-pink to a glassy black that looked like scorchmarks from a rocket.

The most surreal moment for me came as we turned a corner and found ourselves facing a ridiculously tall, sheer cliff the color of pepto-bismol. Branching off from the main canyon, we hiked a little ways up the side canyon where we planned to set up base camp, and laid our tents and tarps down under the spindly branches of an old tree. The canyon walls leaned in towards us, creating an odd, stadium-like effect.

Since we were hiking up a creekbed, we experienced the entire spectrum- mud that your foot immediately sunk into like iron weights in water, mud that was mostly slippery clay, mud that looked like solid rock but had the consistency of thick chocolate frosting, and this really bizarre mud with a thin pudding-like membrane which slowly stretched under your weight and then broke like a punctured waterbed (we later found out that this was quicksand).

Angel’s Arch was a large circular hole that pierced right through a thin peninsula of canyon wall jutting out like the front of a ship into the canyon. We clambered up through the hole and around what would be the bow of the ship to the top of the rock wall. From here, we could access a strange, globular landscape of tremendous slickrock half-globes.

Once dark had set in we sat down to fix dinner- quesadillas made with three different kinds of cheese. It struck me that almost anything tastes better when you’re cold and hungry. After extensive debate about the days ahead, we decided unanimously to pack up and travel to a new campsite further down the canyon, and then go rappeling from the mesa the next day. I harbored some anxiety about the rappeling-I pictured leaping off some sheer precipice of ungodly height, tethered by a wire-thin cord to a small shrub. But I agreed with the decision, albeit hesitantly.

In the morning we packed up the campsite and headed up the river. We had to cross the Dirty Devil river again, and then immediately cut back across. We continued to switch back and forth like that for a good few hours, at one point hugging a cliff wall to inch along a narrow rock shelf. After a nasty tangle with some quicksand, we ate lunch on a sunny sand bank and made sandwiches.

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In a search for a drinking water source, Aiyana and I ventured up a ravine made up of pink so dark it was almost magenta. The rock swirled into itself so fluidly it looked more like liquid than stone. The ravine was punctuated by deep holes big enough to fall into, which collapsed down into blackness like whirlpools. We found only a tiny pool of stagnant water and mud, and returned to the group with the bad news.

We set up tarps and sleeping pads as the sun began to disappear behind the mesa. We began to realize at this point that we had brought a slightly excessive amount of food. I got very excited about the prospects of an elaborate spaghetti dinner, and coerced several others into frying, mixing, and otherwise preparing the dinner.

Our plan for the next day was to trek up to the top of the mesa and then rappel down a narrow side canyon. Upon awaking, we found that our boots had frozen overnight and were impossible to get on. We wrestled with them until everyone had some kind of footwear on. One by one we tied in and scrambled up a steep slope of slickrock, until we had all assembled just below the mesatop. Finally, we reached the flatlands. It was the first time since waking up at the cars that we had been this high. The sun was suddenly unavoidable and unbearable, and we began to shed. We saw for the first time in days evidence of civilization- tire tracks and beer cans. We stopped at the top of the cliff we planned to descend, and it was somewhat difficult to eat lunch with such a clear view of the impending danger.

We tied the rope to what Chris assured me was a secure anchor (it looked more like a pile of boulder loosely stacked on a slope). Then we all walked up to the cliff, roped in, and rappelled. I had been apprehensive, but the actual descent was quite manageable and even fun- there’s a certain James Bond-like quality to it.

The canyon had become very narrow and twisty, and for the next few minutes we noticed a significant drop in temperature as we made our way down the passage. The clay-colored cliff walls bent and curled like smoke, blocking out the sky and enveloping us in their grasp. I’m not sure if the sinister atmosphere I’m describing was something that I noticed at the time, or what I imagined retroactively, in light of the events that took place afterwards.

We had decided to climb down a short cliff while roped in, with Chris and Aiyana acting as our anchors by bracing themselves against the cliff walls while we climbed down. Michael went first, and then Max, both without incident. The rest of us waited in a loose line, chatting and kicking rocks. Suddenly, everyone around me became very silent. I turned to see what they were looking at. A tiny rattlesnake, as big around as my thumb, was curled up a few feet from Chris. Aiyana whispered to us that we should all calmly and quietly climb down as unobtrusively as possible. Any sudden noises or movements might have endangered Chris.

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After ten minutes of very quiet rock-climbing, we had all gotten down to the bottom, and we could discuss the event in incredulous tones. Chris’s statement on the event was, in my mind, the most descriptive: “I respected the snake. There was respect, but– also– there was fear of the snake. And the fear was that the snake was going to bite me.”

We hadn’t gone too much further before we hit another obstacle- an impossibly narrow, steep passage of canyon that we would have to slide down feet first if we wanted to get through. Again we waited in line to rope up and make the descent. This time I actually found myself a bit frightened by the experience—the sensation was fairly claustrophobic. I did eventually hit the ground, and then we actually emerged from the narrow canyon! Wonder of wonders! We could see the sunset, as well as actual vegetation and wildlife. It was a beautiful sight.

As we followed the canyon bottom back to camp, we kept encountering gigantic, foul-smelling cow droppings, and it wasn’t long before we encountered their source. A herd of cows was ambling nonchalantly down the trail, and quickly spooked at our approach. After this long day, I was feeling a little under the weather, and was inexplicitly missing my headlamp. As night fell, I resembled a zombie- staggering forward uncertainly with my arms outstretched (to ward off branches) and moaning groggily. When we got to camp, I tore off my boots and immediately fell into bed and went to sleep.

After an intensely pancake-oriented breakfast, we crossed the river one last time and took off up a hill, until we finally reached a dirt road on top of the mesa. We arrived at the cars with hours of daylight left, and enjoyed our first free time in days. Dinner that night was quesadillas and whatever we could dredge up out of our packs. We fell asleep next to the vans secure in the knowledge that the next day would require next to no physical exertion.

Click on the pictures below for a larger version.

Central Oregon Service & Rock Climbing: November 18-21, 2006

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We met at 8am, gathered up our belongings. Setting off by bus, we were met by Dave Corkran, alumnus who had worked 25 years ago at the same spot we would. We were joined by a staff member from the Bureau of Land Management in front of the BLM building. Expecting to find a large assortment of gear in our trailer, we were bewildered to only find a couple of shovels. We imagined our attempts at cutting down Juniper trees with those… not good. But Lady Luck was on our side, and Dave Corkran arrived with enough gear and saws for all eleven of us…mostly. On the bus ride to our site, we saw all of the Juniper trees (they covered the hillsides and extended beyond the horizon). If theres one thing we learned this trip, it was that many juniper trees should die. That was the joke anyway. We cut down Juniper trees and cut willow wands to plant, as well as digging an endless amount of weeds and tossing them away only to find them at our feet again when we dug somewhere else. After about three hours, we left and set up camp next in a flood plain. Then we ate dinner (I forgot to bring plates, forks, etc. so I had to eat in a frying pan with a spoon Dave Corkran loaned me), and went to cut wood for a fire. We used our saws to get random dry pieces of wood (we got some pretty big pieces too), and set them on fire ^_^ . Then we went to the flood plain to look at stars.

