Meadowmom

Meadowmom

Posted on 12/05/2013


Photo taken on July 21, 2006


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Clyde
Norman Clyde
North Palisade


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High Sierra: Norman Clyde

High Sierra: Norman Clyde
This is the first page of the old register on the summit of North Palisade, a Sierra peak that is coveted by climbers because it is very high and there is no easy way up it.

You'll notice it says "placed by Norman Clyde", with "and party" scribbled in as an afterthought. No mention of the other climbers' names.

That was so Norman.

He was one of a kind, educated in the classics, irascible, nerdy, lacking in social graces. He taught high school in a small town in the shadow of the mountains, but was fired for firing a gun while trying to control his raucous students.

From then on he lived very frugally, spending much time in the high Sierra, making first ascents (many easy, some quite difficult) of more than 100 peaks. Most of them solo climbs.

Norman would show up unannounced in the middle of the old Sierra Club HighTrips. Dave Brower was leading the high trips in those days, before he became the famous "Archdruid" of the wilderness preservation movement in America. He understood Norman. When Norman arrived in camp and offered to lead a climb, excited people lined up immediately. Dave always sent an extremely competent assistant leader with them, because Norman had been known to grow tired of the people he was guiding and abandon them on a mountain top.

It was Dave Brower who first called Norman "the pack that walks like a man." Though Norman was not an especially big man, he regularly backpacked loads that weighed over 100 pounds. In his pack were perhaps a half dozen hardbound books, often in Greek or Latin, an array of cast iron cook pots, a small but heavy cobbler's anvil, a full sized hammer, etc.

For several years, as Norman approached the age of 80, we would inquire about him when we passed through Owens Valley. If it was winter, we were told that he was in hospice care, and was not expected to survive until spring. If it was summer, we were told that he was hiking around up in the mountains somewhere.

That was so Norman.

(More photo stories in my album, Tales of the High Sierra.)

John McKay, Philippe Girault have particularly liked this photo


10 comments - The latest ones
Meadowmom
Meadowmom
Norman Clyde

with High Sierra: Norman Clyde

An old Sierra Club photo, which may now be in the Bancroft Library.
3 years ago. Edited 3 years ago.
W9JIM - Jim Doss
W9JIM - Jim Doss
That's quite a legacy. One should be so lucky be be so fondly remembered.
3 years ago.
Meadowmom has replied to W9JIM - Jim Doss
Well, thinking about Norman, I do understand now much more about personality disorders and how the mountains can soothe tortured souls than I did then.

Now that he's been gone for 45 years, Norman has a cult following. So he's pretty lucky after all.
3 years ago. Edited 3 years ago.
Philippe Girault
Philippe Girault
Impressionnant
3 years ago.
John McKay
John McKay
Fascinating story, what a character and individual!
3 years ago.
Mathesont
Mathesont
What a character. Love that mountain of a pack.
3 years ago.
Chrissy S
Chrissy S
That is one huge pack....and a wonderful bit of history
3 years ago.
Joan+
Joan+
More Pack than Man...!
Well, he lived to a ripe old age, and lead his own life, so not bad going (although firing a gun to quieten his pupils seems OTT, albeit effective I have no doubt..!)
3 years ago.
Clint
Clint
This is a beautiful story.
3 years ago.
tiabunna
tiabunna
Well told, Norman sounds to have been a remarkable eccentric. Like James above, I'm impressed by his pack, 50-60 lbs was about my limit.
3 years ago.