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Gary Rose - Personal Communication

Taped interview, 26 April 2001
At Gary Rose's home in Edmonds, Washington
by Lowell Skoog

Gary Rose was born in 1934 and was 66 at the time of our conversation. He took the Mountaineers climbing course in 1951. "I started skiing after that," he recalled, "but I never really learned much about skiing. I just kind of stumble along." Gary guided for Dick McGowan on Mt Rainier during the summers between 1956 and 1960. In autumn 1960, he started working at Recreational Equipment, Inc. and he worked there until retirement in 1996.

Most of Gary's ski friends in the 1950s were climbers, not downhill skiers. "Skiing was a way to get around in winter time. To extend their climbing. That's kind of why I got interested in it too. It wasn't particularly that I liked to ski. Now it's kind of switched, and I enjoy skiing." He recalled that interest in snowshoing was nil back then. "Now it's going gangbusters."

Lyman Lake

Gary skied at the Gold Hill cabin before Crystal Mountain ski area opened and he met Chuck and Marion Hessey there. "We used to call it the Hessey cabin," he said. The Hesseys did not own it, but shared it with other Yakima skiers on land leased from the Forest Service. Gary and his Seattle friends reached the cabin by crossing the divide from Crystal Lake. The Hesseys and other Yakima skiers came from the east up Morse Creek. The old cabin was partly collapsed when Gary went there and it was used for storing wood. The "new" cabin, which remains in use today, is 40 years old now.

In about 1953 or 1954, Gary made a ski trip to Lyman Lake with Dave Nicholson and Don and Dick Bremland. Gary thought he was probably a sophomore in college at the time. The trip was during spring break from school. They had written to the Washington Water Power Company (WWPC), which owned the cabin, for permission to stay there. The Holden mine was still operating and they got a bus ride from Lucerne to Holden. "It took us two days to ski to the cabin," recalled Gary. "It was just deep, wet, heavy snow. It was snowing like crazy. It snowed the whole week."

When they arrived at the cabin, the WWPC snow survey crew was occupying it. It had taken the surveyors a full day to dig down to the cabin through the deep snowpack. Gary and friends spent the first night at the cabin sleeping outside, without tents. After the survey crew left, they moved in. The stormy weather kept them cooped up much of the week. They skied the shoulder of North Star Mountain one day but couldn't see anything.

Chuck and Marion Hessey had planned a ski trip to Lyman Lake later that spring and had cached a load of food in the cabin the previous autumn. "We played a dirty trick on Chuck," recalled Gary. "I don't think Marion's ever forgotten it. We were in this little dark hutch with nothing to do all week but think of dirty things to do," he laughed. The snow survey crew had a dog with them and had cached some food in the cabin as well. At this point in Gary's story I started laughing. "This is great," I said, "because Phil Dahl [Marion's nephew] told me their side of this story." (See marion-hessey.)

Gary laughed. "The guys had left some cans of dog food. So we peeled off the label of one of Chuck's cans of beef stew or something like that and pasted it on the dog food can and put it into their cache. I guess they got in there and opened this can up and started cooking and it smelled a little funny. Then they realized I guess what had happened." After I told Phil's version of the story, Gary continued, "I worked at REI for a number of years and every time Chuck would come in I'd run and hide. He'd always look me up, you know, and ask for me. We'd laugh about that."

I asked about other cabins used by skiers in those days, and Gary replied, "There's just an absence of cabins in the Northwest." He remembered staying in Kulshan cabin on Mt Baker (since removed) and an old mining cabin near Blewett Pass, which didn't offer great skiing. I commented that it seemed there were more cabins in the Cascades fifty years ago than there are today. "Yeah," he said, "there were more cabins than now. The Forest Service has either taken them out or kinda put a moratorium on anybody building any more. And what was there just went to rack and ruin and collapsed."

Other tours

Gary mentioned destinations such as Skyline Ridge, Jim Hill Mountain and Arrowhead Peak near Stevens Pass, Mt Cashmere, Chinook Pass, Little Tahoma, Ruth Mountain (Nooksack), Monte Cristo (poor skiing), Mt Adams, Mt St Helens, and the Goat Rocks. He thought he first skied on Eldorado Peak in the early 1960s and Mt Shuksan in the mid-1960s, maybe 1965. He did some ski touring along the North Cascades Highway after it opened, mostly with Joe Firey, but didn't recall the dates. I asked whether skiers had any inkling before the highway opened that it would offer good backcountry skiing and he didn't think so. Gary thought there were more accessible ski touring sites in those days because more roads were kept open and there were fewer parking restrictions in winter.