Day 2:

After cutting junipers for two hours, I feel like I had been running a cross-country race and run out of adrenaline and sugar. I notice something white at the bottom of the river. I set the tree down and approach the object curiously. My shoes stick to the rotting wet ground and slosh their way to my goal. The grass parts like a curtain being pulled aside and reveals a deer skeleton lying on the ground. When we drive away from the site, cars in the on-coming lane of traffic gape at our bus--we had strapped the deer skull to the grill, staring out blankly at the world. After edging closer and closer to the barbed-wire fence, a herd of cows started staring at us. After our final twenty trees, we were so close to the fenced off area with the cows, they started to moo menacingly. Finally, we had lunch—it’s amazing how satisfying a peanut-butter and jelly sandwich can be after working for two hours. We ate on the back of Dave Corkran’s car…good times. We got rid of the evidence of our feast and went back to work. I saw Andrew cutting down a honkin’ sized tree that fill the entire ravine for 30 feet.

Day 3:

We finally got around to going to Smith Rock Monday. Andrew and I hadn’t ever done outside climbing, and Andrew had never done any climbing. We did a bunch of climbs I thought were hard, and it was sunny and warm. It was really fun, and we got a lot of climbing in. After all of our climbing, we went back to camp and slept.

Day 4:

Expecting the same weather, especially because it was sunny and surprisingly warm in the morning, I wore my shorts. Big mistake. When eating breakfast, Peter points out a cloud in the distance. All of us say it’s just a little cloud, but Peter says something like, “just a little cloud? That’s an entire weather system!” He was right. Soon, it spread out across the entire sky, threatening to pour its contents over our heads. Climbing was cold, especially in shorts. Eventually, it warmed up, but only for about an hour at about two o’clock. It was still fun, and though I was too afraid to do multiple pitch climbs (where you climb, anchor yourself to the rock wall, then belay your partner up until you climb the entire face), many people did. I had fun on the smaller climbs, and we left at about three thirty. By the time we got back, darkness had enveloped the Earth.

Caving November 2006

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Caving Adventure in the Washington Cascades

Seven students from Middle School and thirteen Upper Schoolers travelled to the remote forests near Trout Lake, Washington to explore lava tubes over the weekend of November 4th and 5th.

Alfred Aya ’43: 2006 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient

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Annually the alumni board selects from nominations an alumnus or alumna who demonstrates, through his or her contributions to the community, “qualities of character, intelligence, responsibility, and purpose” fostered at Catlin Gabel and its predecessor schools.

Alfred Aya ’43, a man of limitless curiosity and energy, has developed an emergency warning system able to save thousands of lives in the Cannon Beach area if a tsunami strikes the Oregon coast. The most remarkable thing about Alfred’s work is that this is his second career—one begun in his 60s after he intended to lead a quiet life of retirement by the sea. Recognizing how fully he has lived his life, and the intelligence with which he has translated his interests into meaningful realities, the Alumni Association will honor Alfred this June with the Distinguished Alumni Award. All alumni are invited to attend the dinner and celebration on June 9.

After graduating from Stanford University and serving in the Korean War, Alfred forged a long, successful career in Pacific Telephone’s corporate research department developing unique systems for analyzing operational data trends. When the Bell System was dismantled, he left Pacific Telephone, working first as a consultant and then retiring to Cannon Beach.

Simple acts can lead to bigger projects when a person as thoughtful as Alfred gets involved in study and questioning. He decided to overhaul his house, researched applicable local ordinances carefully, and as a result was appointed to the local planning commission for seven years. Concurrently, he became a director of the local fire district. He discovered that there was no system that could efficiently notify the community of an approaching tsunami. Watching two small children alone on the beach building sand castles, he resolved to remedy this potentially tragic lack of a proper warning system.

Alfred educated himself extensively about tsunamis at local libraries. He soon became known as the local expert on tsunamis—and since has come to be respected as a global expert.

He experienced firsthand the shortcomings of the coast’s emergency warning system in 1986, when a magnitude 8 Aleutian earthquake triggered a West Coast tsunami watch. Cannon Beach dispatched all its emergency personnel to warn the several thousands in and around town. This took 90 minutes—leaving no one to handle other emergencies. In response, Alfred developed the Cannon Beach Fire District’s community warning system (COWS), providing electronic siren and public address announcements and requiring only one person to operate it. Still in place today and satellite-linked to the emergency center in Alaska, it requires only 15 minutes to warn people in ocean hazard zones to evacuate. During monthly testing, the system broadcasts the sound of mooing (paying heed to its COWS name) instead of sirens, to avoid scaring the public. Alfred’s work promoting community preparedness for tsunamis earned him the 1994 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Public Service Award. He has also consulted about tsunami preparedness worldwide, been quoted in National Geographic, and appeared on Nightline after the tsunami in Asia.

Alfred has consistently exemplified the qualities that the Distinguished Alumni Award was created to honor, broadly described by Ruth Catlin in 1928. These include effective leadership, creative and resourceful problem solving, a sense of calling, a desire to serve the greater good, the ability to inspire and motivate others, and an enduring legacy. If you’re in Cannon Beach and hear some extremely loud mooing, send thanks to Alfred Aya for all he has done to make coastal communities around the world safer in the face of tsunamis.

Safety and security at Catlin Gabel

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by Lark Palma, head of school

If there is one thing that keeps me awake at night, it is imagining the horror of a student suffering serious injury during a school activity. I wish our students could be encased in protective bubbles so they would never be at risk of motor vehicle accidents, natural disasters, or unforeseen mishaps.

What does the school do to protect our students? A lot! Schoolwide security and safety measures are in place for myriad potential problems. The faculty-staff safety committee meets monthly to review procedures and address new problems as they arise. We have given a great deal of thought to safety concerns and created numerous strategies over the years, which I will summarize here.

Every single teacher and staff member is required to attend the annual safety fair held just before school starts in September. We are trained to respond to a range of disasters including fire, earthquake, and chemical spills. We also are trained to deal with injuries, airborne pathogens, lockdown procedures, and 9-1-1 protocols.

In addition to the annual safety fair, each adult working at Catlin Gabel is required to take Red Cross first aid and CPR classes. We are fortunate that P.E. department chair Sheila Williams is certified to teach the Red Cross courses so we can offer the training and recertification classes on campus (thank you, Sheila).

We have a schoolwide alarm system tied to our telephone system so alerts can be initiated anywhere on campus. Maintenance staff members test this system monthly. We also have a public address system that can be heard campus-wide, which is tested during earthquake and lockdown drills. A parent at the October PFA meeting mentioned that she had no idea we had this system in place until she was on campus one day during a drill and was impressed by the loudspeaker’s range and force, and the students’ and teachers’ orderly response.

We have in place strict lockdown procedures. An expert from the Bush School in Seattle helped us develop these procedures to secure our students and faculty-staff in the event of an armed intruder or bomb threat.

We are all on high alert. Staff members routinely ask strangers their business on campus. Sometimes, the stranger is a guest looking for the soccer fields. Other times, it may be a not-so-desirable character. In all cases, we are trained to make sure the visitors are guided to their campus destination or escorted off campus, if that seems the prudent thing to do.

Fifty-five faculty and staff members on campus have two- way radios. Many of these 55 people and the entire grounds crew are trained in violence intervention. Incident reports are standard operating procedure at Catlin Gabel and are filed for all injuries, emergency calls, and thefts. The administrative leadership team tracks incident reports.

