Thousands flock to Portland each year for food and drink festivals, design and fashion weeks and quirky celebrations of all stripes.
But every November, it’s all about the mountains. Nature lovers head to the Rose City for the annual 6-day Portland Alpine Festival (Nov. 13-18, 2017) — a showcase of 40 outdoor-focused events, including a speaker series by top-level athletes, films, clinics and more.
There’s a “Night at the Movies” short film series produced by REI, focused on trail running, rock climbing and mountaineering. There’s a Women’s Intro to Ice Climbing clinic; a “Capturing the Moment” seminar on getting the best photos and videos in the wild; and a friendly competition called the Portland Ice Comp. The festival’s main event, The Summit, will bring three legendary climbers to speak, along with local food carts, raffle prizes and more.
The goal is to “inspire, educate and celebrate responsible outdoor recreation in the mountains,” says Lee Davis, executive director of the Portland-based Mazamas, the internationally known climbing organization that launched the festival in 2012.
The Mazamas’ primary focus is climbing, but the festival promotes all human-powered recreation like mountaineering, backcountry skiing and mountain biking. — the kind of activity, Davis says, “where you can leave town early Saturday, have a truly immersive experience in the wild and be back in town that evening for a concert.”
Outdoor recreation is central to the character and quality of Oregon, Davis adds, which is why the festival has doubled in size since its launch. Newbies come for inspiration and education; more advanced adventurers come to advance their skills, dive more deeply into their passion and share their experiences with the community.
Since mountaineering and outdoor climbing are safest in drier months, the Mazamas also organizes a variety of indoor training and skill-building classes through the winter. It’s also an ideal time to hit the trail, when they’re free from crowds.
Check it out
Trail trips — Open all year-round, these hiking trips are categorized into five groups to suit different fitness and experience levels, and just$4 for non-members. Some are conditioning hikes, for those meant for getting into shape before climbing season.
Street Rambles — Also year-round, these 4-8 mile guided walks are held each Tuesday and Thursday starting at REI in Portland’s Pearl District. Multiple groups are led at different paces.
Snow trips — Mid-December through early March, you can also sign up for a snowshoe trip, nordic ski trip or overnight snow camping trip. Overnights are $10 per day for non-members.
Basic climbing education — Each year about 250 people join the Mazamas’ Basic Climbing Education Program to learn to climb from the ground level up. “You can be a runner, skier, backpacker or hiker, and the course teaches you the skills you need to climb mountains,” Davis says. This program starts in the spring.
Indoor climbing spots — Indoor climbing gyms are also a great way to train, or get started. Try some of these top spots: The Circuit Bouldering Gym in Portland, Portland Rock Gym, Stoneworks Climbing Gym in Beaverton, The Crux Rock Gym in Eugene, Bend Rock Gym, The RockBoxx in Salem, or Rogue Rock Gym in Medford.