American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Thomas Hughes Jukes, 1906-1999

  • In Memoriam
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2000


Tom Jukes was born in Hastings, England, in 1906 and died on November 1, 1999, in Berkeley, CA, after a short illness. He was a classical environmentalist, a scientist of the first order and a long-time mountaineer and explorer of the Sierra Nevada. All who knew him were impressed with his devotion to accuracy in science, his unwillingness to suffer fools gladly, his sense of humor and his unequalled energy. At the age of 93, Tom was still working at the University of California.

Tom’s first backpack trip in the Sierra took place in the summer of 1935, when he went from Kearsarge Pass to Bishops Pass along the John Muir Trail. From then until 1980, he spent part of every summer in the Sierra, where he climbed innumerable peaks, fished scores of its lakes and crossed most of the highest passes. On his last backpack trip in the Sierra, he went again through Kearsarge Pass and from there to Charlotte Lake, a favorite fishing spot.

That year, a knee replacement put an end to his backpacking, but beginning the next year he went with his wife, Marguerite, his children and grandchildren to Virginia Lake in the Northern Sierra each summer until just three years ago. There were only two summers when he did not visit the Sierra—the war years of 1943 and 1944.

Tom was a life member and an ardent supporter of the Sierra Club, founding its Atlantic Chapter in 1950. It was the first chapter to be formed outside of California and became one of the more successful. In the late 1960s, he became disillusioned with the direction the Sierra Club was taking. He believed that control was moving from genuine environmentalists such as Ansel Adams, Francis Farquhar, Dick Leonard and Raffi Bedayn to those who, for the most part, had little experience in the wilderness and no knowledge of the science that makes up the environment.

Tom’s first skirmish with the new environmentalism occurred in 1962 with the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. The Sierra Club extolled the book, despite its lack of science and its failure to acknowledge that DDT had been responsible for saving innumerable lives and for its potential to continue to do so, particularly in the Third World. This was a crusade that he led until the end of his life.

In November, 1985, he again took up battle, this time against the banning of all Sierra Club climbing activities. The fight was unsuccessful. The new leadership could not be persuaded that climbing was an important aspect and a part of the appreciation of the wilderness. They did not much care that early climbers such as John Muir, Dick Leonard, David Brower, and Francis Farquhar were responsible for what the Sierra Club stood for and for the policies that made it what it had become by the 1960s.

I think it apt to quote a poem composed and sent to Tom by Ansel Adams in 1972 during one of Tom’s duels with the Sierra Club.

We cannot trust the bastards No matter what their stripe!

Wild or modest, sweet or sour They never fail to gripe!!

My rhyme has failed,

My vision paled,

I won’t be strafed or Holy Graded!!! Or to the GROUPTHINK Cross be nailed!

Enough—enough; you understand!

A few things left are truly GRAND!!


The Bearded Bard

Although Tom Jukes was dedicated to California and the Sierra, he spent many years on the East Coast during and after WWII. Many California mountaineers in the 1940s and ’50s showed up on his doorstep for one reason or another, be it graduate study or passing through on the way to Europe. All of us will remember the warm welcome and hospitality that he and Marguerite offered, no matter the time of day or night.

Robin Hansen

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