by BRUCE GIBBS
The Top 100
John Lixvar and John Plimpton created the first list of the highest hundred peaks in Washington, using selection criteria based on the 400-foot rule, whether a peak had an "official" name or not, and with exceptions for large volcanoes.
The first sign that someone is hooked by the list is denial: "I'm not interested in the top 100, but I'd like to go on your trip this weekend". Then you find out that the climber has a list, and is secretly marking off the peaks as they are climbed. Thereafter, life is devoted to the list. Very few marriages withstood the list, and most of the 10 Bulgers who have finished are more or less retired from climbing.
The list was secret until 1986 when most of the active Bulgers of the time who were not still in denial had finished; the second hundred list is still secret.
The BOEALPS have adopted the list, and currently 23 or so climbers are busy working on the list, all of whom will become honorary Bulgers.
In late spring of 1981, Gene Mickle was leading an exploratory climb for the Seattle Mountaineers of peak 5335 in Sultan Basin (known to the Bulgers as Webber Peak). The weather was not good. They walked down a steep snow slope on down-sloping rock. A young man slipped and injured his angle and was unable to walk. Bob Tillotson carried the 175-pound man out six miles over very rugged terrain to get back to the car by dark.
Dick Kegel is one of the best technical rock climbers in the Bulgers. He had done the Index traverse, and did a daring rescue of Ed Vervoort on the 5.7 headwall of the north peak. In 1987, at the age of 58, he climbed 41 of the top hundred peaks. On a solo trip in the Pasayten in November 1987, he climbed several peaks while wearing running shoes. While he slept on top of Carru, a foot of snow fell. The next morning he found that his feet no longer worked, so he crawled off the mountain. After a while he recovered and continued the trip on foot.
On January 21, 1979, Dick and Bruce Gibbs were climbing Mt. Si. The 20-foot class 3 pitch at the top of the Haystack was covered with ice, and they had no crampons. Dick said, "Bruce, you're not going to like this", so Bruce, a reasonably sensible Bulger, went down to wait below. After an hour, he decided to go up and see what was going on. Dick was right where he had been when Bruce left him. Bruce asked, "Dick, do you want me to chop you some steps?". All Dick said was "Yeah, one there and one there."
After climbing Boston on July 30, 1977, Bette Felton, Russ Kroeker, and Mary Jo and Bruce Gibbs headed toward Buckner, planning to descend straight into Horseshoe Basin. Bruce found a pack on the east side of Sahale on a ledge below the summit. Now out of sight, Russ started down the ever-steeper rock towards Horseshoe Basin. About the time the others began to wonder what they were getting into, Russ warned them not to come that way. He of course continued on, while they discussed what to do next. After a very long time, Russ' tiny figure appeared far below in the basin, running as fast as it could towards Buckner. The others camped on the rock slabs south of Sahale and the next day continued down the glacier to the east. On the way down, Bruce and Mary Jo were hit by an ice avalanche off the glacier; the biggest pieces of which broke up just above them. They escaped with cuts and bruises, and returned to the car to wait for Russ.
In the meantime, Russ had an adventure of his own. While descending into Horseshoe Basin, he had fallen head first into a moat, where he remained unconscious for a few minutes. Reviving, he continued his descent down the snow to the meadows, where he was finally sighted by those above. He climbed Buckner and then ran the ridge to Booker, from which he used bush rappels to drop down class 5 cliffs to the Stehekin road. He hit Cascade Pass running, yelling at the top of the pass loud enough for others to hear in the parking lot. On top of all that, they had to drive home without a clutch.
On May 4, 1991, John Roper celebrated the ascent of his 1000th peak, summiting with a climb of Cedar Butte, near Rattlesnake Lake. All of John's family and friends, including the Bulgers, were there. Then on March 25, 2000 John completed his 2000th summit with a climb of Baldy Hill which included his parents in there 80's. John completed the Bulger top 100, plus the lists defined by the 400-, 500-, 1000-, and 2000-foot rules. He has climbed every peak in the North Cascade National Park except Nooksack Tower, and still talks about doing that.
