Note on article: The following article was sent as a side bar to Sierra Magazine article by Andrew Beckers titled I Was Here, in the July/August 2008 issue. I received the request from magazine editor Paul Rauber who I had contacted six months prior letting him know that I had rescued the oldest register in the Sierra and was interested in doing an article.
The recent spate of Sierra summit register rip-off and destruction finally pushed me to retrieve the oldest register in the Sierra.
The secret wouldn’t last; but it just might. I‘d kept my mouth shut for fifteen years. I didn’t even tell Steve Roper, my longtime Sierra buddy, where the register was!
I did tell Robin Ingraham Junior. I owed it to Robin. An avid Sierra peak bagger and register aficionado, Robin had figured out that Mount Woodworth might have the original record still in place.
In 1992 my wife, Nancy, and I made a trip to see if Robin was right. The summit itself was nothing special, a Class 2 grunt over some miles of loose terrain. After a few minutes of searching, we carefully opened the metal cylinder and found the frail scrap of paper with Bolton Coit Brown’s signature, route description and 1895 date. The list of mountaineers in the register was a “who’s who” of Sierra climbing. There was plenty of space left to sign on the pages that had John Muir listed as Sierra Club president. We added our names and left.
Last fall, Robin called to tell me he had seen an internet post that included pictures and a description of the Woodworth register. While we chatted, I googled the website. Sure enough, there was the campsite to campsite account leading to the register! Robin was seething. It was agreed that the register was in peril. Now it’s time to take it down.
But then I hesitated, I needed to button up construction projects for the winter, it had just snowed 6 inches, and the days were short. I didn’t have to care about a bunch of old paper! I finally cut the excuses and drove to the trailhead.
I trudged through slick loose powder up Bishop Pass. Crossing into Dusy basin, there was not a soul in sight this November day. As I traveled, I lost myself in memories of skiing the John Muir Trail and traversing the Devil’s Crags. These youthful adventures had really set the course of my life. I thought of meeting and talking with Dave Brower, Jules Eichorn, Glen Dawson, and Richard and Doris Leonard. Their names preceded mine in the registers; their history blended into mine.
At the summit of Woodworth, I was greeted by an icy blast of wind. Snow grains whipped through the air and drummed the hood of my parka. It was with immense relief that I saw the register. Time for this old thing to get down the mountain before it’s too late.
The time is past when the air was clearer and a register could sit undisturbed for over one hundred years. What’s next, I wondered. What will my daughter see? I jammed my hands into my gloves and headed back to camp.
Afterword: Of course after I retreived the register there was a spate of recriminations for the action. For the record I hand delivered the register to the Bancroft Library.
The following article by Robin Ingraham Jr. will decisively round file the arguments against preserving historic Sierra registers at the Bancroft Library