Mayhem in Mazama: My Experience on an Epic

Trip dates: October 6 – October 9, 2023

Trip participants: Julian Larsen, Timon Brinker, Isabella Ma, Adam Riesel, Isaac Borrego, Niclas Heinsdorf, Anna Vu, Jessica Leung



What occurred in Mazama on Thanksgiving weekend 2023 is well documented by Isabella Ma (Bella) in her trip report/ journal article: Mayhem in Mazama. After telling this story a few times I have been slowly prodded into writing a version from my perspective. While Bella’s report is great, it doesn’t capture my entire perspective of what took place. I take full responsibility for any missed details, as I was directly involved in the event and was meant to provide Bella with everything she might need for the report. The bullet point information I gave to her doesn’t adequately convey the feelings felt by the participants, and I’m sure in my version I will fail to show the perspectives of others as well.



After a fun day of sport climbing in Mazama, we all awoke early in the morning to a dark sky filled with stars. The reason we had gotten up so early was because all 8 of the people on the trip were going to climb Flyboys, a 5.9, 18 pitch sport climb located just outside of town. Why? Well, I had read a decent amount about his climb beforehand and was looking for a partner to climb it with that weekend. I had probed the group for partners, but it wasn’t until a little later that the ball really started rolling. Adam Riesel had talked to people at the campsite the day before who had told him about the climb, and he had become entranced by the idea of everyone on the trip going up to do it together. In his fervour, he had assumed a sort of leadership role, grouping everyone into partners, and spiralling my plan of finding a partner into an 8-person outing of epic proportions. Everyone had practiced their multi-pitching skills (and some learned it for the first time) in preparation for this big outing. The climb required shuttling with a vehicle to get between the top and bottom, and Adam assured everyone that due to his extensive shuttling experience with kayaks, he knew how to plan everything. It was decided that I would be partnered with Timon Brinker, because we were the two strongest climbers. Since we were the fastest, we were supposed to climb uninterrupted to the top of the climb and have time to shuttle cars around before the next groups arrived at the top. A genius plan? Perhaps not, but Adam’s leadership made him seem knowledgeable enough to trust anyways.

Back to the morning of the climb. We ate our breakfast in the cold dark campsite and started out towards the base of the climb as the sun rose. As the rest of us started the approach, Isaac Borrego and Niclas Heinsdorf started shuttling my car to the top of the climb. By around 8:30am, Timon and I had started up the first pitch, immediately linking to a rope stretching 70 metres which also entailed a lot of drag and skipping bolts. We were trying to be fast and efficient, so by the fourth or fifth pitch, we were already getting pretty far ahead of the others. The climb was mostly smooth, with good views and moderate but interesting climbing. On one of the mid to upper pitches, Timon missed an anchor and accidently linked the pitch, with was another rope stretcher. This led to a lot of rope drag and inability to hear anything from the climber, so when the rope ran out, I started simul climbing with hopes that I was actually on belay (thankfully I was). We later found out that all four pairs in our group missed this belay and all ended up with somewhat funky and non-ideal scenarios. By about 2:00pm I had topped out the final pitch, and Timon and I were soon off the start the shuttling. We talked about our plans for the afternoon, and the possibility that we might give a few more tries on a climb we had been attempting the day before. Oh how naïve we were at the time…

The drive down was much longer than anticipated, and after Timon and I had finished shuttling cars it had already been well over an hour. Timon started the fire, which we needed for Adam to cook two whole chickens which he supposedly knew how to do with a hole in the ground and some coals from a fire. I took a car up to the top of the climb, anxious that the others had been waiting for too long as the time approached 4:00pm. When I arrived at the top however, I didn’t see anyone. I was surprised, but I guess they were just a little behind, and I would see them arrive soon. I waited in the car for 15 minutes until I got too bored and started walking around. After another 45 minutes I got worried and started driving down the road further to see if maybe they had started walking down the road the wrong way. I didn’t find anybody and eventually went back to the regular top out. As 5:00pm passed, I wondered what had gone wrong. Did they take a wrong trail or get lost after the top out? Were they waiting for the whole group to top out before going to the car? I sat in the car whistling and trying to remember song lyrics to pass the time, pacing back and forth outside every once in a while to keep the blood flowing. Soon it started to approach 6:00pm, and I wondered if I should still even be there. There was no cell service and I almost considered driving back to camp to get help from Timon, but I didn’t know what we could actually do. Sometime just after 6:00pm I finally saw Adam and Bella coming on the trail. THANK GOD. They walked over cheerily smiling and laughing as they chatted about the climb. “What happened!?” I asked them, concerned about their late arrival. My concerned face was met with confusion by Adam and Bella. “What do you mean?” they said. I explained that Timon and I had finished several hours ago, and I had been waiting for over 2 hours in the car. They didn’t seem phased, because nothing particularly bad had happened. Adam and Bella had a great time on the climb and after some photos had walked out to the car. I asked them where the others were, and they estimated they were about as far below them as Timon and I were above of them. This was not good news at all. If Timon and I were several hours ahead of Adam and Bella, then the others weren’t going be at the road for quite a while. What about our chickens and the thanksgiving feast? I guess we were going to have to start without everybody as the last two groups got shuttled back.