A trip to Bacon, Hagan, and Blum by Bette Felton and Mike Bialos strained the Buffalo's inadequate cooling system. Leaving the car at the crack of dawn to avoid the record August heat, they struggled up through the brush to the basin south of Bacon. To avoid the flies, Bette was going as fast as she could. After a while, she heard a desperate, strangled cry from the over-heated Buffalo laboring below. Fortunately they soon broke out into a basin with a beautiful creek running through it. It had two features that caused a delay of several hours. The first was a big flat shaded rock just above water level in the middle of the stream: a perfect place for cooling off. The second was a genuine fresh orange bobbing behind a rock in the stream. The two agreed that they would eat it if no one claimed it by late afternoon. Unfortunately for the Bulgers, the owner picked it up on his way down from Bacon. Mike and Bette continued on their way rising before dawn and resting each afternoon to avoid the heat.
After climbing Blum, they started down a steep, dry ridge toward the Baker River. Just to be sure, they looked at the maps; they were then located right at the junction of 4 maps, some of which were 15 minute and some 7.5 minute. Since Mike had been there before, they started off confidently. Mike wondered why it didn't look familiar, but of course that didn't slow them down. The ridge got steeper and steeper, the sun got hotter and hotter, and the Bulgers got drier and drier. After a dulfersitz (resulting in rope burns on the neck) and much zig-zagging to avoid cliffs, they came out several hundred feet above the wet, cold river. The only problem was they were standing on top of a cliff which appeared to stretch forever to left and right. The story of Tantalus took on new meaning. They now looked to the left and saw the nice timbered ridge they should have taken, across a huge brush-filled gully. Bette imagined dying of thirst there in sight of the river, unable to go down, and too hot and thirsty to go up the several thousand feet it would take to get back to the spot at the map junction where the two ridges had diverged. However, Mike, who believes there is always a way and who is usually right, started traversing, and found a way down to the river with a short rappel. All that remained was to cross the river and slog a half-mile through a swamp to the trail on the far side of the valley. At least that part was wet.
Bob Tillotson is a big guy, but very quiet. Once when Bob and several other Bulgers were descending from a winter attempt on Stillaguarnish they met a lone female snowshoer on an overnight trip coming up their tracks. When they got back to the car, Bruce took note of the woman's car, which had Alaska license plates. Always eager to play matchmaker, he asked Bob what he thought of the woman's looks. Bob, loquacious as usual, said "She's OK." Bruce left a note on her car suggesting that she call Bob if she wanted to go climbing with the Bulgers. To Bob's surprise, she called, and that was the end of Bob's absolute devotion to the pursuit of summits. The last sighting of Bob by the Bulgers was on a traverse of Bacon, Hagan, and Blum, after which Bob said, "Don't call me, Bruce; I'll call you."
History of the Bulgers
One of the informal climbing cliques of the Northwest is the Bulgers. In about 1968 a small group of climbers became disenchanted with more formal climbing organizations. For example, the following rules irked them:
"Keep the party together." (Most Bulgers have an every-man-for-himself mentality.)
"All parties must have a leader with a whistle and total power. (Bulgers; yell at each other.)
"Sign up in advance before you know about weather and conditions." (Bulgers haggle about the destination all the way to the trail head.)
"Everyone can go." (Bulgers don't allow "candy- asses".)
"There must be a turn-around time." (Bulgers turn around on the summit.)
"Return by the same route." (Bulgers return by a different route to get two trips in for the price of one.)
"Climbing is done in the summer." (Bulgers go all year, although when it's 33 degrees and raining they've been known to walk once around the trailhead parking lot and go home. Loop parking lots like Cascade Pass are good for this.)
Who are the Bulgers?
