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VENTURE CREW SETS SIGHTS ON MT. HOOD

SELF-ARREST:At Sunday's practice climbing session at Anthony Lakes, Venture Crew members purposely forced themselves in a fall on a steep slope and practiced halting their slide with their ice ax. While on a fast fall down the slope K-2, Alexis Baum digs her ax pick into the snow and prepares to turn over on to her stomach so she can use the ax to completely stop her fall.  (The Observer/PHIL BULLOCK).
SELF-ARREST:At Sunday's practice climbing session at Anthony Lakes, Venture Crew members purposely forced themselves in a fall on a steep slope and practiced halting their slide with their ice ax. While on a fast fall down the slope K-2, Alexis Baum digs her ax pick into the snow and prepares to turn over on to her stomach so she can use the ax to completely stop her fall. (The Observer/PHIL BULLOCK).

Eight La Grande High School students are preparing to venture into thin air.

The students are getting set to climb 11,250-foot Mount Hood, Oregon's tallest mountain, on May 25.

The youths, all members of Venture Crew, have been preparing for the climb since January.

"These kids are phenomenal. There is no question that these are the future leaders of the communities they will live in. They are a heck of a lot of fun,'' said Cory Larvik, a La Grande attorney who will help lead the hike up Mount Hood.

Larvik is a leader with the Venture program. Venture is a co-ed program for youths age 14-20.

Those who will accompany the teen-agers on their hike and are also helping prepare them include Larvik's wife Heather, Blaine Kelly and Craig Smith-Dixon, all of La Grande.

The LHS students who will climb the mountain are Nicole Lewis, Alexis Baum, Caitlin Schoenfelder, Caitlin Ecklund, Travis Dixon, Dane Johnson, Drew Kelly and Leif Bullock. All are La Grande High School sophomores except Ecklund, who is a junior.

None of the LHS students preparing for the trek have climbed Mount Hood. Cory and Heather Larvik, also a Venture leader, climbed Mount Hood last spring. The Larviks are anxious for the youths to experience the exhilaration they felt when they reached the top.

Walking along the top is a breathtaking experience, Cory Larvik said. One of the most spectacular sights is Mount Hood's north face, which has a dramatic 3,000-foot drop..

"It practically drops straight down,'' Larvik said.

The La Grande contingent will hike up the south side, which is much easier and safer to climb.

It is also more popular among hikers.

The Larviks were among 300 people climbing the south side when they trekked up Mount Hood.

"It was hardly a wilderness experience,'' Cory Larvik said.

Larvik and the other Venture leaders have been preparing students for the trip over the past four months. Leaders have taught the youths how to use an ice ax to stop themselves from sliding if they fall, use of crampons, ropes, knots, belay techniques, winter survival skills, first aid and snow-cave construction.

"If we get in an emergency situation we will all know how to dig a cave and sleep in it,'' Larvik said.

It is unlikely the group will have any problems since it will make its climb in late May, when there rarely is fresh snowfall and avalanche danger is reduced.

Late May is also a good time to climb because there is still plenty of snow on the ground. The snow is easier to walk on than loose gravel, Larvik said.

The La Grande Venture group will leave Mazama Lodge at midnight to begin their hike. Many people begin spring and summer hikes at midnight because the weather is colder and footing is more secure.

When the Larviks left Mazama Lodge at midnight on a previous climb, it was still and 60 degrees. At 9,000 feet it was 30 degrees. At the top it was 15 degrees with a 30 mph wind.

"The weather changes quickly. We have to be ready for this,'' Larvik said.

Trekking to the top of Mount Hood is a challenge but not exceedingly difficult.

"It is an easy mountain to climb but it is not a foregone conclusion. Some people don't make it,'' Larvik said.

It usually takes seven to eight hours to climb Mount Hood and about two hours to come down. The La Grande teen-agers will likely carry small, thin plastic sled sheets with them on the climb, and use them to slide down on part of their descent.

The Larviks did this last spring.

"It was like a two-mile sled ride,'' Cory Larvik said.

The youths are among about 20 members of Venture Crew 514. The group is sponsored by the Presbyterian Church. Venture is sponsored and run by Boy Scouts of America. Venture, however, is a separate program. It is co-ed and has different goals and objectives than Boy Scouts.

Many in the community have helped the Venture group prepare for the climb. They include John Spatz, Eastern Oregon University's track and field and ski coach who has arranged for the group to borrow climbing equipment from EOU.

 
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