Posts Tagged ‘mountains’

Forgetting Winter

April 10th, 2019

Elusive Memories, Snowfall, Weather and Climate at home in the Sierra of Northern California

Mt. Hough From North Arm of Indian Valley, Northern Sierra, California, 2015 by David Leland Hyde. In this image, the snowline from the most recent storm can be seen clearly at about 5,000 feet in elevation. The top of Mt. Hough, the giant rock outcropping jutting out of the right middle, is just over 7,000 feet and the top of Arlington Ridge in the left middle of the whole mountain, is 7,232. (Click image to see large.)

Plumas County, where I am writing from, is the transition zone between the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Mountain Ranges. Here the Sierra is much lower in elevation overall. Here we also have much more volcanic activity, defunct volcanoes, hot springs, geothermal vents and old lava flows weaving in among the Ponderosa Pine and Douglas Fir Forests growing out of the Sierra granite terrain.

In our milder Northern Sierra Nevada, most mountain peaks are 6,000 to 8,000 feet in elevation, unlike the High Sierra farther south, where the peaks range from 11,000 to 14,000 feet. Most people in the Feather River Region live in the mountain valleys, usually ranging between 3,000 and 5,000 in elevation. By the time you drive two hours south to Lake Tahoe, you find the high elevation terrain traditionally associated with the Sierra, accompanied by much heavier snowfall.

Bear in mind that the surface level of Lake Tahoe stays around 6,225 feet. This means that most of the tops of our mountains are at about the same elevation as the base level of the peaks in the Lake Tahoe Basin. Many of the winter snowstorms that dump the heaviest in the Tahoe area bring us nothing but rain. Some years most of the Sierra receives heavy snowfall, while we do not. A smaller number of years it is vice versa. Consequently, we do not follow the various long-range forecasts all that closely, as they do not always apply.

This year was different though. We heard from many sources about the coming long, heavy and cold winter. Most of my neighbors braced themselves by getting in extra wood and supplies, putting on snow tires and updating vehicle maintenance, though we all remained skeptical. The weather itself did not seem to care whether we were skeptical, or whether the predictions were dire, either one. Winter came on very gradually and much the same as it has arrived most of the last 15 years. Our contemporary pattern for at least 15 years has been a little rain in October with Halloween being unseasonably warm and essentially an extension of what we used to call Indian Summer.

Following the current pattern, this season we received a little more rain in November, several flurries of snow that were just enough to stick in the first week of December and finally about one foot in one storm shortly after. This brought on hopes of a White Christmas, as well as fears we might be buried by then. However, it warmed up and dried out again for most of the month until it clouded up and threatened either rain or snow just before the big holiday. It snowed just after the Winter Solstice, just a skiff, which we thought might last long enough to give us a White Christmas, but the only weather that lasted beyond the holidays was the cold, which after all finally showed up with enough mojo to provide ice skating on the local pond during the weeks on either side of New Year’s Day.

Toward the end of the first week of 2019, weather reports had people talking again. The big snows were coming, weather experts said. Most of us went ahead with what we were already doing in disbelief. Then about January 5th or so, it snowed a foot in one night. We had seen this before, but then it snowed about a foot the next night. Here we go, or not? The weather skipped a few days just for dramatic effect and then snowed a foot again, then again and again, not necessarily every day, but frequently enough for everyone to know this was already a series of storms more like we used to get. It was possibly the beginning of an old-fashioned winter, much as expected by long-range forecasters.

Since the winter of 2011, we have not had more than a foot of snow on the ground at one time. Before that 2002 was the last heavy winter where we had more than one foot at a time. Also, besides 2002 and 2011, I do not remember the last time snow stayed on the ground more than a week at a time. From the beginning of the New Millennium and probably earlier, onward to today, the snow melted quickly, even in mid-winter. Long, cold, snowy winters require different skills and different thinking than snows that always melt in a few days. They require different patterns of grocery shopping, woodbin filling and snow shoveling.

