Saturday, May 18, 2024


The Mountain Men


I first spoke with Nick Burson and Marc McPherson in 2017. Nick and Marc are both law enforcement officers who work and live in Central Washington. Nick is a Corporal at the Kittitas County Sheriff’s Office and Marc serves as a Lieutenant for the Central Washington University Police Department. The two are dedicated law enforcement officers but when they aren’t working, they love to climb mountains and do so like nobody else.

In the summer of 2017 the two summited Washington’s five volcanos (Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, Glacier Peak and Mt. Baker) in five and a half days. It seemed like the accomplishment of a lifetime, done in a nearly non-stop fashion and going one 36-hour stretch without any sleep at all.

However, two weeks ago, Nick reached out to me again to let me know he and Marc had done not one better, but seven better, scaling twelve summits in three states in less than twelve days between July 23 and August 2. Nick told me their goal was to summit all twelve volcanos of the Cascade Mountain Range over 10,000 feet in 11 days.

Nick and Marc had been looking for a new challenge since 2017 that was in Nick’s words, “Bigger and better and a little more challenging than what they did before.” That’s how they came up with the idea of scaling these peaks in Washington, Oregon and California in less than 12 days.

The two actually tried to complete this quest last year, summiting Lassen Peak in California but coming up a couple of hundred feet short of the summit of North Sister peak in Central Oregon. The two encountered snow just below the summit that required a technical climb to get through and the two had not brought the equipment with them to do it. The two were faced with hiking back to the trailhead to retrieve the gear they needed to make it to the summit and realized the weather was deteriorating on the top of the mountains they planned to climb next. With their timeline blown, they resolved to try again this year.

Shortly after midnight on the morning of July 23 the two men set out from the Pole Creek Trailhead towards North Sister, the peak that defeated them the previous summer. They encountered the same treacherous snowfield below the summit they found last year but with the right gear, they were able to traverse it and reach the peak. The two then summited the peak of Middle Sister from the same trailhead that brought them to North Sister. They then hiked back to their vehicle and drove to a different trailhead, setting out for the peak of South Sister that evening and managed to make it to the top before midnight, tagging all three peaks in less than 24 hours.

It was a great start to the expedition and more than most mere mortals would ever dream of doing in two or three days. After running back to the trailhead, they slept in the campsite there for a few hours before driving south six hours to the trailhead that would take them to Lassen Peak in California. After bagging Lassen Peak, they drove north to Mount Shasta, slept for 90 minutes and began making their way towards the top of this iconic Northern California mountain shortly before midnight. The following day they reached the summit of Shasta and returned to the trailhead to make an hour-long plus drive to another trailhead that would lead them towards little known Mount Shastina. Burson explained few people climb this mountain and there were really no defined trails to the top but they managed to make it there late on their third day, conquering six mountain peaks in 72 hours.

The next day the duo rested some and traveled to the base of Mount Jefferson in Central Oregon. It was a mountain they had summited before but the route they were taking this time was unfamiliar, and hiking the trail in the dark with their headlamps, the two lost the trail. What was supposed to be a 14-mile hike to the top of the mountain instead turned into a 20-something-mile-long trek. McPherson said in addition to the long trek Mt. Jefferson is challenging because you also have to do some rock scrambling, traverse snowfields and do some technical climbing before you reach the summit, after which you have to rappel down cliffs to safer ground.

After this very long day McPherson and Burson headed towards Mount Hood in Northern Oregon. The latest climbing report from the rangers there were three weeks old with a recommendation of not climbing the mountain. However, buoyed by their success on Mount Jefferson, the two went anyway. They had the mountain to themselves and made the summit where they only stayed a short time, being buffeted by 50 mph winds, before heading back down.

The two next bagged Mount Adams during an uneventful climb, tagged Mount Rainier after setting out on a morning climb to reach the summit at sunset, normally it’s done the other way to reach the summit at sunrise, and then it was on to Glacier Peak, which was a long hike covering 38 miles round trip from the trailhead to the summit and back.

On the tenth day they began their climb up Mount Baker, their final destination. They reached the summit by 5 p.m., which they had to themselves to savor their accomplishment for an hour before heading back to the trailhead where they checked the clock and found they had completed their epic quest in 10 days, 23 hours and 51 minutes. It will be interesting to see what kind of mountain climbing challenge the two will take up next. I’ll share the details of the next expedition with you when it occurs.

John Kruse – and


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