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Sierra Club

Sierra Club. Early in February 1951 the activities of the climbing-and-skiing contingent in the Sierra Club took on the shape of a trans-Sierra ski tour. Two parties, one starting from the E. at Whitney Portal and the other from the W. in Giant Forest, planned to meet in the center of the range and then exchange cars at the finish. After a two-day, 4000-ft. struggle in reaching the 13,300-ft. pass N. of Mt. Whitney, the E.-W. party turned back, one of its members having suffered a wrenched knee. The W.-E. group (William Dunmire, James Wilson, Allen Steck and Norman Goldstein) successfully completed the traverse after eleven days of semiskiing—rocks, logs, sometimes even snow. The party climbed Mt. Tyndall (14,025 ft.), making possibly the first ski ascent.

Members in the southern part of the state have been pioneering in the Piute Crags of the Sierra Nevada. The major crags rise 300-400 ft. above the notches terminating the couloirs, and the highest stands at about 12,300 ft. Ray Van Aken, Ray Osoling and George Harr made the first ascent of Crag No. 2 after surmounting several fourth-class pitches. Charles and Ellen Wilts and George Harr found that Crag No. 4 required pitons for the ascent. Harr and Wilts found Crag No. 1 equally demanding.

Other climbs, already mentioned in this Journal, included those on Mts. Bear and Bona, by a group from the San Francisco Bay area, and those on Phantom Pinnacle and Sugar Loaf Dome.

Will Siri is continuing his experimental measurement of belays (standing, sitting, variations) and rappel loads. Apparently the best belaying positions fail under tension of 300-400 lbs.—only twice a man’s weight. The secret of success in stopping a fall lies, of course, in use of the dynamic belay, and particularly in allowing the rope to run over a rock ledge or through a karabiner, either of which can absorb the greater part of the shock load. Also, it is now known that the belayer’s coefficient of friction is about 0.5. This means that he can hold 150 lbs. by applying only 15 lbs. to the free end of the rope around his waist. Load failures for sitting and standing shoulder belays appeared to be roughly the same. In the latter, however, the belayer lost complete control of the rope and himself. The sitting belayer, after failure, was able still to exert some force on the rope. The European standing shoulder belay has been shown, quite convincingly, to be inadequate.

It seems worth while to mention that on the 1947 trip in the Coast Range Robin Hansen, Richard Houston and Oscar Cook worked out almost exactly the same dynamic snow belay described by Fred Beckey in the A.A.J. for 1951. Sierra Club parties have continued to employ it since then.

Allen Steck and Oscar A. Cook