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Pomona College Magazine: Expert Advice from Robert Speik '50

Expert Advice / Robert Speik - '50

ROBERT SPEIK '50 knows how to sail a boat, race a motorcycle and cast a trout line. He also knows a thing or two about climbing mountains.

Since the late 1960s, Speik has summited more than 300 peaks in the U.S. and Switzerland, ranging from the Matterhorn to peaks in the Sierras and Cascades. He's
also spent the past 30 years instructing climbers on the skills, gear and ethics of mountain climbing and backcountry hiking.

Speik was introduced to backpacking during a trip to Yosemite, and got hooked. He then enrolled in a basic mountaineering class, quickly moving from student to instructor to chair of the Sierra Club's Angeles Chapter Mountaineering Training Committee.

After retiring from a career in mortgage banking, he continued teaching mountaineering at Central Oregon Community College in Bend, Oregon, where he moved with his wife, Margaret "Tommie" Thompson Speik '49, so they could be near the Cascades.

"I've always had this bent toward mentoring and have been interested in teaching since I was at Pomona," says Speik. Now in his 80th year, he still climbs in the summer, gives lectures on mountaineering and has developed a comprehensive Web site,, which is filled with news, photos and advice on matters such as "leave-no-trace" practices.

Before heading for the mountains, Speik recommends that would-be climbers read the "bible" of the sport, Mountaineering, The Freedom of the Hills, published by The Mountaineers of Seattle, Washington. Whether you're a novice or an expert, proper training and equipment are keys to reducing the inherent risks of climbing.

In addition to the 10 Essential Systems developed by The Mountaineers, Speik emphasizes the importance of climbing with a companion and letting a "responsible person" know where you are going, what you plan to do and when you expect to return. "It's like filing a flight plan at the airport or a float plan when you go out on a boat," he says. Cell phones for shorter trips and satellite phones and/or personal locator beacons for remote areas make it possible to contact search and rescue as soon as something happens.

Ten Essential Systems
Each hiker or climber should carry a light daypack with personal gear, sized for the trip and season. Assembling a pack is easier now than a decade ago,
Speik says, noting that LED headlamps weigh in at two ounces and cell phones can be slipped into a pocket, making it possible to follow one of his credos-"go light and fast, fit and experienced."

1. Navigation. Never go without a U.S. Geographical Survey 1:24.000 topography map or equivalent, a declination-adjusted base-plate compass, an inexpensive newer GPS system and the skills to use them together.

2. Sun protection. High altitude produces bad sunburns. Protect eyes, neck, ears and nose.

3. Insulation. Dress for the weather (pay attention to the forecasts) and take additional layers of synthetic clothing (such as polypropylene, pile and Gore-Tex) to keep you warm and dry if you have to stay in one place because you are lost, injured or must wait with an exhausted companion. Clothing should be sized to the individual and designed for the season.

4. Illumination. Carry a two-ounce LED headlamp. Don't get caught returning in the dark.

5. First aid supplies. Take a wilderness first aid class from the National Outdoor Leadership School. Assemble a small supply, including Neosporin, large Band-Aids, gauze pads, athletic tape and any prescription medicine you need.

6. Fire. Waterproof matches and a fire starter can be combined with a couple of adjustable propane pocket lighters. Remember, when you most need a fire, it will be windy, wet and cold. Learn how to stay warm without a fire.

7. Tools. Carry a small sharp folding knife.

8. Nutrition. Take high carbohydrate, low-fat energy bars and freeze-dried meals.

9. Hydration. Carry quarts of water as needed, and perhaps the gear to make more from snow.

10. Emergency shelter. Pack a six-ounce insulating pad and a nine-ounce bivvy sack. In snow, add a strong plastic shovel, snow caving skills and/or a four season two-pound tent. -For more information:

Winter 2008
See the actual article in PDF


Here is the rest of the story:
At the end of November last year, I received an email from "Mary Marvin - Pomona College" - Subject: "Story for Alumni Magazine--request for an interview for Expert Advice feature". I emailed back and received a phone call from writer Mary Marvin. She noted that I would share the Magazine's space with Pomona Grads Scott Olivet "84, CEO of Oakley, Inc. (Sunglasses), young couple Michael Kittle "06 and Taylor Smith "07 who managed to climb together, all of the 55 highest peaks in Colorado "without breaking down or breaking up" and hard core Outside Magazine's Grayson Shaffer "01, who ventured deep into Chilean Patagonia's southern ice cap seeking stunning photographs and more.

Mary interviewed me for about an hour and by email, I buried her with tons of pages of my "technical writing" from my website. I have no idea how she was able to write such a fine magazine article and still maintained the integrity of my message. Thank you Mary Marvin, you are a pro! And my thanks also, to Managing Editor Mark Kendall for putting together such a high level and inspiring Outdoors edition of Pomona College Magazine.
--Bob Speik, Class of 1950.