When I was a boy, I remember us getting six feet of snow in one storm more than once. It happened in 1968 when I was three years old, as well as one or two other times. Dad made photographs of me at age three in a red snowsuit sliding down piles of snow he had shoveled in the driveway that were taller than the 12 foot flat roof of the house. Once in the late 1970s, it snowed four feet on April 1st. This event we forever after called the April Fool’s snow. I also remember the snow sticking for months in the dead of winter. Most years, the snows started in October and even sometimes in September. Many winters we had snow on the ground continuously all season. Once the snow had been on the ground a while, lasting right through temporary warm spells, it usually melted a little each day that was warm enough to get above freezing temperatures, then refroze at night. The deeper the snow and the greater the range between nighttime lows and daytime highs, the bigger the icicles grew that hung from the eves, the deck railings, water drains and spouts and any other horizontal surface close enough to the house to thaw out temporarily by day. I remember Dad photographing the largest icicles that grew up to six or more feet long. Usually, the icicles never got a chance to grow that long though because he either followed along after his photographing with a shovel and knocked them down, or just knocked them down without photographing.

Dad had a rule that I followed when I took over the snow shoveling duties: always shovel all the snow off the decks every day, if at all possible. If you do not do this and the snow piles up in subsequent storms, the bottom layer of snow, or whatever portions of it you did not shovel, turns to ice. Considering we have thousands of square feet of decks, clearing them after every snowfall is not necessarily an easy or even convenient task.

I left home to go away to boarding school at age 15 in 1980 and never came back for longer than a few weeks on vacations and holidays until 2002 when Mom passed on. After moving back home to be Dad’s primary caregiver in 2002, I became lazy about shoveling snow. The average winter temperatures were warmer and cold spells lasted for less time. After any storm of less than a few inches, I hardly shoveled, if at all. This was rarely a problem since the snow tended to melt long before more snow fell. If a storm did drop more snow before the previous accumulation melted, it never mattered much, either because it would all either melt or it stayed just warm enough to keep the bottom layer from turning to ice. In the last few decades, much less ice has formed in general. Shoveling off the front walkway between the house and driveway has recently tended to keep ice from building up there. In the “old days,” that same walkway usually turned to ice even if shoveled off. Typically more snow would fall and turn to ice before it could be shoveled.

With so many mild winters in a row, I forgot about these nuances of snow conditions and the differences between heavy snow years and light ones. This year in early January, I still doubted we would have much snow when the first series of storms hit. I shoveled a path around the inside edge of the decks next to the house, the usual first shoveling pass, but left over a foot of snow on most of the decks. I was busy and needed to get back to work rather than spending an entire day shoveling. I also neglected to use the shovel to cut the snow back off the edge of the roof in the front of the house, where melting snow usually dripped to form ice on the front walkway.

As more and more storms came through, I began to realize this was a more serious error than it had been even back in my youth. As snow usually does, it compacted down over time and soon I had about 18 inches of close to solid ice on my decks. The sheer weight of this could cause damage to the deck, but the longer it stayed, the harder it would be to remove and more snow kept arriving all the time. It took me about five days of shoveling over four hours a day to get all of the decks cleared. I also spent many hours chipping, scraping and chopping away at the ice on the front walkway.

I began to realize that what happened with my snow management in the microcosm was the same thing that had happened to mankind in relation to climate change in the macrocosm. Winter had changed from what it was 20 years ago and I had forgotten what it was like to have to remove the ice from the front walk, or how critical it was to get it off the decks right away. I had been lulled into shoveling complacence, had forgotten how we used to go about it and what the consequences were of neglect. I marveled how soon I had forgotten and felt happy to be chipping and pounding away at the ice again. All was well. Then I remembered that all is not well.

When someone in a room with a dimmer switch gradually turned down does not notice how much darker the room is than before, one of the main reasons they do not notice is inaccurate or wishfully driven memory. Here in the Northern Sierra, we are generally ok with winter being less harsh. It means less work and less hardship. It makes life in the winter easier. In a dimming room, we may be happy with the room darker. Memory is an elusive critter and what it consists of is often distorted by what we want or what we like. This means that one of the main reasons we do not notice the room is darker is that we do not remember how bright it was. We do not notice or remember that the first spring flowers, snowdrops, daffodils and lupine, have been blooming steadily earlier every decade. We tend to delight in signs of spring coming earlier, even though when we pause and reflect, we know something is systemically wrong with Mother Nature. We also do not notice or remember when we have no specific markers for comparison. The particular muscle memory I have of pounding away at ice with a shovel, when I performed the act again many years later, made me realize I did not even miss doing this task. I did not ever think, “Wow, I haven’t had to chip ice off the front walkway for 20 years.” The memory was gone and with it, the awareness of any of it ever having happened.