After getting back to camp we met up with Timon and talked about what to do next, mainly getting some dinner going and having somebody else do the next shuttle. Adam and Bella talked about some of the interesting mishaps they had had with the route, and I discovered they had not had any topo or description of the route with them. Mountain project? – not downloaded. Did the others at least have info? – unknown. As we talked about this, we also noticed there were several headlamps lying around. It started to become clear to us that these belonged to the two groups still on the wall. No route description, no light, no dinner; if these people weren’t already having a bad day, they were about to.

Adam swung into his leadership mode once again. “THIS IS A RESCUE MISSON!”. Adam began frantically putting together a plan: “We need ropes! We need gear! Get bags together!” We all started tossing things into Timon’s big crag bag, including two 70m ropes, a bunch of prusiks, biners, slings, alpine draws and of course headlamps. “Is our plan to rappel down to rescue them with headlamps?” I asked. “We? No, no. YOU.” Adam replied. I stood still, stunned by this authoritative statement. “I need to cook the chickens. Bella and I are too tired to do any more climbing”. Timon and I started to protest accusingly, but Adam cut us off: “This is a rescue mission, and let’s face it, we’d be a burden anyways.” I was stunned again, but to be honest Adam had a point. Timon and I had found the climb easy enough, so we probably would be fine to go do a bit of it again.

As Timon and I pulled out of the campsite around 7:00pm, the forest was already getting dark. Sunset was fairly early, but this was still sooner than expected. By the time we got to the trail at the top of the climb, it was fully dark. As we got out of the car lights flickered through the forest. Did they have extra headlamps? At least they got back safe. ~ A sigh of relief ~. We ran towards the lights but found ourselves standing in front of a group of four strangers. We didn’t even know another group was on the climb today, so they must have passed our group. We asked how far back the other group was, and these strangers told us that four people were just behind them. ~ Another sigh of relief ~. We continued down the trail until another set of headlamps approached, but once again we saw no familiar faces. We asked if they had seen anyone, and they said the next group was on the last pitch when they left. ~ A hesitant sigh of relief? ~. Nearing the top of the climb we saw one headlamp belaying their follower up the last pitch: another stranger. We asked again if they had seen people behind them, and they replied that the last people were pretty far behind, and he hadn’t seen them for a while. ~ A gulp of anxiety ~. After some yelling between his partner and him it was confirmed that a faint light was visible far below them.

The rappel route didn’t coincide exactly with the climb, but it was adjacent and intersected a fair bit. Timon and I fixed a rope to the first anchor and rappelled down two pitches. As I finished my rappel something whacked into me. What was that? Another dark blur flew erratically past Timon’s face – bats. They started swooping near us, and both of us quickly donned jackets and hoods to keep them away from our exposed arms and face. Why, just why, did this have to get worse? The next bit was a scramble between pitches. An exposed but easy and low angle bit of solid rock, which was absolutely no issue in the daylight. As I walked down this section to the next anchor something darted into the small circle of rock illuminated by my headlamp. It seemed almost like a tarantula, as it moved quickly and directly towards me. I panicked and jumped with both feet off the ground backwards to escape this creature. Immediately after I left the ground, I knew this was a stupid manoeuvrer to be making on an exposed scramble at night with a cliff below me. If you saw a bat running at you on all four’s you would’ve done the same thing. Coming to my senses, I careful made my way back to Timon at the anchor. After this scare, we decided to fix a line Via Ferrata style down the scramble by extending slings from a couple trees to the side. After making it to the next anchor we had just enough rope left over to make it down this last pitch. Since we had no more rope past that it wasn’t worth it to go any further. We saw a light peak through the chimney of pitch 14 and called out to it. Niclas’ always positive voice responded from the dark, clearly belaying with no headlamp. When we told him we had headlamps and some water, Niclas sounded ecstatic. After some waiting, Issac emerged from the chimney with a headlamp. Niclas explained enthusiastically that Timon and I had come to rescue them. Isaac yelled out to us: “Are you at the top of climb? Can you rappel down and bring us the headlamps?”. I replied: “We already rappelled as far as we could. We are at the top of pitch 16.” This garnered a quick reply from Isaac who clearly wasn’t as happy go lucky as Niclas: “HOW MANY PITCHES ARE THERE?”. Clearly the others had no route description either…

