• Snowmaking in the Time of Drought THAT THE SIERRA might not be so very nevada one day might have been inconceivable to the Spaniards who named the range, or to members of the Donner Party who struggled through house-high drifts, or to those World War II-era entrepreneurs who built ski lifts reaching to the tops of Mammoth Mountain, Tahoe's Slide Mountain, Mount Lincoln, Heavenly Peak, and Squaw Peak. But Sierran snow seems to have become more fickle. Although there have been the hallelujah winters
  • That House of Happiness IN 2012, I JOURNEYED with several climbing partners to an area of the Karakoram known only on satellite maps, arguably the last unexplored corner of the range. Our trek began at 11,000 feet from a lone village and ascended a canyon cut by a torrent of meltwater that told of glaciated mountains above. As we climbed higher, our eyes opened wider—to churning and sacred waterfalls, a mysterious […]
  • The Majesty Polarity IN THE LAST DECADE OF THE LAST CENTURY, the videographer, writer and bon vivant Michael Strassman spied a line on a certain Minaret in the High Sierra, a slab-to-knife-edge buttress so obvious in its stegosaurus-like sweep from snowfield to summit that he double-checked the usual sources to ensure that his efforts would result in a first ascent. […]
  • Life on the Divide “YOU AREN’T GONNA BUILD NO HOUSE OF STRAW IN MY COUNTY!” my wife Leslie and I were told by a small-town bureaucrat in our rural corner of California. After dogged persuasion, the county relented and granted us a permit for Mono County’s first bale home. We built it on a small divide above the brilliant green […]
  • Like Surfers Gone Alpine “WHAT is alpinism, anyway?” Terry Kearney was starting to rave as we burned through the last of our fuel. It was the morning after our second bivy. The sun played coy with our perch on the north face of Birch Mountain, in the outer orbit of the Palisades. “Is it all speed-aided 72-hour push up some […]
  • Swallowed Whole ON THE EVENING OF FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 6, 2015, a wildfire swept through the small communities of Paradise and Swall Meadows, located along the eastern escarpment of California’s Sierra Nevada. Fueled by extreme drought and 100-mile-per-hour winds, the fire raced through the tinder-dry brush and pinyon pine forests, burning 40 homes and 7,000 acres. The inferno would become […]
  • The Winter Of His Disbelief I’M NOT A SUPERSTITIOUS GUY, BUT REALLY, I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN. I’m no meteorologist either, but after 35 years of living in the high country, even I knew that depending on how it set up, the weak El Nino the long-range forecasters were predicting could mean dry as much as it could mean wet. Still, after […]
  • Searching for Jensen YES, I KNEW SOMETHING of the great mountaineer Don Jensen; after all, I bore wit­ness to his Sierran legacy with every ram­ble up either fork of the Sierra Nevada’s Big Pine Creek. But I didn’t really know Jensen, nor did but a hand­ful of people. Last sum­mer, while intern­ing at Alpinist Magazine, I set out to discover who he was. By […]
  • The Pied Pipers of Pow I SKI BECAUSE Allan Bard and Tom Carter told me to. Anyone who banked a telemark turn in the Sierra Nevada in the go-go 80’s knows those names and their legacy; Bard and Carter were climbing and skiing partners, business partners, fellow guides, co-conspirators, and the masterminds of gobsmacking tours across the Range of Light, the latter of which they did on […]
  • David Beck: Architect of the Sierra High Route Originally published in Couloir Magazine. I’M SCHLEPPING A 65-POUND PACK up Symmes Creek Gorge, playing Sherman to David Beck’s Mr. Peabody, helping him escort seven clients on a ski tour of California’s Sierra High Route. We’re just an hour into the first day’s climb of 4,000 feet, and I’m stressed, spent, and wondering why I […]