From the Publisher
A long time ago, in an abandoned ranch house without electricity or plumbing, a man sat at a kitchen table illuminated by the soft flickering light of a kerosene lamp. Driven to the Sierra by his intense love of them, and by a personal tragedy in his past, he hoped to make a few dollars by selling the stories he would write about his climbing trips. With the passage of time, his tales of adventure would preserve an era of western mountaineering history, as told by CaliforniaÕs greatest mountaineer.
ÒClose Ups of the High SierraÓ is a journey to the exquisite and remote backcountry of the Sierra Nevada in California, as told by that great mountaineer, Norman Clyde, who was credited with making more first ascents in the Sierra Nevada than Clarence King, John Muir, and William Brewer, combined. In the book Sierra Nevada, Weldon Heald said of Clyde, Ò(he) has probably made more mountain ascents than any other man who ever lived, not excluding Swiss guides. Certainly, he has no rival in the Sierra.Ó Yet in life, Clyde was not a member of any mountaineering aristocracy Ñ his name appeared on no letterheads, nor did he found any great environmental movement or organization.
With a degree in Classic Literature, an old army hat, and great physical endurance, Clyde became a living legend. He drove nails into the soles of his boots for traction, so slick rock, ice and other obstacles could not keep him from reaching the summits of the mountains he wanted to climb. On cold Sierra mornings, he would recite HomerÕs ÒIlliadÓ and ÒOdysseyÓ in Greek, while cooking breakfast for climbing partners at the campfire. He was one of a dying breed, a Òvanishing Victorian,Ó which was evident in his writing style. One climbing partner remembered him as a proud and sensitive man, who was unable to grasp modern thinking. . .
. . . After losing his last job as a high school principal, Clyde moved into a broken-down ranch house on Baker Creek. It had been abandoned when the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power bought the property for its aqueduct to carry water from the Owens Valley to Los Angeles. It was known that Clyde lived in the house, but he was left alone, without plumbing or electricity to enjoy the visiting field mice, and the kitchen, its rotten wood floor turned to sod. From its window, beyond the tall pines to the stark Sierra crest, his inspiration was the view of Peak 13,920Õ+, which would one day bear his name. . .
Wynne Benti, Publisher (Read more in Close Ups of the High Sierra)
About the Author
Norman Clyde, a name as legendary as that of Fremont or Muir. Norman Clyde, a man to whom the entire High Sierra was as familiar as ones own back yard. Norman Clyde, whose own life is much less known than that of the Greek heroes whose sagas he carried in his pack.
And how did this come about? For Clyde was a quiet, sometimes taciturn man, who often failed to leave a record of his achievements, and never boasted about his fabulous ascents. Yet, since he made his first trip to the top of Mt. Whitney, almost a half century ago, climbers have been finding his records on remote summits. A strong team of skilled rockclimbers will conquer a lonely spire, using the most modern of climbing gear and techniques and will summit with well-coordinated teamwork, only to find on a faded Kodak box, the record of a solo climb of more than six decades ago. Or, at the high point of a distant ridge will be found a small cairn, with no written record--obviously the work of man--and a climber will turn to his companion with, ÒWell, it looks like ours would have been a first ascent, if not for Norman Clyde.Ó Later, upon discussing the route with him, Clyde would ponder a bit, ask a couple of questions about some difficult pitch encountered on the ascent! , then admit he had been there scores of years ago. Clyde was never one to bring up these mountaineering achievements. He would often sidestep them, or respond with his dry sense of humor, mentioning that he was in fact Ò350 years old,Ó but he was never known to make a false statement when talking seriously. It was easy to tell the difference between his banter and his true accounts of his life and work. Research completely verifies the data and dates that he supplied. . .
Walt Wheelock (Read more in Close Ups of the High Sierra)