It was September 1964 and we were on our way up Mt. Adams, a stately, 12,276-foot volcano in southern Washington.
I was an out-of -shape 19-year-old girl from the flatlands wearing borrowed boots and pack. As we headed up, I began breathing so loudly that my companions wondered if I would make it out of the parking lot.
As we continued slowly and steadily up the mountain, my body adapted to the unaccustomed exertion, and I began to feel centered and strong.
Ahead of us was an icefield sliced by long, narrow chasms with walls of blue and green ice — crevasses. It was the most gorgeous place I'd ever been.
I sank onto a comfortable rock below the summit of Mt Adams exhausted but content. Right here were the peace and space I'd always craved.
My first glissade was memorable. Down, down, down I flew for thousands of feet. At first the rough, frozen snow felt cold and uncomfortable beneath me, but soon I didn't feel a thing as the small pebbles in the frozen snow abraded away my thin wool trousers and more.
As I lay on my stomach in the infirmary, I dreamed of glaciers and my attempt on Mt. Adams, the best day of my life.
I knew the mountains were where I belonged.
Five months later, on February 2, 1965, I climbed to the top of Mt Hood, my first mountain summit. I wanted to sing, to dance, and most of all, to hug John.
John Hall had first reached the summit of Mt. Hood several years earlier. He broke trail through knee-deep untrodden powder snow to reach the top.
And that wonderful spring, I did become a climber.
John and I climbed Mt. Shuksan.
We ascended Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens by ever more challenging routes
With every climb, I learned more about finding a route through a crevassed glacier, how to read the weather, when to go on and when to turn back.
Every summit was a miracle to me.
Crossing a gulley on the Wy'east route on Mt. Hood, we saw huge boulders thundering toward us. Somehow, we weren't hit. John gave thanks when we reached the top safely.
Both climbing and chemistry opened new worlds for me. Dr. Jane Shell was a brilliant young chemistry professor at Reed. Following her example, all four of the girls in our freshman chemistry class went on to obtain PhD's in chemistry.
Collecting and analyzing volcanic gases was a perfect topic for my senior thesis, combining both my interests. A change in the gas composition can signal an imminent eruption.
I climbed Mt. Hood to collect fumarole gases from the summit crater with Dr. Fred Ayres, the chemistry professor who was my thesis advisor and mountaineering mentor.
In December of 1965, John Hall and I attempted Popocatapetl volcano near Mexico City, the fifth highest peak in North America.
After reaching the 17,800 foot high top of Popocatapetl, an altitude record for me, John and I collected volcanic gases from the steaming summit crater.
Then we crossed the valley to attempt Ixtaccihuatl, the seventh highest peak in North America.