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Bob Jones - Personal Communication
NOTE: Based on this article by Jonathan Waterman in the Winter 2016-17 issue of Adventure Journal, I no longer give credence to the claim by Bob Jones that he completed the Ptarmigan Traverse in 1947.
Recorded interview, 21 May 2011Louise Suhr interviewed Bob Jones on 21 May 2011, the day of the annual Mountaineers 50-year-member luncheon. I lent Louise a digital recorder for the interview. The interview recording is in seven digital files. Louise returned the files to me with copies of hand-written notes by Bob about his 1947 Ptarmigan Traverse. Bob also provided a copy of an October 4, 2010 article from the Bellevue Fire Department Bugle. (These papers have been filed under "Bob Jones.") Below, I have included notes only from the digital files that were of interest to this project. My main interest is the early history of the Ptarmigan Traverse.
by Louise Suhr
Notes by Lowell Skoog
In File 2, Bob mentioned that he never signed summit registers during his climbs in the Cascades. So, his climbing generally went unrecorded. In File 7, he said that he parted ways with the Mountaineers but continued to get their bulletins to find out where their groups were going so he could choose other destinations.
File 5 (22:06) and File 6 (2:02:16)These are the files in which the interviewer asked Bob specific questions about the Ptarmigan Traverse and his early mountaineering background. In File 6, this conversation starts around the 42:30 point. File 5 was apparently recorded at the Mountaineers luncheon and has a lot of background noise. File 6 was apparently recorded at Bob's home later and the sound is clearer. In the notes below, I've merged information from both interview segments, Bob's hand-written notes, and the 2010 Bellevue Fire Department article.
Bob Jones was born in 1920 in Ashford, Washington. His father was a ranger at Rainier National Park. Bob's father taught him about mountaineering and led him to the summit of Mt Rainier when Bob was seven years old. Bob never had any formal mountaineering training. In 1948, Bob was among the original founders of the Mountain Rescue Council.
Bob was in the U.S. Army Airborne in World War II. He participated in Operation Market Garden and the Battle of the Bulge. He was a highly decorated soldier by the end of the war.
In early August 1947, Bob and two friends, Tommy Vint (Thomas R. Vint) and Chuck Ward (John Charles Ward) completed an early repeat of the Ptarmigan Traverse in the North Cascades. Bob served with Tommy Vint throughout his time in the army. Vint was later killed in the Korean War. Chuck Ward participated in Bob's 1948 climb of the West Buttress of Mt McKinley in Alaska. According to the Bellevue Fire Department article, Bob's climbing team parachuted to a saddle on Mt McKinley. They reached the summit but Ward succumbed to altitude illness and died while they were trying to get him to a lower elevation. He was buried on the mountain.
Bob didn't remember exactly how they came up with the Ptarmigan Traverse plan. They had heard of the route, but Bob didn't recall whether it was from a written account by the original 1938 party or by word of mouth. Bob recalled that two other climbers started the traverse a few days after his party, but he didn't know whether they completed the trip.
Bob's party had no written information about the traverse, just Forest Service maps. He said a lot of the route finding was done "seat of the pants." They didn't want to leave a car at the end of the traverse because they were worried that it might not start, so they got dropped off and completed the traverse via Holden and Lake Chelan. That way they could call home and have somebody come pick them up. Bob and Tommy Vint figured that if they could survive four years in World War II together, what could happen?
Here is a chronology of Bob's 1947 Ptarmigan Traverse, from his written notes:
- Day 1: Hike to Cascade Pass.
- Day 2: Climb Mt Johannesburg.
- Day 3: Climb Magic and Mixup Peaks. Cross Cache Col to Kool-Aid Lake.
- Day 4: Cross Spider-Formidable Col to heather camp.
- Day 5: Climb Spider Mtn (3 hours up), traverse below Mt Formidable to Yang Yang Lakes.
- Day 6: Climb Mt Formidable (8 hours).
- Day 7: Ascend to meadow, climb Le Conte Mtn (1-1/2 hour).
- Day 8: Cross Le Conte Glacier, climb Old Guard Mtn and Sentinel Peak, camp at White Rock Lakes.
- Day 9: Ascend Dana Glacier, climb Spire Point and Dome Peak.
- Day 10: Climb Sinister and Blue (Gunsight) Peaks, camp at Ross Pass.
- Day 11: Climb Bannock and Sitting Bull Mtns, descend to Suiattle Pass, camp at Lyman Lake.
- Day 12: Hike out Railroad Creek to Holden, Lucerne, boat to Chelan.
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