Meet the Trail Community: Climber
Tess Wendel climbs to get past where the trail ends. But having a path that leads to that jumping-off point is important.
For WTA's 50th Anniversary, we're highlighting trail users across Washington state. Hear what hiking means to them, and the future of their on-trail pursuits.
Tess Wendel climbs to get past where the trail ends. But having a path that leads to that jumping-off point is important. We catch up with Tess and her climbing partner, Travis Yim, to talk about what trails mean to climbers.
Growing up in Seattle, Tess hiked and camped with her family, but it wasn’t until after college, when she moved back home that she developed an interest in climbing.
“I started wanting to go to places past where the trail ended. I’d get to a destination on a hike and start doing some scrambling on my own. Then I’d find myself in steep terrain where I didn’t feel comfortable continuing on, so I decided to learn the skills I needed to get to those high places.”
Now an accomplished trad (traditional) climber, Tess loves heading to the Mountain Loop Highway, where trails get she and Travis to the base of a climb in a handful of miles. They love being able to utilize those trails. Some climbers prefer to bushwhack, but that's not always the most fun to navigate.
“Climbers trails are these steep, eroded, unmaintained routes, and they’re a righteous pain when you have a really heavy pack on. Some folks like a bit of a brushbash,” Tess admits, but she’s happy to take advantage of a trail when it’s there.
“When I do have a good trail to follow to a route, I will take it—I love a few good switchbacks. I am really thankful that groups like WTA help create and maintain trails that make it easier for us to get where we want to go."
We can't do it alone
WTA has a dedicated base of volunteers who help us maintain trails climbers like Tess and Travis use, but we wouldn’t be able to do it without a committed group of advocates. We need the public’s voice to maintain and increase access to the trail, and the places beyond where it ends.
On a break from belaying Tess, Travis says he recognizes this, and that he is concerned about population expansion.
“Once you reach a 10 percent year on year growth rate, it becomes difficult to manage and share all the resources in an area. I can only imagine that cragging areas near Seattle are going to become more and more crowded. I would hope we’d dedicate more resources to opening more nearby areas.”
Tess echos his concerns.
“We really need to think about how many folks are traveling in a particular area. When you have a lot of people in one area that means rockfall, crowded belay stations, and waiting around for your route to be available. That’s not very much fun."
When Tess heads for the hills, she says she's looking for a break from her hectic life in town.
“Climbing challenges me both physically and mentally in a way I don't experience in my normal life. I like the creativity that comes when you are hiking and climbing. You can’t change the weather or the rock, but it’s neat to push yourself to think outside the box and use what you have in the wilderness to make your climb your own.”
The WTA community is made up of all different kinds of people, who use trails in many different ways. Learn about how to join Washington Trails Association, and support a community that protects the trails we love.