Campus maps with building locations and numbers are updated routinely. The maps show primary evacuation routes, alarm locations, fire sprinklers, and fire hydrants. American Security, who monitors our alarm systems, has this information on file.

Catlin Gabel has excellent relationships with local law enforcement and emergency personnel. The Washington County Sheriff’s Office and the Tualatin Valley Fire Department respond incredibly quickly to our calls. They are even good humored about the occasional false alarm, which is a nuisance but is good practice for all concerned.

One thing all parents can do to help secure the safety of our students is to take great care in the parking lot. I do not wish to underestimate the fear surrounding violent intrusions or natural disasters. However, the odds favor automobile-related accidents, which is something we can all help mitigate.

We take excellent precautions and systematically review our policies and procedures. We observe and evaluate all drills. We know that the most important thing we can do is keep our children safe.

Horsethief Butte Rock Climbing: October 2006

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Horsethief Butte Climbing & Camping: October 13-14, 2006

Wow! We just got back from a wonderful rock climbing trip with 11 Middle Schoolers. I cannot sing their praises enough.

Early Saturday morning, these kids met at the theater parking lot ready to go, and cheerfully rode the bus east to Horsethief Butte near The Dalles. We spent five hours learning how to tie a Figure 8 knot and put on a harness, testing our skills on the rock, and exploring this amazing rock outcropping under clear skies. Saturday afternoon was spent swimming in Horsethief Lake, playing soccer and Frisbee, and generally running around. A huge meal, prepared by the kids, was followed by flashlight tag, Smores, star gazing, and a little talk about Celilo Falls. Sunday morning we went down to the Columbia River again and had a rock throwing contest, spotted hundreds of ducks, and looked at dozens of petroglyphs. The rain didnt hit until we were driving home.


Smith Rock Climbing: October 21-22, 2006

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Trip report for Smith Rock:

By Emma

It was a cold October morning when we boarded the bus for Smith. We dumped our stuff under the bus and eagerly anticipated the departure to Smith Rock. I fell asleep, being very tired from the early morning. I was sleeping until we woke up stopped at a rest stop on the side of the road. The landscape out the windows was amazing. The only trees were stunted junipers that sat lonely in the middle of far stretching hills and plains. Once we reached Smith Rock, everyone made a stop at the bathrooms before getting our gear. We divided up the ropes, gri-gri’s, ATC’s, tarps, harnesses, and helmets. We introduced ourselves in a group and got to know each other by learning everyone’s favorite dessert. Once instructed of the plan, we divided up into two groups; the experienced climbers and the less experienced. Being in the less experienced group, I headed off with Aiyana and Chris, as well as Patrick, Murphy, Ana, Colby, Max, Andy, Charlie, Mike, and Maddie.

We hiked to the edge of the parking lot where we headed down the side of the cliff to where we were going to climb. We talked about not yelling or throwing rocks and the “rules” of the trip. Excitement filled the air when we reached the small spot in between two big boulders where we would be climbing. Aiyana laid a tarp down and some people began to pull out food. She explained to us how to flake a rope and how that was important to do or else the rope might have knots in it. She instructed us how to belay and the other devices we would use. We went over a lot of specific safety instructions, but the most important was that you couldn’t step on the rope. If anyone did however, they would need to kiss the rope and apologize, or else the rope might take vengeance on you.

Over the course of the day, everyone climbed at least 2 of the routes that were set up to climb top rope, meaning you climb attached to a harness, which is attached to a belayer. This is the safest way to climb, and the easiest to learn. It was much different than I expected, and it was really cold since we were in the shade. The rock was cold on my fingers, and they were numb by the time I reached the top of my first climb. The day was filled with encouragement, yodeling off of tall rocks, and eating Starbursts that Murphy brought. Nearly everyone was taught to belay and at the end of the day, we were taught how to rappell. We practiced walking down some comparatively flat rocks before we rappelled down the big climbs. We picked up everything and hiked back up towards the parking lot. Along the way, I chatted with Charlie and Patrick. We walked and talked on the dusty path towards the bus. Then, out of nowhere, Greg and Jack jump out of the bushes and scare us all to death. After what seemed like a few minutes of screaming, we laughed and Greg told us that they were waiting for us to walk by for a while, and so he saw these other people and he just stood up when they walked by, but when they passed Jack, he jumped out and yelled, “RAAAAAAAWHAUAOAOAAA…..oh sorry…I thought you were my friends….” We laughed all the way to the bus. We talked to the other group members about their day and couldn’t get much out of them because we were all too excited to go eat Mexican food at a nearby Mexican restaurant. The drive seemed to take forever and it was already getting dark when we finally reached the restaurant. We took up 5 tables side-to-side in the middle of the restaurant. We were all excited and hungry, but also dirty and sweaty. We sat and chatted until our food came. The food was amazing for how hungry we were. I swear as a group, we probably ate about 40 bowls of chips before our food came. The only exciting things that happened at dinner were when Wayner spilt his Pina Colada and he was so sad, and also when he poured too much hot sauce in the bean dip, then had Colby try some. It was hilarious!

We headed back to the bus and drove a bit to our campsite. The bus driver said we have 10 minutes to get ready so we just laid all of our sleeping bags on tarps and some put up tents. Once the lights went out, Peter pointed out constellations such as Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, Pleiades, Orion’s Belt, and the Milky Way. I didn’t know some of the stars he pointed out, and it was relaxing to lie down and look up at the stars. We were all tired from the climbing we’d done that day, and we quickly fell asleep.

Nothing could have prepared me for what I woke up to that next morning. My sleeping bag was still kind of warm, but my feet were cold. I pulled the sleeping bag back from over my eyes, and I heard a crackling sound. I sat up and saw my whole sleeping bag was covered in frost. I looked around and all the sleeping bags were covered in this thin, silvery-white blanket. I was glad I covered my shoes and backpack with my raincoat, and I was able to shake off the powdery frost. Patrick stood up, freezing, wearing at least 4 jackets, and Andy groaned, saying, “Man, I wish I left my pants on…” We hustled to get ready and get back on the bus, hoping for warmth. It took a while for everyone to get back from the bathroom and pick up all the tarps from the site. After we had everyone on the bus, except Greg and Wayner who went on a run to Smith, we were off.

I talked with Tony about how the Goldfish manufacturers segregated the goldfish. It’s a good question why the pretzel goldfish aren’t combined with the Parmesan. Everyone was all bundled up until we reached Smith Rock and it actually felt the heat on the bus. We got there and were split up into groups to go out and climb. My group was with Peter, Andy, Charlie, Patrick, and Wayner. It was getting warmer outside as we ran to the 9-gallon buckets climb, and Wayner climbed lead. More and more people showed up and some asked when we would be done, but then seemed frustrated to find that we were going to be there all day. Everyone made it up the climb, but everyone seemed to have a hard time getting started. It warmed up a ton during the day.

