Story By: Jason Hummel

Contributions from Sky Sjue, Ben Manfredi, Charlie Berg and Josh Hummel

"A Tribute to a Friend"

Ben's website: Cascade Classics

Ben Manfredi gazing into the low clouds. Goat Rocks, South Cascades: Washington.

Photograph: Josh Hummel

Life is a tapestry
Each day your paintbrush
And you have all of the colors of a sunrise
Paint a beautiful picture
of your life’s adventure


There was nothing extremely exceptional that Ben Manfredi accomplished, not to say that his accomplishments were mediocre. By climbing standards, he didn’t knock off any of the big ones in some far away country; or trudge through vine-entangled jungle to unnamed giants; or find the best rock, route, or snow on the planet. Not that he couldn’t have, but because there was simply enough right here in the Northwest. As he said in his own words, “This is our home, our playground, the CASCADE CLASSICS!” If I am to tell you a story then what better way than to act the storyteller like the young desert girl in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. “This you know, the years travel fast. And time after time, I've done the Tell. But this ain't one 'body's Tell. It's the Tell of us all. And you gotta listen it, and 'member, 'cuz what you hears today, you gotta tell the newborn tomorrow...."


Two of a kind. Ben and Troy Manfredi somewhere in the South Cascades.


Two of a kind. Jason and Josh Hummel on Mount Rainier.




Charlie Berg, Troy Manfredi, and Josh and Jason Hummel telling tales around the campfire. McCall Basin: Goat Rocks, Washington.

Photograph: Ben Manfredi

I must venture yonder off
On my vision quest
Take all the knowledge I have gathered
And challenge thy nature’s wrath
For only there can I forge my metal
There in mountains high
Where man is but a visitor
And visions but dance beautifully across the alpine sky


Kayaking the Carbon River Gorge...

our boats were bumping in the swirling eddy on the Carbon River. The dull thumping emulated the ringing in our ears caused by our adrenaline raged hearts. We had just passed our rope that we had placed in order to avoid our present scenario and it was our only hope of escape. We were above our heads now. There was no shore, no safety, no scouting, and no returning. Rick's Slide waited below. For us, it appeared the edge of the world into the depths of hell, except for the cold. We'd seen the falls from several hundred feet above, but at water level it's size was multiplied and its nature a kayaker's worst nightmare. This was only supposed to be a low water scout and everything up until this point was within our realm of comfort. The stories we'd heard about this particular rapid replayed over and over in our heads and thoughts of, "What were we thinking?" Paraded our minds. These concerns soon dissipated because thought does not put aside the fact that we were here. Action was a necessary evil. Who would go? That's all that plagued us now.

"Who's going?" Ben yelled as we continually fought for room in the eddy. Five minutes passed, nothing was said. "I'll go!" Ben climbed up the eddy and reached for current and went over the lip. We heard nothing, could see nothing. A whistle blow, two out of the depths? Hope. Josh decides to go next, but doesn't go as far up the eddy and misses the line, far left of left. The time that followed is difficult to quantify. Ben is screaming, "Padddddleeeeee," followed by repeated variations, but above the noise all I could discern was a whisper. I knew one thing for sure, "Josh didn't make it." My belly now full of lead understood I had to go, but two in the maul saves no one. It's funny how the unknown invents demons and how those sprites can consume confidence. I didn't go first because I couldn't face that danger alone. Ben did. I've always respected that. I always will.

My turn was uneventful and after twenty minutes, Josh found his determination still intact. After which, I remember us all laughing and declaring proudly, "We've made it this far, why quit now?" Youth often isn't the most wise counterpart to decision, but we were awarded adventure.


Ben Manfredi and Josh Hummel in the midst enjoying their well earned glory, as waterfall mist pours down from above, deep in the Carbon River Gorge.

Photographer: Jason Hummel


A ski descent of the Northwest face of Dome Peak in late August...

We needed a ski day for the month of August. Dome Peak was somewhere in between Seattle (where Ben lived) and Bellingham (where Josh and I lived), so logic would hold that this was the place to be. Having failed on two, three-day trips, we figured a healthy two would have to do.

