Adventurers of the year: Every year, there are folks whose adventures go beyond the norm

Posted Jan. 02, 2013, at 1:56 p.m.

For many, our adventures are limited to hikes on a park trail, a walk along an ocean beach or fishing.

But every year, there are folks whose adventures go beyond the norm.

Here is a look at some of the people, and groups, who we felt were worthy of recognition as our Adventurers of the Year.

Peter Eubank

At one point on the morning of Aug. 5, a fellow climber on the upper slopes of Mount Rainier asked Dave Eubank about his surprisingly small climbing partner.

“Is that a small man?” the climber asked.

“No,” Eubank said. “That’s my 6-year-old son.”

On that picture perfect morning, Peter Eubank safely reached the summit, becoming one of the youngest people to climb — and perhaps the youngest to climb unassisted — the 14,411-foot peak.

“We don’t keep official records for things like that,” said Chuck Young, Mount Rainier National Park’s chief ranger. “So we don’t really know for sure if he is the youngest.”

Regardless, Peter Eubank has notched more adventures by his seventh birthday than most adults will in their lifetimes. He’s climbed Mount Baker and Grand Teton, been hunting in Alaska and he skydived in the Czech Republic.

“It [the Rainier climb] was very, very fun,” Peter said last month by phone from Alaska where he was preparing to go hunting. “It was not scary.”

Peter, who turned 7 in October, said his favorite part of the climb was glissading during the descent.

While Peter’s accomplishments might sound extreme for a child, David shrugs off criticism that he’s putting his son in harm’s way.

“First, I love my child way more than any critic loves my child,” David said. “I’m not pushing my kid to break records. I’m allowing him to do what he wants to do. … And these activities are well within my ability. … I know our safety limit.”

Not only is David Eubank an experienced mountaineer, but he was once stationed at Fort Lewis as a member of the 2nd Ranger Battalion and 1st Special Forces Group.

He says he encourages his children to set their own goals as long as they abide by two rules. “One, unless it’s a bad goal, you can’t quit. Two, no complaining.”

Dave encourages his family to be “passionate about the freedom God gives us.”

Dave met his wife, Karen, in Tacoma, Wash., and has deep roots in the area, but his family spends most of its time doing humanitarian and missionary work in Burma.

Dave is the director of Free Burma Rangers, an organization that supplies medical care, food and shelter while documenting human right violations in Burma war zones.

Also the son of missionaries, Dave wants to pass on more than his adventurous spirit to his son and two daughters. “We hope to glorify God and serve him by helping people.”

Rainier Rescuers

The first anniversary of the shooting death of Mount Rainier National Park ranger Margaret Anderson was recently marked.

Anderson was shot by a man she stopped for running a routine snow-tire inspection point and she has been lauded as a hero who may have a prevented the man from opening fire on others at Paradise meadow.

Her death was the first of many reminders in 2012 of the effort and risks made by those who work to protect Rainier and its visitors.

Shortly after Anderson’s funeral, many Rainier rangers were thrust back into action when a deadly storm pounded the mountain, trapping seven people. Rangers with the assistance of other organizations including Tacoma Mountain Rescue and the Crystal Mountain Ski Patrol rescued one of the missing persons, Yong Kim of Tacoma.

They were also there when Josephine Johnson of Lacey and Jim Dickman of Vancouver saved themselves by walking out of the storm two days overdue. But they could not reach four climbers who died higher on the mountain.

On June 21, climbing ranger Nick Hall fell to his death while working with a team who rescued a group of climbers who slid into a crevasse. After completing the rescue, the rangers had to wait almost two weeks before weather conditions allowed them to rescue their colleague.

The park is currently planning a memorial to honor Anderson and Hall as well as climbing rangers Phil Otis and Sean Ryan, who died in a 1995 rescue attempt.

On-the-job tragedy wasn’t the only pain the rangers endured this year. On July 29 Douglas Chappell, a park engineering equipment operator, died in a single-car accident outside the park. And Ted Cox, the head of maintenance at Camp Muir, died Aug. 5 after a short battle with cancer.

“It was a tough year and I am so proud of the staff,” said Chuck Young, Rainier’s chief ranger. “The way they pulled together and were able to deal with some of these other incidents while they were undergoing their own crisis is amazing. In some ways I think they were able to momentarily escape the deep, deep grief and pain by helping somebody who needed help here and now.”

