Part of his mystique comes from participating in high-profile mountain rescues and recoveries, in which he is credited with saving a number of lives. Those who had the good fortune to meet him—often with a 90 lb. pack on his back that included an anvil for boot repair, fishing rods, cooking pots, and books in Greek and Latin—never forgot the experience. Biographer Robert C. Pavlik uses Clyde's own words, along with recollections of his family, friends, fellow climbers, and acquaintances, to capture the experiences of a remarkable man and a bygone time ''between the pioneers and the rock climbers.''
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Comments about Norman Clyde: Legendary Mountaineer of California's Sierra Nevada:
Robert Pavlik's book gives a well-researched overview of Clyde's life, but only glimpses into the man and his times. A good biography should not be just the facts and a few snippets of an extraordinary life, but also a compelling read and a gateway into a bygone era. As such, Pavlik's book is a missed opportunity.
To get a real feel for the man, search out the chapter on Norman Clyde in "Walking Up and Down in the World" by Smoke Blanchard, which includes the priceless from-the-heart letter by Smoke written for the collection of Clyde writings "Norman Clyde of the Sierra Nevada: Rambles through the Range of Light". This letter is a classic of mountaineering literature.
Norman Clyde was a peculiar cross between a powerful and resourceful 19th century mountain man, a John Muir type devotee and scholar of the Sierra, and an obssessive 20th century peak bagger. For first ascents and focus he is exceeded only by the likes of Fred Beckey. Yet he was already 45 by 1930, before the era of technical climbing, so a majority of his first ascents were done solo with hobnailed shoes and gigantic ice axe, requiring remarkable skill, judgment, adaptability, strength, and nerves of steel. His 100 pound packs were legendary in themselves.
So what was it like for a rugged individual to roam the mountains in the 1920s? Pavlik gives us only glimpses. I'd like to see vivid, in-depth vignettes.
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