The weather was convenient enough not to accept clouds, but rewarded bugs and heat as a counterbalance to it's favor. Roaring creeks helped cool us off and equally pleasant slide Alder shaded us from the sun. By the time we were on the ridge overlooking Dome Peak, our minds were fighting with the reality of this place. "Welcome to the North Cascades!"


Ben Manfredi getting bushed on his way to ski Dome Peak in late August.

Photograph: Josh Hummel


So, what's for dinner? Well, like Ben later wrote, "There was a lot less snow than I had remembered. Regardless, we spotted a steep slope off the SW summit and agreed to make the most of what was left." It was late. Neither Josh or I wanted to save the pain for tomorrow, so we agreed to go for it.

I think Ben explains our situation best. "As the slope turned from 40 to 55 my confidence faded. I looked down at Josh and said, "We can't ski this." He agreed. Jason had disappeared beneath the cresting horizon. I didn't have an ice axe so my best bet was to continue. I clawed my way up the remaining slope using two self-arrest grips. The slope eased from 50 to 40 degrees but my panic remained. When I reached the top I discovered a problem -- there was a large gap between the snow and the rock. I traversed a short section and climbed inside the moat where I made a sketchy hop onto the rock. The ridge was another 30ft above me so I took off my crampons and ditched my pack and poles. A short 5th class scramble led to another problem -- the opposite side was a vertical cliff. I reminded myself of the ski and there were some 4th class ledges near the ridge so I continued. A couple hundred feet higher I discovered the biggest problem of them all -- there was no way out."


Dome Peak with the Dome glacier laid out below.

Photograph: Ben Manfredi


We eventually skied the face and returned to camp. It was 10pm and we were exhausted. We had crossed nearly 25 miles of brush, boulder fields and glacier. At the end Ben pronounced, "This is a ski that you recommend to your worst enemies, but it's good to be shared among friends."


An attempt to ski Mount Rainier via the Central Mowich...


Mowich Face at sunset from our camp on Ptarmigan Ridge. Our climb is in red and our ski descent is in green. The Edmund's Headwall route is seen in blue.

Photograph: Ben Manfredi


A ski of Mount Rainier via the Central Mowich sounded like a great idea at the time. Now at ~12,500ft everything wasn't going to plan. A late start led to a lack of choices, which began with Josh's alarm not ringing. We could ski belay, but that would take more time than we were willing to spare; several rocks had narrowly missed us. We had to ski! A 1000ft of tenuous turns led to softening corn and freedom. Josh went first and I couldn't recall whether or not he had made it. Neither Ben or I could see tracks on the icy snow. Both of us regretted not watching. What I do remember clearly, though, is Ben sitting on a crumbly rock ledge, confident that he could do what was necessary. "It's a joke," he admonished, "I'll see if Josh is below." Ben slid above a rock band before gliding around and out of sight. His turns were bounced with intention. There is no room here for what ifs, only conclusions. You can be a great skier and find yourself not willing to accept the consequence of making an error. I found it easy to suspend reality for that first turn, while a second?

In retrospect, this was one of the scariest moments of my life. Of course, at the bottom, Ben's grin was as big as the kid with his hand in the cookie jar. "So...any plans for next weekend?"


Jason Hummel at Camp on Ptarmigan Ridge the night before an attempt on the Central Mowich.

Photograph: Ben Manfredi


Josh Hummel showing with great dexterity how to ride true to mountain bike style.

Photograph: Ben Manfredi


Mount Baker, Coleman Headwall...

By Charlie Berg


The Coleman Headwall Route in red.

Photograph: Ben Manfredi


From the security of a small ridge, Troy and I watched Ben traverse skier’s right onto the Coleman’s steep upper slope. The snow was firm to the point that his edges left almost no marks in the frozen corn snow and 500 feet below him the smooth face abruptly changed to 1500 feet of broken ice fall. Needless to say, when Ben made his first turn, my fingers were crossed.

Ironically, watching this turn, on the last descent I did with Ben, was the first time I knew he had the skills to match his ambitions. This is not to say that he wasn’t always good, because he was. However, his goals in the realm of ski mountaineering were on a different level all together, and the same was true about his willingness to put himself in the situations necessary to achieve these ends. But seeing that turn, you knew he could ski any route he wanted to.


Charlie Berg exiting the chute on the Coleman Headwall.