Without the marker or any other specific records or information, I could easily have forgotten how much winter has changed. My mother’s home logs and father’s weather records kept for over 40 years tell us that in the mid-1960s the snowdrops bloomed in the second week of April. Going through the logs, over the years the bloom dates gradually shifted until, by the time I moved back home here in 2002, the snowdrops came out at the beginning of March. The last couple of years it has moved to the end of February. Thanks to logbooks and records we can circumvent our own mistaken memories. Thanks to science, we do not have to rely on our own often mistaken faculties, but we can rely on measurements and solid data.

Only A Little Planet by Philip Hyde

May 10th, 2017

Only A Little Planet

The Plumas Lantern Newspaper, Greenville, California, March 1973

Opinion Column by Philip Hyde on Behalf of Nature with a Call to Action for Public Lands

Buckskin Gulch, Paria River Canyon, Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness, Arizona, 1969, from Drylands by Philip Hyde. Now in the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, which is under threat from the Trump administration. When Philip Hyde made this photograph, Buckskin Gulch was relatively unknown. Today it is a very popular destination for canyoneers and photographers, as are other locations within Vermillion Cliffs National Monument boundaries. “The Wave” is considered one of the top photography destinations in the world. (Click image to see large.)

“It is only a little planet, but how beautiful it is,” wrote the acclaimed poet Robinson Jeffers from Big Sur. His lines expressed the basic theme of this column: the inter-relatedness of all things. “The greatest beauty is organic wholeness, the wholeness of life and things, the divine beauty of the universe. Love that, not man apart from that, or else you will share man’s pitiful confusions, or drown in despair when his days darken.”

Our purpose here will be to communicate the love of Planet Earth that underlies every effort to conserve it. We are here to share the surpassing beauty and the relationship between all things on “this green ball that floats us through the heavens,” as Ralph Waldo Emerson called our home.

Our subject matter in this column will be the ever-expanding range of environmental problems and concerns, which we will explore through commentary, book reviews, related experiences and essays about natural beauty.

The “little planet” theme is at once a shrinking, and an expanding concept. While some exploiters are hurtling through space to make a revolution of our planet in minutes, others are looking into inner-space more deeply than ever before, studying its intricacies more carefully, and not a moment too soon. We need to know all we can about our only home, to learn again what John Ruskin knew two hundred years ago, that “there was always more in the world than a man could see, walked he ever so slowly.” We need to sense this one world we have in its wholeness, and to see our own wholeness in it. It can be no longer logical – if it ever was, to suggest that a problem of Earth’s is someone else’s. This is too much like saying to a fellow passenger, “Your end of the boat is sinking.”

History, we believe will record that the most important thing achieved by the epochal moon-walks of our times was not so much that man then first walked on the moon, but that he looked back from the moon to his own planet and saw it complete, a beautiful brown, blue and white ball sailing through the immense depths of space. Man looked back at Mother Earth from enough distance to see her perfection and isolation and to sense as well, even though nearly unseen, the presence of his own umbilical cord of dependence stretching to connect to Earths life-support systems.

It is good to remember when thinking of the sophisticated technology so widely extolled these days, that the spaceship that put those men on the Moon was not so much a result of inventive genius as it was a conscientious, but rather crude imitation of the naturally contrived life-support systems evolved through millions of years of life on Earth, which, though assaulted by many of men’s activities still continue to make possible our lives here. This has brought a dawning recognition that we need to do more to preserve and protect these life-preserving systems to continue to survive.

There is an absurd charge made by some who would like to ignore the magnitude of this recognition, that those who view nature as necessary to survival are an “elite” who want to keep it for themselves. Such a fantasy would be ludicrous, if it were not tragic. The ranks of conservationists are filled with people with a large experience of nature. Were they indeed selfish “elitists” they would not be getting the word out as widely as possible and encouraging more and more people to go on trips and wilderness outings. Conservationists are not keeping it to themselves.

When I was growing up I tried, sometimes in vain, to lure my friends into the mountains by citing John Muir’s invitation, “To climb the mountains and get their glad tidings.” Muir published his invitation widely, and since my earliest pilgrimages, my work has consistently proclaimed to all who would look and listen, the beauty and joy of life close to nature. Nature enthusiasts’ advocacy and willingness to share with anyone is widely confirmed by the heavy and growing use of natural areas in all parts of the country. Many of these early friends, now in their middle age, are today joining the young to walk the old trails. If I had been an elitist wanting to keep it to myself, I would have been better off to never publish any photographs, or write a line in praise of nature, and admonish my mountain friends to refrain likewise.

