I still remember the day I got my first sight of serious mountains. I was a student at Caltech, working at JPL as a summer intern, and one of the engineers on my project invited me along on a backpacking trip in the Sierra Nevada. It’s a good thing I wasn’t the one driving to the trailhead. I probably would’ve crashed the car when we reached the Owens Valley and saw the Sierra’s stunning eastern escarpment. Jagged snowcapped peaks rise to 14,000 feet straight out of the sagebrush and alkali desert of the Owens Valley, which is one of the deepest in the world.
As it was, I craned my neck out the backseat window with my jaw hanging open and only one thought in my head: OH HELL YES. I yearned to climb those airy ridges and balance on those serrated pinnacles. But during my undergrad years I had to settle for occasional backpacking trips in the Sierra. As a student I had no money, no car, and most climbers I knew were rock jocks rather than mountaineers. Read More »