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Secor's "The High Sierra" guidebook

4:13 p.m. on December 31, 2013 (EST)
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This guidebook, now in its 3rd edition, is a very complete guide to hiking and climbing in the Sierra. I was told a couple days ago that my name appears in the acknowledgements as having contributed to the guide.

I have known RJ for many years, having first met him when this 16 yo kid showed up at one of the Angeles Rock Climbing Section's outings. According to him some years later, I taught him "everything I know about climbing", along with climbers like Mike Sherrick, John and Ruth Mendenhall, and others in the RCS. RJ also told me I took him up his first multi-pitch climb, the Ski Tracks (5.6) at Tahquitz. I don't really remember all the details, but I do remember him as a talented young climber. Several years ago, RJ was hiking on Mount Baldy, making a winter ascent (San Gabriel Mountains, just east and a bit north to the LA Area), when he slipped and ended up sliding for more than 1000 ft from the ridge down toward the Sierra Club's ski hut. He was in a coma for a couple months, but eventually recovered to a large extent, the last time I saw him at the Outdoor Retailer Show in Salt Lake. He also authored excellent guides to Denali, the Mexican Volcanoes, and Aconcagua.

So, I picked up a copy of the 3rd edition and found it is a marvellously expanded guide, with history, excellent descriptions of hiking trails in the Sierra and a huge number of technical climbs put up over the years. The topos and drawings of routes on the photographs are quite useful.

Since I am listed as a contributor (page 11, second column, 4th line), I scanned through some of the climbs I have done. I discovered I am listed (along with my partner) for the first ascent of the Northeast face route (II, 5.5) on Mt Humphreys (p 323). I well remember that climb. About halfway up the face, McArthy on his lead had a rock fall out under his foot and pulled the muscles in his right arm. Because of that, I had to lead all the remaining pitches instead of the usual swinging of leads. We summited just fine, along with others from the RCS, most of whom had come up the East Arete, though Sy Ossofsky and Bobby Lilley had put up a parallel route (II, 5.6) and Bill Burke (a climbing partner from my CalTech days) and Tom Condon put up a route on the North Face, Left Side (III, 5.9). We had a near accident on the way down, though. Several climbers had rappelled down and headed down the North Couloir. I rappelled down, followed by McArthy. As we headed over to the couloir, one of the other climbers had just started his rappel and managed to kick loose a VW-sized block of granite. I ducked around the corner and McArthy ducked back into a narrow chimney. The block hit the chimney and shattered. There was a bit of silence, since we were sure McArthy had been crushed. But he came out of the chimney, looking shaken and covered in rock dust. The climber who had knocked the boulder loose was hanging just where the boulder had been, eyes bugging out of his head. McArthy's only comment was "That was scarey!" He later described how he had seen the block hit right in front of his face and had thought he was doomed.

We headed down the couloir with no further incidents, packed up camp, and headed to the cars for the long drive home. But wait! we weren't done yet. Several of us piled into Ossofsky's station wagon, drove the rough road through Buttermilk Country to get to Hwy 395. By now it was after dark, so most of us in the car were dozing. I was leaning against the rear seat right side door, when suddenly a loud BANG! woke me up to see chunks of rubber flying past my face (on the other side of the window). Sy pulled over and we all got out to inspect the damage. The tire was one of the just recently appearing in the US Michelin steel-belted radials. It had lost most of its rubber, leaving the steel cable reinforcement wrapped around the rear axle. After a lot of work, we did manage to get the wheel removed along with the steel cable, and the spare put back on. Sy drove a bit more slowly than usual the rest of the way back to LA.

April 20, 2014
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