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winter JMT thru-hike -- in 1929!

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  • Rick
    Everyone who is following the current thread on traversing the JMT in May and who is contemplating dealing with the snow and ice that may linger on the JMT
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 27, 2005
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      Everyone who is following the current thread on traversing the JMT in
      May and who is contemplating dealing with the snow and ice that may
      linger on the JMT well into the summer this year might be interested
      in the story of a winter JMT thru-hike which took place more than 75
      years ago. Below is an article off the AP newswire from April of
      last year which describes the journey. The book mentioned in the
      article dates from 1974 -- I was able to find a copy in the Sonoma
      County Library, and perhaps others living in California can find a
      copy locally.

      Rick Beebe
      Santa Rosa CA
      JMT '04

      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


      Son, fans seek recognition for skier who made high Sierra winter
      ascent

      BRIAN MELLEY

      Associated Press

      YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. - Escaping avalanches, enduring
      blizzards and surviving an entire winter skiing the rugged Sierra
      crest, Orland Bartholomew made history 75 years ago - scoring the
      first winter ascent of Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the United
      States at the time.

      The 14-week journey that ended April 3, 1929, was an early feat of ski
      mountaineering at a time when skiing was in its infancy in North
      America and climbing in the Sierra Nevada was a warm weather pursuit.

      But hardly anyone noticed. No record was kept at the park of his
      arrival, and his 300-mile adventure remains nearly as little-known
      today as it was when he finished.

      Now Bartholomew's son, a group of avid skiers and some history buffs
      are working to resurrect the memory of his trek by naming a peak for
      him in the mountains that were his home until he died in 1957.

      "There's so many other people who were never in the Sierra, others
      who did next to nothing to get their names on a peak," said Gene
      Rose, author of "High Odyssey," a book chronicling the improbable
      trek. "It's really almost tragic that history has almost bypassed
      this great Sierra icon."

      "Bart," as he was known, recruited his friend and colleague, Ed
      Steen, for the trip and lined up $1,000 from an organization
      promoting travel in the Fresno area. The two men spent the summer of
      1928 storing provisions throughout the high country, using pack
      horses to haul 30-gallon garbage cans of food they hung from trees.

      But their sponsor backed out and so did Steen. Bartholomew decided to
      go it alone.

      The route would roughly follow the yet-to-be-completed John Muir
      Trail - named for another Sierra trailblazer - covering remote and
      spectacular terrain from the 14,495-foot top of Whitney to Yosemite.

      To take a spill alone would spell doom. Even today, standing atop the
      passes and peaks Bartholomew scaled gives the sensation of an endless
      labyrinth of soaring mountains and plummeting canyons.

      To meander up the spine of the range on skis with a 70-pound backpack
      was considered by many to be a foolhardy proposition. Even
      Bartholomew had second thoughts, contemplating in his journal that he
      might "break my fool neck."

      In persevering, and making first winter ascents on Mount Langley and
      Mount Tyndall, both over 14,000 feet, he opened the Sierra Nevada -
      Spanish for "snowy mountains" - to winter recreation.

      Bill Tweed, chief naturalist for Sequoia and Kings Canyon national
      parks, views Bartholomew as a forefather of those who embrace
      nature's challenges.

      "In a way, he's the direct precursor to modern day extreme mountain
      sports," Tweed said.

      On Christmas Day 1928, Bartholomew, who would turn 30 that winter,
      got a lift up the road leading from Lone Pine to Cottonwood Pass on
      the Sierra's steep east side. He hiked until the snow got deep around
      8,000 feet and strapped on his new custom-built hickory skis and
      pushed off with poles fashioned from rake handles.

      Five years ago, Art Baggett stood in the same place with the goal of
      following those long-vanished tracks. With his 17-year-old son and
      two other expert skiers, the four were the first to trace
      Bartholomew's course.

      Skiing with lighter, modern equipment and using techniques much
      evolved - opening up new terrain and making steeper pitches skiable -
      the group covered the same distance in less than a month.

      But they slogged through snow eight of their first 11 days and
      listened to the report of avalanches echoing off the mountainsides.

      "That gives you an idea of what this guy faced," said Baggett,
      chairman of the State Water Resources Control Board. "It was an
      amazing, amazing feat he pulled off."

      While the expedition renewed their respect for a man who single-
      handedly took on the mountains, it didn't achieve their goal of
      getting a peak named for him.

      An 11,099-foot mountain near the Minarets, a section of soaring
      spires in the Ansel Adams Wilderness of Sierra National Forest where
      Bartholomew later worked as a ranger, remains unnamed. Efforts are
      underway to get Bartholomew's name on the summit.

      U.S. Rep. George Radanovich, R-Calif., wrote the U.S. Board on
      Geographic Names in support of a Mount Bartholomew after recording a
      tribute to the skier and his latter-day followers in the
      congressional record five years ago.

      Philip Bartholomew, a retired fishery biologist, filed the necessary
      forms with the federal government last week to give his father, a
      quiet, modest man, the exposure he deserves.
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