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[TR] Alpental - Thoughts of Luke Gullberg 12/30/2009


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Trip: Alpental - Thoughts of Luke Gullberg


Date: 12/30/2009


Trip Report:


Climbing was what initially drew Luke and I together, and a deep friendship blossomed from it. After four years in the military, I wondered how Luke and I would connect again. He was a talented English major and I was a veteran Jarhead just readjusting to civilian life. I’m not sure whose idea it was, but we two made plans to climb Mt Rainier during our first summer back together. We had a blast and fell hook, line and sinker! We went on to climb many other peaks together, often via challenging (for us) routes. Lukey always seemed to draw the crux pitch, except on Dragontail Peak’s Northeast Couloir. As I inched my way upwards, Luke and Dave shouted encouragement and his high praise, though undeserved, had me beaming like a child opening the perfect Christmas present.


When I moved away to North Carolina in 2008, Luke continued to hit the hills with the same fervor, though his focused had changed. Instead of fast and light climbs up technical routes, Luke began to focus on moderate routes that he could bring several novice friends up. He led trips up Baker, Hood, Rainier, Stuart and several smaller Cascades Peaks. Through his patience and determination Luke introduced several people to the magic of the mountains.


Luke passed away last month on the precipitous western flank of Oregon’s Mt Hood. On December 11th, along with Katie Nolan and Anthony Vietti, Luke set off to climb the Reid Glacier Headwall. The weather was wonderful, and the climb well within Luke’s experience level, he being a veteran of several ascents of various Cascade’s volcanoes in all seasons. At some point during the trio’s climb there was an accident, and it appears Luke went to get help. However, he was overcome by the elements and died of hypothermia before being able to alert rescuers of the serious situation of his partners.


I currently live on the east coast, and my boss was more than willing to extend me a generous leave of absence to assist my father and sister of attending to Luke’s effects, helping with his memorial, and generally spending time with our immediate family during the holidays. During my flight home, in an effort to put my immediate grief on the backburner, I made a list of outings I could do during my brief stay to honor Luke’s life. Knowing a thing or two of the Cascades fickle winter weather, I knew my chance for a suitably awesome climb in Luke’s honor would be difficult indeed. Nevertheless I made a few phone calls, sent a few emails and finally concluded that a link-up in the accessible Alpental Valley may be just the ticket.


Mark Bunker, Luke and I have spent several days in mountains together, and we felt that Lukey would also have been keen on the idea of linking together a waterfall ice, alpine ice, snow, and rock route in a long day. Mark was keen on the idea of linking a variety of routes together, and we managed to effectively schedule our attempt on the very day that the typically wet Cascade’s winter replaced the atypical high pressure system that had excited alpinists across the PNW! Unfortunately, although the ice was in good condition, the snow was not and we were forced to abandon our attempt after only two routes. We left an empty parking lot on December 30th at 4:30am and began climbing Alpental Falls via three fun ice pitches and then Chair Peak’s NE Buttress, dangerous avalanche conditions forced us avoid Bryant Peak and the Mighty Tooth.



Alpental Falls


NE Buttress






All smiles after the icicle rappel


No biggy, I thought, I’ll think up something else in Luke’s honor. I tried all sorts of adventurous ideas: Fat Ass 25k Race at Tiger Mountain (failed to come in with an impressive time), North Face of Mt Index (crappy snow conditions again thwarted this one), and finally another shot at finishing what I had come to call “Lukey’s Loop” (the water ice/alpine ice/snow/rock thing at Alpental). Again the conditions/weather failed to cooperate on my final free day, and my sister Becky and I were forced to abandon our alpine attempt to a brief jaunt to Marymoor Park in Redmond. Having failed thus far to do anything noteworthy in Luke’s name, we decided to try and climb as many of Luke’s favorite routes on the artificial Marymoor spires as we could in an hour. Despite efficient climbing and changovers, our five routes proved unimpressive.