Invariably, those who make the “elitist” charge are unwittingly speaking of themselves, for without exception, the nature they would make available to all is a nature plundered and maimed after the extraction of something translated into material wealth. These practical industrialists would convince us that we should choose the forest of a Weyerhaeuser ad over the real thing, or a dug out pit in raw earth filled with poisoned water and called a lake, rather than a natural mountain meadow. These are the economic elitists of the country working in the realm where the dollar is king, and there are no reservations for any lesser loyalties. Buckminster Fuller called them “The Last of the Great Pirates.” Fortunately for Earth and its other inhabitants this breed is dying out, and being replaced by those more responsible who can better read the signs of the times.

Landscape Photography Blogger Call to Action for Wilderness Public Lands:

Currently a long list of national monuments are under review of their status as national monuments and for possible sale, oil drilling, coal mining and other exploitative one-time uses rather than the ongoing lower impact, more profitable, more enduring and fun tourism use by we the owners. The US Department of interior has released the following list of Antiquities Act Monuments under review and announced a formal public comment period starting May 12. Be sure to make your voice heard and your plea made, either short or long, in favor of keeping our national heritage as it is: Interior Department List and First Ever Formal Comment Period.

Happy 4th of July: Watson’s Walking “G” Summer Family Camp

July 4th, 2016

Family Camp Weekend at Watson’s Walking “G”

People Photographs: Memories of Independence Day, July 4

In the United States of America, we celebrate Independence Day in the heat of summer. The heat causes thirst, which is quenched with alcoholic beverages more often than not. July 4 is the “fun” holiday. For a quality American 4th of July, also mix in hours and days of sunbathing slathered in tanning oil at the old swimming hole, complete with cool mountain stream swims.

Yet, when you are with old friends, the perfect holiday is not as much about the beach, sun or water as the conversations. This blog post is more personal than usual, but this is not the first time I have made such a post, especially on a major holiday. Different from what I typically write for this blog, it is an indication of one aspect of blog posts to come in the future.

Near the home where I grew up and now live again, at places like Indian Falls or Spanish Falls, giant rocks tower above deep river pools and make for good jumps, somersaults, dives, flips, gainers and belly-flops into Indian Creek or Spanish Creek. Here in Plumas County, we prepare for a 4th of July trip to our woodland beaches and creeks by getting overheated at the High Sierra Music Festival in Quincy, or at the 4th of July Parade and Taylorsville Silver Buckle Rodeo.

On other days around July 4th, for fun we go fishing, camp out in a tent or under the stars, eat rainbow trout for dinner, or crayfish, BBQ steak, chicken, baby back ribs, roasted bell peppers, BBQ Corn in the husk, salads, dips, chips, watermelon, sandwiches or pizza. Later after badminton, basketball, gin – rummy and gin – tonic, hearts, dingbat, zip line, horseshoes, bicycles, steal the sticks and rarely showers, we drive three miles to the Grange Hall, which has a bouncing wood dance floor. We dance like Mick Jagger at the cowboy two-step dance. Still later we venture out on a moonlit four wheel drive tour of Grizzly Ridge or Mount Hough. Anything for pure craziness with hilarity while following our bliss.

Most of the fun in Taylorsville happens at a private Family Camp next door to my house that carries on all hours of the day and night. The Watson’s Walking “G” Camp for over 40 years was a boys and girls recreational Summer Camp, but in the first 16 years after the official camp ended, the more informal Family Camp took over for one long weekend a year. The last time, Family Camp included around 140 guests tent camping and celebrating the 4th of July. Of the 140 people involved, about 95 were children. Family Camp at times has resembled either an amusement park, a quiet resort, a riot, or all three, depending on the moment. The following photographs may begin to portray some of what can happen…

…At Summer Camp when people let go of having a dream and step into dreamtime…

Many thanks to Robert and Brenda Watson for their hospitality, love and care for all at Summer Family Camp. Thanks also to all those who allowed me to make their photograph. I’ve progressed significantly since 2009 and appreciate having the opportunities to develop.

Apitizers, July 4, Watson's Walking "G" Camp, Summer Family Camp, Plumas County, Northern Sierra Nevada, 2009 by David Leland Hyde.

Appetizers, July 4, Watson’s Walking “G” Camp, Summer Family Camp, Plumas County, Northern Sierra Nevada, 2009 by David Leland Hyde. (Click on Image to See Larger.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Historical Practice of Tent Camping, Watson's Walking "G" Camp, Summer Family Camp by David Leland Hyde.