Once everyone climbed this route, we walked over to where the other group of Murphy, Torin, Greg, Jack, and most of the other guys were. There were three climbs set up and I belayed two and debated whether I wanted to climb the route where Brynmor had just shot off the side of the cliff when being lowered after his climb. This was when we heard about Jack’s crazy climb of a 5.11 B or C . My group just heard about it, and weren’t able to see his lead climbing. He still made it up and it sounded awesome. After climbing for a while, a group of us decided to go to another area where not many people were climbing. Murphy, Charlie, Patrick, Torin, and I decided to go to where Chris’ group was, on the other side of the river. We walked, with Kix cereal in hand, talking on the way to the climb. We met up with Maddie Miller, Colby, Max, and Mike who were climbing the other routes. There wasn’t much time, so I only got to belay but we watched them finish the three routes then we packed up and started the hard walk back to the bus. We filled up our water bottles when we got to the top, and walked to the bus. It was getting warmer and once we sorted our stuff by the bus, some people got out their food and laid outside the bus on the hot cement.

Once we got back on the bus, I took some pictures of Smith from the bus, and then fell asleep with the sounds of Patrick rapping in the seat behind me echoing on the bus. I fell asleep so don’t really know what happened on the way back. Once we got to Catlin, parents eagerly awaited at the Cabell center parking lot as we cleaned the bus and dropped the gear off in Peter’s office. It was dark as we headed to our car.


Horsethief Butte Climbing & Camping: October 13-14, 2006

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Wow! We just got back from a wonderful rock climbing trip with 11 Middle Schoolers. I cannot sing their praises enough.

Early Saturday morning, these kids met at the theater parking lot ready to go, and cheerfully rode the bus east to Horsethief Butte near The Dalles. We spent five hours learning how to tie a Figure 8 knot and put on a harness, testing our skills on the rock, and exploring this amazing rock outcropping under clear skies. Saturday afternoon was spent swimming in Horsethief Lake, playing soccer and Frisbee, and generally running around. A huge meal, prepared by the kids, was followed by flashlight tag, Smores, star gazing, and a little talk about Celilo Falls. Sunday morning we went down to the Columbia River again and had a rock throwing contest, spotted hundreds of ducks, and looked at dozens of petroglyphs. The rain didnt hit until we were driving home.


Deschutes Rafting: October 7, 8 & 9, 2006

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Gleeful Dampness on the Deschutes

Written by Liz Junior

It was a perfect morning. The bustling bus had energy floating around in the air with anxious kids chattering. An excited silence fell over the bus as we pulled up to the river. We smashed up fallen apples with our paddles as we awaited instruction after loading our precious clothes in dry bags. The leaders split us into two countries, (in order to comply withy BLM regulations), torn apart from our brethren. The Indians and the Pakistanis mock-scowled at one another and started a “battle” that would be a constant division between the groups. “Where are you from?” became a common thing to holler at an approaching raft. The first day we drifted along, each person taking control of the rafts steering, and later laid down on the raft, letting the current carry us. This was a day for mischief and mutiny as many people betrayed their country by switching rafts in tricky maneuvers or by pushing their raft mates overboard. It became the goal to make sure no soul was dry. After setting up camp, and changing clothes, the shrill sound of the train echoed in our ears. We set off toward the tracks and enjoyed the full moon over the soft sounds of the river. On our return, while still on the tracks, two bright lights could be seen in the distance. “Train! Train!” multiple voices shouted as each person hurriedly moved far off the tracks to a safe distance. As the train went by, we could feel the pressure on our skin and in our shoes. After arriving back at camp, some went to bed while others stayed up and talked with their toes in the sand. The following morning was a late one, feeling well rested and fed; we set off for a more difficult day. Early on we reached a large boulder which nearly everyone jumped off of. And one guide jumped off an even higher one as everyone looked on in anticipation. Now already damp, there was nothing left to lose. The Indian (Kulu) state started a civil war. Peter Green’s mentality seemed to be that all food must travel by air, so when our fellow Indians asked for apples, it had to be air borne. Thus became the Apple Battle of ’06. Some fell into the water. This necessitated apple rescue, and later, foolishly, the other state (Lahoul) gave their used ammo (apple cores) back to us, for us to use later that day as weapons against them, once again. They also, foolishly asked for the peanut butter jar after lunch was over, which to their dismay was empty except for some undesirable peanut butter water. To add insult to injury, it whacked a rafter in the head to their dissatisfaction. That day we also encountered the White Horse and Buckskin Mary rapids. Our only freshman, Sam Bishop was the first to volunteer to go down Buckskin Mary with only his lifejacket, and no raft. Several people followed suit, enjoying the terrifying waves of piercing cold water while others climbed up a steep hill. The rafting was more difficult this day, with more thrill and technique. We were unable to make camp near the legendary Dant so we went down river more and set up camp. The sun was starting to set as most people finished putting up their tents, so some of the rafters made their way up a vast hillside, which one could only imagine had the most beautiful view at the top that made it worth the trek. That night was a windy one, and we worried about rain but there was none - to our satisfaction - and we enjoyed a moon in a blue sky that early morning as we set off. Peter Green had said the night before that “We’ll be on the water before the sun hits it.” This is exactly what happened. It became a race to the sunnier parts of the river. This being the final day, the rapids became more treacherous and exciting. Larger splashes in the face of the front rafters. We got to enjoy the scenery and rapids at the same time. But lunch time was everyone’s favorite. Because we were ahead of time, we pulled off to let some people explore and others relax. One lunch boat became a mess of jelly that will forever be embedded into the cooler top. After leaving we came across some fun mini-rapids to ride the bull on, and even one rapid called “Swimmers Rapid” which a few students went on, a tamer version of Buckskin Mary but still the same thrill. There was little more to lose since everyone was wet and knew the bus sat waiting with warm dry clothes. As we reached our final destination, we were sad that we had to leave the natural environment we had been growing accustomed to and knew we’d be returning to our world of studies. But those days and nights will be a memory not soon forgotten. Except maybe for the few hit in the head with apple cores.


Exchange students expand our world

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by Lark Palma

We are fortunate this year to welcome six exchange
students from four countries to the Upper School. I am
grateful to the generous families who are hosting exchange
students, and especially to the student hosts who will serve
as cultural guides and navigators this year.

Surely our exchange students will come away from their
year at Catlin Gabel with a better understanding of the
United States than they had before. They will learn about
our culture in general: Halloween, mid-term elections,
North American football. They also will come to know
Catlin Gabel’s culture: the Rummage Sale, calling teachers
by their first names, collaborative learning.

Our exchange students will learn a great deal from us
during their year at Catlin Gabel. At the same time, we
have so much to learn from them. We gain knowledge
from reading about world affairs and studying the history
of other countries, but nothing compares with sharing
firsthand stories. World affairs examined from personal
experience expands our points of view tremendously.
Briefly, I would like to introduce you to our students from
abroad. They hope to find ways to share some of their
experiences with teachers and students at all grade levels,
further benefiting our community.

Tumisang “Chop” Mothei, a senior, lives in Jwaneng,
Botswana, on the perimeter of the Kalahari Desert. He is
a member of the Mokgatla tribe and attends the Maru-a-
Pula International School, which is fashioned on the British
model. Chop loves music and has been a DJ at a local club.
Thanks to the Butman family for hosting Tumisang.