As of 1995
The following is not a complete list
100: climbed the top 100
m: Mountaineer members
n: new wanna-bee's
Name Nickname Status
Tessmer, Forest (m) Tiger Deceased
Bialos, Mike (m) Buffalo Active
Mech, Don (m) Mule Retired
Mickle, Gene (m) Manatee Semi-retired
Anthony, Jan Aardvark Moved away
Wilkinson, Maurice Wallaby Moved away
Gibbs, Bruce (m,100) Giraffe Active
Felton, Bette (m,100) Zookeeper Retired
Kegel, Dick (100) Kangaroo Active
Zak, Jon (m) Zebra Active
Lixvar, John (100) Lizard Biker
Zafren, Ken Zaphod Moved away
Plimpton, John (m,100) Long John Family
Spezia, John Turkey Moved away
Webber, Joan (m) Wombat Deceased
Gibbs, Mary Jo Gazelle Retired
Lass, Robbie Moved away
Roper, John (m,100) Rhino Active
Wild, Silas (100) Silage Active
Vance, Joe (100) Varmint Retired
Tillotson, Bob (m,100) Taurus Retired
Kroeker, Russ (100) Koala Retired
Weber, Chris (m) Wolverine Deceased
Torok, Mike (m) Torch Active
Richards, Jim (m) Roadkill Active
Jeans, Johnny (m) Jabberwocky Active
Howbert, Jeff Active
Stephens, Dave Active
Creeden, Dave Active
Brauner, Kal (m)
Carlson, Amy (m) Coyote
Springer, Chuck Spaniel
Mackay, Ian (m,n)
Fellstrom, Steve (m,n)
Michelson, Dick (n)
Butterfield, Billie (n)
Goldman, Peggy (n)
Dale Flynn (n)
Famous Bulger quotes:
"I'm perfectly comfortable like this, but for even greater comfort I'm putting on my parka." (Bialos, who is always too hot)
"Mike, you're hogging the lead." (Weber)
"Remember, this brush has just as much right to be here as you do!" (Sykes)
"I'm not interested in the top 100." (Everyone)
"Wait a minute, Russ, my hair's caught on your crampons." (Felton)
"What's hard and makes a noise when you step on it? Mike's head!" (Felton, after inadvertently doing so while climbing up a cliff)
"I think we have a leadership crisis here." (Gibbs, watching Bulgers disperse in multiple directions)
"Gene, we're dead men!" (Wilkinson)
"I felt cold and looked down at my brake bar and the (snow-encrusted) rope; my penis was hanging out!) (Lixvar, in the middle of a steep, exposed rappel)
"Let's go for the summit; I don't care if get back!" (Weber)
"We could simulate this climb at home by standing in a cold shower with full pack and climbing gear." (Wilkinson, on the verge of retirement)
Origin of the Bulger name
On April 23, 1977 on Silver Eagle, Koala recited Henry Lawson's bawdy "Bastard from the Bush", retrieved from Australian archives. "Bludgers" came out "Bulgers" and the name stuck.
Bastard from the Bush
by Henry Lawson
As the shades of night were falling over city, town, and bush
From a slum in Bludgers'alley slunk the Captain of the Push.
He scowled towards the north and he scowled towards the south
Then crooked his little finger in the corner of his mouth,
And with a long, low whistle woke the echoes of The Rocks
And a dozen ghouls came sloping round the corners of the blocks.
Then the captain crooked his finger at a stranger on the kerb,
Whom he qualified politely with an adjective and verb,
"Who is this that's come amongst us?" asked the Captain of the Push.
"Gorstrike me dead, it's fuckin' Fred, the bastard from the Bush!"
And he begged the bloody Bludgers that they wouldn't interrupt
Till he gave an introduction -- it was painfully abrupt.
"Here's the bleedin' push, my covey -- here's a bastard from the bush!
Strike me dead, he wants to join us!" said the Captain of the Push.
Said the stranger: I am nothing but a bushy and a dunce,
But I read about the Bludgers in the 'Weekly Gasbag' once.
Sitting lowly in my humpy when the wind began to whoosh,
How I longed to share the dangers and the pleasures of the Push."