Historical Practice of Tent Camping, Watson’s Walking “G” Camp, Summer Family Camp, July 4 by David Leland Hyde Click on Image to See Larger.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is It Morning Already? Family Camp, July 4, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde.

Is It Morning Already? Family Camp, July 4, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde. (Click on Image to See Larger.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Customary Walking and Smiling at Walking "G" Camp on July 4th, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde.

Customary Walking and Smiling at Walking “G” Camp on July 4th, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde. (Click on Image to See Larger.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Badminton Bliss, Family Camp, Watson's Walking "G" Summer Camp, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde.

Badminton Bliss, Family Camp, July 4, Watson’s Walking “G” Summer Camp, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde. (Click on Image to See Larger.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Young Uncle Sam, Family Camp, Watson's Walking "G" Summer Camp, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde.

Young Uncle Sam, Family Camp, July 4, Watson’s Walking “G” Summer Camp, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde. (Click on Image to See Larger.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Professional Crayfish Hunters, Family Camp, July 4, Watson's Walking "G" Summer Camp, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde. (Click on Image to See Larger.)

Salty Crayfish Hunters, Family Camp, July 4, Watson’s Walking “G” Summer Camp, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde. (Click on Image to See Larger.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welles and Brando, Family Camp, July 4, Watson's Walking "G" Summer Camp, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde.

Welles and Brando, Family Camp, July 4, Watson’s Walking “G” Summer Camp, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde (Click on Image to See Larger.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wrecking Uncle Sam With A Ping Pong Ball, July 4, Family Camp, Watson's Walking "G" Summer Camp, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde. (To See Larger Click on Image.)

Wrecking Uncle Sam With A Ping Pong Ball, July 4, Family Camp, Watson’s Walking “G” Summer Camp, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde. (To See Larger Click on Image.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Burford's Swimming Hole, July 4, Family Camp, Watson's Walking "G" Summer Camp, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde. (To See Larger Click on Image.)

Burford’s Swimming Hole, July 4, Family Camp, Watson’s Walking “G” Summer Camp, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde. (To See Larger Click on Image.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beach Hangout, Burford's Swimming Hole, July 4, Family Camp, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde. (To See Larger Click on Image.)

Beach Hangout, Burford’s Swimming Hole, July 4, Family Camp, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde. (To See Larger Click on Image.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Young Boy Still Fishing After Suddenly Outgrowing Vest, July 4, Family Camp, Watson's Walking "G" Summer Camp, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde. (To See Larger Click on Image.)

Young Boy Still Fishing After Suddenly Outgrowing Vest, July 4, Family Camp, Watson’s Walking “G” Summer Camp, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde. (To See Larger Click on Image.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tough Women of the Woods, July 4, Watson's Walking "G" Summer Camp, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde (Click on Image to See Larger.)

Tough Women of the Woods, July 4, Watson’s Walking “G” Summer Camp, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde (Click on Image to See Larger.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cowboy Taking Break From Tavern Indian Wars, July 4, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde (Click on Image to See Larger.)

Cowboy Taking Break From Tavern Indian Wars, July 4, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde (Click on Image to See Larger.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wandering Australian Cowboy From The Outback, Family Camp, July 4, Watson's Walking "G" Summer Camp, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde (Click on Image to See Larger.)

Wandering Australian Cowboy From The Outback, Family Camp, July 4, Watson’s Walking “G” Summer Camp, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde (Click on Image to See Larger.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maestro of the Bistro, Family Camp, July 4, Watson's Walking "G" Summer Camp, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde (Click on Image to See Larger.)

Maestro of the Bistro, Family Camp, July 4, Watson’s Walking “G” Summer Camp, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde (Click on Image to See Larger.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mom's Hands Shrivel After Peeling 1000 Ears of Corn, Family Camp, July 4, Watson's Walking "G" Summer Camp, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde (Click on Image to See Larger.)

Mom’s Hands Shrivel After Shucking 1000 Ears of Corn, but luckily her sister can peel at least 2000, Family Camp, July 4, Watson’s Walking “G” Summer Camp, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde (Click on Image to See Larger.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parade Clowns Planning to Smuggle Margaritas Into Mexico, Family Camp, July 4, Watson's Walking "G" Summer Camp, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde (Click on Image to See Larger.)

