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The High Sierra: Peaks, Passes, and Trails

The High Sierra: Peaks, Passes, and Trails. R.J. Secor. The Mountaineers, Seattle, WA, 1992. 368 pages. Black-and-white photos and maps. $19.95.

R.J. Secor contributes, with this latest guide to the Sierra Nevada, new climbing routes gleaned from various publications. But the bulk of route descriptions and ratings are the same as are found in Steve Roper’s Climber’s Guide to the High Sierra, published in 1976. This inevitably perpetuates past errors. In addition, consensus amongst Sierra climbers is that Secor’s research was incomplete or non-existent, leading to the creation of many new errors. For example, Secor states, “Mono to Morgan Traverse. This multi-day traverse rivals and in some places exceeds the Palisade traverse. ...” The statement is inane. Secor failed to contact anyone who might have made an informed comparison or comment. Other examples include the wrong photo for the North Rib of Mount Williamson, the incorrect numbering of the Ericsson’s Crags, the wrong description for the east face of Devil’s Crag Number Two, and others.

The book’s introduction also serves as a source of misinformation and confusion. For example, in the “Conservation” section of the introduction, the reader is told that fire wood is a “finite resource and must be used sparingly,” followed by “instead of a wood fire, cook on a stove,” followed by advice on how to build a fire, followed by . . but consider using a stove.” Or advice is given, such as “Despite having discouraged hikers from using Kearsarge Pass, I do encourage them to use Kearsarge. ...”

In the “Avalanche” section, Secor makes the general statement, “Avalanches occur most frequently after a snowfall of four inches or more.” The advice to “stay off steep terrain for at least one day after said snowfall” is laughable in the context in which it is presented.

The examples could continue but are too many for the space available. Consensus amongst Sierra climbers and others is that although Roper’s guide is in need of update and correction, that eloquently written book still serves the reading public quite well, and much better than this latest arrival.

Claude Fiddler