Dastan Salehi was born in Iraq to a Kurdish family who
fled to Turkey when he was a baby. Life in Turkey was
very hard for Dastan’s family, and they sought permission
to emigrate to Europe. They were given permission to
enter Denmark, where he has lived most of his life. When
the Danish public schools deteriorated and racism toward
dark-skinned people increased, Dastan’s family moved to
Valencia, Spain, where he was enrolled first in a British
school, then an American school. A self-described soccer
fanatic, Dastan, a sophomore, has been an awesome
addition to the varsity boys’ team. Our thanks go to Carla
Wentzel and Fred Miller, who met Dastan’s family in Spain
and are sponsoring his year in the United States.

Vivi Feng’s Chinese name is Yuan Feng. A junior, she
goes by Vivi in English because V is her favorite letter,
which, she says, “shows my personality: vivacious, vibrant,
and valiant.” Vivi is keen on art, especially calligraphy,
which she has studied since she was eight years old. She is
enjoying the opportunity to play several sports and plays
volleyball for the Eagles this fall. If only we had a Ping-
Pong team – she is very good at table tennis. Thanks to the
Roe family for hosting Vivi.

Cui Xialong and his family hosted current senior Andrew
Jones last year in China. We are so pleased that Andrew
and his family decided to reciprocate by inviting Xialong to
spend his senior year in Portland. Xialong is from Beijing,
where his favorite thing is the food. With 15 million people
in the city, it is not surprising that Xialong’s school has
2,000 students who study math, Chinese, English, physics,
chemistry, biology, and politics. His favorite subject is
math. He plays basketball and soccer and loves to sing.
Influenced by Andrew, Xialong’s favorite band is Green

Pia Hoppenberg, a junior, hails from Hiltrup, Germany,
a suburb of Münster, where she attends Kardinal-von-
Galen-Gymnasium, an Episcopal private school. She
enjoys studying languages and is adding Spanish this year
to her repertoire of German, French, and English. Pia plays
volleyball at CGS. Thanks to the Orban family for hosting

Fabian Weiss lives near Frankfurt in Hofheim, Germany,
where he plays soccer and tennis and studies piano. Fabian
speaks several languages including English, French, and
some Spanish. A junior this year, his favorite subjects
are history and biology. He plays soccer, is a fan of snow
skiing, and has a keen interest in acting and listening to
music (mostly Beatles and indie music). The Davies family
graciously hosts Fabian.

In addition to our six exchange students, junior Luke Jin
from South Korea and senior Lorenzo Rabello from Brazil
are in their second years at Catlin Gabel. Luke lives with
the Gross family, and Lorenzo lives with his older brother,
who works for Nike.

Increasing the scope of our exchange programs enriches
our community. This involves not only hosting exchange
students, but also sending our own students abroad during
their junior year. This year’s senior class includes four
students who studied abroad last year through the School
Year Abroad program (SYA). Evan Matsuda (Spain),
Colby Mills (Italy), Andrew Jones (China), and Stephanie
Roe (China) returned to Catlin Gabel this fall full of
stories, self-confidence, terrific second language skills, and
broadened outlooks. Their enthusiasm for their host
countries is infectious. Their classmates benefit from their
new perspectives on cultures, history, politics, and different
types of schooling. I encourage freshmen and sophomores
to talk to our exchange students and to the seniors who
lived abroad last year to find out if a year abroad suits their
sense of adventure and academic goals.

This year four juniors are studying abroad through SYA,
and Ele Wilson is spending the year attending school in
Greece and living with relatives. When Ele, Robert Bishop
(China), Kay Cadena (France), Emma Northcott (Spain),
and Angali Cadambi (Spain) return next year, our global
perspectives will be enhanced all the more.

Catlin Gabel is lively with young people who are reaching
out, learning from each other, and bringing the rest of us
along with them on their global adventures.

Bio information, provided by the exchange students, first
appeared in CatlinSpeak, the Upper School newspaper.

Family Camping: Sept. 2006

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Twin Lakes on Mt. Hood was the destination for this group of five families on their first backpacking trip. We made the easy two mile hike in to Lower Twin Lake and set up camp right next to the Lake. Most of the afternoon was spent exploring and playing. After a filling dinner of spaghetti we made smores and sat around the campfire exchanging stories. The stars were spectacular, and we were able to see their reflections in the perfectly still lake.

In the morning we had pancakes for breakfast and hiked up the hill to Upper Twin Lake. The backpack out to the bus was mostly downhill and went quite quickly. Everyone seemed to have a wonderful time on this memorable weekend.

Canadian Purcell Expedition July 2006

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Mountaineering in the Canadian Purcell Range: July 2006

Basecamp below the Commander Glacier
On the Summit of Mt. Karnak, 11,156

Catlin Gabel Canadian Expedition

July 17-24, 2006

By Greg Junior

Pre-trip excitement began during a parents meeting a few days before the trip, where the students and their protective mothers were told of the risks of the trip, including driving, bears, river crossings, lightning, and death falls off of high objects, all dangers inherent to city life as well as mountaineering. The drive began on Monday morning at 6 oclock in the theater parking lot, where we loaded the Catlin van with gear and the rented suburban with children, and then headed north (not before a lengthy vehicle check, most necessary). We took a short stop in north Portland to pick up Olivia. As we were leaving, Olivia’s mother was seen to be yelling at us from her car, but we couldn’t make out what she was saying with the windows closed.

“What did she say?” Peter asked.

“I don’t know, but I think she said ‘Do you want some fox meat?’ Ian replied, with a furrowed forehead.

Peter rolled down the window to get confirmation, and she yelled more clearly this time: “Do you want to follow me?”

We did and then struck north toward the wilds of eastern Washington. Nothing especially exciting happened on this bit of the trip, except everyone got maybe thirty or forty pages farther into their books. We stopped again in Spokane at Mikes house to pick up some chicken wire to wrap around the car at the trailhead (Porcupines seem to be fond of chewing on the tasty yet lethal antifreeze and brake tubes underneath your car). We made it across the border with surprisingly little cheek from a restrained Peter while he talked to the surly middle-aged Canadian border guard-ess. Again we headed north, now through the lands of Beautiful British Columbia (it says so on their license plates). Instead of making it all the way to the trailhead that night we stopped early due to driver fatigue in the wonderland of Dutch Creek Campground eh. Some members of the team pitched tents while the other prepared dinner, which we then consumed and went to bed.

The next day we made it to the trailhead deep in the Purcell Mountains by way of a brand new logging road, passing periodic clear cuts on the way in, and being treated to spectacular mountainous Canadian views and then of the Commander glacier, a crevasse-ridden monstrosity topped by Mt. Commander. We arrived at a wide spot in the road full of loggers pickups, where we parked our own equally large vehicles and packed our large backpacks. For the record, Dannys backpack weighed the most. The chicken wire we laboriously obtained in Spokane did not make it out of the back of the van for unexplained reasons. Then we headed down an old cart track filled with tree trunks thrown down the hill by the loggers, and into the wild. After passing an old collapsed log hut with cots still intact and a nice picnic table outside, we came to a roaring river that needed to be crossed. After hiking a hundred yards up it we came to the place where the river was formed by two streams, and only one of these smaller rivers needed to be crossed. We found a spot where two logs maybe five feet apart already spanned the river, and Matt scampered over and found another suitably sized log that was placed beneath the other two and created a seemingly sturdy bridge. Everyone made the crossing without incident, and then we began the bushwhack through the lowlands to get to the base of the moraine we planned to hike up to our camping spot. We reached the moraine with only one notable incident, a discovery of bear mace and the resulting test of its powers that concluded in gagging and running eyes. The moraine, instead of being a scary hike up a wide trail with a death fall onto the glacier to the right it turned out to be much less scary and fun. The glacier had receded so that there was no longer a glacier to fall two hundred feet onto, just rocks. And the trail had eroded away so that it became necessary to walk through the underbrush twenty feet down from the top on the safe side of the moraine, which suffice it to say, was not a good time. Eventually we reached the end of the moraine and cut across a fourth class rock shelf to emerge on a paradise of rock and water. Directly below the glacier a large rock shelf had formed, maybe a half-mile square that sloped slightly into the valley below and that housed thousands of waterfalls and streams coming off of the Commander glacier and another next to it. We built some rock structures for various purposes around our camp, then had dinner and went to bed.