Parade Clowns Planning to Smuggle Margaritas Into Mexico, Family Camp, July 4, Watson’s Walking “G” Summer Camp, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde (Click on Image to See Larger.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tattooed Biker, Family Camp, July 4, Watson's Walking "G" Summer Camp, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde (Click on Image to See Larger.)

Tattooed Biker, Family Camp, July 4, Watson’s Walking “G” Summer Camp, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde (Click on Image to See Larger.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Family Camp Crazy Chaos Before Dinner, July 4, Watson's Walking "G" Summer Camp, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde (Click on Image to See Larger.)

Family Camp Crazy Chaos Before Dinner, July 4, Watson’s Walking “G” Summer Camp, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde (Click on Image to See Larger.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pitchfork Carrying Carnivorous Chef and Wicked Meat Feast, Family Camp, July 4, Watson's Walking "G" Summer Camp, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde (Click on Image to See Larger.)

Pitchfork Carrying Chef and Santa Maria Style BBQ Feast, Family Camp, July 4, Watson’s Walking “G” Summer Camp, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde (Click on Image to See Larger.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bar-B-Que Awe, Family Camp, July 4, Watson's Walking "G" Summer Camp, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde (Click on Image to See Larger.)

Bar-B-Que Awe, Family Camp, July 4, Watson’s Walking “G” Summer Camp, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde (Click on Image to See Larger.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chair Photo Sobriety Test, Family Camp, July 4, Watson's Walking "G" Summer Camp, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde (Click on Image to See Larger.)

Chair Photo Sobriety Test, Family Camp, July 4, Watson’s Walking “G” Summer Camp, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde (Click on Image to See Larger.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Family Camp Laughter and Friendship, July 4, Watson's Walking "G" Summer Camp, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde (Click on Image to See Larger.)

Family Camp Laughter and Friendship, July 4, Watson’s Walking “G” Summer Camp, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde (Click on Image to See Larger.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

July 4 Dinner Was So Late We Thought It Was Breakfast, Family Camp, July 4, Watson's Walking "G" Summer Camp, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde (Click on Image to See Larger.)

July 4 Dinner Was So Late We Thought It Was Breakfast, Family Camp, Watson’s Walking “G” Summer Camp, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde (Click on Image to See Larger.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Only Moment of Quiet Reflection, Family Camp, July 4, Watson's Walking "G" Summer Camp, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde (Click on Image to See Larger.)

The Only Moment of Quiet Reflection, Family Camp, July 4, Watson’s Walking “G” Summer Camp, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde (Click on Image to See Larger.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spreading Rumors and Gossip, Family Camp, July 4, Watson's Walking "G" Summer Camp, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde (Click on Image to See Larger.)

Spreading Rumors and Gossip, Family Camp, July 4, Watson’s Walking “G” Summer Camp, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde (Click on Image to See Larger.)

Ed Cooper: Mountaineer, Rock Climber And Large Format Photographer

January 22nd, 2015

Rock Climber And Mountaineer Ed Cooper Packed A Large Format Camera To The Top Of Many Of North America’s Highest Peaks

Now He Speaks Out About His Explorations, First Ascents, Sierra Club Books, Conservation And Philip Hyde’s Contribution

Short Bio of Ed Cooper

Ed Cooper, author and photographer, working with a newly acquired 5x7 Gundlach Bundschu view camera, top of Mt. Reynolds, Glacier National Park, Washington, copyright Ed Cooper Collection 1964.

Ed Cooper, author and photographer, working with a newly acquired 5×7 Gundlach Bundschu view camera, top of Mt. Reynolds, Glacier National Park, Washington, copyright Ed Cooper Collection 1964. Cooper nearly always carried all of his own medium and large camera equipment to the tops of many of North America’s highest peaks. The only exception Cooper could remember was once on a pack trip into the Ramparts where grizzly bears were plentiful and a horse carried his view cameras.

Ed Cooper is a pioneer mountaineer and fine art photographer who lives in the California wine country. At age 16, he climbed Mt. Rainier, 14,411′ (4392 meters), one of Washington’s most formidable peaks and photographed the experience. He has climbed and photographed mountains ever since, nearly always with a large format camera. His collection of summits includes Mt. Denali, Denali National Park, Alaska (20,320) the highest peak in North America and the 3,000 foot vertical face of El Capitan in Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park.

In December 2003, the film, In the Shadow of the Chief: The Baldwin and Cooper Story came out telling the tale of Ed Cooper and Jim Baldwin’s unusual scaling of the Grand Wall of the Stawamus Chief near Squamish, British Columbia, Canada in 1961. The climb was sponsored by the town and the film features vintage footage of the original ascent, as well as new footage of a re-enactment.