OAR Northwest

Four Northwest men, including two University of Puget Sound graduates, planned to shove off from Dakar, Senegal, late this month and row a 29-foot boat 3,569 nautical miles to Miami.

This is the latest adventure for OAR Northwest, an organization that has been stockpiling adventures and attempting to inspire and educate others since 2006.

The current expedition sponsored by the Canadian Wildlife Federation includes University of Puget Sound graduates Jordan Hanssen and Pat Fleming and Canadians Adam Kreek and Markus Pukonen. Kreek was a rowing gold medalist for Canada at the 2008 Olympics.

The CWF Africa to the Americas Expedition caps a year of adventure for the men.

April 11-May 2, the group rowed around Vancouver Island in another federation-sponsored trip. The trip was part of a project in which they collected environmental information and made presentations at various Washington state and British Columbia schools. Fleming did not take part in this expedition. Instead, UPS graduate Greg Spooner and former University of Washington rower Richard Tarbill were onboard.

In October, Hanssen’s book “Rowing into the Son” (The Mountaineers Books, $18.95) hit stores. The book chronicles OAR Northwest’s 2006 race across the North Atlantic. The 2006 crew of Hanssen, Spooner and former UPS rowers Dylan LeValley and Brad Vickers, finished the crossing in 72 days. They won the race and earned a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Long-distance kayaker

Pat O’Connor is not the type of person to just sit at home, even at the age of 67. This is a man who has hiked the Pacific Crest, Appalachian and Continental Divide trails and paddled down the Yukon River.

So, you could say, his 78-day kayak trip from Olympia up the Inside Passage to Alaska was another chapter in his quest for adventure.

O’Connor, a University Place resident, made the estimated 1,500-mile trip with 65-year-old Tom Jordin of Tacoma, each paddling kayaks just shy of 18 feet long. They left Olympia May 13 and reached Skagway, Ak., on July 28.

“I had always wanted to do something like this. I wanted to be able to say I hiked or paddled from Mexico to the Bering Sea,” O’Connor said. “People who kayak, one of their dreams is to paddle to Alaska. It’s a popular thought, but most people don’t do it.”

On such a journey, there are bound to be a few surprises.

O’Connor and Jordin had to camp at Spanish Banks, a male-only nude beach outside Vancouver, B.C. “It was the only place we could find to camp that afternoon.”

Then there was the time a cougar prowled around their campsite, coming within 10 feet of their tent. “It stayed with us for six minutes. I finally had to use our air horn because it kept creeping closer.”

While off the small port of Namu, B.C., O’Connor got flipped by a gust of wind. Jordin had to turn around and help him back into his kayak. “They used to have fish cannery there and we spent a couple of days there recovering. The people who are caretakers there took good care of us.”

As for food, the two ate mostly freeze-dried meals. One of the exceptions was when the weather forced them to land at Alder Creek, above Telegraph Cove on Vancouver Island. “At a campground there, some people made us a dinner of halibut and steak. It was our best meal, and it was free.”

You would think that after spending a good part of three months in a kayak, the two paddlers would celebrate their achievement in the lap of luxury — not O’Connor and Jordin. They spent five days and four nights hiking the Chilkoot Trail, the 33-mile trek that led to the Klondike gold fields. Then they took the ferry back to Bellingham, Wash.

What’s up next for O’Connor: He is planning to do the nearly 750-mile 88 Temple Pilgrimage on the Japanese island of Shikoku.

Foothills Trail fans

People walking or riding on much of the Foothills Trail will be able to give more accurate locations in an emergency thanks to a local Boy Scout and a fire chief.

Connor Erickson of Boy Scouts Troop 533 and Orting Valley Fire and Rescue Chief Paul Webb have been working together since August to paint location markers on the trail. They still have to finish the trail in the South Prairie area.

The yellow-and-black markers give a location number people can give to 911 dispatchers when calling for emergency assistance.

The problem was pointed out to Webb by Orting City Council member Sam Colorossi. Erickson is doing the project as part of his effort to become an Eagle Scout.

A Colorossi friend was injured while on the trail and finding him was very confusing because the group the injured person was with was unfamiliar with the area, said Patti Justice, with the fire department.

“It was quite difficult to locate the injured party,” she said. “The markers are numbers so that when people call 911 for emergency help, it gives responders a good idea of where the call is coming from.”

Distributed by MCT Information Services

 

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