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Apr 27 2014

Dave Beck: Architect of the Sierra High Route

 

Dave Beck — Architect and veteran of the Sierra High Route.

Dave Beck — Architect and veteran of the Sierra High Route.

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 agreed to be Beck’s Sherpa boy. The nervous energy bottled up in this small but potent group of overachievers could power the Eastern Sierra town of Independence, and I’m feeling the heat of it; I’ve already chastised a Brentwood gynecologist about pissing in Symmes Creek (“But urine is sterile!”), and discouraged an eager but overfed Silicon Valley exec from trying to outpace a lithe anesthesiologist from Carson City. At this rate, I’ll be ostracized from the group before we reach the Sierra Crest.

Then I spy Beck, who is entirely unruffled, casually strolling at the rear of the pack, the picture of guiding perfection. He’s gently shepherding the members of his flock up and over some of the most imposing terrain in California’s Sierra Nevada.

Dave Beck gets serious about crossing the Sierra.

Dave Beck gets serious about crossing the Sierra.

I survey Beck’s lambs from a hidden perch hard by a towering lodgepole. They’re wearing plastic telemark boots and they’re humping fifty-pound packs up a steep dirt trail on a 70 degree day in early May. They’re thinking of the tens of thousands of feet they’ll have to climb, thin air to which they’ll have to acclimatize, and icy slopes they’ll have to navigate in the days to come. They wear the slightly bemused expressions of those who have ordered their filet well-done, only to find it served up tartare — but they’re too proud to return the meat to the kitchen. Barring any unforeseen acts of the Almighty, they figure they’ll pull off the ski tour of the Lower 48, because they are following William David Beck, the architect — the veritable Howard Roarke — of the Sierra High Route. All must go well.

The High Route, after all, is his route.

It's not all schlepping heavy packs, there's usually time to sample classic Sierra corn too.

It’s not all schlepping heavy packs, there’s usually time to sample classic Sierra corn too.


 
Couloir IX-3, Dec. '97 w/Kasha on the cover.

Couloir IX-3, Dec. ’97
w/Kasha on the cover.


 
Read the rest of this article by Brad Rassler on his website Sustainable Play.com.
 
 
This article was first published in Couloir magazine, Vol. IX-3, December 1997

© 1997