Scott Phillips feels accomplished when he makes a tough climb without killing himself.
“That’s a joke, but there are times of desperation that you are glad to have safely passed,” says Phillips, 53, a member of The Chemeketans, a Salem-based nonprofit organization founded in 1928 whose some 700 members engage in a variety of outdoor activities.
Phillips indulges in his love of climbing when time allows from his day job at AkzoNobel, a large paint manufacturer based in the Netherlands. A technical director, he holds a degree in chemistry from Oregon State University.
“I started climbing after going for a mountain bike ride through Smith Rock State Park in 2000 with my son and seeing the climbers on the rocks,” says Phillips, a husband, father of two grown children, and grandfather of two with one on the way. “In the spring of 2001, my wife and I took The Chemeketans climb school after I tricked her into thinking it was a backpacking class. I continued with the climbing and progressed in my abilities. I wouldn’t say that I’m a good climber, but I have fun, and I try to teach others along the way by staying active in the club.”
Phillips started Big Wall climbing about five years ago after training for about a year, practicing techniques he read about or by watching others.
“During the last few years, I’ve climbed six walls with other people, including my 25-year-old son, Matt,” he says. “The last wall I did was The Nose on the rock formation El Capitan in Yosemite Valley, with Matt. We spent six days climbing the 3,000-foot route, hauling 250 pounds of gear, food and water up the wall as we progressed.”
Each day, the father-son duo climbed from dawn until dusk, setting up a Portaledge, a small, metal-framed platform used for sleeping, with a nylon bed just big enough for two. Each morning and night, they boiled water for their meals and “lived life high above the trees of the valley,” Phillips says.
“There’s nothing like waking up in the morning and looking at 2,000 feet of air between you and the ground,” he adds. “But it’s something you get used to and you go about getting ready for another full day of climbing. When you get to the top, you look back on what you just did, and it’s kind of surreal. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
From planning to completing a climb, Phillips enjoys it all.
“Sorting the gear, hauling the loads, and the endless hours waiting for your partner to make it to the next anchor station … it’s really a package deal, with no ‘one thing’ being my favorite,” he says.
Phillips also does some alpine climbing in the mountains.
“So far this year, I’ve been up Mount Hood twice,” he says. “One of my team members was 70 years old, and the average age was 54 for the eight people that I lead to the summit. And I plan to tackle Mount Olympus, Mount Baker, Mount Jefferson, Mount Shasta and a few more this year.”
The climbs are training for Phillips, who hopes to head to Europe in 2016 to climb the Matterhorn, the Eiger and Mount Blanc.
“The person I plan on doing this with is a few years older than I am,” he says. “I really enjoy being on top of a mountain with an unobstructed view of the surrounding area.”
Phillips and his wife of 30 years, Tammy, occasionally enjoy snow-shoeing and backpacking.
“The rest of my time is taken up by family and my photography efforts I’m trying to revive,” he says.
According to its website, The Chemeketans’ primary activity is day hiking, but includes many other outdoor activities and special events. The club hosts cross-country ski trips, snowshoe outings, bicycle and canoe trips, backpacks, mountain climbs, picture nights and events such as museum trips and car camps.
Members also help build and maintain trails, host overnight trips to a mountain cabin it owns, and commit to conservation of natural resources. An annual banquet, Christmas and Halloween parties, and a two-week annual outing round out the club’s yearly offerings.
The Chemeketans, P.O. Box 864, Salem, OR 97308.
The club has no telephone number, and its only scheduled meeting is its annual business meeting in January. Activities are published on the club’s website at chemeketans.org, with contact information listed in its monthly bulletin.