2013's notable people in the outdoors

Staff writersDecember 29, 2013 

South Sound residents are as adept as anyone at turning the outdoors into a playground. And some manage to do some pretty amazing things once they step out their front doors.

Here’s a look back at some of those adventures enjoyed by South Sound residents in 2013:

CONOR COLLINS

Conor Collins, a Rogers High junior, entered his first bike race in August 2012 and within a year it was obvious he was born to ride.

He quickly ascended from a Category 5 classification (the first of five levels) to Cat 3. He won the 71-mile Baker City Classic in 2013 by dominating the hills.

He entered July’s Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic, a non-race ride that takes two days for 80 percent of the 10,000 participants to finish. He needed less than 10 hours of bike time.

He biked as high as the roads would go on Mount Haleakala, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa during a trip to Hawaii.

And when he entered the grueling 149-mile Ride Around Mount Rainier in One Day in July, he reached the top of Cayuse Pass (about the 110-mile mark) before the food station opened for the event.

“At first they didn’t believe we were in the ride,” Collins said. “We had to show them our (bib) numbers to prove it.”

Perhaps the biggest accomplishment of the summer for the 16-year-old was entering a brutal two-day stage race in Bishop, Calif. The Everest Challenge climbs roughly 29,035 feet, the summit elevation of Mount Everest.

“Everybody is going to bonk in a race like that, you just hope you’re the last one,” Collins said.

Even as a 16-year-old competing against older and more experience racers, Collins more than held his own. He finished the 159-mile ride in 12 hours, 7 minutes, 45 seconds to finish eighth in the Cat 4 race. His time would have been good enough for seventh in the Cat 1-2 race and fourth in the Cat 3 race.

Collins, 5-foot-11, 142 pounds, is built to climb and hopes to pursue racing in college and beyond.

But, for now, he’s focusing on academics (he has a 3.9 GPA and hopes to study biochemistry at Stanford) and racing with the Rogers swim team.

SALLY JEWELL

The former chief executive officer at Kent-based outdoor retailer REI, Jewell became the 51st secretary of the Interior this year. Nominated by President Barack Obama in February, Jewell assumed her post in April.

While Jewell has faced outdoor challenges before, such as climbing Mount Rainier seven times, she is now in charge of more than 70,000 employees, oversees agencies that manage 20 percent of the nation’s lands and has to deal with the likes of Congress and a host of special interest groups.

“This is the one job I would have left REI for,” Jewell said in an Outside magazine article in November. “I’m not sure there’s another one out there.”

In talking about her transition to her new position at a Interior Department employee gathering in Portland in June, Jewell said, “I’ve been told that coming up to speed in this job is like drinking from a fire hose. Actually, I’ve found that it’s more like a water main.”

She’s had a full plate since taking over, but Jewell seems to be keeping her head above the fray.

EVEREST RECORD SETTERS

Two of the most prolific conquerors of the world’s highest peak are guides from Ashford-based Rainier Mountaineering Inc.

In May, RMI guides Melissa Arnot and Dave Hahn established new standards for climbing 29,035-foot Mount Everest.

On May 21, Arnot reached the summit for the fifth time, more than any other female climber. And on May 23, Hahn extended his record for most summits by a non-Sherpa climber to 15.

RMI and fellow Ashford guide service International Mountain Guides lead Everest summit expeditions each spring. The trips typically last more than two months.

RAINIER CLIMBING RANGERS

A year after one of their own died during a rescue on Mount Rainier, sparking changes to rescue protocol, the national park’s climbing rangers saved three Canadian climbers Sept. 1.

The rescue was the park’s first short-haul mission and came in the hours after the climbers fell about 30 feet into a crevasse high on the Emmons Glacier.

In short-haul missions, rescuers and injured climbers are flown in out of the accident sites while secured to a helicopter via a rope and harness. The technique, used by several other national parks, is designed to minimize the number of rescuers exposed to hazards while allowing them direct communication with the pilot.

Rainier officials decided to implement the short-haul rescue technique after investigating the 2013 death of climbing ranger Nick Hall during a rescue on the Emmons Glacier.

An estimated 36 people were involved in the Sept. 1 rescue.

OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK STAFF

Amid all the challenges of operating and maintaining a 922,651-acre national park, the staff at Olympic National Park and its partners took time to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the park’s creation.

They had parties and other special events during one of the most challenging years. The park and partners are in the midst of the removal of two dams on the Elwha River, work that had to be delayed for a time because of issues at a water treatment plant. Staff also had to deal with ongoing fiscal issues, including budget cuts mandated by sequestration and the 16-day federal government shutdown in October.

Still, Olympic is a remarkable place to visit. Right now, you can play in the snow at Hurricane Ridge, watch salmon spawn in creeks near the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center or watch storm-driven waves crash ashore along the coast.

THE CHILLIWACK DUO

Tyler Farr of Tacoma and Nelson Hamre of Bonney Lake bagged a six-pack of Washington high points this summer known as the Chilliwack Slam. Each of the peaks in the North Cascades rank among the 100 highest in Washington and are particularly challenging for climbers because of cruddy weather, crummy rock and their seclusion.

Mount Spickard (8,979 feet), Mount Redoubt (8.969), Mount Custer (8,630), Twin Spire (8,504), Mount Rahm (8,480) and Northwest Mox Peak (8,407) require an approach from British Columbia. And while they’ve all been climbed before, Farr and Hamre are believed to be the first to climb them all in one trip.

Their trip lasted six days and included two other climbers (Dan Lauren of Kent and Curt Baxstrom of Federal Way) who didn’t attempt all six peaks but had climbed them previously.

Farr is hesitant to say he is trying to climb all the Bulger 100 peaks (an unofficial list of the 100 highest peaks in Washington).

“They say you aren’t really going for it until you’ve climb more than half,” Farr, 28, said.

He says he’s climbed about 20 of the peaks.

OAR NORTHWEST

The guys at OAR Northwest, an ocean rowing and education program founded by a quartet of University of Puget Sound graduates, has been a regular in our Adventurers of the Year wrap-up for the past eight years.

Sometimes its epic journeys are successful and sometimes they come up shy of the goal. Such was the case earlier this year when a series of waves capsized the crew’s rowboat 850 miles short of becoming the first people to row from Africa to the United States.

Crewmembers Jordan Hanssen and Pat Fleming – both UPS graduates – and Canadians Adam Kreek (a 2008 Olympic rowing gold medalist) and Markus Pukonen were forced to deploy their rescue raft and set off their personal locator beacons.

They were rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard and a Puerto Rico-bound ship. The Coast Guard later applauded the men for their preparedness.

A week after their rescue, they were able to find and salvage their boat.

Hanssen says he’s already planning his next adventure: rafting the Mississippi River.

COLUMBIA RIVER ANGLERS

A lot of anglers with full cooler boxes were smiling thanks to a record run of fall chinook salmon on the Columbia River. While the run was predicted to be 677,900 adult fish, the actual returns exceeded 1.2 million chinook.

That is the most fish to make their way upstream from the mouth of the Columbia since record keeping began in 1938.

The run reached its peak Sept. 9, when 63,870 chinook were counted passing through Bonneville Dam.

In further good news for anglers, the 2014 run is expected to be similar in size to this year’s run, and next year’s run of upriver spring chinook would be the fifth highest on record and the most since 1979, if the forecast of 227,000 fish holds true.

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