Photograph: Ben Manfredi

The North Face of Mount Adams...

When it came to ski mountaineering there was one place that always beckoned us. From the beginning, it was our testing ground; a rubric to measure our improvement over the previous year. This place, the North Face of Mount Adams will always remind me of Ben. From the highland meadows and nice weather that prevailed there to the steep faces and easy access that awaited us when we arrived. Mount Adams was always a place we couldn't help but enjoy and for five or more years it never let us down.


Mount Adams showing the North Ridge to the left and the North Face Northwest Ridge to the Right.

Photograph: Ben Manfredi


Charlie Berg on the North Ridge of Mount Adams.

Photograph: Ben Manfredi


Jason and Josh Hummel further up on North Ridge of Mount Adams.

Photograph: Ben Manfredi


Stormy Monday Couloir: Mount Adams...

"Does it go?" Staring over the icy penitentes into the smooth couloir looked very nice. As in, "It goes!" Ben, Josh and I had been interested in Stormy Monday for years, but the route never looked filled in enough for a ski descent. This time we came prepared. We had a rope and harness topped with a cherry of intention. We were here to find out the truth for ourselves and no think or thought was gonna put a don't in our mouths. We were here to do.

As we reached the crux midway through the route, we couldn't discern a logical route over the rolling slope and cliff bands. I went left then right before Ben passed me by. Side stepping followed by a few questionable jump turns ended in success. Josh and I carefully followed his lead, somewhat like a mysterious long-toed tree-sloth creature. This worked until we were free of the rocks and snow and back in the sweet filling that our skis couldn't help but carve all the way to the flat glaciers below. From the bottom, we looked up and couldn't help but feel rewarded.

During the following two days, we skied the North Face Northwest Ridge and the Lava Glacier Headwall. By weekends end we had skied nearly twelve thousand feet of fourty-five degree terrain.


Jason Hummel skiing Stormy Monday.

Photograph: Ben Manfredi


North Portion, Lyman Glacier: Mount Adams...


Ben Manfredi ascending a steep snow spur to access Lava Ridge.

Photograph: Jason Hummel


When I am asked what my best day of skiing was. Without hesitation, I exclaim, "The Lyman Glacier!" When asked, "Why?" To explain is pointless, but here goes. I'll give it my best shot. The sun was blazing, the blue blaring, and the snow an enticing blanket of velvety butter. As the slope steepened, we began to feel the rush. The sun, the snow, the route, the views, the… so much, too perfect! Ice walls loomed, crevasses gaped hungrily, and the way became questionable as the slope rolled. Our grins were now permanently plastered in immortal gratitude to this mountain that granted us such a treasure as this. Photos will grant remembrance, but the ecstasy of each turn was enough to keep us enlightened to the dangers. Small steeply slanted snow bridges were followed until finally the way was clear of obstacles. Looking back made them look smaller, but still we were happy to have forged a new line. Without words, we both knew we would be back.

By the time we were off the Lyman Glacier, it was past mid afternoon.


Jason Hummel skiing next to a massive overhanging serac.

Photograph: Ben Manfredi


Jason Hummel preparing to ski the crux of the Lyman Glacier.

Photograph: Ben Manfredi


Later that evening I remember sitting at our bivy with the buzzing bees and almost unbearable sun. Somehow we convinced ourselves the following day would be poor weather. I think we both understood that the best doesn't get any better, so there is no cause to stick around and ski a third day. We left content and that's about as good as it gets in my book. As for Ben's, this was one of the rare times he was content with just...enough.


Mount Shuksan's Price Glacier

By Sky Sjue


The Price Glacier route with ascent in green and part of the descent in red.

Photograph: Sky Sjue


There was a break in the weather the Friday following our failed attempt with the Hummels, and I was sure Ben and I could ski the Price Glacier in a day, so we returned without the Hummels. Ben would surely call them from the top of the Price, or just after the descent, "Well, how's work? Sky and I just skied the Price Glacier."


Ben climbing up the Price Glacier.

