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Navy officers rise from the depths to the heights

As a way to reduce the stress of their high-tech naval careers, these three Navy officers assigned at Subase Bangor have been tackling many of the Pacific Northwest’s most significant peaks.  Shown on Mount Baker recently, were, from left, Lt. Cmdr. Matt Tammen, Cmdr. Jason Patterson, and Cmdr. Mike Oras. - Photo courtesy of Lt. Cmdr. Matt Tammen
As a way to reduce the stress of their high-tech naval careers, these three Navy officers assigned at Subase Bangor have been tackling many of the Pacific Northwest’s most significant peaks. Shown on Mount Baker recently, were, from left, Lt. Cmdr. Matt Tammen, Cmdr. Jason Patterson, and Cmdr. Mike Oras.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Lt. Cmdr. Matt Tammen

As a way to reduce the stress of their high-tech naval careers, these three Cmdr. Jason Patterson with Submarine Group 9 hopes to climb all the Olympic’s majestic peaks and the 10 highest mountains in Washington State.

But most of all he just wants to take in the beauty not found on TV.

He has been hiking and climbing for about 25 years with nine years of that in the Northwest. Stationed now at Subase Bangor, he has been an outdoor enthusiast all his life.

For the past year, Patterson, 45, has been going on regular hikes and climbs with fellow Subase Bangor officers Lt. Cmdr. Matt Tammen and Cmdr. Mike Oras, MD.

About two weeks ago, the three-man climbing crew summitted Mount Adams, which stands at 12,307 feet.

At base camp it was a toasty 85 degrees, Patterson said, but at the summit of the mountain it was a numbing minus 10 degrees.

“You can’t just go out and climb a mountain and expect to survive. You have to be prepared,” Patterson said.

But for all the preparation and calculating, the rewards of a climb are spectacular.

“I would encourage people to get out from in front of their TVs and see the beauty of this area,” he said.

“There’s a population of people who are getting fatter, uglier and in worse shape,” Patterson said.

In a high-stress, high-tech work environment, the frequent trips into the unregulated wilderness balance out life’s scales Patterson said.

Oras, 36, has spent his first year in the Northwest climbing and hiking. His first taste of the Olympics was scaling Mount Constance, which at 7,743 feet is the Olympics’ third tallest peak.

Patterson called the trip technically challenging.

“It’s two miles straight up with 50 pounds on your back,” he said.

His family resides in Florida where there’s nothing close to the terrain Washington has to offer.

He said his family is still getting used to the idea of him hiking and climbing the great peaks.

Both men have their sights on Mount Olympus, which at nearly 8,000 feet is the tallest peak. But it also has many dangers including avalanche, glacier travel and rock falls.

Each trip is planned at least two weeks in advance. The trip itself usually involves long days — somewhere in the 14-hour range.

The men continuously talk to each other and rely on each other’s skills for a successful trip. So far the trio of submariners have not had any major incidents during a climb.

“We do things very calculated,” Patterson said.

“There are moments of fear. A chipmunk may jump out in front of you and startle you,” he said.

“People should go out and challenge their fear,” he said.

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