Copyright© 2008 - 2010 by Robert Speik. All Rights Reserved.


Information about Pomona College from the Princeton Review
Established in 1887, Pomona College is widely regarded as one of the premier liberal arts colleges in America. An independent, coeducational institution located in Claremont, California, 35 miles east of Los Angeles, Pomona is the founding member of The Claremont Colleges, a consortium of seven independent institutions of higher learning.

The Claremont Colleges is a consortium of five undergraduate and two graduate institutions, all autonomous and all but one located on adjacent campuses, with a combined enrollment of about 5,500 students. In addition to Pomona College, the cluster includes Claremont Graduate University (established 1925), Scripps College (1926), Claremont McKenna College (1946), Harvey Mudd College (1955) and Pitzer College (1963). The seventh member of the consortium, the Keck Graduate Institute of Applied Life Sciences (1997), is located nearby. The seven institutions jointly support central facilities, including libraries; share a common academic calendar; open their courses to one another’s students; and cooperate in sponsoring special programs.

About 1,500 students are enrolled, of whom roughly half are men and half women. The freshman class has median SAT scores of 720 math and 730 verbal. Of those who come from high schools that provide rank, 84% graduated in the top 10% of their classes. Pomona students come from 48 states, Guam, the District of Columbia, and 29 countries. In a voluntary self-report, 6% of all current Pomona students identified themselves as African American, 13% as Asian American, 7% as Latino American, and 1% as Native American. About 2% are foreign students. Approximately 86% of entering freshmen receive degrees from Pomona within four years.


March 12, 2008 POMONA COLLEGE
By voting in December to replace all student loans with need-based scholarships, the Pomona College trustees made a bold promise to all incoming students: "You will graduate from Pomona debt-free."

This initiative reflects Pomona's deep commitment to keeping a Pomona education accessible to those who are qualified by their academic and social achievements, but who might not otherwise be able to afford it. Pomona's longstanding policy has been to seek out and admit the very best students. Their ability to pay tuition is not considered prior to offering them admission. Pomona then guarantees that it will provide whatever financial assistance is needed so that every admitted student can attend. Now, with this "no-loan" policy, Pomona is removing yet another barrier that causes many students to assume that a top-notch liberal arts education is beyond their reach.

Meanwhile, the College must continue to lure and retain outstanding faculty, to maintain the academic and residential facilities on its beautiful campus and to invest in programs that connect its students to the broader community and the world.

May 27, 2008, POMONA COLLEGE
A partial list of Pomona College accomplishments:

Eliminating student debt! In December, the board voted to replace student loans with scholarships in all financial aid packages starting next year.
Receiving twenty-four Fulbright Fellowships! Pomona students were awarded more Fulbright Fellowships per capita than any college or university in the U.S.
Walking the walk on sustainability! The College's two newest academic buildings – Lincoln and Edmunds - received LEED Gold environmental certification.
Winning athletic teams! Pomona earned SCIAC championships in both men's basketball and women's water polo.
Receiving a record number of applicants for next year's class! Pomona received nearly 6,300 applications for the Class of 2012. (About 400 places, Webmeister)
--From two Pomona College Alumni Newsletters written by Craig Wrench '83

Kiplinger Magazine again placed Pomona College at the top of it's list of the best liberal arts colleges in America.
--From a Letter dated June 30, 2010, to the Alumna from the Pomona College President.




Read more . . .
Pomona College at Claremont California
American Alpine Club
Oregon Section of the AAC
Accidents in North American Mountaineering

  The Sport of Alpine Mountaineering
  Climbing Together
  Following the Leader
  The Mountaineers' Rope
  Basic Responsibilities       Cuatro Responsabiliades Basicas de Quienes Salen al Campo
  The Ten Essentials         Los Diez Sistemas Esenciales

Oregon Badlands camper lost overnight, found by SAR
Cross country skier lost near Mt. Bachelor
How can I prevent, recognize and treat Hypothermia in the backcountry?
Injured snowshoers rescued after 911 cell calls from Meissner snow park
Teen skier lost for nine hours in deep powder at Mt. Bachelor
Stranded snowshoers Rescued Near Willamette Pass
Prineville hunter lost 4 days and 3 nights in the Ochoco National Forest
BLM announces new policy for Wilderness quality lands
Op-Ed: Prepare for the worst before setting out in the winter
Mount Hood - Analysis of the December 2009 deaths of three climbers on Reid Glacier Headwall
Staying 'found' requires some basic skills
South Sister, solo hiker found unconscious near the summit
Smith Rock climber survives 40-foot fall, rescued by SAR
Smith Rock climber rescued after 70-foot sliding fall
Three stranded hikers assisted from atop South Sister by SAR
Two novice climbers assisted by SAR on Mt. Adams
Several lost hiker incidents near Sisters, Oregon, resolved by SAR
Fallen solo climber on Mount Thielsen, rescued by chance encounter
Locator beacons "supposedly" can take the search out of Search and Rescue 
OpEd: Yuppie 911 devices can take the "search" out of Search and Rescue 
OpEd, Cell phones critical in the wilderness
Skull Hollow campground becomes a recreation fee case study
Robert Speik interviewed by radio station KPOV   mp3 file
In Memory of Chris Chan, July 9, 2010
Avalanche kills snowmobiler near Paulina Peak
Climber on Mt. Rainier dies of hypothermia in brief storm. What happened