The next day we woke up at three am to scale the glacier and then attempt Karnak and Jumbo peaks. To get to the glacier we needed to first hike about 2000 vertical feet up scree to get to the base of the ice and the glacier. This was a painful experience but not too scary or exciting. When we got to the base of the glacier, everyone put on their crampons while ducking occasional rocks and we roped up and began to walk up the glacier, passing through an area of gigantic crevasses, creaking noises and icefall, though not as bad in the morning as in the evening. We passed over the "Hickey Step" where we placed our only ice screw of the trip, and then continued upward, weaving through crevasses. The ice eventually turned to firm snow, and we hiked another two thousand vertical feet up with minimal rests or stops along the way. This first forced march brought us only to the base of Mt. Commander, and we still needed to hike another two kilometers across the glacier to get to the base of Karnak (11,000+ ft.). Everyone was burnt out from the altitude (about 10,000 feet at the Commander pass) and the long climb. With very little break we headed across the gigantic gently sloping perfectly smooth glacier and across a kind of scary traverse to get to the base of Karnak. After a painless steep snow slope we reached the rock ridge that would lead us to the top. Matt fixed a rope, and we all scrambled to the top (11,156’) to enjoy the wonderful Canadian view on a near-cloudless day. We rapped off the top back down to the snow, and then walked to flat place to have lunch. Then we walked back toward Commander, dropped out packs and took a little jaunt up to the top of snow-covered Jumbo peak (11,276 ft.), once thought of as the highest mountain in the Purcells but recently surpassed by nearby Mt. Farnham. After coming down we attempted Commander but it was getting late and we turned around early. It started to rain when we neared camp, but we made it back tired and happy, and quickly went to bed.

The next day was a rest day, and everyone dried their clothing and gear in the beautiful hot sun. In the afternoon we had a poetry reading session, marked by Robert Frosts “Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening”. Because we had had very little food on our first day our, we gorged ourselves and planned to take more on out attempt of Commander and the Guardsmen, small, steep rocky peaks that sit below Commander in the middle of the glacier, the next day.

The next morning we woke up at 3am and again made the long slog up the glacier, where we split up the groups, one going to attempt the Guardsman, and the other to Commander (11,060 ft. also). The group attempting the Guardsmen was thwarted three times due to a lack of rock gear and rope, which had both been taken by the other team. The Guardsmen group took naps on the warm silver-black shale while Olivia explored the peaks, unsuccessfully both times. The group on Commander summited and put up three ropes as a fixed line from the bottom of the rock to the top. When the Guardsmen group arrived to climb Commander the ropes were already in place and they scampered quickly to the top while the other group baked in the sun at the base. Again the view from Commander was amazing, and you could see the Lake of the Hanging Glacier from the summit. When the groups reunited at the base of Commander we had lunch and decided to not re-attempt the Guardsmen, instead to head down so as to not get caught in the near-dark again. During the trip down the glacier there was some wand trouble and some frightening icefall, but we made it back to camp in one piece. We had a relaxing evening, and ate an excellent dinner. We also decided that we did not want to hike up the long glacier again to re-try the Guardsmen or the Cleaver (another nearby peak, though not THAT close), and instead to hike out to the cars and drive to the trailhead for the Lake of the Hanging Glacier to do the 14 mile round trip hike to see the lake.

We woke up at a reasonable hour on the hike-out day, packed our packs, and headed back down the moraine and through the underbrush. Peter lost his trekking pole in one of the small streams we had to cross, and the bridge we had made broke under Jack (oops) and he pulled off some crazy-sweet acrobatics and made it across ok. Luckily he was the second-to-last person and Matt walked across the same we he had the first time. On the drive to the lake we passed the Womens national ski team going far too fast in their vans, and listened to loud music and were happy because there would be no more heavy packs. We also had to cross a river running through the road, which caused no small amount of scraping on the undersides of the cars. Despite this, we made it to the trailhead intact and began the hike with light packs around two oclock. The hike consisted of a beautiful trail through woods and meadows and by waterfalls, and ended much more quickly than we had expected. The lake had the glacial runoff striking green color, and had a couple of small icebergs floating in it, which some people waded out to. Some snacking happened whilst we admired the lake and the glaciers around it, and we could see Mt. Commander from this new vantage. The hike down took even less time, and we arrived at the trailhead and pitched our tents just as it was getting dark. Dinner was made in the dark, and then everyone went to bed.

The next morning we packed up camp and got into the vehicles and drove to the wonderful commercialized Radium hot springs with hot showers, a pool-sized hot tub, regular swimming pool and diving board. We stayed there for a couple of hours and had lunch at their sub place, where absolutely everything has to be in English and French, even if sometimes this means only mixing up the words and adding a few accents. We then headed south in the cars, witnessing the immediate aftermath of a four head-on collisions, and eventually ended up in Spokane at Mikes house. There we had a wonderful dinner of barbequed meat, salad, hot bread, berries, fruit, ice cream and soda and told Mike our story, the fee for the meal. We watched "Rushmore", and a few of us also indulged in "Conan the Barbarian", which actually has a wonderful storyline and some very meaningful messages to offer.

In the morning we ate a tasty breakfast and played a bit of basketball in the cul-de-sac outside the house. Then we headed back to Portland, our drive interrupted by some raucous college kids to whom we gave Olivia and a few pickets in order for them to let us pass. These friends of Peter were actually headed to where we came from, and we wished them luck. Then it was back to the expectant parents in Portland and horribly dreary summer vacation.

Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening

Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.

His house is in the village though;

He will not see me stopping here

To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer

To stop without a farmhouse near

Between the woods and frozen lake

The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake

To ask if there is some mistake.

The only other sounds the sweep

Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.

Climbing the Commander Glacier. David was one of the four trip leaders.
Returning from the climb of Mt. Commander
No one says No to Spam

Setting up basecamp
On the approach to the Commander Glacier.

Mount Karnak, 11,156

Nearing the summit of Jumbo Peak, 11,242

And it rained on the descent back to basecamp...