Photograph: Sky Sjue


I wouldn't have been comfortable finding my way to Price Lake in the middle of the night without Ben's guidance. Several times I strayed too high off the faint climber's trail and found myself scrambling through rocks, yelling "Ben!" to help me locate the way. I'm sure he was entertained, just as he was while I followed him thirty miles through old growth forests I'd never seen in the Goat Rocks. Every so often he'd stop, turn to me, and ask, "Where are we Sky?" I could only respond with, "Somewhere in the Goat Rocks."

We climbed the Price despite the fleeting visibility. We were treated to sun breaks now and then. In the midst of a snow shower above an unskiable, 50 degree chute with a huge icy runnel I saw Ben's confidence shaken for the first time. His idea was to climb the Northeast Chute, but I didn't want to make the traverse. Now that I've skied that line twice (I called it Price Glacier Couloir.) I think Ben's idea was great. Nevertheless we climbed the crazy headwall above us. I started in the lead, but Ben got across the upper bergschrund first by usefully employing his skis, and then he was gone. Climbing around the cornice at the top was pretty hairball. I was anxious to get off the final, sixty-something degree bit of snow and Ben poked his head over the edge and said, "Wait. Let me take a photo."


Ben looking back at part of the route, which is to the climber's right on the steep fluted slopes.

Photograph: Sky Sjue


Ben turning down a steep fluted chute on the Price Glacier.

Photograph: Sky Sjue


We didn't know which way to ski. I left it to Ben's judgment. We skied an incredible fluted chute. Our descent went better than we would have hoped during the climb, outside of me putting myself in dangerous territory with some wet sluffs.

It was still early afternoon by the time we were celebrating with a couple beers at the car. Ben was nice enough to buy me a big bag of my favorite jalapeno flavored Tim's Cascade Potato Chips on the way home. What a guy!

Colchuck Peak's NBC and NE Couloir...

By Josh Hummel

It was late, maybe 7pm, and I was flying over Washington on my way back from California admiring the mountains. I had no idea that I would soon be on them. I was exhausted and stressed after spending five days in training in Irvine. When I got off the plane and met my brother, he hinted the entire way to the car at a climbing trip. “It would be easy,” he assured me. “We are just driving to the Stuart Lake parking lot.”

It was nearly 11pm when I got to the car. I was surprised to see that it was already packed. I thought to myself, “Only Ben could conceive such a trip.” He always preferred the one-day, all-night pushes. “Sleep is for weekdays,” he would always remind me. He pushed me to be more than just a weekend warrior on the prowl, but a ski mountaineer always on the edge.


Colchuck Peak from just below Colchuck Lake. Our climb and ski descent are in green.

Photograph: Ben Manfredi


We climbed and skied three routes over that weekend. What I remember most is falling on the NBC. It was late and clouds were coming in. Ben was waiting below. He asked if I could ski down for a photo. I made my turns, but caught a rock and then tumbled head over heals. Somehow I recovered. Afterward we had to side step a long section of thin snow over rock. As a group, we were disciplined and dare I say experienced in moving on and instead focused on the route. Ben rarely lost his cool and that rock solid personality allowed us to move on. There was only one way to go and that was down. Preferably in control.

Our plan was to climb/ski the NBC yesterday. When Ben first saw it and I will never forget it, he said, “That looks too easy, let’s go see what that couloir is over there.” He pointed his ski pole to the Northeast Couloir.. We knew little about this route at the time. Ben didn’t care because he did not just want to ski what could be skied. He wanted to attempt what might be skiable. He was a true ski mountaineer!


Josh Hummel and Ben Manfredi about to enter the crux of the NE Couloir.

Photograph: Jason Hummel


Josh's first turn on the NE Couloir.

Photograph: Ben Manfredi


The Mineral Haute Route and Mount Challenger...

Schwacking is an art form. Some people can make it look easy while others flounder. You'll find that your perspective comes to play in the most reassuring fashion. "It's just around the corner, only a hundred more feet!" Your mind finds it so convenient to lie. Ben and I had enormous packs loaded with skis and were planning to cross the Mineral High Route. Reassurances and lies were both needed because what we were doing now was foolish. Thoughts like, "This can't be right," and "There has to be another way?" added to the mix of voices in our heads. We were on Mineral Mountain now where wet slabs covered in mud and berry bushes with cliffs and patches of snow hanging on to what little there was. We eventually managed to climb into a nice couloir that we hoped would lead to the summit ridge. Here, less snow would've been better or even more for that matter, but a broken up mess is all that awaited us at the top. I would've stopped here and found another way, but Ben pressed on and I followed. Why we didn't pull out a rope, I can't say. What I do know is that this was the hardest 100 feet I've ever had to climb. At the summit, I remember Ben saying, "Well, now that we've done the easy part...." Ben was a man of few words, but those he chose to use were chosen wisely.