What is the best traditional alpine mountaineering summit pack?
What is the best belay | rappel | autoblock device for traditional alpine mountaineering?
What gear do you normally rack on your traditional alpine mountaineering harness?     Photos?    
What is the best traditional alpine mountaineering seat harness?    Photos?   
Can I use a Sharpie Pen for Marking the Middle of the Climbing Rope?
What are the highest peaks in Oregon?   Alphabetically?

Is running the Western States 100 part of "traditional mountaineering"?
What's wrong with GORP?    Answers to the quiz!
Why do I need to count carbohydrate calories?
What should I know about having a big freeze-dried dinner?
What about carbo-ration and fluid replacement during traditional alpine climbing?   4 pages in pdf  
What should I eat before a day of alpine climbing?

Winter mountaineering hazards - streams and lakes
Is long distance backpacking part of "traditional mountaineering"?
How long is the traditional alpine mountaineering ice axe?
What about climbing Mt. Hood?
What is a good personal description of the south side route on Mount Hood?
What should I know about travel over hard snow and ice?
How can I learn to self belay and ice axe arrest?   6 pdf pages  
What should I know about snow caves?
What should I know about climbing Aconcagua?

Young Bend man dies in back county avalanche
What is an avalanche cord?
Avalanche training courses - understanding avalanche risk
How is avalanche risk described and rated by the professionals?    pdf table 
How can I avoid dying in an avalanche?
Known avalanche slopes near Bend, OR?
What is a PLB?
Can I avoid avalanche risk with good gear and seminars?   pdf file

Why do you like GAB crampons for traditional mountaineering?
What should I know about the new snowshoe trails
What are technical snowshoes?
Which crampons are the best?
What about Boots and Shoes?    

What are the new Ten Essential Systems?
What does experience tell us about Light and Fast climbing?
What is the best traditional alpine mountaineering summit pack?
What is Light and Fast alpine climbing?
What do you carry in your day pack?      Photos?    
What do you carry in your winter day pack?       Photos?    
What should I know about "space blankets"?
Where can I get a personal and a group first aid kit?      Photos?

Which light backpack do you use for winter and summer?    Analysis   pdf  
What would you carry in your backpack to climb Shasta or Adams?   
What is the best traditional alpine mountaineering summit pack?
Photos of lite gear packed for a multi day approach to spring and summer summits
Backpack lite gear list for spring and summer alpine mountaineering    4 pdf pages

What does Steve House wear for light and fast climbing?
What clothing do you wear for Light and Fast winter mountaineering?
What do you carry in your winter day pack?       Photos?   
Which digital camera do you use in the mountains?
What about Boots and Shoes?    

Staying found in the backcountry with map, compass and GPS
SPOT Satellite Messenger "PLB" reviewed and recommended
Topographic maps of the backcountry work with your compass and GPS
Why is the GSM digital cell phone best for backcountry travel and mountaineering?
Map, compass and GPS navigation training Noodle in The Badlands
BLM guidelines for Geocaching on public lands
Geocaching on Federal Forest Lands
OpEd - Geocaching should not be banned in the Badlands
Winter hiking in The Badlands WSA just east of Bend
Searching for the perfect gift
Geocaching: What's the cache?
Geocaching into the Canyon of the Deschutes
Can you catch the geocache?
Z21 covers Geocaching
Tour The Badlands with ONDA 
The art of not getting lost
Geocaching: the thrill of the hunt!
GPS in the news
A GPS and other outdoor gadgets make prized gifts
Wanna play?  Maps show you the way
Cooking the "navigation noodle"

How did you become interested in traditional mountaineering techniques?
Who is Conrad Messner?
What is traditional slacklining or highlining?
What are some of the comments you have received?
Who was Peter Starr?
Who are the Mazamas?
What is an avalanche cord?
Who were the notorious Vulgarians?
How was top rope climbing practiced in the 1970s?
What is a Whillans sit harness?
What is a dulfersitz rappel?
How do I self-belay a rappel?

How accurate is the inexpensive hand-held GPS today?
Can you get me a $30 rebate on your favorite GPS: Garmin's Legend?    pdf form
What are some good Central Oregon Geocaches?
What is the Public Land Survey Grid?   pdf
What is the UTM Grid?   six pdf pages
Which GPS do you like?    
Which Compass do you like?   
How do you use your map, compass and GPS together, in a nut shell?
How can I learn to use my map, compass and GPS?
Do you have map, compass and GPS seminar notes?   six pdf pages

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