Mount Hood: Adventures of the Wy’east Climbers, 1930 – 1942

Ric Conrad

In an effort to capture the historic and humorous experiences of Depression Era alpinists on Oregon’s Mount Hood before they were lost for good, Ric Conrad began interviewing members of the Wy’east Climbers. Hank Lewis, Lu Norene, Russ McJury, and Randall Kester shared their memories of historic first ascents and unusual tragedies.

Conrad additionally interviewed alpinists who climbed beside club members: John Carter, Dr. Charles Loveland, Robert Labby, and Darrel Tarter. They provided insight into the region’s most fascinating peak and the various outlaws who climbed alongside club members. The oral history gleaned from these interviews, coupled with extensive research in the archives of the Portland-based Mazamas, has yielded the most thorough picture of the Golden Age of exploration on Mount Hood. Members of the Wy’east Climbers, founded in December 1930, made the first ascents of the Leuthold Couloir Route, Sandy Glacier Headwall, and Eliot Glacier Headwall. They made the first ascent of an extremely difficult variation along the North Face and reopened several climbing routes: The Wy’east Trail, Cathedral Ridge, and the Newton-Clark Headwall Route. Club members were also responsible for forming the Mt. Hood Ski Patrol in 1938, and for their involvement in the rescue or recovery operations throughout the 1930s and 1940s. Working six days a week during the Great Depression, these young men nevertheless established new climbing routes, new rescue organizations, and provided the mountaineering community with inspiration for generations to come.