Clouds wreathe Mt. Robson, 12,972', 3954m, highest peak in the Canadian Rockies in Mt. Robson Provincial Park. Original is an 8x10 black and white negative using Tr-X film and a red filter, taken 8-18-1968 about 10 am. An 8x10 Eastman view camera and a 36" Dallmeyer lens, weighing over 10 pounds, were used in a set-up requiring two tripods. Some burning and dodging was required to bring this print to completion. Copyright Ed Cooper, British Columbia.

Clouds wreathe Mt. Robson, 12,972′, 3954m, highest peak in the Canadian Rockies in Mt. Robson Provincial Park. Original is an 8×10 black and white negative using Tr-X film and a red filter, taken 8-18-1968 about 10 am. An 8×10 Eastman view camera and a 36″ Dallmeyer lens, weighing over 10 pounds, were used in a set-up requiring two tripods. Some burning and dodging was required to bring this print to completion. Copyright Ed Cooper, British Columbia.

His new book, Soul of Yosemite: Portraits Of Light And Stone (2011) consists of a selection, from his collection of Yosemite images dating back to 1962, which best represents the area and fits into the organization of the book entering Yosemite National Park from El Portal, progressing through Yosemite Valley on Southside Drive and on to Tuolumne Meadows, including a short section on the Hetch-Hetchy area, now a reservoir, once a valley flooded in 1914. It also includes a short section on the author climbing a new route on El Capitan in 1962.

His previous book, Soul of the Heights: 50 Years Going to the Mountains (2007) offers glimpses into mountaineering and rock climbing in the 1950s and early 1960s during the highly competitive era of first ascents, through his own experiences, photographs and exclusive firsthand accounts by climbers of the era about their first ascents of now top destination climbs. Ed Cooper’s 4×5 and 5×7 photographs include portraits of many of the best-known peaks in North America. His earlier books are Soul of the Rockies: Portraits of America’s Largest Mountain Range, The American Wilderness in the Words of John Muir, Grand Canyon: Shrine of the Ages and Early Mining Days – California Gold Country: The Story Behind the Scenery. Ed Cooper’s photographs graced the famous Sierra Club Desk Calendars for many years, as well as many other prominent publications including many of the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series books and other Sierra Club Books and publications.

Climbing Mountains, Photographing For Sierra Club Books, Glen Canyon And Conservation

By Ed Cooper, March 2012

Date: Sometime in late 1956 or early 1957

Place: Washington State

Climber on cornice at about the 12,000' (3650m) altitude on Mt. Robson. Mt. Resplendent, 11,240' (3426m) is in the left background. Copyright Ed Cooper Photo 1961. British Columbia.

Climber on cornice at about the 12,000′ (3650m) altitude on Mt. Robson. Mt. Resplendent, 11,240′ (3426m) is in the left background. Copyright Ed Cooper Photo 1961. British Columbia.

Back then I was about 20 years old, busying myself with climbing the volcanoes and other peaks in the Pacific Northwest. These activities were carried on when I was not occupied with my studies at the University of Washington, or perhaps I should say, I went climbing when I should have been occupied with my studies. I had aspirations to visit other mountain areas also, such as the Sierra Nevada. One day I walked into a bookstore and spotted the following book: The Climber’s Guide to the High Sierrawritten by Hervey Voge and published by the Sierra Club. Immediately I purchased the book from the meager funds I had available at that time.

At the first opportunity, I sat down to look through the book and began to plan climbing objectives in the Sierra Nevada for the time when my financial situation would allow me to go there. At the front of the book were 17 black and white photographs. Six of the photos were by Ansel Adams, whose name I had heard only recently at that time. However, as I looked at all the images, my gaze quickly settled on one that was my favorite–the   now iconic black and white photograph of Lake Ediza and the Minarets with the rock slabs on the left side of the picture. All the elements fall into place perfectly. It turned out that the photographer was Philip Hyde. Years later I heard that Ansel Adams had remarked that he liked Philip Hyde’s rendition of the Minarets better than his own.

It was to be a number of years before I made it to the Sierra Nevada, but it was not nearly so long before I learned more about Philip Hyde and his outstanding contribution–through his photography–to the conservation movement.

