Home A - Z FAQ Art Prints Online Library Discussion Forum Muir Weather Maps About Search
Online Library: Title Author California Geology History Indians Muir Mountaineering Nature Management

Next: First AscentsContentsPrevious: Outings

“Exploration of the Sierra Nevada” (1925)
by Francis P. Farquhar


Mountaineering

From the days of Clarence King in 1864, the High Sierra peaks have been an attraction to mountain climbers. They present problems quite different from those of the Alps and other regions where snow and ice predominate and where sudden storms produce dangerous situations that require extreme caution. Summer storms in the Sierra are infrequent and, excepting for lightning on exposed places, are never dangerous. The larger peaks of the Sierra Nevada are granite and, saving a few snow-fields such as those on Mount Lyell and Mount Ritter, most of the difficult climbing is on the bare rock—in this respect somewhat resembling the Dolomites. Most of the adventures recounted in the first ascents of the Sierra peaks occurred on attempts to find the routes; the second and subsequent ascents rarely produced the same degree of difficulty.

Clarence King, as already mentioned, did not have the faculty of discovering the easiest routes and made a great deal of hard work out of ascents that other climbers have found comparatively easy. Nevertheless, it should be remembered that King was surrounded by conditions with which his successors did not have to deal. No one then knew just how difficult or dangerous these mountains were, and in such cases there is always a tendency to exaggerate. Moreover, King was a novice at the art of climbing and did not have the advantage of being taught by skillful climbers of long experience. For these reasons he should not be too severely criticized.

Muir was a climber of an entirely different type; possessing the highest degree of skill and the steadiest of nerves, he was able to scramble where probably few individuals would ever be able to follow. Muir climbed for the sake of pure enjoyment and for the purpose of observing the particular things that he wanted to see. Records of his climbs were incidental to his major interests, and for that reason we can seldom tell from the published accounts of his Sierra experiences just what mountains he climbed or, when that is known, by what route or on what date. Undoubtedly he climbed many a peak upon which he was the unrecorded first visitor.

Between the time of King and Muir and the activities of the Sierra Club members, only a few names appear in the annals of Sierra mountaineering. Most of these names appear in the list of first ascents of the principal peaks given below. The narratives of first ascents since 1890 are in most cases to be found in the pages of the Sierra Club Bulletin, and many of them deserve a high place in mountaineering literature. Many other parties climbed these and other less prominent peaks, but excepting for the discovery of better routes, their records hardly belong in a history of exploration.

The following list is compiled largely from the Sierra Club Bulletin and precise references to original authorities may be traced in most instances through the list of place names to be found in the issues of 1923, 1924, and 1925. The elevations are from the United States Geological Survey maps.


Next: First AscentsContentsPrevious: Outings

Home A - Z FAQ Art Prints Online Library Discussion Forum Muir Weather Maps About Search
Online Library: Title Author California Geology History Indians Muir Mountaineering Nature Management

http://www.yosemite.ca.us/library/exploration_of_the_sierra_nevada/mountaineering.html