Jason Hummel skiing down Easy Ridge towards Mount Challenger and the Imperfect Impasse. Whatcom Peak is on the left.

Photograph: Ben Manfredi


Jason Hummel crossing the Challenger Glacier on a beautiful spring afternoon.

Photograph: Ben Manfredi


During the following three days, we climbed and skied Whatcom Peak and three high points on Mount Challenger. From the summit of Challenger, we couldn't help but gaze at Mount Fury. It's awesome face was enough to give any ski mountaineer dreams enough to keep him awake well into the night. We left with an unsaid promise. A commitment you could say that "We'll be back!" Except, unlike The Terminator, this wasn't the end of the world. The only world we had to worry about was work and when next we could escape.


Ben showing me the basics of rock climbing on Mount Challenger.

Photograph: Ben Manfredi


The Northeast Face of Mount Fury...

By Ben Manfredi


"We'll be back!" Mount Fury as seen from Mount Challenger.

Photograph: Ben Manfredi


It seems we reached the summit around 11am. The sun had graced portions of the Northeast Face but the majority needed more time to allow our edges grip. How long, we weren't certain but with nearly 10 hours of daylight remaining, the longer, the better.

The summit was an extraordinary haven with peerless views in every direction. My only regret was not being able to see ourselves because we stood atop the granddaddy of them all. Beckey writes, "Mt. Fury epitomizes the grand alpine wilderness of the amazing Picket Range." I'm bound to agree.

There was no wind on the summit but it was covered in snow. I decided to make the most of my 1-2 hours there by taking a nap and some cozy rocks to the west provided the perfect loft -- the kind you get all teary-eyed and empty-stomach just thinking about. I took off my boots to dry my socks and fixed a ham and cheese sandwich complete with mustard and mayo. Some chewy shock tarts did me in and for the next hour, I was in heaven.

By noon the mountains had restored my energy so I got dressed to see what Jason and Sky were up to. I found them sprawled across the snowy summit making use of their packs to stay dry. Besides sun, the only weather we had to shelter was the cloud of BS that engulfed us from the start. The summit showers were particularly heavy. At one point I even sought my cell phone to call Josh [Hummel] and proclaim our success. Looking down the Northeast Face provided a reality check and the showers subsided as the moment of truth approached.

Some serious talk got us to thinking that another summit of Fury the next day wasn't likely. Instead, we agreed to allow the final two days to backtrack our approach. A pick-up time of 6pm at Ross Lake seemed too late so I called the resort and bumped it up to 2pm.


Jason Hummel climbing the Northeast Face of Mount Fury.

Photograph: Ben Manfredi


Ok, so you've waited long enough and we've waited even longer so how about the ski.

By noon we were getting antsy and by 1pm our hair must have been standing on end. The smooth slope was still firm but the lower runnels had been getting plenty of sun and that was our main concern. We wanted them soft but not too soft. What we really wanted was to get it over with and now seemed like as good of time as any.


The Northeast Face of Mount Fury under less than preferable conditions.

Photograph: Sky Sjue


Mount Fury continued

By Jason Hummel

I will always remember Mount Fury. Without Ben's influence, I am sure neither Sky or I would've skied it. As Ben pronounced as we were leaving Luna col, "Our work here will never be done." The challenge, five days of struggle, and the final commitment. This all an effort and a guarantee that indeed work here had been done. For that, I have rarely seen three fools as happy as they were at Luna Col, looking back as it were at The Mount Fury. We were characters in a grand play and this was our stage, grandstanding as it may seem, we felt we deserved self indulgence and self congratulations. This was our day in the sun and I know nothing made Ben happier than challenging the limits we set ourselves. At this place, in this moment, we knew we had pushed those set prefabricated limits and it felt good. We walked away no worse for wear. Maybe lucky? In life risk is associated with every aspect of living. Sometimes to know you're truly living you walk the edge. By doing so, life has value and meaning and, as such, you may find it more difficult to flaunt. Ben didn't ignore the obvious, but rather embraced the day, the moment, and as we skied down from that place, we found that we were really in that place. I think we each left a part of ourselves there. Maybe ignorance, maybe youth, and maybe even we walked away with something. I guess we'll never know. One think is for certain, I have good memories of friend, memories that I left there, of a man who was at the top of his game.