Our Basecamp

The Lake of the Hanging Glacier from Mount Commander


Alaska Mountaineering Trip: July 2006

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Alaska Mountaineering Trip: July 2006

Catlin Gabel team approaches Spearmint Peak


Alaska Climbing Expedition: June 30 – July 9, 2006

Alaska Airlines provided our ticket to adventure in the north country. We first spent two days in Seattle as a way to bond the group – during which we sailed on Lake Union, played Frisbee and swam. Sunday the 2nd of July was a very long day. We got up at 3am to drive to Seatac airport to (barely) catch our flight to Anchorage. Our wonderful shuttle driver, Bob, met us at the airport and took us to a large supermarket in Palmer, where he patiently waited while we shopped for a week’s worth of food. After the supplies were loaded into the shuttle we drove to Chickaloon to leave most of the food and some of the gear with the pilot who was going to conduct the airdrop for us. We were new to this whole idea of an ‘airdrop’, but it seemed to be a common thing in Alaska, so we thought we’d give it a try. We loaded back into the shuttle and drove up toward Hatcher Pass and the Goldmint trailhead. Here we repacked our large backpacks, put on our boots, and headed off on the endless trail to the Mint Hut, just below the Mint Glacier.

The hike was long, but beautiful. We followed the valley of the Little Susitna River to its very head. The last mile of the trail is referred to as “heartbreak hill” because it climbs the headwall up to the meadows where the Mint Hut stands. We got to the hut about 9:30 pm, just a few minutes after the airplane made its drop. “Air Strike” would have been the best term to describe the event, as every bag we had packed burst open on impact, and food exploded across the heretofore serene meadow. We spent hours gathering up elbow noodles, curry powder, pickets (some bent) and beef log from among the heather and boulders. It was late when we went to bed.

On Monday we set off on our first climb. There was no hurry getting started, as the light stayed with us for all 24 hours. The snow on the Mint Glacier was a nightmare, and seemed to stay that way regardless of when we traversed it. We laughed at the idea of using crampons in Alaska, at least at this altitude. Usually the soft snow overtopped our gators. Fortunately for us we never saw a crevasse on any glacier during the week we were there. On this first day of climbing we went up a short subpeak above the Mint Glacier. The climb was a warm-up, and the three pitches of easy rockwork and the long rappels helped get the students in the right frame of mind.

The next day we set off for the very long approach to Peppermint Peak, which forms a striking triangle against the sky to the south of camp. Williams was sick, so he and Mary stayed behind. The remainder of the group trudged up the moraine and down the adjacent moraine and across the drainage stream coming from the Mint Glacier. We then climb long snowfields leading to the aesthetic glacier below Peppermint. We set up a staging area on the right-hand col while Conrad did some exploratory climbing. He found a lodgment in the rock face about 230 feet up and we sent Riley after him with another rope. Together they contrived to get the next pitch set with a fixed line, leaving them poised just 60 feet below the summit. Conrad led the beautiful wide crack in the granite up to the summit. Each member of the team followed and soon we found that all of us had tagged the top and it was time to retreat. Two rappels put us back at the col, and we started the long snow wallow back to camp. The fog came in as we descended and we were careful to keep a close eye on our route.

Despite the meek protests of William and Mary we made the next day a rest day, and we ate food (carefully rationed to make up for what was lost in the air strike). We played bridge and an unsuccessful game of trivial pursuit.

On Thursday we set off early for our major objective: Spearmint Peak. The mountain dominates the view from the lower valley and is prominent from the Mint Glacier. Riley led us up the glacier and up a 900-foot couloir that dropped us onto a beautiful and hidden glacier on the east flanks of Spearmint. Initially we were daunted, even shocked, by the visage of the peak from this angle. Over a period of maybe half an hour with the glass, we were able to convince ourselves we could get up the snow face and onto the rock, and up the rocky ridge to the top. Conrad led up the steep snow and then cut left through some granite rocks and onto the actual ridge. The climbing on the ridge was pretty solid. Though it took many hours, we managed to get the whole gang on top. Two rappels brought us back to the hidden glacier. The descent of the couloir took a good chunk of time, as we set up an intricate belay system to ensure everyone’s safety. Our hike back down the Mint Glacier and to the hut was quick, and we arrived (inevitably) back home in daylight.

A fog descended, or more accurately, ascended, onto camp the next day, so we hung out and organized gear and cleaned camp. On Saturday we climbed up the boulders and scree to Backdoor Pass behind the hut. From here we dropped onto the Pennyroyal Glacier and crossed it quickly to have a look at the Bomber Glacier. Getting down to the Bomber Glacier seemed too difficult, so we headed west and made an ascent of Managemint Peak. It was a fun climb, without much technical difficulty. We did rope the final fourth-class climb to the top. The summit register showed only a few ascents in the last couple of years. We made a leisurely return in the fog to the top of Backdoor Pass, and down to our hut.

Sunday was to be another long day. We cleaned camp and packed up our belongings. The hike down was a bit sketchy near the top so we put in a fixed line. Beyond that it was straightforward endless backpacking with very heavy packs. Bob was there waiting for us at the parking lot. The sun was out so we did some gear sorting before heading into Palmer for a huge meal. The rest of the day was spent at the Anchorage airport enjoying the wonders it has to offer. Our flight didn’t leave until 2am the next morning, putting us into Portland at 5:30am – ready for a new week.

Photos by Riley Peck and Peter Green

The ascent of Peppermint Peak was made along the right skyline

On the Penny Royal Glacier
Just below the summit of Managemint Peak

Ascending the Penny Royal Glacier from Backdoor Pass

Illigitimint Peak

Peter and Mary on the summit of Spearmint Peak

San Juan Islands Bicycle Trip

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This past June seven students and three adult leaders travelled to the San Juan Islands of Washington. During the six day trip the team visited different islands, swam, boated, hiked and explored. The students carried all of their personal gear, and most of the cooking supplies and food on their bicycles.

Day 1: We drove to Anacortes from Portland and boarded the ferry "Yakima" for Orcas Island. Once there we biked twelve miles to Indian Point, where we were the guests of Bill Horder. Bill joined us for most of the rest of the trip. The first leg of the trip was difficult. Thats when we learned how to pull the trailer and how to pack all of our gear so it wouldnt fall off the bicycles. Once at Indian Point we set up camp near a small lake, and cooked next to the beach.

Day 2: We biked over to a large farm owned by Jack and Jan Helsell. Much of the morning was spent jumping into piles of hay from prodigious heights in the barn. We hiked to the summit of Turtlehead Mountain (Orcas Knob) and ate a scenic lunch. From here we went to a beautiful lake on the Helsell property. The group was split into two teams for some intense competition involving a swimming, rowing and bicycle race. It was a thrilling race with the winning team coming in ahead of the second place team by mere seconds. That night many students slept out under the stars.

Day 3: We had spam and pancakes for breakfast and headed off on the challenging bike across Orcas Island and up to Moran State Park. The group stopped in Eastsound for lunch and began the long climb more than half way up Mt. Constitution to Mountain Lake. One of the students made it the entire way without stopping for a rest. We stayed in a scenic site right on the lakes shore that night and had smores around the campfire.

Day 4: Rain greeted us in the morning, our first (and only) rain of the trip. Most of the day was spent in a rustic log shelter in front of a roaring fire playing ca-ca and listening to stories. Once the rain let up we played some challenge games and made a hike up to the "Little Summit" on Mt. Constitution. After a dinner of hamburgers we played three intense games of capture the flag in the old growth forest near the lake.