I remember looking with fascination at This is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country and Its Magic Rivers(1955) with an introduction and chapter by Pulitzer Prize winner Wallace Stegner and photographs by Philip Hyde and Martin Litton. Somewhat later I pored over Island in Time: The Point Reyes Peninsula(1962) by Harold Gilliam and Philip Hyde. Philip’s books were all aimed at protecting diverse wilderness areas in the Western US. He provided more photography for the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series than did any other photographer.

Igloo Camp at about 13,500' (4115m) at Windy Corner on Mt. Denali (was Mt. McKinley) 20,320' (6194m) June, 1958. Climber Fergus O'Connor is on the right. Copyright Ed Cooper Photo. Alaska.

Igloo Camp at about 13,500′ (4115m) at Windy Corner on Mt. Denali (was Mt. McKinley) 20,320′ (6194m) June, 1958. Climber Fergus O’Connor is on the right. Copyright Ed Cooper Photo. Denali National Park, Alaska.

In these years my climbs became increasingly difficult, but I found that I had a penchant for photography myself, progressing from an Ansco Panda box camera, to two 2 ¼ square folding cameras, and finally to my first 4×5 camera—a Speed Graphic in 1962. Later I progressed to actual view cameras, 4×5, 5×7 and 8×10. I found myself becoming more interested in capturing images on film than reaching summits or climbing large cliff faces.

I made what might be considered a pilgrimage about 1969 to meet Philip in his home in the northern Sierra Nevada. He was gracious; there was no air of pretentiousness about him. He wowed me by showing me his studio work area and many samples of his darkroom prints.

The Exhibit Format Series packed a powerful punch. How powerful it was I did not realize until February of 2012, when I received a letter from Bill Douglas in Annapolis, Maryland. I had done photography for The Alpine Lakes, a de facto wilderness area in the Cascade Mountains not far from Seattle. This book was published in a large format edition, similar to the Sierra Club Books, by the Seattle Mountaineers in 1971. The pressure by the mining, logging, and other interests to exploit this area was intense.

Bill described how President Ford had been persuaded to sign the bill to protect the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area. Washington’s then Governor Dan Evans had flown to Washington for an appointment with President Ford to try to persuade him to sign the bill, but had forgotten to take a copy of The Alpine Lakes book with him. Bill Douglas and Dan Evans were hiking buddies who had talked about the importance of this meeting. Bill ended up taking his own copy of the book to the White House, where Dan showed the book to President Ford. Words were not needed. Ford exclaimed something like “This is beautiful country – it’s gotta be protected,” and signed the bill. Bill still has that book with the inscription “To Bill Douglas, with warmest best wishes, Gerald R. Ford.” That is the power of conservation photography.

Photographer Ed Cooper with special telephoto set-up for large format. An 8x10 Eastman Kodak view camera was attached to a 36" Dallmeyer lens (former aerial spy lens). Two tripods were required to support this set-up. Ed Cooper installed a Packard shutter triggered by a red bulb. September 1970 in the White Mountains looking towards the Sierra Nevada. Copyright Debby Cooper Photo. California.

Photographer Ed Cooper with special telephoto set-up for large format. An 8×10 Eastman Kodak view camera was attached to a 36″ Dallmeyer lens (former aerial spy lens). Two tripods were required to support this set-up. Ed Cooper installed a Packard shutter triggered by a red bulb. September 1970 in the White Mountains looking towards the Sierra Nevada. Copyright Debby Cooper Photo. California.

While Philip’s books resulted in the protection of many wild areas, conservationists will always remember with regret the place that got away. I refer to Glen Canyon, flooded when Glen Canyon Dam was built to create what is now Lake Powell in Utah and Arizona. I am sure Philip felt this regret acutely, as he had spent time capturing one-of-a-kind images of this now flooded national treasure. On a visit there just recently in 2011, I saw large areas of ugly mud flats left behind by receding Lake Powell with the reservoir level at that time down more than 100 feet.

Philip Hyde said: “For every place there will always be people that want to exploit it, and there will always be people—hopefully—that want to save it and keep it as it is. Even with the risk of inviting crowds into Paradise, better to publish your photographs and rally the troops. What’s in the frame of the photograph matters artistically, to be sure, but what’s outside the frame can destroy it.” Truer words were never spoken.

We are fortunate to have David Leland Hyde, Philip’s son, continuing to bring his father’s legacy to us in digital restorations of many of Philip’s images that were crucially important to the conservation movement, as well as the stories behind them. Both the stories and images might otherwise be lost.