Exceptional Mountains: A Cultural History of the Pacific Northwest Volcanoes

Exceptional Mountains: A Cultural History of the Pacific Northwest Volcanoes

Exceptional Mountains: A Cultural History of the Pacific Northwest Volcanoes

Exceptional Mountains: A Cultural History of the Pacific Northwest Volcanoes

Synopsis

Over the past 150 years, people have flocked to the Pacific Northwest in increasing numbers, in part due to the region's beauty and one of its most exceptional features: volcanoes. This segment of the Pacific Ring of Fire has shaped not only the physical landscape of the region but also the psychological landscape, and with it the narratives we compose about ourselves. Exceptional Mountains is a cultural history of the Northwest volcanoes and the environmental impact of outdoor recreation in this region. It probes the relationship between these volcanoes and regional identity, particularly in the era of mass mountaineering and population growth in the Northwest.
O. Alan Weltzien demonstrates how mountaineering is but one conspicuous example of the outdoor recreation industry's unrestricted and problematic growth. He explores the implications of our assumptions that there are no limits to our outdoor recreation habits and that access to the highest mountains should include amenities for affluentconsumers. Each chapter probes the mountain-based regional ethos and the concomitant sense of privilege and entitlement from different vantages to illuminate the consumerist mind-set as a reductive--and deeply problematic--version of experience and identity in and around some of the nation's most striking mountains.

Excerpt

On a sunny day in late June 1994, I stood atop Mount Baker’s summit hill, Grant Peak. Preceding parties, one with a black Lab, had retreated, and two friends and I had the summit to ourselves for more than ten minutes as though it were our turn, in a steady queue, at some panorama viewpoint. the image of that dog replays itself in my memory. Its presence made Baker’s summit a commonplace urban scene rather than any sort of wilderness experience as promised by policies and management practices in the past half century. the portrait with dog suggests the “different world” of the volcanoes resembles a familiar urban or suburban one, and that’s a dangerous illusion, one with baleful spiritual and practical consequences. That illusion derives from the prominent position the volcanoes occupy in the minds and hearts of a sizable segment of the population.

In the Pacific Northwest, the volcanoes form, for many, one strand of regional identity. Because of that strand, admirers and users need to adopt new habits and influence agency personnel to modify wilderness mandates while rebalancing the fraught tension between access and resource preservation (e.g., “wilderness experience”). the increasing scale of skiing, hiking, and mountaineering has changed the face of the volcanoes, especially at the convergence points (e.g., standard routes), where they’ve taken a beating. in too many places, usage conflicts with policy. Visitors particularly need to modify their practices in some cases and, however indirectly, influence agency personnel to modify their wilderness-driven man-

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