A self portrait of Ben Manfredi on the summit cap of Mount Baker. Afterwards he skied both the Roosevelt Headwall and the Coleman Headwall in a single day.

Photograph: Ben Manfredi

I swim with all my might
Into the sun as bright as bright
Blinding me
My arms sooo weak
I slide into the night
My fight all fought

Ben Manfredi passed away with a smile on his face. I'll always remember seeing that. It was like a final goodbye. "I died happy." You're forgiven, but never forgotten! If anything, Ben lived a life so full that living any longer was too much for his body to sustain. All those who surrounded him were inspired by his confidence, intelligence, and camaraderie. He rests now, in spirit at least on the Elwha River. In a place like a doorway itself, named as such; a name that befits it's nature - Goblin's Gate. In a way, he couldn't have found a more appropriate resting place confined as it were within a desolate wilderness, further enclosed within an isolated canyon filled with the cool, clear waters of the mountains that he loved. A tomb, as a matter of semblance, for a true lover of nature.

"Here are a few pictures that were his favorites and others that show him in his element."


Ben Manfredi on the top of Nooksack Tower after completing the first ascent of its' massive South Face.

Photograph: Jens Klubberud.


Ben near the end of the Clear Fork of the Cowlitz after a low water scout.

Photograph: John Easton


Josh Hummel during a late day ascent of Old Snowy in the Goat Rocks. Mount Rainier is in the background.

Photograph: Ben Manfredi


Ben near the summit of Tieton Peak. We skied it's North Face soon after.

Photograph: Jason Hummel


Josh and Jason Hummel in the midst of lush undergrowth during a exploratory descent of Downey Creek.

Photograph: Ben Manfredi


Ben skiing on the glaciers below the North Face of Mount Adams.

Photograph: Josh Hummel


Jason and Josh Hummel during a winter climb and ski of Mount Shuksan. Baker Lake can be seen below.

Photograph: Ben Manfredi


Josh skiing down next a giant crevasse during a late season Ski of Little Tahoma.

Photograph: Ben Manfredi


Josh Hummel during a ski descent of the North Twin Sister in the North Cascades.

Photograph: Ben Manfredi


Tygh Wyckoff preparing to clip the first bolt on Heinous Cling, 5.11d.


Jason Hummel skiing down the Sulfide Glacier on Mount Shuksan, one of the most beautiful mountains in the North Cascades.

Photograph: Ben Manfredi


Travis probes Gutter Ball. Trial and error on Johnson Creek.

Photograph: Ben Manfredi


Mount Baker during a winter excursion to Lake Ann Buttes.

Photograph: Ben Manfredi


A group of us after a mid summer ski of Mount Shuksan.

Photograph: Ben Manfredi


Make or break on McCoy Creek.

Photographer: John


Josh Hummel jumping a crevasse on the way down from Little Tahoma.

Photograph: Ben Manfredi


Ben Manfredi appreciating the Picket's as seen from Luna Peak. We skied it's Northeast Face soon after.

Photograph: Jason Hummel


All of us in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

Photograph: Ben Manfredi's Camera

"A Final Goodbye"

Cascade Classics. Josh and Jason Hummel; Troy Manfredi on the shores of Lake Ann near Mount Shuksan: Washington.

Photograph: Ben Manfredi


We had adventures; we had journeys into the classics. We were weekend warriors! You were the leader and you fell bravely. We will have more adventures, there will be more classics, and we will continue to fight the good fight. Watch our backs, protect our flanks, and give us stealth in time of need. We will miss you always and we will rejoice the life you lived! And know this; I appreciated the opportunity to get to know you. Until my day of reckoning, farewell, and…save a few rivers and mountains for me, eh? The classics will never be the same until then. Goodbye until hello.

Your friend,

Jason Hummel...