Although in retrospect, perhaps that’s the point of this whole thing. Luke and I climbed more impressive routes in our head than we ever did in real life. We imagined ourselves climbing thunker ice, or onsighting that spooky slab pitch, or climbing thousands of vertical feet up narrow couloirs without tiring. Perhaps it is appropriate that my initial attempts to honor his life follow a similar vein of aborted attempts and hair-brained schemes. In the end, that was Luke’s real gift to us, the family and friends he left behind. The determination to dream big, aim high, and ultimately see your wildest dreams to fruition.


Luke spent three weeks this past September traveling the Pacific Crest Trail from Oregon to Canada, using the time alone to reflect on life in general and specifically the effect his mother’s death last year was having on his life. He chronicled his journey in a love letter to his girlfriend, and those words convey a difficult journey in reconciling his mother’s inopportune death with his Christian faith. In the end Luke reaffirmed his faith and excitedly reentered normal life after his 500+ mile journey. His untimely death has left a void in all of our hearts, and we anxiously await the day when we are reunited. Luke was a man of many hats: volunteer, consummate student, climber, brother, uncle, son, boyfriend, athlete, and teacher, but I will forever remember him as the friend who happened to be my brother. See you at the top Luke!



Here is a pretty accurate list of Luke’s climbs… if you’ve climbed with him and have something to add, please send me a note!


Mt Baker 10,785’ – Coleman Glacier and Easton Glacier

Liberty Bell Mountain 7,740’ – Beckey Route (In the middle of the night!)

Silver Star Mountain 8,876’ – Silver Star Glacier

Burgundy Spire 8,400’ - North Face

Eldorado Peak 8,868’ – East Ridge

Forbidden Peak 8,815’ – West Ridge

Del Campo Peak 6,610’ – Southwest Buttress

Baring Mountain 6,125’ – South Slope (2nd time was a charm for us

Ingalls Peak 7,662’ – South Ridge (we did it once as a simul-solo, great memory!)

Mt Stuart 9,415’ – Stuart Glacier Coulouir, North Ridge, Ice Cliff Glacier, and Cascadian Couloir

Dragontail Peak 8,840’ – NE Couloir, Backbone Ridge, Serpentine Ridge, and via Colchuck Glacier

Jabberwocky Tower – East Face (winter)

Mt Si 4,167’ – Haystack Gully and Karen’s Spire (possible FA on west side of Peak)

Mailbox Peak 4,841’ - Summit Trail

McClellan Butte 5,162’ – South Ridge

Bandera Mountain 5,241’ – Bandera Trail

Silver Peak - West Ridge Trail

Granite Mountain 5,629’ – Granite Mountain Trail

Kaleetan Peak 6,259’ – South Ridge

The Mighty Tooth 5,600’ – South Face

Bryant Peak 5,801’ - East Gully

Chair Peak 6,238’ – East Face and North Face

Guye Peak 5,168’ – Improbable Traverse, Guye Summit Trail, and South Gully

Snoqualmie Mountain 6,278’ – Alpental Slope Trail

Red Mountain 5,890’ – Southwest Slope

Kendall Peak 5,784’ – North Ridge Trail

Alta Mountain 6,151' - Standard scramble

Mt Rainier 14,411’ – Disappointment Cleaver and Emmons Glacier

Unicorn Peak 6,917’ – Snow Lake Route

Gilbert Peak 8,184’ – Via Conrad Meadows

Mt Hood 11,239’ – South Side

And lots of cragging at Peshastin Pinaccles, Index Town Wall, The Feathers, Exit 32, Exit 38, Icicle Canyon, Static Point, Ranch Rock, Stone Mountain (NC) and Snow Creek Wall.
















Edited by scottgg
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Scott, wonderful to see your beautiful tribute ( great photos!)and to know that your brother's spirit and accomplished ability as a climber and leader lives on in you. You are both a great inspiration. Blessings and peace to you and your family.

Edited by Mtguide
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Wonderful job! My condolences to you and yours.


I went to Mt. Rainier HS with your father, I think (class of 66). He was a star basketball player and a fine human being. We used to play "horse" over at Dave Anderson's house. I've always held Rod in high respect.


Best wishes to him and all of you.


Doug Johnson

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