Anna and Jessica were also at the base of the chimney, and with only one headlamp between the four of them, some jankery with tying the headlamp to the rope and tossing it to the bottom was transpiring. Due to difficulties with climbers seeing anything, Niclas was also “belaying” (hauling) with a 3-1 pulley system he had recently learned at G1. Meanwhile Timon and I huddled in the silent darkness while attached to the anchor at the top of pitch 16. While all of this is going on it is important to note that the bats were still swooping at us (though less), and they only stopped later when the others arrived with all their commotion. Timon and I watched the stars as smoke slowly moved into the valley below, and Timon played music for us on his phone. After almost two hours, the whole team of four had made it past the chimney and the 5.4 pitch after to make it to the base of pitch 16. Timon pulled out his GriGri and descended the fixed line, “floating down like an angel from heaven” to rescue them (according to Anna). The climbers sufficiently armed with headlamps; I started belaying people up from above on top rope. Once Niclas had arrived, he gave us another rope and was assigned to top belay the others as Timon and I tried to get up the next pitches. By this point my headlamp was dying, so I led the next pitch in the dark with the aid of Timon’s headlamp pointing the way. Then Timon used the final rope to top-rope up the chossy and dirty rappel line, which he decided would be easier than the regular last pitch (the crux of the whole route). I decided to be the caboose of this extremely late send train as the others slowly made their way to the top. Niclas remarked that this was fun and thanked me for guiding them up “like the Sherpas on Everest”. An annoying amount of time was spent trying to throw the rope far enough to reach the bottom every time somebody topped out on the last “alternate pitch” we invented.

At long last I made it to the top, meaning we were all off the climb. We packed up our gear and scrambled up the trail back to the car. When we all crowded into the car the time at the front of the vehicle shone with a dismal 1:00am. Everyone in the vehicle had expected to be back long before this time and we were all very hungry. On the drive back to camp we discussed whether Adam and Bella might have called search and rescue; we hoped they hadn’t, but it may have been a reasonable decision. When we arrived, we were grateful to see Adam and Bella sitting by the fire still awake. They had been waiting for us to come back before eating, so the chickens and potatoes warming by the fire were served up as soon as we arrived. I don’t know if it was pure hunger or Adam’s fire pit cooking mastery, but that was some of the best chicken and potato I had ever had. We sat by the fire engorging ourselves, and Isaac even popped a bottle of champagne. We learned of Adam and Bella’s escapades during this whole time, which mainly including driving my car around for a few hours getting worried, and a brief stop at the pub. While the rest of us felt a little offended they had been having a good time while we were suffering, there’s not much else they could have done. After a some more campfire laughs, we finally got some well needed rest at around 3:00am.



I awoke to the revving of an engine and the smell of smoke. I slowly opened my eyes and unzipped my tent door to see what was going on. As I poked my head outside, I saw my own car driving away. I jumped out of my tent and started looking around frantically to make sure I wasn’t being robbed. “Am I still asleep, or did my car just drive away?” Somebody else who was awake let me know that Niclas had taken my key from my tent and driven my car into town to get some breakfast from the bakery. I was a little surprised, but too tired to care much really. The valley had filled with smoke overnight, something which I hadn’t noticed sitting beside the campfire before bed. We all were far too tired to do more climbing, so after a long wake up period, another brief campfire, and some breakfast, we started the drive back home.



  1. Always bring a headlamp. This goes for all sports at all times of day, because you never know what might happen.
  2. Make sure everyone has descriptions and knowledge of a route before starting, especially if you may split up.
  3. Multipitches near your limit are much harder than a single pitch at that grade. Know that after hours of climbing you may get fatigued and begin climbing much lower than your limit. Don’t immediately jump on an 18-pitch climb because it might be biting off more than you can chew.
  4. Be wary of putting slower people in the back, because they will get further and further behind without you knowing.
  5. Remember to bring extra food and water in case a day becomes longer than expected.
  6. Have a plan for when/how to bail, and if multiple parties are on the trip, they should know what to do in this scenario.
  7. Flyboys specific: The car shuttle takes a long time. The party who shuttles cars will be a long way behind the rest of the group, so plan accordingly (they should probably be the fastest pair).
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5 Responses to Mayhem in Mazama: My Experience on an Epic

  1. Roland Burton says:

    VOC sells super-bright headlamps for $20

  2. Sonia Landwehr says:

    after hearing the story, i am very glad you added your version of the events – hilarious in hindsight!

  3. Isaac Borrego says:

    Glad to hear the story from your point of view! I’d only clarify that 3/4 of us had headlamps but even one person without a headlamp ground our progress to a halt when it got dark. And I did have pictures of a guidebook + mountain project but they didn’t agree on how many pitches there were, plus we’d accidentally linked pitches and had no idea what pitch we were on. Hence my frustration/confusion lol.

    • Julian Larsen says:

      Oh interesting, again this was totally my perspective of watching you guys from above haha. At least one or two headlamps must’ve died right? Anyhow it is much harder to climb with headlamps even if they do work.

      • Isaac Borrego says:

        I think my headlamp battery started to die later on during the rescue operation, but it was easily replaced at that point.

        Poor Jess had to follow in the pitch black on the pitch just before the chimney and decided she wouldn’t go any further without light. That’s when Niclas and I had the idea to tie a headlamp on our rope and lower it down to her so we could regroup where you guys found us lol

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