In the 1950s, Gary did a week-long ski trip to the head of the Honeycomb Glacier, south of Glacier Peak, organized by Ira Spring. (See st-1960-mar-27-pic14.) The party flew in with Bill Fairchild, made a ski ascent of Glacier Peak, and hiked out via Kennedy Hot Springs. One day during the trip out they made only about a mile and a half distance. They were trying to reach the hot springs by following the river and they kept hitting side creeks that they couldn't cross. They'd have to climb up to find a log or other crossing, then they'd drop back down to the river and repeat the process all over again. "We did that all day long," remembered Gary.

Another unusual trip was a winter traverse from the White River to Burroughs Mountain, Mystic Lake and the Carbon River in the early 1960s with Rainier National Park personnel, including the superintendent. The group stayed in the Sunrise Lodge along the way. In the late 1950s, Gary made a New Years ski trip to McGregor Mountain from Stehekin with Frank Fickeisen, Hal Williams, Stella Degenhardt and Gene Dodson. Snow conditions were lean (they tried to climb the peak along the normal southwest trail route) and the group did not summit.

Gary recalled that his ski trips "weren't really to climb peaks, but to go to a destination, to some lake or some ridge crest. And if the peak was easy, we'd try that too. Of course the state of equipment was not very good by today's standards, and that limited somewhat what you could do."

Equipment

In the 1950s, ski touring equipment was mostly adapted from the downhill ski gear of the time. With cable bindings, you'd mount a second set of cable guides on the side of the skis a little farther forward to be used while touring. The cable would be released from the rear guides for touring, then re-hitched for downhill skiing. Many people used beartrap toe irons, which did not release. If you had a releasable toe piece, you could use something like the Marker "switchplate" (touring adapter) while touring. It was a flat sheet of metal, punched out on a press, with two wings bent up to hold the boot toe and two wings bent down to fit around the ski. The downward wings had cutouts which fit onto a couple of screws installed in the sidewall of the ski. "They'd clip in there kind of like a key," said Gary. The wings kept the boot from twisting sideways out of the releasable toe piece. The adapters were removed and put in the pack for the run down. The Marker switchplate was rather lightweight and some people made their own adapters from heavier stock.

The first real touring binding Gary remembered was the Ramy Securus, made in France. "It was kind of an abomination," he said. "You ever seen one?" The binding used a cable with a front throw, as usual, and had what looked like a regular toe iron. But when you twisted the heel of the boot sideways, the wings of the toe iron would swing out (pivoting at the toe) for a lateral release. Gary thought the Ramy Securus was the first time anybody tried to design a binding specifically for touring. It was heavy. Later, Silvretta produced a binding with a toe piece made of wire (the Saas-Fee). The binding had forward release only and people often used them with "bushwacker" skis. The Gertsch was an early plate touring binding and predecessor to the Fritschi. Fritschi originally made engineering drawing tables, very high quality, with various tilt controls and such. They made parts for Gertsch and eventually got into the binding business themselves after Gertsch folded.

Most people toured in leather ski boots. Army surplus boots were big square-toed things, more often used for climbing than skiing.

We talked a little about Nordic ski gear and Gary recalled that the first Nordic skis were very narrow and light, made for track skiing. Gradually, as people got into telemarking, the gear became heavier and more expensive. Gary thought the growth of Nordic skiing in the 1960s and 1970s may have been due to economics. Nordic gear was cheap then, but not anymore. He wondered whether the growth of snowshoeing today might also be due to economics. "I remember it was a real strange sight if you saw a cross-country skier out in the backcountry," he said. "Hey look at that guy, he's on skinny skis. Then it almost switched to where it was the other way around. Gee, that guy's on alpine skis." He remarked, "Lately you don't see as many telemarkers out there."

Some time after my conversation with Gary I had a chance to review the REI catalog collection. See rei-catalogs.


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