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Pete Schoening - Personal Communication

Taped interview - A walk in the woods, 4 May 2001
by Lowell Skoog

I contacted Pete after reading stories in the Mountaineer Annual about his attempts to climb Mt Olympus in winter in the 1940s. In response to my query, Pete invited me on a day hike with several of his friends. The group included Jim Baker, Frank Fickeisen, Svein Gilje, Hugh Givens, Chris Madden, Duke Watson, Hal Williams and Pete. We hiked to Dirty Harry's Balcony, across I-90 from McClellans Butte, west of Snoqualmie Pass. I brought my tape recorder and recorded conversations with Pete and Duke.

Pete said that his first attempts on Olympus were on skis, but they generally got no farther than the Hoh River bridge at 12 miles. It was a horrendous task struggling around fallen trees with skis carrying heavy packs. They switched to snowshoes for later trips and had an easier time of it. Once, with Chuck Allyn, a storm trapped them at Glacier Meadows for several days. After the storm, they headed out. Pete remembered traversing some steep slopes below the meadows where he wished he was back on skis again, since the snowshoes were poor for traversing. He recalled that the attempts spanned about three years in the late 1940s.

Pete realized that there was little chance that a pre-scheduled trip to Olympus would be successful. So he came up with the idea of having their gear loaded in the back of the car continuously, and as soon as the weather began to look promising, they'd go. Finally Pete, Chuck Allyn, and Pete's younger brother [Paul] hit a good 5-day forecast and used snowshoes to get high on the peak. They found the summit rock entirely encased in ice. The wind had carved the ice so that there were holes in it. You could thread slings through them, tie a loop, and belay off them. The snow at the base of the rock extended high in the winter and with crampons they were able to climb within 50 feet or so of the top. But chunks of snow and ice were falling off and they did not feel comfortable. They finally said to each other, "Do you suppose we've climbed enough of this thing?" They never stood on the top.

I asked Pete about winter trips to the High Divide described in Harvey Manning's story (mtneer-a-1959-p63). Pete said he and Chuck Allyn had been up there. "That was a donnybrook," he laughed. "Gear was different in those days. I remember being mighty cold." I asked whether he knew of other attempts on Olympus in winter, successful or not. Pete said that before World War II, people didn't do that sort of thing much. They had no reason to. On the other hand, lots of things were done in the early days that weren't documented. Pete did a lot of climbs he never recorded. By contrast Fred Beckey recorded everything he did. After Beckey started publishing his guidebooks, Pete thought maybe he should have written a few more things down. But it was never very important to him.

Pete said he took up skiing as a way to reach peaks in the winter, for example around Snoqualmie Pass, to avoid post-holing, but not as an end in itself. He was never much of a lift skier, although he would go to Stevens Pass on occasion and "pay 50 cents for a lift ticket." Pete said that as far as he was concerned, snowshoes were superior to skis for winter climbing in the Cascades. He remembers approvingly the Praters' development of the Sherpa Snowshoe. Pete made some trips to the Vancouver area and found that there were more ski tourers there. He thought it was because there were more Europeans, professional people who had left Europe after World War II. It was easier to immigrate to Canada than the United States. He remembered skiing with some of them on Mt. Seymour before it was a ski area. John Dudra was Pete's most frequent contact. He also remembered Fips Broda.

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Last Updated: Sun Mar 20 08:35:42 PST 2005