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. 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.
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