Back in 1894, it would have taken three days to get to Mount Hood from Portland, and a week to get to Mount Rainier — by horse and foot.
Climbing mountains was something for mostly people with means — time and money. So, it was significant citizens in Oregon who founded the Mazamas mountaineering club: William Gladstone Steel, a postman, along with Oregonian newspaper publisher Henry Pittock, Fay Fuller, Rodney Glisan and L.L. Hawkins.
"It was coming out of the Victorian era, late 1800s, and people for the first time had disposable income and free time and wherewithal," says Mathew Brock, Mazama Library & Historical Collections manager. "Early outings were a month or so long."
Now sporting thousands of members, who tackle peaks all over the Pacific Northwest, Mazamas marks 125 years on Friday, July 19. Steel and about 100 other climbers summited Mount Hood on July 19, 1894, and officially established Mazamas.
Among the 125th anniversary happenings: Members and interested folks signed up for the 125-mile (or 75- and 100-mile) challenges that include hikes, climbs, snowshoe treks and ramblings. Edited by Brock, a book has been in the works marking the 125th anniversary, following up on 1964's "We Climb High, Chronology of Mazamas, 1894-1964." There is an open house from noon-6 p.m. Sunday, July 28, at the Mazama Mountaineering Center, 527 S.E. 43rd Ave,
Mazamas has racked up quite a bit of history since the days of Steel, who first instituted the golden rule for membership: A person would have to scale a glaciated peak to become a member. Mount Hood remains the most popular climb.
The club has an incredible record-keeping past. Mazamas has put out an annual publication each year since 1896 and a monthly publication since May 1923, both with meticulous documentation of who climbed where and what they encountered, along with other news. It also has extensive archives of photographs, committee records, summit registers, manuscripts and more.
Mazamas organizes about 700 hikes and 300 climbs per year for its some 3,500 members and more than 10,000 people who engage in activities.
"You don't have to be a member to do things we do," says Kelsey Shaw, member services administrator. "We're always looking to bring in new folks."
Says Kim Osgood, a longtime Mazamas member: "Mazamas is a great organization. It's made me strong physically, to be able to deal with difficult situations and dynamics, and it's just about putting yourself out there."
Mazamas promotes mountaineering, conservation, education and scientific research.
"We are trying to become more diverse; that's a big push right now," Brock says. "We're doing more educational activities to get kids outside, a push to get more people of color and minorities involved in outdoor things. Mazamas has a good record of women being involved; we had our first female climb leader in 1913 and first president in 1952 (Martha Platt)."
All things Mazamas, including sign-ups and activities, can be found at www.mazamas.org.
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