Scrambling offers freedom to explore without boundaries

  • Mon Mar 1st, 2010 12:21pm
  • Life

By Sarah Jackson Herald Writer

Mike Mashock remembers the exact moment he was bitten by the peak-bagging bug.

The Lake Stevens man was standing on top of Mount Pilchuck on a clear day, surrounded by a sea of rocky, snowy summits.

Looking north to the stunning triple massif of Three Fingers, he wondered: “How do you get up there? What do you need to know to get up there?”

Mashock found his answer in the Everett Mountaineers’ alpine scrambling course in 2005.

Mashock, 60, who now helps teach the course, loves the freedom of scrambling, which allows him to leave crowded trails to summit beautiful peaks that untrained hikers can only dream of.

“You have a lot more privacy,” said Mashock, who works as a pharmacist in Everett. “You just kind of get up and away from the parking lots. It’s just a better experience.”

This year’s course — which shows hikers how to travel safely off maintained trails on brushy, rocky and snowy terrain — starts March 4.

Scrambling is a mountaineering skill that bridges the gap between hiking, which typically happens on marked trails, and climbing, which often requires ropes.

Unlike hiking, scrambles are almost always focused on reaching something high, usually a backcountry summit.

Though many hikes are off limits in winter, scrambling is a year-round activity.

Safety is a top priority in all mountaineering courses. Scrambling students learn how to use a map and a compass to find safe routes in the wilderness, how to use an ice ax to keep from sliding or falling, and how to administer first aid when far from civilization.

They learn how to spot conditions that would make an avalanche likely as well as how to predict inclement weather, prevent hypothermia, and choose appropriate equipment and clothing, including the 10 essentials for any trip.

Carol Barmon of Whidbey Island, also a member of the Everett Mountaineers, enjoys the camaraderie of a great scrambling trip.

She graduated from the scrambling course about five years ago and now scrambles regularly.

Her workspace at The Everett Clinic is covered with pictures of the stunning mountain scenes she’s seen in person.

“We live in an exceptional area of the country,” said Barmon, 54. “I’m amazed, when I’m out in the hills meeting others, that many have come from around the country and, indeed, the world, to enjoy what we have here in our own back yard. Scrambling offers just another way to enjoy this wonderful area.”

Though Mashock hasn’t attempted the inspiring summit of Three Fingers yet, he knows he has the skills and — most important — the confidence and safety training to do it.

“I like the scrambles that are a little bit on the easier side,” he said. “There are a lot of peaks out there that are more difficult.

“You can seek your own level of challenge.”

Sarah Jackson: 425-339-3037, sjackson@heraldnet.com.