Mount Clark ~ Yosemite National Park (September 1986)

Up until 2008, our adventures were retained only as memories and on Kodachromes. While our memories may have faded (just a bit), the Kodachromes haven’t – and we have a lot of them. So we’re digitizing a select few to bring some of our past adventures into the 21st Century. This is one of those.

In 1986, I was teaching a mountaineering class for the Sierra Club in Los Angeles. One of my students was a reporter for the Los Angeles Times. He offered to write a piece for the Times about a post-class mountaineering trip that we were planning. His editors gave him the go-ahead and then proceeded to find an outdoor photographer to accompany us on the climb. My reporter student called me up and asked if I’d ever heard of “some guy” named Galen Rowell and would he be able to do the climb? I literally dropped the phone (fortunately it was still attached to a cord in those olden days). Galen Rowell! One of the foremost photojournalists and mountaineers of his day! In fairness, my reporter specialized in foreign affairs and probably knew more about agriculture in Botswana than climbing and Rowell.

With Rowell coming along, we switched our objective to the Northwest Areté route on Mount Clark in the Yosemite Wilderness. We went with this peak because of the long-standing connection between Rowell and Yosemite (the peak is named for Galen Clark) and the areté because it is a stunning, clean line that was well within my recent student’s capabilities (high Class 3 to low Class 5). Could Rowell do the climb? Ha! It was all we could do to keep up with him as he and his assistant climbed beside us unroped, shooting photos almost non-stop! His assistant would load and unload the 35mm film cameras – which they tossed back and forth as they climbed. In all, he must have shot 75 rolls of film that day. It was amazing to watch.

Long story short, our group made the summit and we all got back safely. My reporter wrote the story, Rowell submitted his photos, and then the editors decided not to run it. So sad. 😦 But this bit of disappointment was way more than compensated for by having had the chance to accompany, ever so briefly, one of the great climbers and photographers of the day. 😀 Rowell also proved to be a nice guy who spent a lot of time chatting with us around the campfire. It was such a loss when he, his wife Barbara, and two friends were killed in a small plane crash in 2002. 😥

Hiking in to camp from the Glacier Point Road
Mount Clark from our camp
Galen Rowell (center) talks with us around the campfire
Sunset at camp
After some cross-country walking, we started climbing to gain the Nortwest Ridge
A climber (arrow) on the ridge
Moving along the ridge
Much of the ridge is just very exposed Class 3
A little Class 4 is required in spots
Summit!
We rappelled off to shorten the walk to camp
On rappell!
Approximate location of our camp (this was pre-GPS) relative to Mount Clark
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2 comments

  1. Thank you Bruce! We often talk about this climb. Our oldest daughter, Erica, wanted so badly to track down the photos. She always reminded us of that when she passed through Bishop, past the store which is gone now also. I wish I recognized everyone on the hike. Looks like Bernadette, who we do see often. And Len, who we lost track of. I always remember how huge Galen’s thighs were and how he scampered up to get a piece of webbing that we were going to leave. I wish we had his photos of the climb, but we are so happy to see your photos.

    1. Thanks for letting me know you appreciate me finding them! I saw an early photo (Yosemite, 1965) of Rowell the other day and that triggered a look through my slides for these. I wasn’t sure I’d actually taken a picture of Galen with us, but I had, so I scanned and posted them. Sorry to say I only recognize you two and Len in these – and have only stayed in touch with you guys. I know Galen gave Len one of his photos but I’m guessing the rest are either still with Mountain Light or the LA Times.

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