Day 5: A thrilling ride all the way down to eastsound highlighted the morning. We spent an hour in a used bookstore where almost everyone found something to buy. From there we travelled the length of the island to the Orcas ferry landing. By now we were seasoned bicyclists and the going was easy. We jumped on board the ferry for the short ride to Shaw island. What a delightful place Shaw is. Without the constant traffic of Orcas Island to rattle our nerves we had a relaxing ride to Indian Cove County Park. Once again we camped next to the ocean. Most of the afternoon was spent playing memorable games of Ultimate Frisbee and Kick the Can. After dinner that night everyone slept under the stars and watched as the glowing ferries sailed past in the dark.

Day 6: We packed up early and rode to the Shaw Island ferry landing. Breakfast consisted of muffins, fruit and juice bought from the general store at the landing. We were back at Anacortes by noon and boarded the yellow bus for the long ride back to Portland.

Bike Trip around Strawberry Mountain

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Beautiful scenery, no cars, paved roads made for a perfect trip

Strawberry Mountains Biking Trip June 2006

Our bike route began in Seneca, a small town 20 miles south of John Day. After a six hour bus ride from Portland, we were happy to set off on our adventure that would take us 80 miles around the beautiful Strawberry Mountains. Given the late hour of the day, we biked ten miles or so across the flat, grassy plains to Parish Cabin, where we spent the night.

The next day, we began our uphill climb, leaving the long grassy fields behind until midday. We rode across Logan Valley, an idyllic valley set against the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness Area. We rested and ate lunch at Summit Prairie. After catching our breath, we rode on to our new destination, Little Crane Creek campground. We had biked about 25 miles that day and gained about 1000 feet. At camp we relaxed, played cards, went swimming, and played ultimate frisbee. We even had the honor of being some of the first users of the new portapotty.

The next day we prepared ourselves for what we thought was to be an 8 mile, 1600-foot uphill climb, our hardest yet. To our relief, the climb was not so bad, as the incline was shallow. We reached the summit at around noon. There, we played lots of card games and shaded ourselves from the sun. While many relaxed, Ben Dair sprinted to the top of a large, steep hill from which he could see across the plains to John Day. Upon his return, we started our 2500-foot descent that would take us to Prairie City. As we descended, the environment dramatically changed from dense forest to open, grass-laden plains. We arrived at Prairie City, completing our 35-mile day. After perusing the town, we relaxed back at camp and enjoyed a refreshing dose of rootbeer. Later in the night, we took a pleasant walk through the graveyard and played another great game of ultimate frisbee under the stars.

We awoke early on the final day, packed up our gear, and ate Spam (tastes like cat food mixed with dog food) for our third day in a row. We left around 7:00 AM on our final 13-mile ride from Prairie City to John Day, where our bus (and another six hour, muggy bus ride) awaited. We were happy to avoid the heat of the day, but were sad to leave the Strawberry Mountains. Overall, we had a wonderful time at one of the most gorgeous locations in Oregon.

Rogue River Raft Trip June 2006

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We met bright and early at 5 AM at Catlin. Amazingly, everyone was there by 5:05 AM. The five-hour bus ride provided a good opportunity to catch up on sleep. We arrived at the Rand boat launch at 10:30. We all transferred our clothes and sleeping bags to large dry bags, picked up our life jackets and helmets, and prepared to get on the river.

The stretch of the Rogue leading up to the Wild and Scenic section contains mainly class II rapids, with a couple III’s and one class V that we sneak around using the “Fish Ladder”. Our first challenge came at Grave Creek rapid, as there was a cross-wave about half way down that flipped a few of our kayakers. Aim your boat at the wave! This provided an opportunity to practice proper swimming techniques and some rescuing. At Rainey Falls, the Fish Ladder route is not really a fish ladder, but it is like one. It’s a narrow chute that drops in steps, with a couple big pillow-type rapids toward the bottom. Everyone navigated it well, and then we looked upstream at the huge Rainey Falls. We finished the day at Tyee rapid, a class III wavetrain with a bend to the left. Our campsite was at the bottom.

The weather was great, so no need for tents. We set up our cots and sleeping bags under the stars. After a hearty meal, we played tug of war while standing on ammo cans. Thalia and Jeff were pretty good at it. Pongi told some scary stories and her river front sleeping location became overcrowded with scared MS students.

Day 2: Wildcat Creek to Missouri Creek

We woke up around 7:30 AM, ate breakfast, and then broke camp. We rotated our kayakers to allow others to try the inflatable craft. Some liked to double-up in the kayaks. This day had the most rapids, and it started off quickly with Wildcat rapids (III). Upper and Lower Black Bar Falls provided some challenges, mainly for those who didn’t follow the directions “stay RIGHT”. We learned that following directions is a good strategy for avoiding swims, and often there is a very good reason why you don’t want to hit the “exciting” part of the river. There were a couple of jumping rocks that we stopped at. Pongi lost her watch jumping off one of them. Tara demonstrated an excellent ferry swim across the river while we watched other people jumping off the rock. Joseph and Helene tried their hands at captaining the paddle raft and oar raft.

We camped at Missouri Creek. In our free time, we waded in the eddy and washed off all that sunscreen. Card-playing, particularly Hearts, was popular, and a bit competitive at times. Nicholas and Robert took naps, though that didn’t work so well as they were next to the card players.

Day 3: Missouri Creek to Paradise Bar

This was the shortest paddling day, and there were some class IV sections that the students needed to ride the rafts for. We stopped for about an hour at the Rogue River Ranch. There is a small museum there with old photos, including ones from a flood that occurred awhile back. Mule Creek runs just below the ranch property, so we went down there and found another jumping rock.

The Rogue River was running at a higher level during this trip, so Mule Creek canyon wasn’t really that bad. Normally it is like a bubbling coffee pot (percolating), but due to the higher water, there wasn’t so much of that. Blossom Bar rapid is known for its “picket fence” hazard on the left side. As the kayakers waited in the eddy above, the paddle raft made its run. On the way through, the raft got jolted and went to the left. Luckily, the water was high enough that they were able to slip through the picket fence section. Jeff led the kayakers through the rapid (the CORRECT way), utilizing an eddy on the right side of the chute. The last major rapid was Devil’s Staircase. There was a big hole at the top, which some other commercial rafters ran through, but the real hazard was a swirling eddy half way down with the undercut rocks (the “Room of Doom”)! We all snuck around this rapid along the left edge.

We camped at Paradise Bar, near the Paradise Lodge. Robert demonstrated his natural abilities by scoring a hole-in-one in “cheek darts”. We saw a black bear a hundred yards or so downriver. More card games…hearts and Egyptian rat screw. We needed a lantern.

Day 4

The last stretch, leading up to the Foster Bar takeout, had more flat sections than the previous days. Tara and Helene spent time captaining rafts. There were a few good rapids though. Clay Hill rapid had a hole that spread about 2/3 across the river. The goal was to slip around it to the left. Chase and Gregor were perfectly lined up behind Jeff, but then stopped paddling. This caused them to drift sideways right into the hole and flip. Within the next 15-20 seconds, Jeff had collected both of their paddles, hauled Chase into the back of his kayak, and was yelling at Gregor to swim for an eddy. John Mills collected the empty kayak, and the boys went back for more punishment.

We arrived at the take-our around 1 PM. After a long shuttle ride back to Galice, we boarded our bus and we on own way by 4 PM. It was another long bus ride back to Portland, but we had our cards, snacks, and some good memories.