BOTHELL — The boys of Bothell Troop 574, along with Scoutmaster Dave Keen accomplished several feats over the summer that few ever experience, having embarked on seven hikes totaling an overall elevation of 52,246 feet.
“We had an actual elevation gain of over 29,000 feet,” Keen said. “Now that is higher than the height of Mt Everest.”
The Troops' first challenge was to hike up Mt. Si in North Bend; elevation 4,000 feet.
“We use this hike as a qualifier to ensure scouts and adults are capable of the strength and mental fortitude needed for longer, more rigorous events such as a 50-miler at Philmont (Scout Ranch in New Mexico),” Keen said. “To complete the qualification, you need to carry 25 percent of your body weight (max 50 lbs.) up Mt. Si in 2.5 hours or less. We had a beautiful warm day and those of us that took the additional time to scale Haystack Rock got an incredible view of Mt. Rainier basking alluringly in the distance.”
The second quest was a Father’s Day weekend hike at Lake Serene.
“This wasn’t a summit hike but it was a wonderful part of our summer hiking adventures, Keen said. “At 8.2 miles round trip and 2000 feet of elevation gain, it was one of our more demanding annual Father’s Day hikes. The weather was beautiful and for those daring scouts, the snow-fed water in Lake Serene was clear, cold and refreshing. Although we still had over 25 people show up for this hike, I promise we’ll pick an easier hike next year.”
The next climb was a qualifier for the Troop’s Mt. Rainier team.
“Our target was Oregon’s highest point — Mt. Hood. We started off at Timberline and hiked up to about 9,000 feet to spend the night. We woke up early the next morning to find that it took each of us a lot longer to get our climbing gear on than was anticipated.
“Fortunately, our highly experienced leader, Karl Kohagen was gracious about this learning experience. As we began our final ascent, the smell of sulfur quite uncomfortable, penetrated our nostrils as Mt. Hood is still an active volcano. After navigating a steep and narrow shoot, we celebrated our summit around 8:45 a.m. The weather was calm and clear, we couldn’t have asked for better conditions.”
One lesson, the hikers took from the experience, Keen said, was to use plenty of sunscreen.
“The reflective properties of glaciers redirected the sun’s rays and affected every part of exposed skin, including the underside of your nose.”
The next stop on their summer excursion was an overnight backpacking trip on June 29 and 30 to Navaho Pass in the Teanaway region.
Keen said it was an ideal training hike because, "There aren’t too many places in the northwest that you can reach 7,223 feet in June without being impeded by snow.”
“One of the highlights of this adventure was waking up at 4 a.m. and hiking up the 1200 feet from Navaho Pass to Navaho Peak in order to catch the 5 o’clock sunrise. Gazing upon Mt. Stuart and the distant Enchantments while the sun illuminated the vastness of God’s creation is a mountain top breakfast I will not soon forget.”
From there it was on to the Troops' most difficult challenge; one Keen described as the “summer’s summit of summits.”
“Mt. Rainier and oh yes, it was hard! We had been organizing and planning this event since last November. Prior to making the trek, we spent an evening practicing prussic training and repelling in a warehouse and a day of mountaineer training on the snow at Stevens Pass. Thanks to Karl’s guidance, our path to fruition was smooth, cost-efficient, rewarding and successful. He truly coached us all along every step of the way.
“Eight months after inception, we found ourselves posing for pictures on the trailhead steps at Paradise with the inscription of John Muir’s words at our feet and Mt. Rainier looming with a lenticular cloud at our backs.”
With fresh legs, 50-pound packs and group prayer, the team began the five-and-a-half-hour climb to Camp Muir, where they would spend their first night at the 10,188-foot level.
“Upon arrival, the cold and unrelenting wind penetrated our tired bodies so we decided to take refuge in the public shelter. We met people from all across the country. This was my first realization that Mt. Rainier was a sought after summit for more than just Seattleites,” Keen said. “During our time in the shelter we were told that no one had summited that day, and no one would attempt it the next morning either because the winds were too powerful for it to be safe.”
Keen said he was later told that of the 10,000 people who attempt to summit Mt Rainier each year, about 50 percent succeed.
“Fortunately for us, our plans the next day were to camp at Ingram Flats in order to become better acclimated. The two-hour climb and 1000 feet of elevation gain gave us time to set up our tents, melt snow and get some rest before waking up at midnight to begin our journey to the summit.”
The weather now in their favor, at 1:30 a.m., Keen and the group team stepped out of camp in three-person teams, roped up with headlamps on.
“We climbed the bare rocks of Disappointment Cleaver, stepped over various crevasses and climbed a metal ladder to extend ourselves towards the summit. At sunrise (6 a.m.) we stopped for a brief mental pause so we could concentrate on the foot-wide path beneath our crampon boots.”
The team met the south side crater summit at about 8 a.m. July 25.
“Exhausted and elated, we realized the peak was still across the crater and up,” Keen said. “After taking time out to sign the summit notebook, we all met at the Columbia Crest Peak, Mt Rainier’s highest point at 14,411 feet. As each of us delighted in the unblemished views, we knew it was a team effort and God had blessed this journey. The rest of the day was dedicated to a 9,000-foot descent, a midnight meal at Shari’s and a three-hour drive home.”
Less than 30 hours later, the Troop boarded a plane bound for New Mexico, where they spent next two-weeks of their journey at Philmont, the Boy Scouts premier high adventure camp; 140,000 acres of stunning mountain wilderness in northern New Mexico.
An experience Keen said that could never be justified in a few short words.
“We got to listen to and sing along with the talented camp bands after certain days on the trail. We loaded our own shotgun shells and shot them at clay targets. We did cowboy action shooting with shotguns, pistols and lever-action rifles.
“We went bouldering, saw petroglyphs, threw tomahawks, went gold panning and explored an old mine. We hiked through incredibly scenic terrain and stayed at inspiring campsites and drank root beer.”
Continuing with their summit theme, the group did, “an arduous hike to the top of Mt Baldy, reaching 12,441 feet; the highest elevation at Philmont.”
“We spent an hour up there because it was so spectacular. In the eyes of the Scoutmaster, this isn’t even the best part of the trip. The best part was that the scouts led the entire 12-day trek.
The growth and leadership that took place were inspirational. I would truly like every scout in our troop to have this opportunity.”
A hike to Boulder River was next on the agenda.
Keen was not on the Boulder River hike, said he was glad that a number of scouts and families took advantage of the outdoor opportunity.
“As I conclude my summer reflections, I feel so blessed for the opportunities we share as a troop,” Keen said. “The scouting skills that were gained, the leadership that was cultivated and most importantly, the servanthood that was given and received during these times were invaluable. So grows our bonds as we experience the summits and valleys of life together.”